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Ken Burns's 1990 masterpiece 'The Civil War' restored for new broadcast on AETN

Posted 05 Jan 2017

'The Civil War,' the award-winning film produced and directed by Ken Burns that first aired in September 1990, will be rebroadcast on the Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) over five consecutive nights Sept. 7-11, beginning at 8 p.m.

The broadcast, which coincides with the 25th anniversary of the original broadcast of 'The Civil War,' will present for the first time a newly restored high definition version. The restoration was done by Daniel J. White and supervised by Paul Barnes (lead editor of 'The Civil War') of Burns's production company, Florentine Films, in association with the George Eastman House. Funding for the restoration was provided by Bank of America, PBS and The Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

'Twenty-five years ago Ken Burns' 'The Civil War' took the country by storm and brought history alive to millions,' AETN Executive Director Allen Weatherly said. 'Now, AETN is so proud to bring this mammoth series back to public media – where Ken Burns has made his home for films for more than 30 years.'

In conjunction with the anniversary broadcast of 'The Civil War,' AETN has related professional development courses for Arkansas educators available through AETN ArkansasIDEAS, including: 'Primary Sources: Workshops in American History – Concerning Emancipation: Who Freed the Slaves?'; 'Arkansas's First People: Warriors;' 'African-American History in Arkansas: African-American Teachers in Arkansas – 1865 to Present;' 'The Edge of Conflict: Arkansas in the Civil War;' and 'African-American History in Arkansas: Legislators in Arkansas – Post-Civil War to Present.'

Over the course of two months, 50,000 feet of the original 16mm film negative, which is preserved at the George Eastman House, was scanned frame by frame at 4K (4096 x 2160 pixels, the resolution used for Ultra High Definition). The standard definition 1990 broadcast was taken from a duplicate of the original negative, resulting in a loss of quality. This is the first time the film will be seen with the exact same fidelity and framing as the negative that Burns and his co-cinematographers Allen Moore and Buddy Squires shot over 25 years ago.

'The Civil War' attracted an audience of 38.9 million during its premiere in September 1990. It set a record for the highest rated PBS series broadcast, which stands today. The series has been honored with more than 40 major film and television awards, including two Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, Producer of the Year Award from the Producers Guild, People's Choice Award, Peabody Award, duPont-Columbia Award, D.W. Griffith Award and the Lincoln Prize, among dozens of others.

While Burns had directed and produced other award-winning films on PBS prior to 'The Civil War,' including his first feature film, the Academy Award-nominated 'The Brooklyn Bridge' (1981), 'The Civil War' quickly became the standard for historic documentaries.

'The Civil War' is narrated by David McCullough and includes the voices of: Sam Waterston (Abraham Lincoln), Julie Harris (Mary Chesnut), Jason Robards (Ulysses S. Grant), Morgan Freeman (Frederick Douglass), Paul Roebling (Joshua L. Chamberlain et al.), Garrison Keillor (Walt Whitman et al.), George Black (Robert E. Lee), Arthur Miller (William T. Sherman), Chris Murney, (Pvt. Elisha Hunt Rhodes), Charley McDowell (Pvt. Sam Watkins), Horton Foote (Jefferson Davis), George Plimpton (George Templeton Strong), Philip Bosco (Horace Greeley et al. ), Terry Courier (George McClellan), Jody Powell (Stonewall Jackson et al.) and Studs Terkel (Benjamin F. Butler).

Others who provided voices include Derek Jacobi, Pamela Reed, Jeremy Irons, Ronnie Gilbert, Kurt Vonnegut, Colleen Dewhurst, Hoyt Axton and Shelby Foote.

In conjunction with the anniversary broadcast of 'The Civil War,' educators may be interested in professional development courses available through AETN ArkansasIDEAS, including: 'Primary Sources: Workshops in American History – Concerning Emancipation: Who Freed the Slaves?'; 'Arkansas's First People: Warriors;' 'African-American History in Arkansas: African-American Teachers in Arkansas – 1865 to Present;' 'The Edge of Conflict: Arkansas in the Civil War;' and 'African-American History in Arkansas: Legislators in Arkansas – Post-Civil War to Present.'

'The Civil War' was directed by Ken Burns; produced by Ken Burns and Ric Burns; written by Geoffrey C. Ward, Ric Burns and Ken Burns; edited by Paul Barnes, Bruce Shaw and Tricia Reidy; cinematography by Ken Burns, Allen Moore and Buddy Squires; coordinating producer Catherine Eisele; associate producer Lynn Novick; co-producers Stephen Ives, Julie Dunfey and Mike Hill.

Financial support for the original broadcast of 'The Civil War' was provided by General Motors Corporation, The National Endowment for the Humanities, The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, The Arthur Vining Davis Foundations and The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The Arkansas Educational Television Network (AETN) is Arkansas's statewide public television network that enhances lives by providing lifelong learning opportunities for people from all walks of life. AETN delivers local, award-winning productions and classic, trusted PBS programs aimed at sharing Arkansas and the world with viewers. AETN depends on the generosity of Arkansans and the State of Arkansas to continue offering quality programming. For more information, visit aetn.org, or follow the AETN blog at aetn.org/engage. AETN is broadcast on KETS (Little Rock), KEMV (Mountain View), KETG (Arkadelphia), KAFT (Fayetteville), KTEJ (Jonesboro), and KETZ (El Dorado).