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For immediate release: May 29, 2012 KEN BURNS’ THE DUST BOWL: PART ONE RECEIVES SPECIAL ADVANCED SCREENING AT HOP JULY 5 CALENDAR LISTING: Ken Burns Film Special: The Dust Bowl: Episode One A special advanced screening of part one of a two-part, four-hour documentary on the US’s worst man-made ecological disaster to date, to be aired on PBS this November. Friday, July 13, 7 pm Spaulding Auditorium, Hopkins Center for the Arts, Hanover NH Tickets $15; Dartmouth IDs $10 Information: Hopkins Center Box Office, 603.646.2422 or hop.dartmouth.edu RELATED LINKS: http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/dustbowl/ http://pressroom.pbs.org/Programs/d/Dust-Bowl.aspx http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/dustbowl/watch-videos/#2219206510 http://www.florentinefilms.com/index.html HANOVER, NH—The worst man-made ecological disaster in American history comes to the Hop via the probing, powerful, superbly researched filmmaking of Ken Burns and his associates. The Dust Bowl, Episode One, which airs on PBS on November 18 as the first of a two-part, four-hour series, gets a special advanced screening in the Hop’s Spaulding Auditorium on Friday, July 13, at 7 pm. Burns and the film’s writer and co-producer, Dayton Duncan, will be on hand for a post-screening discussion of the film and its topic. This is the Hop’s fourth advanced screening of a Burns film, following The National Parks in 2009, The Tenth Inning in 2010 and Prohibition: Part One in 2011. Burns is a familiar face at the Hop: his home and filmmaking company, Florentine Films, are in Walpole, NH, and he serves on the Hop’s Board of Overseers. This latest Burns project chronicles the environmental catastrophe that, throughout the 1930s, destroyed the farmlands of the Great Plains, turned prairies into deserts and unleashed a pattern of massive, deadly dust storms that for many seemed to herald the end of the world. “The Dust Bowl was a heartbreaking tragedy in the enormous scale of human suffering it caused. But perhaps the biggest tragedy is that it was preventable,” said Burns in a PBS press release. “This was an ecosystem—a grassland—that had evolved over millions of years to adjust to the droughts, high winds and violent weather extremes so common to that part of the country. In the space of a few decades at the start of the 20th century, that grassland was uprooted in the middle of a frenzied wheat boom. When a drought returned, all that exposed soil took to the skies, and people worried that the breadbasket of the nation would become the next Sahara desert. If we show the same neglect to the limits of nature now as we did then, it is entirely possible that this could happen again.” Said Duncan, a history writer who has collaborated on numerous other Burns projects, “It was as if nature itself had turned against them. But in fact it was the other way around: We had tried to impose our will on nature and the results were catastrophic.” In the decade through which it persisted, the Dust Bowl encompassed 100 million acres in Oklahoma, Texas, Kansas, Colorado and New Mexico and gave rise to the largest exodus in the nation’s history, as 2.5 million desperate Americans left their homes and faced an unknown and often cruel future. The documentary chronicles this critical moment in American history in all its complexities and profound human drama. Its compelling interviews of 26 survivors may turn out to be the last recorded testimony of the generation that lived through the Dust Bowl. Filled with seldom seen movie footage, previously unpublished photographs, the songs of Woody Guthrie, and the observations of two remarkable women who left behind eloquent written accounts, the film is also a historical accounting of what happened and why during the 1930s on the southern Plains. Titled “The Great Plow-Up (1890-1935),” Episode One begins with the deep history of the place the Plains Indians considered home, where the short grasses that covered the treeless expanse sent roots five feet below the ground, forming a dense sod that could withstand the region’s periodic droughts and violent weather extremes — nurturing deer, antelope, jackrabbits, and the vast herds of buffalo who grazed in numbers beyond counting. After the bison were eliminated and the Native Americans were driven onto reservations, cattlemen took over, until severe winters in the 1880s caused the “Beef Bonanza” to go bust. A severe drought in the 1890s pushed homesteaders who had swarmed the area, off the land. At the start of the 1900s, however, offers of cheap public land again attracted farmers to the region, and in World War I, in the midst of a relatively wet period, a lucrative new wheat market opened up. Advances in gasoline-powered farm machinery made production faster and easier than ever. During the 1920s, millions of acres of grassland across the plains were converted into wheat fields at an unprecedented rate. In 1930, with the Great Depression underway, wheat prices collapsed. Rather than follow the government’s urging to cut back on production, desperate farmers harvested even more wheat in an effort to make up for their losses. Fields were left exposed and vulnerable to a drought, which hit in 1932. Once the winds began picking up dust from the open fields, they grew into dust storms of biblical proportions. Each year the storms grew more ferocious and more frequent, sweeping up millions of tons of earth, covering farms and homes across the plains with sand and spreading the dust across the country. Children developed fatal “dust pneumonia,” business owners unable to cope with the financial ruin committed suicide and thousands of desperate Americans were torn from their homes and forced on the road in an exodus unlike anything the United States had ever seen. Reporting on the particularly horrific events of April 14, 1935— known as “Black Sunday” for the endless, roiling clouds of choking particulate that cloaked the region— Associated Press reporter Robert E. Geiger used the words “dust bowl,” and a name was born for this terrifying phenomenon. Episode Two, “Reaping the Whirlwind (1935-1940),” which airs on PBS on November 19, begins a few days after Black Sunday, and follows attempts by soil scientists and government agencies to aid the increasingly desperate inhabitants of the Dust Bowl, many in a state of semi-starvation. A preview website for the series at pbs.org/dustbowl includes video clips and information about the film and filmmakers, and also offers users opportunities to share their own stories about the Dust Bowl and engage in online conversations and discussions around the themes in the film. The Dust Bowl is a production of Florentine Films and WETA, Washington, DC. Burns has been making films for more than thirty years. Since his Academy Award-nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, he has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made, including his monumental 1990 series The Civil War and acclaimed films on baseball, jazz and other rich topics of American culture and history. His innovative and engaging ways of incorporating archival photos, films and texts gave rise to “the Ken Burns effect” as a popular name for a type of panning and zooming effect used in video production from still imagery. The late historian Stephen Ambrose said of his films, "More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source." Burns’ films have won twelve Emmy Awards and two Oscar nominations, and in September of 2008, at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, he was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Dayton Duncan was also writer and co-producer with Burns on “The National Parks” America’s Best Idea.” He worked with the celebrated filmmaker on other major projects too: “The Civil War,” “Baseball,” and “Jazz.” For a 12-hour series about the history of the American West, broadcast in 1996, Duncan acted as co-writer and consulting producer. It won the Erik Barnouw Award from the Organization of American Historians. * * * Founded in 1962, the Hopkins Center for the Arts is a multi-disciplinary academic, visual and performing arts center dedicated to uncovering insights, igniting passions, and nurturing talents to help the Dartmouth community engage imaginatively and contribute creatively to our world. Each year the Hop presents more than 300 live events and films by visiting artists as well as Dartmouth students and the Dartmouth community, and reaches more than 22,000 Upper Valley residents and students with outreach and arts education programs.
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