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NPT Media: Burns not clear with everyone

PBS documentarian Ken Burns will be at the Chamizal National Memorial this evening participating in a forum on national parks before presenting selected clips from his latest film titled “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.” The 12-hour, six part series will air this fall, according to a PBS press release. The series was created on the basis that the idea of the national park is uniquely American, and that “the most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone.”

Burns, however, has not yet escaped the heat from his last work, which was criticized for not having the spirit of inclusivity of which he speaks. Several El Paso activists are attending today’s presentations in reaction to the controversy surrounding Burns’ 2007 documentary “The War,” which was derided by Chicano activists for its lack of inclusion of Hispanic war heroes.

Burns’ documentary focused on male soldiers, including those who were African American and Japanese American. The documentary focused both on the battleground and on four American towns – Mobile, Ala.; Sacramento, Calif.; Waterbury, Conn.; and Luverne, Minn. – that were used to examine how the war impacted the home front.

Burns’ recent tour stop in San Antonio was picketed by Henrietta Rivas, the mother of Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez, a former El Pasoan and University of Texas professor who is one of the founders of Defend the Honor. According to its website, Defend the Honor was launched in reaction to “The War” to “help organize and mobilize communities to address longstanding and profound problems related to Latino representation.” (For more background on Rivas-Rodriguez, click here.)

Those who have been waiting to ask their burning questions have been brainstorming and passing out fliers. “We just don’t feel that he does the proper research,” said LULAC district director Elvia Hernandez, who plans to attend the panel discussion. The forum will be from 4-5:30 p.m. and the presentation of the clips will be from 7-9 p.m.

When asked if the presentation is too little too late for those strongly opposed to Burns’ original draft of the 15-hour long documentary (the aired documentary later included a supplement about Hispanic servicemen), Hernandez recalled a controversial situation involving Def Leppard after the band made disparaging remarks about the El Paso audience and subsequently tried to “buy out LULAC,” according to Hernandez. “You don’t do these things. Think before you speak or before you act,” she said.

Although the focus on this discussion will be on the new documentary, Hernandez and the other individuals who will mobilize see the appearance as an opportunity to speak to him face-to-face.

“He is taking a good chunk of money, and when he just shows one side, it’s just not right.”

Elizabeth Ruiz

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Written by newspapertreeelpaso

May 27, 2009 at 12:32 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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