Ken Burns:The Charlotte Connection

By Steve Crump - bio l email

Promotional shoots and autograph signings are part of Ken Burns daily world, but beyond celebrity moments the renown documentary film maker is passionate about preserving history and telling the story...America's story.

He asks, "Who are we ? Who are those strange and complicated people who like to call themselves Americans'. "

Burns is in town this week promoting his newest documentary series titled Baseball the 10th Inning.

It is a production firmly backed with dollars from the Queen City.

The corporate sponsor is Charlotte's own Bank of America.

"They've given me tools to continue to investigate the stories that I think are important to tell for the next decade," Burns said.

The tools he's been handed have taken him on a journey from the battlefields of World War Two to smoky night clubs of Harlem in Jazz.

Programs he says that have offered slices of history behind the headlines.

"The best kind of history is bottom up," he said. "It begins in the community with the people we recognize, and you make the characters of history recognizable, then history is the best teacher you'll ever run across."

In the dozens of films that he's made over the last 35 years, one recurring theme tends to emerge.

"What are our great strengths? what are our weaknesses and how we have negotiated the strengths and weaknesses over the last 200 plus years?" he asks.

Burns who's also here to lend a hand to local filmmakers feels there's another point to be made.

"If you don't know where you've been, you can't possibly know where you're going and that's the great gift of history."

It is a gift that offers a reflection of ourselves then and now.

Baseball the 10th Inning is set for national release later this month on PBS.

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