Four Ken Burns Documentaries About New York to Watch Right Now 

10/31/2023 in
Four Ken Burns Documentaries About New York to Watch Right Now 

On Nov. 6, as part of LM Live’s New York on Film series, we’re teaming up with IPIC Fulton to host a screening of the 1981 Ken Burns documentary “Brooklyn Bridge.” Post-screening, Burns himself will join New York Times architecture critic Michael Kimmelman to discuss his  Oscar-nominated directorial debut.

The screening is currently sold out (though you can still join the waitlist!), but whether or not you managed to snag tickets, this is a great time to revisit Burns’s other New York City-related work.  Here are four Burns documentaries and series that center our city’s history, from Jackie Robinson to the Central Park Five. 

“The Statue of Liberty”

This 1986 doc traces 100 years of Lady Liberty, featuring interviews from former Governor Mario Cuomo and writer James Baldwin. It delves into the concept of liberty itself, and the statue’s significance in everyday American life. 

“The Central Park Five”

The 2012 film documents the story of the five Black and Latino teenagers from Harlem who were arrested and convicting of raping a white woman in Central Park. The Central Park Five spent between six and 13 years in prison before the convictions were overturned, earning them a new name: The Exonerated Five. The documentary explores the racial tensions and violence that surrounded the 1989 case, and the media sensationalism that inflamed it. 

“Jackie Robinson”

This two-part 2016 series explores the history of the famed ballplayer and activist, whomMartin Luther King Jr. once called “a sit-inner before sit-ins, a freedom rider before freedom rides.” Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers; he had to swallow a torrent of hate for the first few years of his MLB career, until eventually he was able to use his fame to advocate for civil rights. . Burns’s series shows why Robinson remains one of New York’s, and America’s, most iconic baseball legends. 

“Jazz”

This juicy 10-part mini-series from 2001 traces the history of jazz, one of America’s best inventions, from Louisiana to Harlem. It covers the rise of jazz across all over the country, but  considering Burns’s spotlight on the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Billie Holiday, there’s no denying that the history of jazz is major part of New York’s story. 

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