Damon Root: What Ken Burns' New Film Gets Right—and Wrong—About the Roosevelts


Public Domain

In his new film, which premieres this Sunday night on PBS, documentarian Ken Burns examines the tangled lives of Theodore, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt. "It was not our intention to make a puff piece," Ken Burns told Senior Editor Damon Root in an interview this week, "but a complicated, intertwined, integrated narrative about one hell of an American family." Root reports that Burns was just partially successful. At its best, Root writes, The Roosevelts: An Intimate History offers a warts and all portrait of the family. But at its worst, the film ignores historical details and underplays the family's abuse of political power.