Telluride Museum: An Evening with Ken Burns, 8/29!

Telluride Museum: An Evening with Ken Burns, 8/29!

The Telluride Historical Museums presents “An Evening with Ken Burns,” and the documentary: “The Central Park Five.” Event takes place Sunday, August 29. Doors: 5:30pm; screening, 6:00pm. Michael D. Palm Theatre. Tickets here.

“Central Park Five” was co-directed by Burns, his daughter Sarah Burns, and her husband David McMahon. All three will be on hand for a Q&A and book-signing (hosted in conjunction with Between the Covers bookstore) following the screening.

For more information about the Museum’s updated visitation policies, please see the “Visit” pageBe sure to check out the latest exhibit “Outbreak: “Epidemics in a Connected World.”

“(Ken) Burns is not only the greatest documentarian of the day, but also the most influential filmmaker period. That includes feature filmmakers like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. I say that because Burns not only turned millions of persons onto history with his films, he showed us a new way of looking at our collective past and ourselves,” The Baltimore Sun.

Please scroll down to listen to our podcast featuring Ken Burns.

And go here for more on Ken Burns in Telluride.

Ken Burns, Fall 2018, PHOTO CREDIT Evan Barlow

“It’s like the cowboy movies. There’s gotta be good buys and gotta be bad guys,”  paraphrasing Sonny Liston in Ken Burns’ latest greatest doc about “The Greatest,” aka “Muhammad Ali.”

All the conflict films at the the 2012 Telluride Film Festival (#39) suggested an inconvenient (and still nagging) truth: Conflict resolution is only possible if we use our brains, not brawn and, most of all put ourselves in the other person’s shoes.

Trouble is, all too often a knee-jerk move is to act out of fear. And that is the central problem – and shame – in directors (also producers and writers) Ken and Sarah Burns and David McMahon’s maddening and intelligent documentary “The Central Park Five,” a searingly prescient 21st-century cautionary tale – and a gut punch that has come to symbolize the stark injustices black and brown people experience within the legal system and media coverage.

“The Central Park Five” tells the story –  for the first time – from the perspective of the five teenagers whose lives were upended by a miscarriage of justice, the youth having been wrongly convicted by the courts and the media of the vicious rape of a white female jogger in New York’s Central Park in April 1989.

Sounds all too familiar, a socio-cultural refrain that keeps ringing in our ears…

Find out why historians say more Americans get their history lessons from Ken’s films than from any other source when you attend the screening of “The Central Park Five,” hosted by the Telluride Historical Museum. The event takes place Sunday, August 29, 6 – 9 p.m., at Telluride’s Palm the run-up to the 48th annual Telluride Film Festival, September 2 – 6.

Accused rapist Yusef Salaam is escorted by policein "The Central Park Five"

Accused rapist Yusef Salaam is escorted by police in “The Central Park Five”

“The Central Park Five is a vivid, involving documentary. The story it tells is a wrenching one, but it never succumbs to hyperbole or sensationalism. In fact, the most powerful moments in this documentary are the quietest ones — when one of the now-grown men, thinking back on his lost youth, sheds a silent tear.

“Or when, at the end of this two-hour movie, the exonerated ex-convicts are photographed individually standing, as free men, on the streets and subway platforms of New York City. People around them are rushing by in a blur, but they’re just standing there, completely still, somehow disconnected from the world around them.

“Without a word, those images speak volumes,” raved NPR.

“You must try your very best to see The Central Park Five. I left it 5 hours ago and I’m still on fire. I have no right words. It might be the best documentary I’ve ever seen. Or let me put it like this: I’ve never watched a film that better justified making films in the first place. I just felt like I witnessed 119 minutes of truth-telling that was handled exquisitely from a narrative and visual storytelling perspective.

“I almost didn’t go. I was tired and I was thinking, you know, I have 3 hours here (my husband was watching our young son) do I really want to spend it focused on tragedy? I am so deeply happy I went. Maysles Cinema screened it at the Dempsey auditorium in Harlem. It was packed to the rafters. Throughout the screening, you never heard a rustle. You never heard a cough. You never saw the light of someone texting. Total, utter rapt attention…,” IMDB.

“This is an affecting documentary that stirs the emotions, because it takes a mirror and places it directly in front of us as a people,” The MacGuffin.

If only outspoken activist Muhammad Ali had been around to throw some strategic punches…

Next up from Burns’ Florentine Films on PBS, “Muhammad Ali”:

“I’m curious about who we are, and why we are the way we are, and why we are not the way we’re not,” Ken Burns told Telluride Inside… and Out in a prior interview.

MUHAMMAD ALI is a new four-part documentary directed by Ken Burns, (which airs on PBS September 19-22, 8:00-10:00 p.m. ET). about the pioneer and revolutionary who embodied the spirit of the 20th century.

The new series, in development for six years, was also written and co-directed by Sarah Burns and David McMahon, whose previous collaborations with Burns include THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE (2012), JACKIE ROBINSON (2016) and EAST LAKE MEADOWS: A PUBLIC HOUSING STORY (2020).

The film follows the life of one of the most consequential men of the 20th century, a three-time heavyweight boxing champion who captivated billions of fans with his combination of speed, agility and power in the ring – and his charm, wit and outspokenness outside of it.

At the height of his fame, Ali challenged Americans’ racial prejudices, religious biases, and notions about what roles celebrities and athletes play in our society, and inspired people all over the world with his message of pride and self-affirmation. For example, it was Ali who first described the Vietnam-era draft as “white people sending black people to fight yellow people to protect the country they stole from the red people.”

Ali said an all-caps NO! to the draft, refused to step forward to accept the legitimacy of coerced registration and was convicted of felony draft resistance. And although he faced years in prison, he insisted, “Man, I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.”

