A few weeks after the death of President Roosevelt shocks the country, Germany surrenders. Meanwhile, American sailors, soldiers and Marines endure the worst battle of the Pacific--Okinawa. In August...
Americans are shocked by terrible losses on the Pacific atoll of Tarawa, while in Italy Allied forces are stalled for months at Monte Cassino and a risky landing at Anzio fails utterly. At home, as ...
This documentary chronicles the world-famous Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. The difficult construction process is described in interesting detail; later parts of the film interview ... See full summary »
The six letter title ("The War") of this Ken Burns' series is remarkably illustrative of the piece. The title is not "America's War", as would be more apt in some objective sense, but simply "The War" as if you the viewer were an 19-year old American about to be shipped off to some far-off land. To you , there was only one, The War.
This seven-part series chronicles World War II through a distinctly American lens. The subjects are mostly common Americans impelled by circumstance of birth but mostly also compelled by a genuine American idealism to make war and suffer loss. What few WW2 veterans remain with us this day may be with us still perhaps a decade or two at most. "The War" gives them one last opportunity to reflect on comrades lost and horrors seen. It gives us as viewers one last opportunity to hear their stories as you might hear your grandparent tell you rather than as the cardboard cut-outs of history books. Typically for Burns', the piece is filled with well chosen period photos, moving images, and music.
And yet, as much as we want and need to remember the sacrifices of those who served, I can't help but think that this was the wrong film for Burns' to make. Sure, he will get accolades from veterans groups and politicians the country wide. But Burns should have left the story of American heroics and sacrifice to the sentimentalists - lord knows there are enough of them. A man with Burns' skill should have broadened his ken (no pun intended) to teach his largely American audience some new ways to think about the conflict and its implications for modern society.
If an American and, say, a Croat were to start discussing the war today, the American would speak about pride and sacrifice. Even if moderately knowledgeable about history, he'd have perhaps some vague sense that the Yugoslavs were somehow involved. Never in his wildest dreams would he have guessed that the Yugoslav armed forces suffered more dead than the Americans in World War II. And such are the points that need to be made in this age where 9/11, however inherently important it is, should be put into context. 3000 or so people died in 9/11. This is a blip on the radar - a bad few weeks in Iraq or a particularly bad day in any given African conflict. The message that Americans need to learn is not more paeans about the uniqueness and greatness of their sacrifice - but rather more about the universality of it. To be a world leader, America in 2007 needs less navel gazing and more outward understanding.
"The War" - "America's War" - provided none of this. It also barely touched issues of class and race in any substantive way, other than to give a somewhat embarrassingly lopsided and timid view of the internment of Japanese Americans. We need the Ken Burns' of the world. What am I saying - we need Ken Burns' to do more than pay homage to our great, brave veterans. We need him to tell the stories about ourselves and our world that Americans just don't know.
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