Gettysburg College’s Majestic Theater has announced guest speakers and breakout sessions scheduled for the first-ever film festival dedicated solely to the work of award-winning documentarian Ken Burns on February 10 - 12, 2023, in the historic theater located in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.
Experts in music, cinematography, filmmaking, criminal justice reform, and public policy will join Ken Burns in engaging with the public and Gettysburg College students in consequential conversations about the question Burns has explored in all of his films about American history: Who are we?
Special guests currently scheduled to attend include longtime Burns collaborators Geoffrey Ward, writer; Sarah Botstein, producer; and Allen Moore, cinematographer, as well as musicians Jay Ungar, Molly Mason, and Jacqueline Schwab, and exonerated Central Park Five member Kevin Richardson. Tracie Potts and Susan Eisenhower of Gettysburg College’s Eisenhower Institute (EI) will also offer their perspective during the festival.
“Gettysburg is both a place of remembering and imagining,” said Burns in April. “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. 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.”
Acclaimed musicians Jay Ungar, Molly Mason, and Jacqueline Schwab will present a breakout session on their collaboration with Burns on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 11:45 a.m. Musical performances by the trio have been essential ingredients in numerous Ken Burns film soundtracks since the 1980s. Most notably, Ungar’s composition “Ashokan Farewell,” and Schwab’s lyrical and evocative piano playing were hallmarks of the Grammy Award-winning soundtrack album of Burns’ groundbreaking 1990 series The Civil War.
Kevin Richardson, an activist and one of the exonerated Central Park Five, will offer a post-film talk following The Central Park Five on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 7 p.m. Richardson was one of five teenagers convicted of the brutal 1989 attack of a jogger in Central Park after false confessions and improper use of forensic science. He and his co-defendants were exonerated and their convictions overturned in 2002 after DNA testing linked the attack to another man who confessed.
On Sunday, Feb. 12 at 11 a.m. Allen Moore will lead a breakout session on the craft of cinematography and how it has been used to illustrate America’s history. Imagery and techniques used in Burns’ films have become an iconic part of American culture, and deepen audience connections to the material. Moore has served as director of photography on several of Burns’ films, including The Civil War, The Roosevelts, and Baseball.
Also on Sunday, Tracie Potts and Susan Eisenhower of Gettysburg College’s Eisenhower Institute will take part in a post-film discussion about Episode 4 of The War, “Pride of Our Nation.” The episode covers D-Day and General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s leadership of American armed forces and will be shown at 1 p.m.
Potts is the executive director of the Eisenhower Institute and a former Washington correspondent for NBC News. Susan Eisenhower is chairman emerita and expert-in-residence at the Eisenhower Institute. She is an expert in public policy, national security, energy security, and strategic leadership, and the granddaughter of President Eisenhower. The Eisenhower Institute promotes the study of critical global issues and developing engaged citizens through its programs in Gettysburg and Washington, D.C.
Who Are We?: A Festival Celebrating the Films of Ken Burns was inspired by a conversation between Gettysburg native and festival director Jake Boritt and his colleague Burns during the summer of 2020. Festival sponsors include Ken ’66 and Elizabeth Lundeen, David ’68 and Pauline LeVan, Monica E. Oss and J. Jay Mackie, Dave ’85 and Cynthia Salisbury ’84, The Union Hotel, The Vesta Fund, and media sponsor WITF.
All events comprising Who Are We?: A Festival Celebrating the Films of Ken Burns require reservations and many are free to attend, including breakout sessions with historians and filmmakers, screenings of various documentary episodes from Burns’ 40-year catalog, and a marathon presentation of all 11.5 hours of The Civil War. Limited tickets remain available for two thematic highlight reel presentations compiled and introduced by Burns on Saturday at $29 per person, per event, as well as many free events.
All festival events require tickets. Limited tickets are available online; most tickets must be reserved by calling the Box Office at (717) 337-8200 or visiting the Majestic Theater in person
By Jess Rudy
Photos by Steward Dean and Evan Barlow.