Ken Burns

In which John Heilemann talks with documentarian Ken Burns, whose new four-part series, Muhammad Ali, premiered this week on PBS. Heilemann and Burns discuss Ali's life and legacy as the most important athlete of the 20th century, in particular how his story transcends sports, intersecting with the defining issues of his era (race, religion, politics, protest) and illuminating much about the American experience in the convulsive Sixties and Seventies; Burns's prodigious body of work, which has earned him two Academy Award nominations, 15 Emmys, and two Grammys, and has made him the dominant practitioner of his art form over the past 40 years; the landmark films within his oeuvre — multi-part television events such as The Civil War, Baseball, Jazz, and The Vietnam War, some running nearly 20 hours in length — and how Burns found himself imbued with the power to get such sprawling projects made; and the central role that race has occupied in his work, and in the American story. Burns also reflects on his childhood and how it inspired his career, and what it was like to co-direct the Ali series with his oldest daughter Sarah and her husband. 



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