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National Parks, The: America’s Best Idea 12x52

Outstanding Nonfiction Series, THE EMMY AWARD
Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming, THE EMMY AWARD

This 12-hour documentary series directed by Ken Burns is the story of an idea as uniquely American as the Declaration of Independence and just as radical: that the most special places in the nation should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone. As such, it follows in the tradition of Burns’ exploration of other American inventions, such as baseball and jazz.

Filmed over the course of more than six years in some of nature’s most spectacular locales—from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska—the documentary is nonetheless a story of people from every conceivable background: rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy. It is a story of struggle and conflict, high ideals and crass opportunism, stirring adventure and enduring inspiration: set against breathtaking backdrops.

The narrative traces the birth of the national park idea in the mid-1800s and follows its evolution for nearly 150 years. Using archival photographs, first-person accounts of historical characters, personal memories and analysis from more than 40 interviews, and what Burns believes is the most stunning cinematography in Florentine Films’ history, the series chronicles the steady addition of new parks through the stories of the people who helped create them and save them from destruction. It is simultaneously a biography of compelling characters and a biography of the American landscape.

Over six years in the making, The National Parks is a visual feast, featuring some of the most extensive, breathtaking images of the national parks system every captured on film.

From Ken Burns