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PBS sets April air date for Ken Burns documentary on human genetics

American pubcaster PBS has slated the two-part documentary Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate Story, executive produced by seminal filmmaker Ken Burns and author Siddhartha Mukherjee. The four-hour documentary, premiering this April, weaves together ...
February 19, 2020

American pubcaster PBS has slated the two-part documentary Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate Story, executive produced by seminal filmmaker Ken Burns and author Siddhartha Mukherjee.

The four-hour documentary, premiering this April, weaves together science, history and personal stories to present a historical biography of the human genome. It also explores breakthroughs for diagnosis and treatment of genetic diseases, and the complex ethical questions those treatments raise.

Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate Story, inspired by Mukherjee’s (pictured left) book of the same name, includes interviews with pioneers in the field and a trove of archival footage.

Beginning with the achievements of the earliest gene hunters and their attempts to understand the nature of heredity, the film traces the history of genetics to understand how the genetic code is translated in human cells. It also highlights the technological transformation in genetics research from the 1970s through to the 2000s, and examines the rise of eugenics.

WETA Washington, D.C., the flagship public broadcasting station in the nation’s capital, is also developing an interactive website and social and digital media components in conjunction with the broadcast. Those elements include a multi-media educational initiative, including a six-part animated series, to engage teachers and students.

The series also includes “an extensive engagement program” created by WETA in collaboration with partners such as the National Institute of Health’s National Human Genome Research Institute. Partners and funders will host screenings and discussions in cities across the country, working with local public media stations and a range of educational, medical and scientific organizations.

Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate Story is a production of Florentine Films and WETA in association with Ark Media.

The series is directed by Chris Durrance and Jack Youngelson, with award-winning filmmaker Barak Goodman serving as senior producer. Burns (right) also serves as senior creative consultant.

Executive producers include Dalton Delan, Tom Chiodo, John F. Wilson and Anne Harrington. David Costabile is the narrator.

Ken Burns Presents The Gene: An Intimate Story airs April 7 and 14 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on PBS member stations nationwide.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news editor at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joined the RS team in 2015 with experience in journalism following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and with communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.

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