Thomas Jefferson - A Film by Ken Burns
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As I said, I really enjoyed the style of this documentary, but there are problems as well. Unlike his excellent film on the Civil War, Burns seems here to ignore some basic historical facts. It's almost as if he tries to set up Jefferson as THE founding father instead of A founding father. Credit to Jefferson for drafting the Declaration of Independence is well-deserved, but giving him full credit for the treaty in France (which Franklin, Adams, and Arthur Lee had much more to do with than he did) is stretching it a lot.
When speaking of Jefferson's years in France, the film is silent as to the great friendship between he and John Adams. Indeed, Adams is portrayed as the great antagonist, and Burns here calls him a friend and close ally of Alexander Hamilton (also not true). Later, when Adams and Jefferson begin their famous correspondence late in life, you can barely understand why the two men are writing to each other (since it makes only passing mention of their previous close friendship).
Ken Burns has given us another good documentary here, but it would have been better, in my opinion, to make this one a little longer to be able to provide a more accurate portrait of Jefferson's life. Instead, many basic historical facts have been ignored, and we are left with a picture of Jefferson that, despite making him seem a great hero of the revolution (which he was), is not accurate.
Gore Vidal and George Will, at the opposite ends of the political spectrum, are among the historians and commentators that appear, reflect and illuminate on the life and ideas of the most contradictory of America's founders.
Like most, if not all, of Ken Burns' productions, "Thomas Jefferson," the program's script/narration is its most distinctive and memorable feature.
I only wish a text of program's script accompanied the DVD.
The appearance and commentary by Black historian John Hope Franklin provides appropriate balance to the program that tends to applaud Jefferson the man, his achievements and contributions.
The fact that Jefferson didn't free his slaves, and/or regularly had sexual intercourse with one of his slaves seem to me easily understood, considering his life and times. I'm not the least bit shocked, and my admiration of Jefferson is not diminished by these facts and/or speculations.
Every American should regularly be introduced to this giant of the American Experience.
"Thomas Jefferson: A Film By Ken Burns" should be every collection of quality DVD documentaries, and shown and studied in all American History classes.
I hope that PBS continues to release all of Ken Burns' productions on DVD.
The documentary does a decent job of hitting the high points of Jefferson's life, though there is a definite tendency to skip over some aspects, perhaps because of time limitations. For instance, Jefferson was an absolutely awful vice president under Adams, and actively conspired to undermine his presidency, but no mention of this is made whatsoever in the series.Read more ›
I also believe this biography overreaches in its portrayal of Jefferson as a tragic figure. It is certainly true that Jefferson lost many close friends and relatives throughout his life, including his father at an early age, his wife when she was still very young, his closest friend, and five of his six children before his death, but this is not extraordinary given the time period, nor do I think a strong argument can be made that these events significantly influenced Jefferson's thoughts, republican ideals, or actions.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A very well-done -- albeit OLD -- Jefferson biography; even predates the 1997 DNA tests showing he probably fathering Sally Hemings's children. Still, worth the $$$.Published 2 months ago by Jean Kimble
Ken Burns is a genius. Would expect nothing less from him.Published 3 months ago by Frank Turano, Jr.
Good overview of an American Treasure but a bit soft on the research on his contemporaries. ---particularly Adams, FranklinPublished 7 months ago by Lawrence J. Gubas
This is an excellent documentary on Thomas Jefferson. It covers all of our third President's life from childhood friendship with Dabney Carr and discovering the hill where... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Dawn