The American Experience: The Donner Party
WGBH-TV, Boston, Massachusetts, BBC, London, UK
At its best, television documentary ascends from telling tales of contemporary or historic events to true visual poetry. This aspiration is achieved in The Donner Party. By skillfully blending historic photos and diary entries with contemporary footage of the long trek, Ric Burns, Lisa Ades and their fine filmmaking team have created a compelling metaphor for the American expansion westward. At the same time, they have reminded us of the valiant effort required for easterners to make a new life in the west in the mid-19th century. As an excellent episode in an omnibus series of cultural prominence, a Peabody to The Donner Party, as presented on The American Experience.