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PROHIBITION, directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, tells the story of the rise, rule and fall of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The film starts with the early history of alcohol in America and examines the 19th-century temperance and progressive movements through the repeal of the 18th Amendment in 1933. This 6-hour, three part documentary also includes over 2 hours of bonus content.
About the Director
Ken Burns has been making films for more than thirty years. Since the Academy Award nominated Brooklyn Bridge in 1981, Ken has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made. A December 2002 poll conducted by Real Screen Magazine listed The Civil War as second only to Robert Flaherty s Nanook of the North as the most influential documentary of all time, and named Ken Burns and Robert Flaherty as the most influential documentary makers of all time. In March, 2009, David Zurawik of The Baltimore Sun said, ... Burns is not only the greatest documentarian of the day, but also the most influential filmmaker period. That includes feature filmmakers like George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. I say that because Burns not only turned millions of persons onto history with his films, he showed us a new way of looking at our collective past and ourselves. The late historian Stephen Ambrose said of his films, More Americans get their history from Ken Burns than any other source. Ken s films have won twelve Emmy Awards and two Oscar nominations, and in September of 2008, at the News & Documentary Emmy Awards, Ken was honored by the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Top customer reviews
There are three dvds in here, for a total of more than 6 hours of footage. The first dvd covers the birth of the idea of prohibiting alcohol from Americans' lives, back in the 1800s: how people lived, what they drank and how much, how this affected everyday life, how the first prohibition movements worked. The second discusses the life of the 18th Amendment: how it was lobbied by the anti-saloon league, the way distrust towards immigrants played a big part in it, how this changed the life of people, especially youth. The last dvd addresses the way gangsters profited from the law, how this took away the trust of people for the law and order and especially for Prohibition, how when the Great Depression kicked in the 18th Amendment was finally repealed.
There is a huge amount of images from the time discussed. Mainly photographs in the first dvd, but a huge amount of it. So many videos in the other two, coming from Twenties films, but also non-fiction footage and even some personal photos and video. I love this.
Beside interview with experts - including Okrent - there are a number of interviews with people who were young during Prohibition. Oral history is incredible. People who remember often have a very different view, their tales have a different mood from the commentary from experts. And the one always enriches the other.
There is a thing where the documentary goes in a different direction than the book. Where the book focuses on everyday life and the way Prohibition affected it, the documentary focuses more on personalities. Politicians, anti-saloon league members, judges, cops, personalities of different kind, including journalists and gangsters. Where the book only touches upon these people's life and involvement in Prohibition, the documentary gives a full portrait of them, and I liked a lot the way stories mixed with images. It gives a very strong feeling for the era.
So, maybe there is nothing particularly new about the info the documentary provides: it's the same as the book, is basically the same as so many other books about Prohibition. But I loved the footage. In a way, it was like being there.
Made with a ton of great movie footage and stills, and lots of tid-bits about the history of drinking in America -- it's out of control pervasiveness among men, especially working class men, that led to the push for prohibition that puts the now ridiculous seeming constitutional amendment in a somewhat more understandable light. That in turn explains the odd confluence of its backers, from religious conservatives, to well meaning social progressives looking to save the poor from themselves, to blue-blood WASPS who hated working class immigrants who drank more openly, to women fighting for the right to vote, and who saw how often alcohol contributed to domestic violence.
The film also does a great job in showing how a law that tens of millions of citizens will simply ignore is much worse than no law at all, as it sows the seeds of disregard and contempt for the law, as well creating a fertile ground for criminals to give people what they want in a black market. Much the same arguments are going on in the US right now about other "vice" laws, from marijuana, to prostitution, to proposed laws on fatty and sugary foods.
One of the central questions of any democracy is how much and where does the government have a right to intrude into people's lives for the greater good. It's an important and complicated question, and one the series does a good job of raising.
But at over 5 hours it starts to run a little thin, and the points and stories start to get a bit repetitive. I'm glad I saw it, and enjoyed myself quite a bit, but unlike many documentaries by Burns (and his equally talented brother Ric), I don't think I'll feel a need to re-watch it anytime soon.
Most recent customer reviews
** Daniel Okrent, author of Last Call: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition (2010, 2011)
** Pete Hamill, author of Read more
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