War documentry shown in area creates controversy

Katrina Sargent

Katrina Sargent

Surrounded by controversy, Ken Burns’ latest documentary is set to air Sept. 23. It is called simply, The War, and takes a look at the Second World War.

Burns is well known for his other documentaries including Jazz, The Brooklyn Bridge, Baseball and The Civil War, his most recent documentary.

“[The War] tells the story of the Second World War through the personal accounts of a handful of men and women from four quintessentially American towns,” said the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) on their website.

The people whose stories are chronicled in the series are from Luverne, Minn., Waterbury, Conn., Mobile, Ala., and Sacramento, Calif. Through their stories, they offer the view of everyday people during the Second World War.

The documentary is 14 hours long and will be aired in seven two-hour sections beginning Sept. 23 at 7 p.m.

“For me, history is the synthesis of countless stories. There is no greater resource than to tap into the memories of those who were there, to unearth the stories,” Burns wrote in a column for USA Weekend magazine.

The controversy stems from two different sources. The first concerns the lack of credit given to Latinos in the film.

“Burns has been under fire from Latino advocacy groups for months now, who argued that the contributions of over half a million Hispanic troops were all but ignored in the film,” said an article by Katey Rich on TV Blend, a website that reviews TV shows.

After receiving complaints, Burns, along with PBS, hired a Hispanic director, Hector Galan, to help add additional footage and interviews to the series. Some Latino groups are still skeptical about the film and its director.

Language used in the film is the basis for the second controversy.

PBS has decided to censor the series because at four different points, inappropriate language is used to describe the fighting. PBS fears heavy fines from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and has decided to “bleep” out the offensive words.

South Dakota Public Broadcasting is holding 30 minute previews of the documentary in towns across South Dakota. The previews will provide opportunities for veterans in those areas to share their memories, and possibly have their stories recorded.

A representative from South Dakota Public Broadcasting said there is not currently a preview scheduled in Brookings, but one could be set up by an area group interested in the event.

Previews of the series will take place at the Madison, DSU Smith/Zimmerman Heritage Museum at 7 p.m. on Sept. 11 and the W.H. Over Museum in Vermillion at 7 p.m. Sept. 12. There will be two in Sioux Falls. The first airs Sept. 15 at the VA Medical Center at 7 p.m. and the second on Sept. 20 at the Center for Active Generations at noon. More information is available on the South Dakota Public Broadcasting website.