Film­maker Ken Burns goes deep into his lat­est epic doc­u­men­tary se­ries on Viet­nam, de­but­ing in Septem­ber, and re­veals why LBJ might be next for him.

Ken Burns dis­cusses his new­est epic, The Viet­nam War, the im­por­tance of 4BS and why he wants to tackle LB. next.

Austin Way - - CONTENTS DEPARTMENTS - By Kathy Black­well

pen years in the mak­ing, The Viet­nam War Dklru.orgK viet­namE is the lat­est epic doc­u­men­tary from lauded film­mak­ers Ken Burns and Lynn 2ovick. The 0-episode, -hour se­ries, which pre­mieres on 4BS Sept. , ex­am­ines the dis­as­trous war from all sides and an­gles, turn­ing our as­sump­tions and per­cep­tions of the pe­riod in­side-out. 2o one ex­ca­vates and ex­am­ines a sub­Nect like Burns and 2ovick, whose pre­vi­ous works such as The Civil War and Jazz have helped view­ers bet­ter un­der­stand our his­tory and, thus, our present. 6ecently, KL69-T:, Austin 4BS and the LB. 4res­i­den­tial Li­brary—an in­dis­pens­able re­source for the film­mak­ers—in­vited Burns to pre­view se­lect clips in front of a ca­pac­ity crowd that in­cluded many vet­er­ans. We later talked with Burns, who shared in­sight into what will surely be a provoca­tive na­tional con­ver­sa­tion starter this fall. AT THE SCREEN­ING, YOU SAID WORK­ING ON THE SE­RIES UP­ENDED EV­ERY­THING YOU KNEW ABOUT VIET­NAM AND THAT EV­ERY DAY WORK­ING ON THIS WAS A “HU­MIL­I­AT­ING RE­MINDER” ABOUT WHAT YOU DIDN’T KNOW. WHAT SHOULD VIEW­ERS EX­PECT? I think the view­ers are go­ing to re­live our ex­pe­ri­ence, per­haps not with the same de­gree of hu­mil­i­a­tion. We spent a decade try­ing to not only shed our own pre­con­cep­tions, but to get the facts right. HOW REL­E­VANT IS THE VIET­NAM WAR TO WHAT THE COUN­TRY IS DEAL­ING WITH TO­DAY PO­LIT­I­CALLY? Imag­ine I told you I had been work­ing on a film in which mass demon­stra­tions take place across the coun­try, that it’s about a White House in dis­ar­ray and ob­sessed with leaks, a big doc­u­ment drop of clas­si­fied ma­te­rial that shat­ters ev­ery­thing, one po­lit­i­cal cam­paign reach­ing out to a for­eign power at the time of a na­tional elec­tion and asym­met­ri­cal war­fare that leaves the U.S. mil­i­tary, the finest in the world, un­sure and un­clear about how to fight it. You would say, ‘You’ve aban­doned his­tory and are talk­ing about right now!’ It’s eerie, but that’s true of many films I’ve worked on. THIS YEAR MARKS THE 50TH AN­NIVER­SARY OF LBJ SIGN­ING THE PUB­LIC BROAD­CAST­ING ACT. HOW VI­TAL IS PBS TO YOUR WORK? There’s only one place in our me­dia spec­trum where I could have made this film, and that is pub­lic broad­cast­ing. No one would have per­mit­ted the time and amount of money it took to pro­duce this. The great fore­sight of Pres­i­dent John­son to sign the act was an ex­ten­sion of what gov­ern­ment does re­ally well. It’s pos­si­ble to cre­ate an en­tity that has one foot ten­ta­tively in the mar­ket­place, but one foot proudly out and thus free to en­gage top­ics of na­tional in­ter­est. WHAT DID PREVIEWING THE DOC IN AUSTIN MEAN TO YOU? That was a re­ally spe­cial screen­ing for all of us in­volved, to have Pres­i­dent John­son’s two daugh­ters in the front row and to be do­ing it at the John­son Li­brary. With John­son and the war, the level of drama reaches Shake­spearean pro­por­tions. It’s al­ready driven me to­ward do­ing a se­ries on the his­tory of his pres­i­dency. So much of what he’s do­ing do­mes­ti­cally is off stage in our Viet­nam film, and you be­gin to re­al­ize that the din of the fight­ing drowns out his abil­ity to ac­com­plish his am­bi­tious do­mes­tic agenda. I’d like to turn that in­side-out and for us to un­der­stand his ex­tra­or­di­nary le­gacy. The Viet­nam War will air from 7-9PM on KLRU Sept. 17-21, 24-28. KLRU will also tell lo­cal sto­ries and host screen­ings.

An Amer­i­can sol­dier spends time with his sib­lings be­fore leav­ing for Viet­nam on “Episode Seven: The Ve­neer of Civ­i­liza­tion (June 1968-May 1969)” from The Viet­nam War. Below: Film­maker Ken Burns at the LBJ Li­brary this spring.

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