Monday, November 19, 2012

Ken Burns on the spot again with The Dust Bowl

If you missed the PBS broadcast of The Dust Bowl you need to make plans to catch the reruns.  The two part series by Ken Burns was simply fantastic.

I know some of the previous work from Ken Burns can be a bit slow at times.  Not The Dust Bowl.  It takes a few minutes to get going as Burns sets the stage by introducing the people and how the region was populated.  But after the initial development, the show is fascinating.

I must admit it is an era that is not thought of much.  The 1930s have been pretty much "swept under the rug" as it was not the best of times in the United States.  The Great Depression dominated the times.  I remember from my schooling that the Dust Bowl was barely touched upon at all. Thus it was an almost entirely new subject for me.

Two things make The Dust Bowl so good you simply cannot turn it off.  Firstly, Ken Burns has assembled a plethora of outstanding photographs.  They are mesmerizing.  I never imagined the epic drama of the time and the extent of the sand and utter devastation will leave you in awe.  Photo after photo had my mouth gaping.

Secondly, Ken Burns found the people who actually lived it.  He established the homesteads and the plights of the familes.  The interviews and first hand accounts made the show and tug at your heart.

Over a decade, farmers tore up grasslands to plant more and more wheat, which soon was worth less and less. Next, winds blew away good soil and then more winds brought bad soil to the surface. In towns called Follett and Enid, the filmmaker has found important things to discuss about ecosystems and economies and how they collapse. More important, Burns also presents novel-worthy characters against an apocalyptic backdrop.

In the end, The Dust Bowl is typical Ken Burns.  The man does his research and can flat out tell a story.  He is in his element with The Dust Bowl.  The show can be unsettling at times, but is four hours of great documentary television.  A must watch!


Anonymous said...

The Dust Bowl is a wonderful film, but it doesn't address what happened to the American Indians that faced the same plight. It was only 10 years early that the native people became US Citizens. This was their home...what happened to them?

Ecoistabode said...

Well I think the plight of American Indian's in the region would need to be a completely different show as they had been "moved" out well before the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.