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American Experience: Surviving the Dust Bowl (2007)

 NR |  DVD
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)

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American Experience: Surviving the Dust Bowl + Ken Burns: The Dust Bowl
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Product Details

  • Format: Multiple Formats, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: WGBH Boston
  • DVD Release Date: April 24, 2007
  • Run Time: 55 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000MZGN5Y
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,956 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)

Special Features


Editorial Reviews

In 1931 the rains stopped and the "black blizzards" began. Powerful dust storms carrying millions of tons of stinging, blinding black dirt swept across the Southern Plains--the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, western Kansas, and the eastern portions of Colorado and New Mexico. Topsoil that had taken a thousand years per inch to build suddenly blew away in only minutes. One journalist traveling through the devastated region dubbed it the "Dust Bowl."

This American Experience film presents the remarkable story of the determined people who clung to their homes and way of life, enduring drought, dust, disease--even death--for nearly a decade. Less well-known than those who sought refuge in California, typified by the Joad family in John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," the Dust Bowlers who stayed overcame an almost unbelievable series of calamities and disasters.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 23 people found the following review helpful
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A well produced television special on the Dust Bowl. Though somewhat incomplete in its depiction of the Dust Bowl, Surviving the Dust Bowl gives a very good over view of that drastic event in U.S. history. It works very well as a tool to give modern students a perspective on 1930s American history and its implications to present day. While it does seem to lack in-depth analysis, I don't think that should dissuade people, as there is only so much a producer can do in a 50 minute television program. The really good thing about it is the inclusion of people who were there and witnessed it. It goes well with The Worst Hard Time by Timothy Egan.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
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SURVIVING THE DUST BOWL is a 55 minute film. The movie devotes roughly equal times to black & white sequences and to color sequences. The black & white sequences include images of still photographs, as well as a generous selection of live action movies. The quality of the black & white films, as reproduced in this DVD, is generally quite good. The color sequences include movies of present-day wheat fields, and a generous dose of interviews with elderly people. The elderly interviewees are childhood survivors of the Dust Bowl.

There are plenty of images of dark, ominous dust storms, looming over the horizon and approaching closer and closer. There are movies of people sweeping their porches, sweeping dust from windowsills, putting masks on horses, and masks on schoolchildren. There are plenty of pictures of ploughs, ploughing what appears to be, for all practical purposes, a desert wasteland. There are some fine images of old automobiles, toting families away from the Dust Bowl, in search of better farming in California. There are scenes from town meetings, where villagers have banded together in solidarity, and assert their determination to stay living in the Dust Bowl.

One unusual scene is a bird's nest made out of barbed wire (the bird was not able to find grasses, and used wire instead). The most unusual part of the entire DVD is a black & white motion picture sequence showing thousands of rabbits invading from the hills. The rabbit sequence is, in my opinion, one of the most bizarre and strange film-sequences known to mankind. I won't reveal the details here, since what happens is rather gross. The rabbit sequence is similar to the invading mouse sequence, found in a movie about Taft, California.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars America's Dust Bowl January 14, 2011
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Many Americans are unaware of either the fact or the extent of the Dust Storm period during the late twenties and early thirties in the area covering the Texas Panhandle, the Oklahoma Panhandle and Southeastern Colorado and Southwestern Kansas. This DVD provides an excellent overview with significant details of that conflagration of dust.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great resource for the classroom or personal knowledge February 7, 2014
By Nelaine
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Ever since it came out, I have used the American Experience film, SURVIVING THE DUST BOWL, in teaching about the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression. I had the VCR version, then got the DVD. The power of the pictures themselves and the analysis of them, connected to the interviews with survivors, brings to life a terrible time in American history. It also reveals the resilience of the human spirit. This is an especially useful book and film in this current time, in which we are also experiencing financial crisis and world-shaking droughts in parts of this country and around the world. Anyone in California right now knows the fear of loss of water. Reading and watching allows not only shared experience, but hope. These people came through it; so can we, today. But it is hard.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book! June 25, 2014
I bought a bunch of books and a couple DVDs on the dustbowl through Amazon, and none of them disappointed. This was a very interesting book. I read it months ago so I don't remember details, but it will come in handy when I teach a unit on the Dust Bowl to my fourth graders.
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5.0 out of 5 stars I ENJOYED IT VERY MUCH May 19, 2014
By Ken
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I liked the movie very much, it gave me some insights to the time in Oklahoma that I did not know. I have shared it with some friends, they would like to order some of the others regarding the dust bowl.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible True History March 30, 2014
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Watching this a while back, I was riveted to this amazing documentary that taught me how the Dust Bowl happened, what happened during it, and how it was finally ended. I never forgot this film. Last Xmas I bought a copy for my son-in-law, a high school history teacher in a very poor area of the South. He happened to be about to do a section on the Great Depression, and he showed this to his class. Some of the kids don't care at all about school, but this video reached every single one. The entire film was just incredible, but when they showed the interviews of some of the survivors, and the heart-wrenching stories of little siblings dying and how they tried to still work and exist, it touched them to the very core of their being. They will remember this era in history, because of the way this film was done.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Dirt Will Wear Out!! February 21, 2014
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Enlightening...informative...& well documented as I would expect from American Experience. Even if you are familiar with this period in our history the stark images remind you Mother Nature is not to be trifled with. Well worth the price & it's never out of date. A lot of the same stuff shown here that you would see in Ken Burns 2012 version with fewer "Talking Heads".
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I love it
Very well done, informative and interesting.
Published 8 days ago by Mary Andersen
5.0 out of 5 stars Surviving the Dust Bowl
I love watching history.
Published 1 month ago by esthersolomon
5.0 out of 5 stars Surviving the Dust Bowl
A very good documentary of the dusty mid west during the Great Depression years. A good narrative, with actual black and white footage taken at the time of the terrible... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Bonnie
5.0 out of 5 stars Dust bowl experience
Ken Burns covers the great dust bowl with a great deal of interest.Having lived in the west and experiencing several dust storms in the 50's,it brought back tearful reminders of a... Read more
Published 17 months ago by rful407
4.0 out of 5 stars Learned Alot
I ordered this movie, because I like History. Me like probably so many others, thought that is event happened for 1 or 2 years. Read more
Published 17 months ago by Lavender Lady
5.0 out of 5 stars Highly recommended
Very informative portrayal of that which happened and the devastation that took place, which for the most part was unknown to most Americans
Published 18 months ago by Mrs. Ingrid A. Kleinfelter
5.0 out of 5 stars Good program.
We ordered this with the Dust Bowl series. I was a little worried that it would not be as good and I was very pleased with the quality.
Published 20 months ago by Geald P Headley
5.0 out of 5 stars WOW
This was amazing. I live in Texas and knowing what my parents through was heart wrenching. A REALLY REALLY good documentary... It needs to be seen
Published 20 months ago by Amarillo
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