Filmmaker Ken Burns and his longtime producing partner, Lynn Novick, say they’ll be spending a lot of time in Oak Park for an upcoming documentary on one of the suburb’s favorite sons.
“Lynn and I are producing a biography of Ernest Hemingway, so we’ll be back here quite a bit in the near future,” Burns said during a recent Chicago visit. The duo have been frequent visitors to the area while gathering materialsfor past works on Prohibition, fellow Oak Parker Frank Lloyd Wright and baseball.
“Of course we did a ‘Tenth Inning’ for [1994’s] ‘Baseball’ in 2010 [to cover the White Sox series championship], so, as you can imagine, a lot of people are after us to make an ‘Eleventh Inning’ because of the Cubs’ win last year,” Burns said.
Their new 10-part “The Vietnam War” series debuts Sunday on PBS. “From the moment we started — from day one — it was constant humiliation, because so much of our preconceived ideas were wrong,” Burns said. “There was so much we learned that we didn’t know beforehand.
“Every part of this war is so complex. We learned that people have either tended to bury their heads in the sand and not talk about it, or they’ve gone into their own defensive silos with their own opinions. We’ve neglected a lot of the incredible scholarship that has taken place over the past 42 years. We have not listened too much to our own veterans and we certainly have not listened to Vietnamese — both the winning side and the losing side.
“So, that’s what we’ve spent the past decade doing. So for us it was like an Etch-a-Sketch. We turned everything we thought we knew upside down, shook it, and simply started from scratch.”
The filmmakers’ near-term slate of proposed documentaries includes fresh looks at country music, the American Revolution, Lyndon Johnson and crime and punishment. “Even if we lived 1,000 years,” Burns said, “that deep well of material would never run dry.”
For those interested in owning Burns and Novick’s “The Vietnam War,” the DVD and Blu-ray are currently available for purchase at http://www.shoppbs.org.