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Ken Burns’ Hemingway Docuseries Sells Across the Globe


PBS International has licensed Hemingway, a six-hour documentary series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick, to broadcasters around the world.

The docuseries about the works and life of writer Ernest Hemingway has been picked up by the BBC (U.K.), RAI (Italy), Yle (Finland), NRK (Norway) and Sky (New Zealand). More buyers are set to sign on in advance of the PBS broadcast of Hemingway in the U.S. from April 5 to 7.

Hemingway paints an intimate picture of the writer, who captured the complexities of the human condition in spare and profound prose and whose work remains influential around the world. The docuseries also explores the myth of Hemingway the man’s man, revealing a deeply troubled and ultimately tragic figure. The film explores his limitations and biases as an artist as well. Burns and Novick combine a close study of the biographical events of Hemingway’s life with excerpts from his fiction, nonfiction and short stories, with interviews with celebrated writers, scholars and Hemingway’s son, Patrick. Narrated by Peter Coyote, the series features an all-star cast of actors to bring Hemingway (voiced by Jeff Daniels), his friends and family to life. Meryl Streep, Keri Russell, Mary-Louise Parker and Patricia Clarkson voice his four wives.

The film was written by Geoffrey C. Ward and produced by Sarah Botstein. Hemingway is a production of Florentine Films and WETA Washington, D.C.

Ken Burns said: “Hemingway is both an intimate, turbulent family saga and an examination of some of the greatest works of literature in the 20th century. We are unsparing in our inquiry into less well-known aspects of his character and writing. Our intent is to offer viewers an honest portrayal of a complex and conflicted writer who left an indelible mark on literature.”

Lynn Novick said: “In an era when people are re-evaluating so many icons, Hemingway is a particularly compelling figure to revisit. He was hugely complicated, deeply flawed, and he truly revolutionized the art of writing. One of the great revelations of this project was sitting down with renowned writers from around the world—Mario Vargas Llosa, Edna O’Brien, Abraham Verghese, Leonardo Padura, Mary Karr—and hearing them share their insights into Hemingway’s work and why he is still important today.”

Sarah Botstein said: “One of the great challenges of this project was finding ways—visually, cinematically—to show how Hemingway honed his craft and how he used words to such extraordinary effect. In collaboration with our editors, we deployed all the tools in our filmmaking toolbox—graphic effects, archival footage and photographs, live cinematography, sound effects—to make Hemingway’s work come fully alive on screen.”

About Chelsea Regan

Chelsea Regan is the managing editor of World Screen. She can be reached at


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