Documentary filmmaker Kenneth Lauren Burns (1953-) was born on this day in Brooklyn, New York. With a love for history and an 8mm movie camera, he shot his first film in his teens.
"We remember our past in different ways," he once said. "History is the synthesis of countless stories. There is no greater resource than to tap into the memories of those who were there."
In celebrating America's past, Burns's acclaimed epics have featured the Brooklyn Bridge (1981, Oscar-nominated), Statue of Liberty (1985), Civil War (1990), Baseball (1994), Lewis and Clark (1997), and Jazz (2001).
Inspired by the rugged individualism of characters captured by director John Ford, Burns said, "In every film Iíve been involved in, Iíve been pursuing one simple question: Who are we?"
In pursuing the question of American identity, Burns has worn many hats-- as director, producer, co-writer, chief cinematographer, music director, and executive producer. His well-crafted vision combined archived photographs, newsreel footage, and film, with modern cinematography, narration, and interviews.
"Do not lose your enthusiasm," Burns said. "In its Greek etymology, the word enthusiasm means, 'God in us.'"
Burns has fearlessly tackled controversy with powerful and heartfelt stories. He has spent years thoroughly planning and researching a project. Calling himself an "emotional archaeologist," he has almost single-handedly revitalized a passion for history in America.
Burns said "perseverance is the single greatest element" in his success. "At the end, you have something that is durable and that you hope will speak to many people."
More Film-Making Quotations
History is a cyclic poem.