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A few words about...™ The Dust Bowl -- in Blu-ray

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#1 of 8 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted November 11 2012 - 11:15 AM

Those of you who read my pieces, are aware that I'm a huge Burns fan.  Be it DVD or Blu-ray, I have every one of the documentaries produced by Florentine over the past 80 or so years.


Their latest, The Dust Bowl, lives up to their high standards.  A perfect blend of stock footage, with newly captured interviews, there is a lesson here.  About man and our relationship to the land.  Abuse it at one's peril.


I've been aware of the Dust Bowl disaster, more through still photographs of the era, than by any real research.  This is one of the reasons that I can't wait to dig into this Blu-ray set.  While the liner notes tell us that it was a "man-made ecological disaster," I need to find the four hours necessary to view the entire four hour program, and I'm thinking it will be the moment that I finish this piece into the night, as I don't have the ability to allow a Burns film to go unseen.


With the beautifully selected archive footage -- the footage here is generally of high quality -- this PBS presentation is something to appreciate and from which to learn.  Can it happen again?  Are the recent storms in the east attached to global warming?


I've only been able to view about 20 minutes of this film to get a handle on quality, which is at or above that of earlier Florentine productions.  My mind keeps going back to the classic image as photographed by Dorothea Lang, of a mother with her children.  I'd post it, but don't wish to infringe IP rights.  It can be easily found, and once you see it, there is no going back.


I've noted previously, that there are fewer than 30 projects from Florentine.  I recommend viewing each and every one of them.  And they're all available on either DVD or Blu-ray.


The Dust Bowl, which is the latest, along with The Central Park Five, is merely the tip of the Florentine iceberg.


Please support PBS and the future work of Florentine by supporting The Dust Bowl.  It's currently $25 on Amazon.


Extremely Highly Recommended.


RAH

Update: I've now been able to view the two hours. This is a remarkable achievement, and just in time as the witnesses are all of a certain age. What I had never realized, was the immensity of the problem, and from whence it came. At times, the gigantic clouds of dust and dirt made their way actress the nation, through Chicago to the east coast. An extraordinary documentary achievement.

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#2 of 8 OFFLINE   Jason_V

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Posted November 11 2012 - 03:12 PM

I'm looking forward to watching it on PBS when it airs.  I've got the Tivo set and ready to go.


I very much enjoyed Prohibition and blasted through all of it in one weekend.


#3 of 8 OFFLINE   Kurosawa

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Posted November 11 2012 - 11:02 PM

At the risk of indulging in hyperbole, Ken Burns is the greatest living chronicler of the American experience and one of our nation's greatest popular historians ever. The Civil War and Baseball are, IMHO, the most towering achievements in the history of documentary filmmaking. Any new film by him and his remarkable team is cause for anticipation and gratitude. One of the very few filmmakers whose work I buy blind.

#4 of 8 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted November 12 2012 - 05:05 AM

I share in the admiration for the documentaries of Ken Burns and Florentine Films. The broad generalizing of the causes for the Civil War in the first episode of THE CIVIL WAR drew a lot of criticism from the academic historian community. Ken Burns acknowledged the lack of specificity is inaccuracy. Personally I've always hoped he would supplement the documentary with a more comprehensive treatment of what caused the Civil War. But all historians agree that Ken Burns is a national resource. His work is completely admirable and dramatically engaging as well. I'll certainly buy THE DUST BOWL on blu-ray. Can't wait to see it, in fact. No doubt Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and Woody Guthrie will receive attention. Everybody should watch Hal Ashby's film BOUND FOR GLORY (1978).

#5 of 8 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted November 13 2012 - 02:38 PM

I share in the admiration for the documentaries of Ken Burns and Florentine Films. The broad generalizing of the causes for the Civil War in the first episode of THE CIVIL WAR drew a lot of criticism from the academic historian community. Ken Burns acknowledged the lack of specificity is inaccuracy. Personally I've always hoped he would supplement the documentary with a more comprehensive treatment of what caused the Civil War. But all historians agree that Ken Burns is a national resource. His work is completely admirable and dramatically engaging as well. I'll certainly buy THE DUST BOWL on blu-ray. Can't wait to see it, in fact. No doubt Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath and Woody Guthrie will receive attention. Everybody should watch Hal Ashby's film BOUND FOR GLORY (1978).

They do. Mr. Ford's Grapes of Wrath is a wonderful companion piece to this film, as is Pare Lorentz' The Plow That Broke Plains. I've learned so many things from The Dust Bowl. Probably the most important of which was that the entire problem was man made. Overuse, over-tilling of the land. Removal of the natural Buffalo grass, combined with overproduction of wheat, followed by a drop in wheat prices, leaving the land unprotected. What is apparent is that this can occur again. And possibly, just possibly, this film might be a source toward continual thoughtfulness -- not to permit it to happen again. Another extremely important factor in the film, are the witnesses, the survivors, all very young in the 1930s, who tell there stories so beautifully. All good Americans struggling to save their land, put food on the tables, and keep their families alive, against the constant dust, which choked the life out of far too many. This may be the most important documentary to have come from Florentine. A beautifully produced masterpiece, and the equal of the greatest documentaries of the 20th century. I've raised my rating to... Extremely Highly Recommended. RAH

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#6 of 8 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted November 13 2012 - 03:06 PM

Glad to hear your enthusiasm for documentaries. There is no doubt in my mind your Extremely High Recommendation is an understatement. No doubt Burns documents how the causes of the Dust Bowl began in the 19th century, however unwittingly. Do you know the actress Ann Revere? She always reminded me of this displaced migrant mother in a set of candid (or rather unposed) photos taken by Dorothea Lange in Nipomo, California in 1936. Her children can't face the camera, and her countenance is so infinitely sad:

#7 of 8 OFFLINE   Robert Harris

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Posted November 13 2012 - 03:17 PM

Glad to hear your enthusiasm for documentaries. There is no doubt in my mind your Extremely High Recommendation is an understatement. No doubt Burns documents how the causes of the Dust Bowl began in the 19th century, however unwittingly. Do you know the actress Ann Revere? She always reminded me of this displaced migrant mother in a set of candid (or rather unposed) photos taken by Dorothea Lange in Nipomo, California in 1936. Her children can't face the camera, and her countenance is so infinitely sad:

An amazing image, that is emotionally shattering three quarters of a century later. What those people went through... Ann Revere was a superb Fox contract player, and the look is there.

"All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dreams with open eyes, to make it possible. This I did." T.E. Lawrence


#8 of 8 OFFLINE   Richard--W

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Posted November 13 2012 - 03:48 PM

More of Dorothea Lange's photos: http://www.historypl...ange/index.html





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