Ric Burns’ New York, an eight episode documentary series, deigns to tell the political, economic, and cultural history of New York, from its beginning as a Dutch settlement in the 17th century to a world capital city in the 21st Century. A ninth episode is currently in production.
New York: Episodes 1-7
Ric Burns put together an impassioned cast of writers, historians, film editors, and bards to try to tell the story of New York from Peter Stuyvesant, Alexander Hamilton, Walt Whitman, Jacob Riis, Al Smith and F. Scott Fitzgerald to Robert Moses, Jane Jacobs and the birth of Hip Hop culture.
Extraordinary segments from the first seven episodes of New York include historian Mike Wallace’s revealing explanation of the city’s economic pattern of boom, exuberance, corruption, and bust, David McCullough’s meditation on the promise of New York, actor Robert Sean Leonard’s beautiful rendering of the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Pete Hamill’s honoring of his father’s pain and toil, Alfred Kazin’s lyrical musing on the power of yearning, and Robert Caro’s analysis of the impact of the vision of Robert Moses on the city.
New York: The Center of the World Episode 8
In the context of the challenge of creating a film in response to the events of September 11, 2001, Ric Burns’ The Center of the World is one of the most brilliant and moving films ever made. Created as Episode 8 of the New York documentary series, the three hour film recounts the history of the World Trade Center from the planning stages designed to revitalize downtown Manhattan through the destruction of the towers by the terrorist attacks of September 11.
Creating a film with so much sensitivity in the immediate aftermath of the horror and heartbreak of that day is truly an extraordinary achievement. Perhaps no other document captures the emotional impact of Septmeber 11 quite as well.
The on camera responses Mr. Burns and his colleagues engender from figures including historian Kenneth Jackson, Governor Mario Cuomo, tight rope walker Philipe Petit, and New York bard Pete Hamill embody both the sadness of the day and the grace of the response of the city.
The footage shown in the film is particularly heartbreaking and would appear callous in a film with less compassion and heart but The Center of the World is a film that was made by a community of people trying to create something beautiful and true in honor of those lost on that horrible day.