Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Legendary film and documentary maker Ken Burns will be in Missoula on Thursday, June 8 at 7:00 p.m. at the Wilma Theater as Montana PBS will host a special film preview for his newest project ‘The American Buffalo’.

KGVO News spoke with Burns on Wednesday to get his perspective on ‘The American Buffalo’ project. Burns said the two-part four-hour film was a long time coming.

Ken Burns said 'The American Buffalo' film has been a Long Time Coming

“We've been thinking about this project for 30 or more years,” began Burns. “It wasn't that other things were more important, but I'm really glad that we waited. We certainly wrote a proposal about it, even before the Lewis and Clark film was complete, and now we have a chance to do it. I think the story has played out enough particularly with some of the things that you've mentioned about various indigenous peoples taking over and understanding how to listen to and not superimpose our narrative on it, but to listen as we try to do in all our films. To hear what's being said from the people who know the story the best.”

Burns was moved by how inextricably linked the American buffalo are to the indigenous peoples of America.

Burns Understands the Vital Relationship between Buffalo and Indigenous Peoples

“I don't think we were fully prepared when we began this project to realize the extent to which we're not only telling the story of the American buffalo, but we're telling a story of Native Americans whose lives were intertwined with this most magnificent of animals in every single way, for 12,000 years, at least,” he said. “And so, for native peoples up and down the Great Plains and in other places as well, we focus in the film and on the tragedies that took place in the 19th century.”

Burns said he is looking forward to sharing the story on June 8, first with a visit to the CSKT Bison Range, where much of the film was shot, and at the Wilma Theater starting at 7:00 p.m.

“It's a really powerful story,” he said. “In some ways, I can't wait to have a conversation in Montana because so much work is being done by native peoples and other groups to help not just preserve the bison. The buffalo has been saved. It's not going to go extinct as we thought at the end of the 19th and the early 20th century, but how do you restore it to a kind of natural thing. In our conversation on June 8 at the Wilma, I'm really looking forward to it and we're going to have a wonderful conversation.”

Burns said the film ends at the National Bison Range for a profound reason.

The American Buffalo is a Story of 'De-Extinction'

“Yes, it's one of the last moments of our film talking about that, and we spent a good deal of time filming there,” he said. “Yes, I'm very excited to be there and to see it and to and to celebrate the stories that we're telling in this and the good news that we're heralding with the story of the American Buffalo. It is a parable of de-extinction, which is, of course a good thing, particularly for the largest land mammal in North America, particularly for our national mammal that it isn't gone.”

Burns and others will tour the CSKT Bison Range early on June 8, and then at 7:00 p.m. Montana PBS will host a special film preview event at the Wilma Theater, followed by a panel discussion featuring director Burns, writer Dayton Duncan, producer Julie Dunfey, historian Rosalyn LaPier, and National Wildlife Federation-Tribal Buffalo Program Senior Manager Jason Balder, to be moderated by Montana PBS Host and Producer John Twiggs.

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