Ken Burns is on my most appreciated and most admired lists. He brings us a glimpse of history without his personal opinions and judgement. A rare gift.
Burns’ documentaries are about real people, places, and times. His research is meticulous. The photography is graphic, painful, and honest. Most of his cast, brought to us through the magic of preservation, lived in the places and times depicted. They include saints and sinners, rich and poor. We’re shown triumphs and tragedies, accomplishments we are proud of, and events that make us avert our eyes
What makes Burns’ documentaries spellbinding is his ability to observe, document, and share - without judging. He delivers the real story behind the story. The lives he shares are made personal. We become part of the story – that could be my grandmother; that could be my son; that could happen again if we’re not careful. He presents the facts, showing warts and all, in a way that immerses us in what we see and hear. How or if we judge is up to us.
Thinking of observing without judging made me think of how children learn to judge. They aren’t born judging. They learn it from observing the adults in their lives. Children are powerful observers and mimics.
Thanks to Ken Burns I have learned more about what we as a country have survived. And, what we still need to do. I haven’t yet learned how to observe without judging. Perhaps if we could master that skill, we could more easily accomplish what we still need to do.