Wednesday, September 19, 2007

IPTV Plans to Air Unedited Version of Ken Burns’ World War II Documentary

War has a tendency to spark controversy in America, and the same holds true for films documenting war. Such is the case surrounding filmmaker Ken Burns' (see pic) new 14-hour film, "The War," documenting World War II, which is scheduled to begin airing on Public Broadcast Stations Sunday evening. The controversy has nothing to do with the level of violence depicted in the film, but, rather, the four uses of profanity in the 14 hours of edited footage.

Burns finds it odd that nobody has expressed concerns about the level of violence in the film. “Nobody has complained to him about the beheadings in "The War" or "the dead bodies stacked up like cordwood," Burns said in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Two of the four expletives in question are f-bombs in acronyms used by military personnel to describe a situation that has suddenly gone awry as either FUBAR (F**k*d Up Beyond All Repair), or SNAFU (Situation Normal: All F**k*d Up). The latter acronym inspired the cartoon character, Private Snafu (see pic), who starred in a series of black-and-white instructional cartoon shorts, which were designed to show soldiers what not to do and the consequences of irresponsible behavior.

The FCC hasn’t revealed its position as to whether or not it will fine public television stations for airing “The War,” which has left many broadcasters wondering what to do, thus spurring the Public Broadcasting System to supply its 350-member stations with a "clean" version of "The War" scrubbed of the four words.

Iowa Public Television (IPTV) has decided to air “The War” in its original format during the prime-time hours while airing the edited version during the daytime.”We felt like it was essential to telling the story,” IPTV Communications Manager Jennifer Konfrst told the Iowa Independent Tuesday. “It’s hard to talk about an episode that talks about FUBAR without using the language that the soldiers used. We don’t find it to be gratuitous or inappropriate. It’s used in context depicting first-hand accounts of people who were there.”

Regarding any concerns about the FCC, Konfrst cited the 2005 opinion in the “Saving Private Case,” in which the FCC looks at three factors in determining whether or not something is obscene:

1. The explicitness or graphic nature of the description or depiction of sexual or excretory organs or activities.
2. Whether the material dwells on or repeats at length descriptions of sexual or excretory organs or activities.
3. Whether the material appears to pander or is used to titillate or whether the material appears to have been presented for its shock value.

“Since ‘Saving Private Ryan’ is a fictionalized account of World War II, we presumed that airing a non-fictionalized account of actual people talking about their experiences in the war would be alright,” Konfrst said. “Besides, we wanted to stay true to the story.”

The documentary, produced by Burns and Lynn Novick, was six years in the making and focuses on the stories of citizens from four geographically distributed American towns -- Waterbury, Conn.; Mobile, Ala.; Sacramento, Calif., and the tiny farming town of Luverne, Minn. The four communities stand in for -- and could represent -- any town in the United States that went through the war's four devastating years. Individuals from each community take the viewer through their own personal and quite-often-harrowing journeys into war, painting vivid portraits of how the war dramatically altered their lives and those of their neighbors, as well as the country they helped to save for generations to come.

Feeding off Burns’ documented war stories, IPTV has made an attempt to further engage Iowans and WW II veterans by interviewing and recording 50 WW II veterans around Iowa, capturing their stories to preserve on film. These stories have been sent off to the “Veterans History Project” at the Library of Congress and can be viewed on the IPTV website. “These veterans’ stories will be archived forever and Iowa will be well represented in the Library of Congress,” Konfrst said. “In addition, IPTV has been hosting “In Honor” dinners for Iowa veterans around the state, recognizing WW II veterans for their service and sacrifices for their efforts during the war.”

The Library of Congress launched the comprehensive community awareness campaign, “Veterans History Project,” with PBS and Ken Burns. “We stand at the ready to continue our tradition of honoring America’s war veterans by preserving their stories for future generations," said Librarian of Congress James H. Billington in a press release. "The Veterans History Project" collects and archives the one-of-a-kind stories that represent the diversity of the veterans who served our country—veterans from all conflicts, all branches of the military, all ranks, all races and ethnicities."

"There have been countless books and films about the Second World War," Burns said in a press release. "In ‘The War,’ we try to allow a small group of individuals to tell their bottom-up story. This film is as much about storytelling, about sharing unique experiences, as it is about World War II, and as such we hope that it touches on the universal human experience of battle. Of course, the film only provides a small window into the much larger experience of the hundreds of thousands who have served during times of war. We hope that by providing the tools to people around the country, especially young people, we can work together to capture many more of these stories before the generation that fought in World War II has passed."

1 comment:

Bonita said...

Well written article.