Review by Mark Schwab
I consider myself very lucky to have been given a free ticket to see Ken Burns' newest documentary "The Roosevelts" at a very special Castro Theater preview screening in San Francisco. This was a hot ticket as the movie theater was packed, even the balcony.
Ken Burns himself came out and spoke about what it meant to him to pursue this project for the past seven years. He was smooth and literate (exactly like a good historian should be) and said he was somewhat nervous about showing only "selected clips" from what will be 14 hours of material spread out over seven episodes debuting September 14 on PBS. After a funny joke about how he had instructed the theater to lock the doors to force us to watch the entire fourteen hours in one sitting (and I'm sure some of the patrons would have been up for that), the lights dimmed and we were treated to about an hour's worth of material spread out from the first six episodes.
I had seen Burns' work on PBS - from The Civil War to Baseball to Prohibition and they were all wonderful. But to see The Roosevelts in that glorious Castro Theater was an experience in itself. Burns' work translates beautifully to the large screen, his carefully archived photos showing marvelous depth of field and key details that might get missed on a television screen.
The tagline to this is An Intimate History and even seeing only a fraction of this, there is plenty of feeling and emotion which comes through - especially when Eleanor's story comes to light. Then again, why should we be surprised when, in typical Ken Burns quality, it is Meryl Streep reading as Eleanor. As her voice filled the Castro Theater, you were totally swept up in that complex time in America's history.
All of it was marvelous and I can't wait to see all of The Roosevelts this September 14th. Set your DVR's now.