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A Time for Burning

14 customer reviews

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(Dec 26, 2005)
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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Unsparingly honest, A TIME FOR BURNING packs a mighty wallop with its excruciatingly up-close treatment of race issues in a typical white, middle-class church at the pinnacle of the Civil Rights Movement. Originally rejected by the three major networks for being too controversial, this classic cinema-verité film from award-winning filmmaker Bill Jersey captures an all-white Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska as their eager, but earnest pastor tries to get the congregation to reach out to their fellow black Lutherans. Jersey's camera is there when a highly articulate and outspoken black nationalist Ernie Chambers tells Pastor Youngdahl that his "Jesus is contaminated." The camera continues to roll as a church elder speaks passionately about the urgency of desegregation but then admits he's never actually spent time one-on-one with a black person. As tensions threaten to tear apart the church, the film illustrates the anguish and awakenings of the civil rights era through the words and actions of everyday people. "A glowing beauty" (The New York Times), A TIME FOR BURNING is a classic touchstone, which poignantly captures the mood of the times as the Civil Rights Movement challenged the nation to change its ways. DVD Features: Director's Commentary; Update: Ernie Chambers 40 years later; Filmmaker Statement; Filmmaker Biography; Scene Selection

An extremely passionate and moving documentary, William C. Jersey's A Time for Burning explores the civil rights issue from one of the least likely of vantage points--a white, middle-class congregation in Nebraska--and reveals some of the more powerful observations about race and equality to come out of the '60s. Jersey's focal point is the Reverend L. William Youngdahl, who attempts to inspire his parishioners--all white and Lutheran--to reach out and make a connection with black Lutherans in the state. Youngdahl quickly finds himself at the center of a conflict that mirrors the nationwide struggle, with representatives from the church, community, and protest movements speaking for and against his desire to unite those of a common faith. Rejected by all three networks, Burning's unflinching exploration of the state of race relations in the United States and the human heart earned it an Academy Award nomination in 1968, and a place on the National Film Registry in 2005. The DVD includes commentary by and a biography on Jersey, as well as an update on activist Ernie Chambers, who is featured in the film. -- Paul Gaita

Special message from Bill Jersey, producer and director of A Time for Burning:

With our new (and beautiful) Black presidential family we are tempted to say - the Battle for Black Civil rights has been won. I believe with our President "Old hatreds cannot last" BUT-- as we explored in A Time for Burning-(1965) nothing is as simple as it may seem. In this (my) film about Black /white relations one Church member reminds us (to prove there is no racism in his school) that--"I had a negro in my locker room”. "Burning" has no fire hoses -no teeth baring dogs- and no policeman with truncheons --just one angry Black barber and nice-really nice -white folks saying "we want them to have everything we have- we just can't sit next to them" (in church ). Ultimately- the Churches white minister is forced to resign. When I showed the film at NYU last fall- once again as it has for 43 years the film provoked the response that earned it an Oscar nomination and installation in the permanent Archive of the library of congress: "great story- still relevant”. In my view Burning retains its power because it prompts reflection - and reminds us -- that racism is not the province of mad men or extremists alone- it exists in all of us AND- to see it- is the first step in liberation from it. The time for change IS now- and BUT we, Obama reminds us, must work together to make it real!! So-Thank you Docurama for making Burning available and thanks to you who will extend its reach.

