Filmmaker Ric Burns remembers the life of the great writer and neurologist Oliver Sacks, a life containing more drama than a Dickens novel, in an online conversation with Paul Barnes. Burns will talk about the work and life of perhaps our culture’s most beloved popular scientist, a man who spent decades studying and documenting those whose neurological peculiarities—sleeping sickness, Tourette’s, autism—revealed much about our own fickle brains.
About the film OLIVER SACKS: MY OWN LIFE: Ric Burns’ documentary visited with Sacks during the final year before his death in 2015. Sacks childhood unfolded during the destruction of World War II, he was hounded by a powerfully overbearing mother and his brother suffered from severe mental illness. But rather than be ruined, Sacks channeled his demons into projects that shined light on the human condition. In remembering the great scientist, Burns celebrates the ways in which he gave us the gifts of tolerance, curiosity and a deep appreciation for the mysteries of consciousness.
Ric Burns has been writing, directing and producing historical documentaries for more than 25 years, since producing the PBS series The Civil War (1990) with his brother Ken, and co-writing it with Geoffrey C. Ward. His distinguished programs for PBS include Coney Island (1991), The Donner Party (1992), The Way West (1995), his eight-part New York: A Documentary Film (1999), Ansel Adams (2002), Eugene O’Neill, Andy Warhol (2006), We Shall Remain: Tecumseh’s Vision (2009), Into the Deep: America, Whaling & the World (2010), Death and the Civil War (2012), American Ballet Theatre (2015), Debt of Honor (2015), The Pilgrims (2015), VA: The Human Cost of War (2017), and The Chinese Exclusion Act (2018). He has won six Emmy Awards, two George Foster Peabody Awards, two Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Awards, three Writer’s Guild of America Awards for Outstanding Individual Achievement in a Craft: Writing; the Eric Barnouw Award of the Organization of American Historians, and the D.W. Griffith Award of the National Board of Review.
Paul Barnes works as editor include WASN’T THAT A TIME (1982, Best Documentary Editing Award from the American Cinema Editors), SAY AMEN, SOMEBODY (winner, Best Documentary, Boston Film Critics) and THE THIN BLUE LINE (1988 Best Documentary Award, New York Film Critics). Paul was editor of Ken Burns’s Oscar-nominated STATUE OF LIBERTY, beginning a 25-year collaboration that resulted in THE CIVIL WAR (1990, highest rated series in public TV history and winner of 40 awards); BASEBALL; EMPIRE OF THE AIR: THE MEN WHO MADE RADIO; THOMAS JEFFERSON; the ten-part JAZZ series; THE ROOSEVELTS: AN INTIMATE HISTORY and THE VIETNAM WAR.