The War is a new documentary series by acclaimed producer Ken Burns (best known for his series on the Civil War). Something of a unique take on a history of World War 2, the series tells the war through the eyes of four towns from across America. It deals both with the home front—the war years as they were experienced through the lives of the people who remained behind, and it deals with the war itself—the war as it was fought by men from those towns. The series is masterfully made.
Some people have argued that there is a little too much repetition in the footage used and others have said that there is perhaps a little too much emphasis in the films on the role of various minority groups. This is not to say that minorities were not involved or important in the war, but it seems clear that controversy surrounding the role of Hispanics led to what some feel is perhaps an inordinate amount of time being dedicated to particular groups. Personally I felt the balance was quite good and the focus on these groups has been very interesting to me precisely because they are too often ignored (though admittedly the footage appended to the first episode seems a mite forced). For example, it was very interesting hearing about the Japanese Americans who on one hand fought bravely on the European front while on the other hand their families were forced to remain behind barbed wire in internment camps. What a strange paradox.
Regardless of your feelings on those areas, the series is really worth your while. Even my wife, who is certainly no Word War 2 enthusiast, enjoyed the series since it emphasizes not just the war, but the stories of both groups and individuals. The series may well appeal to just about anyone. I definitely recommend it.
It is available at Amazon.
Still Standing is the most recent production from Franklin Springs Family Media. It tells the story of Stonewall Jackson, not primarily through his experience as a soldier, but through the legacy of his faith. With much of the story being told by historians, it describes him not just a military genius (which is certainly his legacy in history) but as a made of resolute Christian character. It takes the viewer from his orphaned childhood, through the Sunday school class he taught for African Americans, and into the Civil War where he played a pivotal role in the initial successes of the Confederacy. Shot in a variety of relevant historical locales, the production gives the viewer a sense of where Jackson lived and what his life might have been like. It certainly provides a challenge to understand the faith that made Jackson who he was.
It is also available at Amazon.
Inherit the Land
Inherit the Land is described as being “Adventures in the Agrarian Journey.” “This new DVD will cast a vision for your family by providing an introductory look at the blessings found when families work in an agrarian lifestyle. We’ve traveled across the US and captured stories of families experiencing the joy of working in God’s creation.” The DVD introduces several families and the agrarian lifestyle they’ve chosen. On that level it is an interesting production and is well-made. On another level—the level in which it seems to subtly prescribe this as a superior lifestyle to middle-class suburbia (i.e. the typical Christian experience today), I found it disappointing. It seems to fall into several of the traps that may (sometimes) befall those who seek out such a lifestyle. It seems to teach that what is old is innately better than what is new and that there was a time in the past, perhaps 150 years ago, we ought to recover—a time when it was far easier to be a Christian. That is a fallacy, though a popular one, I’m sure. I am glad to see some Christian families choosing an agrarian lifestyle, but if all Christians were to follow suit, our witness to the world would be devastated. Many of us have no desire to do that and feel no pull from a biblically-informed conscience to do such a thing. Though the presentation is quite good, the message behind the presentation was, in my opinion, a wee bit disappointing. Still, it is an interesting enough production and one I enjoyed watching.
It is available at Franklin Springs.