The Next Ken Burns Opus: The Vietnam War


PBS announced in March that the noted documentary film maker Ken Burns, best known for his groundbreaking 1990 TV documentary on the Civil War,  and his long-time partner Lynn Novick will be producing and directing a mutlti-part documentary about the Vietnam War.

The series, PBS said, “will explore the military, political, cultural, social, and human dimensions of the war. “It will focus primarily on the human experience of the conflict, using eyewitness testimonies of so-called ‘ordinary’ people – Americans as well as Vietnamese – whose lives were touched by the war.”  The series also will give voice to Americans who opposed the war. It will consist of 10-12 parts, and is slated to air in 2016.

“Today, more than four decades after it ended, nearly everyone has an opinion about the Vietnam War, but few Americans truly know its history and there is little consensus about what happened there, or why, ” Burns said. “Our series will shed light both on the history of the war, and on our inability to find common ground about it.”

“We feel it is of paramount importance to honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women who did what our country asked of them, and went to Vietnam, ”  Novick added. “By providing an opportunity for veterans, their families, and those who opposed the war alike, to bear witness to their experiences, we believe that this series will help heal the deep divisions that have endured in America for decades over this enormously controversial and tragic war.”

Also in the works: an interactive website; an educational component for teachers and students; and community engagement grants that will get local PBS stations involved. There also will be a book.

The Vietnam War series will follow the Ken Burns formula of using on-camera interviews with witnesses, third person narration, archival footage and photographs, music, sound effects, TV news reports,  and live cinematography.

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