Product Details

  • Actors: Ernie Chambers, Ray Cristensen, Bill Youngdahl
  • Directors: Bill Jersey, Barbara Connell
  • Producers: Bill Jersey, Robert E.A. Lee
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Black & White, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Docurama
  • DVD Release Date: December 26, 2005
  • Run Time: 58 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000BB153Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,281 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "A Time for Burning" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Bonita L. Davis on April 1, 2001
Format: VHS Tape
How does a church respond in a time when the country is exploding over the question of civil rights? The answer can be found in this documentary film of one church's response to the crisis. Filmed in 1966, the leaders of Augustana Lutheran Church in Omaha, Nebraska share with us their fears, hypocrasy, and racial prejudice as they come to grips with the social reality of their times.
The pastor of the church makes the first move in listening to the voices of Blacks in Omaha who bluntly tell him the truth of what is going on. Moved by their words he challenges the church's social committee to initiate a ministry that can bring understanding and reconciliation among the groups.
In watching this film you will witness the process of how a white church attempts to come to face the weakness of their faith, sense of justice and fears of reaching out. Every small step that they take is done with caution but they try. We see a church for the first time being confronted with the reality of what it means to be a Christian.
As a sociological study of race relations and the white church this is an excellent film. You see the theological, social and cultural differences as to how two groups view Christianity. The African-Americans do not spare their white Christian counterparts in condemning them for not living up to the Christian gospel. Augustan Lutheran Church is a good example of how a church can change and become relevant to the issues of its time if it will step out on faith. You will be hopeful at the outcome of this film as two groups struggle for reconciliation.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kevin Buckner on May 11, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Having lived through this time, I was born and raised in Omaha, I now understand why I think the way I do. Ernie Chambers and Dan Goodwin were, and still are, my barbers. The conversations that went on in the barbershop were not staged, these are the type of exchanges that go on in 'Spencer Street Barber Shop' to this day. This is where I earned my degree in 'Common Sense' Thank God, I am now equipped to deal with the unfortunate reality that is America. I wish I could say Omaha was unique, but it was not...this type of thinking goes on everywhere I have lived, now it's just a bit more covert, both black and white. While I applaud Min. Youngdahl's effort, I was not surprised that he 'resigned'. We all need to step away from our comfort zone...this documentary is our 'Picture of Dorian Gray'.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By thelifemosaic on February 21, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
A Time for Burning is a film that grabs your attention immediately, both mind and heart. This 1966 documentary shot by the Lutheran Film Associates examines the efforts of Rev. Bill Youngdahl to rally his all-white congregation to have ten families meet with ten families from an all-black congregation in their mutual city, Omaha, Nebraska. What starts as what Youngdahl calls, "Just a little thing" soon blows up into conversations political, economic, personal, ethical, and theological.

Youngdahl is a wonder to witness as he never loses his cool during his uphill battle with his congregation. His calm demeanor is matched in word and wisdom by 30-year-old black neighborhood barber, Ernie Chambers, who gives Youngdahl the foreboding warning, "If you try to do something, you'll get kicked out of your church" in the first six minutes of the film. In the following scenes, several white men ask Youngdahl why the church must "be so revolutionary" with such a controversial issue, that it's taking "a gamble," that this potential ministry could split the church wide open and could destroy "What we've built up here." It leaves the viewer wondering, exactly what has the church built up here in terms of radical, Christ-like hospitality? The question of ethics and deferring responsibility rises every other minute throughout the film.

The hidden main protagonist is layperson Ray Christiansen, whose heart is caught in a tug-of-war, sometimes hesitant and sometimes embracing of Youngdahl's idea.
Read more ›
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By L.W. on August 30, 2006
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
This needs to be promoted better because no one has heard about this, but if they did, watch out. Ernie Chambers? I've never heard of this man, but i'm honored to know that he exists. This documentary is brilliant, especially for it's time period.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By marypayne on March 26, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I purchased this to get a better understanding of what my grandparents went through in the 1960's in Omaha, Nebraska. I was pleased at the quality of the product that I received. I know that this aired almost 50 years ago but I felt like I was sitting in the meetings as members of the church discussed racism and what to do about it. This is as relevant today as it was then. I am impressed!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Yasmin H. McEwen on March 19, 2010
Format: DVD
I will nearly always hands down endorse anything Mr. Chambers preaches. I have seen him in action and I know he preaches the gospel. The gospel of humanity. As someone who watched him captivate a classroom of students with the wit and energy of a magician and then gave each student a solid gold gift of knowledge; as someone who has been so moved by the power of his words; lightning!; whether a person agrees or disagrees; Ernie Chambers is a force, he is a light; he is a gift from God, even if he would argue that; I shall argue it right back to him; his eternal fight for justice is the light of humanity; the way a soul gets all lit up from seeing the raw fight in action; I urge everyone and anyone to witness Mr. Chambers and buy this documentary. There are detractors who will say that he is racist against white people and I have seen a different sort of Legislator; someone who goes in search of the broken down, the invisible, the ones who have gone unseen by society; someone who fights for the helpless, for the sick, and the kicked down, the poor, and for animals; I shall not join in on this warfare upon a warrior who has so unselfishley given over his life unto others; hear the call and force yourself to wake up and listen. Just listen and ask yourself if you do not once hold a certain stereotype or premonition about another that may be in need of a challenge. There is a certain honesty in asking oneself the question; who am I prejudiced against and how can I fight this. I plan on purchasing this documentary and keeping it in my forever library of forever voices right up there with Martin Luther King Jr.Read more ›
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