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Alex Abramovich Ken Burns

Alex Abramovich: “There’s​ a lot more Ken Burns gets wrong, or sweeps under the carpet, and that may be unavoidable, given the scale of his projects. (He tends to work on several at a time.) ‘Country Music’ took six years to make, whittling six hundred hours of footage down to sixteen. The credits are 174 names long, not counting the interviewees. Surely, any mistakes must pale next to the effort and service that these films provide. (‘More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than from any other source,’ Stephen Ambrose is supposed to have said, and for better or worse, I believe him.) But you notice, after a while, that the errors all face in a certain direction, and serve to make the same points, while all the things that are supposed to stay under the carpet keep reappearing. That may be unavoidable, too, when you try to make apolitical films about highly charged subjects. But country music is about as politically charged as an American cultural subject could be because, in a sense, it’s the Lost Cause set to a I-IV-V chord progression: the broken heart longing for simpler times, mother and home, and some sense of stability (stand-ins for the old Southern manse, where the log cabins were also slave shacks); the lip service paid to Christian values (coupled with belligerence, blood-lust, knee-jerk patriotism, and a native distrust of authority); the lingering persistence of minstrel-show stereotypes, melodies and songs.”

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