Filmmaker Ken Burns chronicles history of National Parks

Monday - 9/28/2009, 6:49am EDT

WFED's Max Cacas

The Washington, D.C. area is home to one of the largest concentrations of national parks in the country.

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By Max Cacas
Reporter
FederalNewsRadio

An award-winning filmmaker whose previous projects examined baseball, the Civil War, and American Jazz, has now turned his lens toward the history of America's National Parks.

The title of Ken Burns' new Public Broadcasting System documentary is "The National Parks: America's Best Idea", and in an exclusive interview with Federal News Radio, Burns called it, "a heck of a good story."

It's not a travelogue or a nature film, per se, but the story of people who saved these spectacular places against really long odds. Most of the time, we'd rather dam a river, and cut down the trees rather than save them. It's an incredible bottom-up story.

A Saturday evening downpour ruined plans by the National Park Service for an outdoor screening of the new documentary on the Ellipse, a portion of the National Mall that stretches from the White House south to the Washington Monument.

Burns' six-part, twelve hour documentary uses old still photographs, given movement with his now trademark "pan and scan" technique woven with period music, narrative and dramatic readings to tell the 150-year history of the National Parks. And as with the topics of his previous films, it's a uniquely American story.

The subtitle of our film is "America's Best Idea." This is it. It's right in our wheelhouse! For the first time in history, land was set aside for everybody, and not for the rich, not for royalty, not for kings as all land had been doled out before. This was an amazing experiment, and it could only have come from the people who were struggling to learn how to live democratically, under the motto, "All Men Are Created Equal".

Burns adds that the new film, airing all this week on public television stations nationwide, is all about preserving the National Parks as a legacy for our children, and for their children as well.

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On the Web:

PBS - The National Parks: America's Best Idea (includes viewing schedule)

Dept. of the Interior - National Park Service

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