By Laken Franchetti, Assistant News Editor
President Bob Iuliano sent an email to the campus community on April 20 to announce that Gettysburg College will host a film festival dedicated solely to award-winning documentarian Ken Burns. Who Are We?: A Festival Celebrating the Films of Ken Burns will be held at the Majestic Theater from Feb. 10 to 12, 2023.
Burns has directed and produced many historical documentaries in his forty year career. His films have won sixteen Emmy Awards and two Oscar nominations. The films scheduled to be discussed during this festival include “The Civil War,” “The Roosevelts,” “Brooklyn Bridge,” “Vietnam War,” “Central Park Five,” “The War,” and “Country Music.”
Burns’ 1990 series “The Civil War” demonstrates the beginning of the filmmaker’s connection with Gettysburg and the battlefields that surround campus. The series earned him the inaugural Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize in 1991 at Gettysburg College, and in 1994, Burns earned an honorary degree from the college. In 2008, Burns spoke at the Soldiers’ National Cemetery on the 145th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. He additionally assisted in the 2020 launch of Gettysburg: Beyond the Battle, a campaign to build the Adams County Historical Society a new home.
“Gettysburg is both a place of remembering and imagining. It is of course a burial ground for those who fought there—North and South—but it is also where President Lincoln imagined a new country, one where the values we associate with our country’s founding were given new meaning,” Burns said. “Our work tries to present the past in all of its complexity, collecting individual stories into larger narratives. I’m honored and so appreciative for this opportunity to share our films as part of this festival and to join many of my colleagues in a conversation about our art form—and our country’s history.”
The film festival will feature guests who have collaborated with Burns in the past, including Sarah Botstein, producer; Geoffrey Ward, writer; Buddy Squires, cinematographer; Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, musicians; and exonerated Central Park Five member Kevin Richardson.
Those attending the festival will be able to experience screenings of documentary episodes and sessions with filmmakers and historians. Students, faculty, and visitors will be encouraged to focus on a question Burns explores in each of his American history documentaries: Who are we?
“Few individuals throughout our nation’s history have had a more profound impact in shaping American discourse than Ken Burns,” President Iuliano said. “His timeless works challenge us to see our country from new perspectives and encourage us to engage in the defining issues of our time. We are both excited and grateful for the opportunity to spotlight Ken’s artistry in this first-of-its-kind film festival!”
Iuliano gave thanks to Jake Boritt, Jeffrey Gabel, and the staff of the Majestic Theater for their assistance in making this film festival possible. The official film festival titles and schedule will be made available soon. Tickets and festival passes will be available to the general public on June 17. Call (717) 337-8200 or order online at www.gettysburgmajestic.org.