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Actors: David McCullough, Sam Waterson, Jason Robards, Morgan Freeman, Arthur Miller Director: Ken Burns Rating: Unrated Features: NTSC Running Time: 660 minutes Release Date: March 29, 2011 Studio: PBS DIRECT
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Ken Burns' Emmy Award-winning documentary brings to life America's most destructive - and defining - conflict. The Civil War is the saga of celebrated generals and ordinary soldiers, a heroic and transcendent president and a country that had to divide itself in two in order to become one. The 150th Anniversary Six Disc DVD set includes never-before-seen special features including new interview with Ken Burns, Shelby Foote interview outtakes, and a bonus 16-page collector's booklet featuring a selection of photos and battle details.
The most successful public-television miniseries in American history, the 11-hour Civil War didn't just captivate a nation, reteaching to us our history in narrative terms; it actually also invented a new film language taken from its creator. When people describe documentaries using the "Ken Burns approach," its style is understood: voice-over narrators reading letters and documents dramatically and stating the writer's name at their conclusion, fresh live footage of places juxtaposed with still images photographs, paintings, maps, prints, anecdotal interviews, and romantic musical scores taken from the era he depicts. The Civil War uses all of these devices to evoke atmosphere and resurrect an event that many knew only from stale history books. While Burns is a historian, a researcher, and a documentarian, he's above all a gifted storyteller, and it's his narrative powers that give this chronicle its beauty, overwhelming emotion, and devastating horror. Using the words of old letters, eloquently read by a variety of celebrities, the stories of historians like Shelby Foote and rare, stained photos, Burns allows us not only to relearn and finally understand our history, but also to feel and experience it. --Dave McCoy