The first episode of Ken Burns’s epic seven-part World War II documentary The War finally premiered on PBS Sunday night, after months of controversy over why the director initially didn’t include stories of Latino veterans. After cries of outrage by Latino American activist groups, Burns went back and added footage of Latinos in his film before it aired.
It makes perfect sense that some Latinos were offended, said Esther J. Cepeda in the Chicago Sun-Times. “At a time when Latinos are being demonized by some as the cause of the nation’s economic and cultural struggles because of the continuing immigration debate, it’s simply human nature to want to point out the way Latinos have bettered the United States.” And the fact that Burns and his team created educational materials that go along with the documentary to be used by academic institutions is proof “to some that he should be held to a higher standard than theatrical directors.”
This is just another case of the PC Police getting out of hand, said Miki Turner in MSNBC.com. “It appears that once again an artist has had to reshape his vision so that his work would or could appear to be more socially responsible.” It would be one thing if Burns were actually trying to exclude Latinos. “But if that wasn’t the case—and I don’t believe it was—the added footage really adds nothing creatively or socially. It’s just there to appease.”
“In the war between Hispanic activist groups and Ken Burns, there may be no winner,” said Randy Cordova in The Arizona Republic. Normally, Burns’s epic documentaries draw huge ratings and bring in a lot of money in viewer donations for PBS. “Unfortunately, the furor threatens to overwhelm the film, a powerful work.” It’s really too bad.