Gettysburg College is committed to strengthening American democracy. As a premier liberal arts and sciences college, this means providing our community with special opportunities to learn from those who have devoted their lives to it.
Inspired by these aspirations, Gettysburg College is proud to announce that it will host the first–ever film festival dedicated solely to the work of award–winning documentarian Ken Burns on Feb. 10–12, 2023, at the College’s Majestic Theater. Gettysburg students and the general public will personally engage with Burns, his collaborators, and historians in consequential conversations centered around a question the filmmaker has explored in each of his films on American history: Who are we?
“Few individuals throughout our nation’s history have had a more profound impact in shaping American discourse than Ken Burns. His timeless works challenge us to see our country from new perspectives and encourage us to engage in the defining issues of our time,” said President Bob Iuliano. “On behalf of Gettysburg College, the Majestic Theater, and our historic community, we are honored to spotlight Ken’s artistry in this first–of–its–kind film festival.”
During his distinguished 40–year career, Burns has directed and produced many of the most acclaimed historical documentaries about war, racism, and presidential leadership. Together, his films have won 16 Emmy Awards and earned two Oscar nominations
At Gettysburg, we believe that knowledge of the past, in any discipline or endeavor, is critical to the formation of a well–reasoned and creative response to the present. The film festival will offer students, faculty, and visitors alike an ideal forum to explore our complex history and engage in topics of consequence to our democracy and our nation.
Burns will meet with Gettysburg departments and classes throughout the festival to discuss his films and how they can inform students’ thinking and actions as tomorrow’s leaders. The films scheduled to be discussed include “Brooklyn Bridge,” “The Roosevelts,” “The Civil War,” “Central Park Five,” “Vietnam War,” “The War,” and “Country Music.” More information will be available in the 2022—23 academic year
“Gettysburg is both a place of remembering and imagining,” said Burns. “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. 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.”
Burns has an enduring bond with Gettysburg and the Battlefields that surround our campus, thanks in large measure to his 1990 film “The Civil War.” In the mid—1980s, he and his brother Ric, along with their colleagues, embarked on creating the documentary in a multi–year process. This permitted Burns to refine the filmmaking style that has become his and his collaborators’ hallmark: careful use of archival photographs, live modern cinematography, music, narration, and first–person accounts.
The documentary’s nine–episode broadcast seen by 40 million Americans on PBS in September 1990 was a sensation. Burns and the series won the inaugural Gilder Lehrman Lincoln Prize, awarded in 1991 at Gettysburg College. In 1994, he received an honorary degree from Gettysburg College, and in 2008 he returned once more to Gettysburg to speak at Soldiers’ National Cemetery on the 145th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address. In 2020, he helped to launch Gettysburg: Beyond the Battle, the $10 million capital campaign to build a new home for the Adams County Historical Society.
Film Festival and Ticket Information
All public events during the three–day festival require reservations. Many are free to attend, including breakout sessions with historians and filmmakers, screenings of various documentary episodes from Burns’ catalog, and a marathon presentation of all 11.5 hours of “The Civil War.”
Guests currently scheduled to attend include longtime Burns collaborators Geoffrey Ward, writer; Sarah Botstein, producer; and Buddy Squires, cinematographer, as well as musicians Jay Ungar and Molly Mason, and exonerated Central Park Five member Kevin Richardson.
Film festival titles and schedule will be forthcoming.
Tickets for an evening keynote program with Burns on Feb. 10, and two thematic clip reel presentations compiled and introduced by Burns on Feb. 11, will be $29 per person, per event. Festival passes will be available for $75.
Tickets and festival passes to Who Are We?: A Festival Celebrating the Films of Ken Burns will be available to the general public beginning June 17 at the Majestic Theater Box Office. Please call (717) 337-8200 or order online at www.gettysburgmajestic.org.
By Mike Baker and Jess Rudy.
Photos by Bill Dowling, Evan Barlow, Shawna Sherrell, and Don Pears