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As a filmmaker, Burns brings to bear a special vividness of scrutiny. No matter how familiar the material, he makes it seem as though he's discovering it afresh--so the viewer feels that way, too.
The heartbreak here--especially the cases of poor children who died of "dust pneumonia"--is tremendous. [26 Nov 2012, p.45
It would be naughty to call it dry. But the lack of personalities leaves the viewer groping for an angle. The overwhelming nature of the event begins to feel overwhelming on the couch, too.