Documentary maker Ken Burns said Thursday he will edit his upcoming PBS series about World War II to add stories about Hispanic soldiers after protests that they had been excluded.
A day after meeting with Hispanic advocacy groups, Burns said he had collected interviews with Hispanic veterans that he considered powerful and would incorporate them, along with the veterans’ personal documents.
“The War,” a 14-hour series, is scheduled to air in September.
“The role of Hispanic-American veterans in WWII is one that lends itself to the universality of this film and merits being included in my film,” Burns said in a statement. “It is adding another layer of storytelling that will only enrich what we already have.”
Burns was traveling to Paris on Thursday for the Cannes Film Festival, where he planned to show his film, said his publicist Joe DePlasco. Burns discussed his plan for revisions in New York on Wednesday with representatives from the American GI Forum, a Hispanic veterans group, and the Hispanic Association of Corporate Responsibility.
Burns initially resisted changes to the completed documentary. Last month, after protests by Hispanic groups, Burns brought aboard a Hispanic documentarian, Hector Galan, and said he would fold in stories of Hispanic veterans during breaks in the series or after the end of an installment.
Hispanic groups said that amounted to treating Hispanic veterans as an afterthought.
Galan helped Burns find the veterans who will be added to the film, said Dayton Duncan, a partner with Burns at Florentine Films.
“Our voices and narratives are going to be included. It’s not going to be an add-on or addendum. It will have an impact on our veterans,” said Antonio Gil Morales of the American GI Forum.
Burns’ film, made over six years, tells the story of World War II through people from four communities: Waterbury, Conn.; Mobile, Ala.; Sacramento, Calif.; and Luverne, Minn.
Hispanic groups began protesting the documentary after Maggie Rivas-Rodgriguez, a University of Texas at Austin journalism professor who has recorded oral histories of Hispanic veterans, learned they were not in Burns’ series. Hispanic members of Congress had recently taken their concerns about Burns’ series to its corporate sponsors.
Rivas-Rodriguez said she learned of Burns’ decision through his announcement Thursday and was unaware of the New York meeting. “We have not signed off on anything,” she said.