Yosemite, CA — Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns has spent 10 years researching (six years filming) his latest film “National Parks – America’s Best Idea,” and he hopes it spurs viewers to take a break from modern technology and reconnect with the outdoors.
During an interview, Burns says that each of his films (Baseball, The Civil War, Jazz) strive to answer the question “who we are.” He chose the topic of National Parks because he feels it reveals an intriguing aspect of America’s past.
“For the first time in human history, land was set aside, not for kings, noblemen or the rich, but for everybody and for all time,” says Burns. “It began at Yosemite, spread around the United States, and now it has been copied around the world.”
On Friday Burns was in Yosemite National Park to give a one hour sneak preview to park rangers and staff. He says that while many films about national parks are nature based or travelogues, he wanted to uncover information about the individuals that brought forth the idea to create a National Parks system.
“The first protectors of Yosemite were the celebrated African American Buffalo Soldiers, and not many people know that story,” says Burns. “It is important that we tell it, and not connect it in some politically correct gesture like only during black history month, but integrate it into a full American history.”
While the film traces the history of all national parks, it begins in 1851 when the Mariposa Battalion rides into the Yosemite Valley for the first time, intent on displacing Native Americans and burning down their camps.
“It sets a very complicated story in motion,” adds Burns. “Yosemite was the first national park that we filmed at for this project, and it was the one that I came and had the deepest and most transformational experiences.”
The series will debut September 27th on PBS.
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