Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ken Burns is a God and there is Nothing, No, NOTHING that Would Top Him

I've been told my grandfather had a lot of war stories. I don't remember any of them, as he died when I was seven. But I really would like to do a documentary on his journey through training and Normandy. I'd really like to know what brought him to hate shit on a shingle so much during the war since it was my favorite, as well as my brother's favorite, meal when we were little. Maybe this just seems interesting to me since I didn't grow up with him all that much.

Ken Burns called World War II a necessary war and I truly think that my grandpa believed that to the core of his soul. My favorite story about him is one that my mom tells a lot. My uncle had just returned from Vietnam and refused to stand for the anthem at a hockey game. My grandpa was so angry he spent most of the song yelling at my uncle about what a disgrace he was to his country. I think my grandpa always knew how to separate all of what America gave him in his life from where it was going during the 70s, which was quickly to Hell in a hand basket. I'd like to see what created such devotion and how it changed and developed into his later years, how it shaped his family and influenced his job. I want to show how the war became such a massive point in his life. I'd have to interview my parents and aunts and uncles. If anyone in his company is still alive I'd interview them to see what he was like in Europe around them. I'd really like to know what my grandpa was like when he was young. I only knew him in his 70s, watching Wheel of Fortune next to him as he smoked his unfiltered Camels (a smell that is still a pleasant one to me). The obvious problem in all of this is that he is no longer alive to tell it himself. I don't know if there is any film footage or photographs taken of him during the war. All I've got are the stories that my family tell and his uniform jacket, which is too small for me to even try on.

I have to say this was not entirely an original idea. When I went to see the presentation for The War when Burns was in Minneapolis, many vets came to see it. I quickly realized how jealous I was for all those family members that got to hear those war stories straight from the teller's mouth. Though not normally someone who is brought to immense tears while watching movies, especially documentaries, I must admit that I was brought to embarassingly passionate sobs that I had absolutely no control over as I watched the footage of The War. I'm sure the friend that I went with thought I was crazy, as well as the old woman across the aisle that stared at me all night, but I couldn't help it; I was grieving for the loss of my grandfather again, as well as for the men that died so he could live. This is what makes me want to do a documentary on my grandfather: to relive what he did, to understand what it may have once meant to be an American.

Also, I will die knowing that Ken Burns is the only man ever that is able to pull off the classic 90s bowl cut and still look professional.


  1. This is an excellent idea. I really love the idea of documenting your grandfather's war experience. Many soldiers from that generation don't seem to want to talk about the war. I also see the value of chronicling one person's experience in such a major historical period. Personalizing what can seem like an abstract event is what makes history become "real."

  2. I want to be a documentarian the way middle school boys want to date Lindsay Lohan.