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The Shakers: Hands to Work, Hearts to God
The Shakers Hands to Work Hearts to God
Actor: David McCullough
Directors: Ken Burns, Amy Stechler
Genres: Documentary
NR     2002     0hr 57min

This revealing and poignant film by Ken Burns portrays 200 years of Shaker life in America, guided by the recollections of the three surviving members of the faith, along with a wealth of archival material from over 40 col...  more »


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Movie Details

Actor: David McCullough
Directors: Ken Burns, Amy Stechler
Creators: Ken Burns, Terry Hopkins, Amy Stechler
Genres: Documentary
Sub-Genres: History, Religion
Studio: Pbs (Direct)
Format: DVD - Black and White,Color - Closed-captioned
DVD Release Date: 11/12/2002
Original Release Date: 01/01/1996
Theatrical Release Date: 00/00/1996
Release Year: 2002
Run Time: 0hr 57min
Screens: Black and White,Color
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 6
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Clearly an Early Burns Documentary
Charles Evans | North Carolina | 07/26/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)

"While Michael Moore is more famous, Ken Burns is the greatest biographer of our generation. In truth, he may go down as the best of all-time. The story of the Shakers has many of Burns' trade-marks; vintage period music, first person interviews, and his panning shots of old photographs. However, "Shakers" is missing the charm of later biographies such as Baseball - A Film By Ken Burns, The Civil War - A Film by Ken Burns and Jazz : A Film By Ken Burns which makes it less interesting and more difficult to get completely emerged in the story.

The story of the Shakers is interesting and Ken Burns documentary is a nice introduction to a group that is largely forgotten in today's society. Burns shows how the Shaker society experienced explosive growth in popularity and in clout. Less time is spent of the slow decline of their culture, and in fact, there were only about a dozen practicing Shakers when Burns was working on the documentary.

Final Verdict- A bit dull at times and certainly one of Burns' earlier works, but an early documentary by Ken Burns is still better than 80% of the rest-of-the-pack.

3 1/2 stars"
Brilliant storytelling
D. Bennett | Saco, ME USA | 08/29/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)

"This film is an early example of Ken Burns' brilliance for storytelling. He does an exceptional job here telling the story of the Shakers and why they are important to American history. I highly recommend the film."
A good overview of the Shakers in U. S. history
Robert Moore | Chicago, IL USA | 01/11/2010
(4 out of 5 stars)

"One of Ken Burns earliest documentaries, this is a fascinating documentary, not least because of the many interviews with the few remaining Shakers. Due to declining new members, especially young members (a great deal of their new members came from caring for orphans, which were cut off from them as the twentieth century went along), the Shakers decided to close their final settlements. But the Shakers were morally impressive and inspirational. They avoided involvement in the capitalist system by being self-sustaining and maintaining a few supporting industries. They are famous, of course, for their purely functional yet nonetheless beautiful furniture and design and architecture. The buildings they show in the documentary were incredibly beautiful. They have a wonderful simplicity and some amazing lines. I loved their progressive social stances on the role of women and their abhorrence of slavery and other forms of oppression. Their tolerance and extreme generosity was the antithesis of contemporary attitudes. When one settlement discovered that others were stealing some of their crops, they simple started planting more.

I can understand how the Shakers were not able to survive. As a celibate community they relied exclusively upon people deciding to join; they depended upon converts. But you can't help but believe that the world is poorer for their absence."