Film Review: The War by Ken Burns and Manila during World War Two


For those of us, especially in this administration who salivates for war, watch The War, a seven-part American television documentary miniseries about World War II now being shown over at This film merited an entry into Cannes in 2007.

Produced by American filmmakers Ken Burns and Lyn Novick and written by Geoffrey Ward and voiced or narrated by Keith David, the film tells the stories of America’s participation in World War Two–the bloodiest global war so far on record. The film was funded in part by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Aside from David, other narrators include Tom Hanks, Josh Lucas, Bobby Cannavale, Samuel L. Jackson, and Eli Wallach. Ken Burns in this words about the film:

“For the past six years we have striven to create a documentary film series about the Second World War in that spirit. Ours has been, in part, a humbling attempt to understand “the things men do in war, and the things war does to them” (as Phil Caputo so aptly noted). We chose to explore the impact of the war on the lives of people living in four American towns — Mobile, Alabama; Sacramento, California; Waterbury, Connecticut; and Luverne, Minnesota. Over the course of the film’s nearly fifteen hours more than forty men and women opened their hearts to us about the war they knew — and which we, their inheritors, could only imagine.”

What struck me as very interesting is the stories of Americans both prisoners of war and those who fought the Japanese. If we think that the Americans had an easy time subduing the Japanese during their occupation of the Philippines, think again. After the historic Battle of Leyte Gulf, American troops which battled the Japs had a terrible time defeating the invasion forces especially those who vowed to die just by defending Manila.

Manila was one of the worst hit by this world, second only to Poland and Warsaw. Watch this movie so you’ll understand that war is not a picnic–it is pure savagery.


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