“Muhammad Ali’s influence on the black organizers who formed the backbone of the Civil Rights Movement was distinctly positive and remarkably broad-based. His power as a heroic symbol bridged the entire span of the movement’s ideological spectrum. In ways that nobody else could, Ali appealed simultaneously to people and organizations who otherwise agreed on little politically. In the words of one organizer, Bob Moses, “’Muhammad Ali galvanized the Civil Rights Movement,'” wrote AlJazeera.

Drawing from an extraordinary treasure trove of archival footage and photographs, contemporary music, and the insights and memories of eyewitnesses—including family and friends, journalists, boxers and historians, among others— Burns, Burns and McMahon have created a sweeping portrait of an American icon.

The series details the story of the athlete who called himself — and was considered by many to be— “the greatest of all time.” Ali competed in some of the most dramatic and widely viewed sporting events ever, including “The Fight of the Century” and “The Thrilla in Manila,” both against his great rival Joe Frazier, and “The Rumble in the Jungle,” in which he defeated George Foreman to regain the heavyweight title stripped from him seven years earlier.

MUHAMMAD ALI also captures Ali’s principled resistance to the Vietnam War, his steadfast commitment to his Muslim faith, and his complex relationships with Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X, who profoundly shaped his life and worldview.

“Muhammad Ali was the very best at what he did,” said Ken Burns. “He was arguably America’s greatest athlete, and his unflinching insistence that he be unabashedly himself at all times made him a beacon for generations of people around the world seeking to express their own humanity.

ALI is not Burns’ first time in the ring. He also explored the life of the first African American heavyweight champion, Jack Johnson, in his 2004 film UNFORGIVABLE BLACKNESS: THE RISE AND FALL OF JACK JOHNSON.

While he is largely celebrated today as an icon of American sport and culture, Ali was not always widely embraced. At times he was reviled by many in American society, especially white Americans and white members of the media, who rejected his faith and feared his involvement with the Nation of Islam.

Summing up, Ali’s life story is a study in contradictions. Despite his competitive reputation and ruthless athleticism in the ring, he went on to become a symbol for peace and pacifism. Though committed to a faith that expected obedience and dignified conduct, he was notoriously unfaithful to his wives, at times publicly flaunting his affairs. Ali was a clever showman with an unparalleled genius for promotion and turn of phrase, who occasionally allowed his partners and friends to take advantage of him. He endlessly trumpeted his own greatness as a boxer, but anonymously donated to save a Jewish old age home, made surprise visits to pediatric hospitals and signed autographs for every last fan.

Heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali stands over fallen challenger Sonny Liston, shouting and gesturing shortly after dropping Liston with a short hard right to the jaw on May 25, 1965, in Lewiston, Maine. The bout lasted only one minute into the first round. Ali is the only man ever to win the world heavyweight boxing championship three times. He also won a gold medal in the light-heavyweight division at the 1960 Summer Olympic Games in Rome as a member of the U.S. Olympic boxing team. In 1964 he dropped the name Cassius Clay and adopted the Muslim name Muhammad Ali. (AP Photo/John Rooney)

“Ali is rightly celebrated for his athleticism in the ring,” said Sarah Burns, “but he was equally heroic in his willingness to stand up for what he believed was right.”

“Ali’s principled opposition to the Vietnam War and deeply affecting message of racial pride were remarkable then and equally so now,” said David McMahon. “His actions and words speak to his character and also to his influence as an athlete who used his celebrity to speak out about injustices that he could not tolerate.”

Note: Before the September premiere, Ken Burns continues to participate in a series of conversations with PBS and “The Undefeated,” ESPN’s multimedia platform exploring the intersection of sports, race and culture. Sports and entertainment figures, writers, and scholars discuss Ali’s legacy and the intersection of sports, race, and politics in his life and the world today, at a time when Black athletes have once again attracted controversy for their principled denouncements of racial injustice. The ongoing conversations began June 23.

September 9 at 7:00 PM ET: “Ali, Race & Religion” with Ken Burns, Justin Tinsley
(moderator) and Ibtihaj Muhammad

September 14 at 7:00 PM ET: “Ali, Activism & The Modern Athlete” with Ken Burns, Raina
Kelley (moderator) and special guests TBA

For more on the man and his work, listen to our podcast with Ken Burns.

Ken Burn, more:

Ken Burns in action, image, Jason Savage

Laureled documentary director and producer Ken Burns is an honorary homie. The iconic filmmaker has a nearly 30-year relationship with Telluride, which he is known to describe shamelessly as “my lover.”

Since the Academy Award-nominated “Brooklyn Bridge” in 1981, Burns went on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, recounting the histories of jazz, the Civil War, baseball, Prohibition, the decade-long calamity known as “The Dust Bowl,” the Roosevelts, the Vietnam War and the history of country music.

Ken Burns has a well-deserved global reputation for in-depth meditations on Americana, projects on which he often wears many hats: writer, cinematographer, editor, and music director – in addition to producing and directing.

Many of his celebrated documentaries premiered at the Telluride Film Festival, which Burns has described as “the best festival on the planet” and where he now serves on the board. Examples include ”Huey Long,” 1985; “The Civil War,” 1990; “Baseball:The Tenth Inning,” 1994; “Frank Lloyd Wright,” 1998; “Jazz,” 2001; “Horatio’s Drive: America’s First Road Trip,” 2003; “The War,” 2007; “The Central Park Five,” 2013.

Two of Burns’ films screened at Telluride’s other major film-centric event: Mountainfilm in Telluridewhich debuted “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea,” 2009 (and celebrated their centennial at this year’s event in May at an all-day symposium)  and “The Dust Bowl,” 2013.

No Comments

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.