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Burns outlines 8 projects; PBS launches documentary service

Filmmaker Ken Burns says he has eight new

Filmmaker Ken Burns says he has eight new projects in the works, including profiles on Muhammad Ali and Leonardo da Vinci, and a chronicle of the American Revolutionary War. Credit: Chris Pizzello / Invision / AP

What do Ernest Hemingway, Muhammad Ali, Benjamin Franklin and Leonardo da Vinci have in common?

All are getting the Ken Burns treatment in the next few years. The PBS documentarian said Tuesday that he has eight projects in the works, half of them in-depth looks at the four personalities. The da Vinci project is the first one Burns has done on a non-American subject, he said.

The next great conflict that the maker of “The Civil War” is turning to is the American Revolutionary War, a project he hopes to have ready in 2025.

He's also doing documentaries on the United States' actions during the Holocaust, the comeback of the buffalo and the history of President Lyndon Johnson's Great Society.

PBS announced an online home for Burns' work and many of its documentary projects. On Aug. 4, the service will launch the PBS Documentaries Prime Video Channel, available by subscription for $3.99 a month. Past programming on from the “NOVA,” “Frontline,” “Nature” and “American Experience” shows will also be available for streaming on the new service.

It will join other existing streaming services PBS Kids, PBS Masterpiece and PBS Living.

Public television also announced a series of upcoming projects planned in part as a reaction to the nation's discussion of social justice issues in the wake of George Floyd's killing at the hands of police.

One will be a PBS Kids half-hour special, premiering on Oct. 9, about talking to youngsters about race and racism.

“Our commitment runs deep, throughout PBS and public television, to make sure all of our audience can see their stories reflected,” said Paula Kerger, PBS' president and CEO.

Alicia Keys is the executive producer of a documentary, “American Masters: How It Feels to be Free,” that will premiere early next year. It will tell the story of six Black female entertainers — Lena Horne, Abbey Lincoln, Nina Simone, Diahann Carroll, Cicely Tyson and Pam Grier.

Also next year, PBS will air a two-part documentary from historian Henry Louis Gates Jr. on Black churches, spotlighting their history and music. Gates said he felt fortunate to finish filming at churches throughout the country just before the COVID-19 pandemic.

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