Indie filmmakers bring Emmy Award-winner Benjamin Franklin to York today

The Department of Film’s Independents series launches its winter lineup with the husband-and-wife filmmaking team of Ronald Blumer and Muffie Meyer and their documentary portrait of Benjamin Franklin, an 18th-century icon.

Writer and co-producer Blumer and co-director Meyer will present part two of their Emmy Award-winning PBS miniseries Benjamin Franklin, charting the extraordinary life and times of one of the founding fathers of the United States of America. The film, starring Richard Easton and narrated by Canadian actor Colm Feore, will be screened today at 3:30pm in the Nat Taylor Cinema, N102 Ross Bldg. on York’s Keele campus. Admission is free.

The three-part series follows Franklin’s career from humble beginnings in Boston to international superstardom: first as a scientist, inventor, author and revolutionary, and then as a politician, statesman and nation-builder. Drawing on Franklin’s own writings and those of his contemporaries, brought to vivid life by the actors, the narrative is set against a backdrop of events in which Franklin played a central role: the age of scientific discovery, the Declaration of Independence and the American Revolution, the Treaty of Paris, and the establishment of the US Constitution.

Hailed as "delightful", "fascinating" and "hugely entertaining", this inspired documentary has won critical and audience raves. Howard Rosenberg wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “expect smirky wit as well as gravity. Benjamin Franklin makes history flat-out fun.”

Left: Ronald Blumer

Blumer and Meyer will preface the screening of Benjamin Franklin with a 30-minute compilation of their recent work. They will discuss how they have addressed the daunting problem of enticing millions of viewers to watch television programs that are not only of a serious historical nature, but also focus upon events that occurred long before any photographic records could have been made of them.

York film Professor Evan Cameron will host the presentation and moderate a Q&A session following the screenings.

Blumer has written, produced and/or co-produced 80 documentary films, including three series with Bill Moyers, Creativity, A Walk Through the Twentieth Century and The U.S. Constitution, and many more for PBS and CBC. He has received 30 major awards for his work, including four Emmys and a George Foster Peabody Award. As a writer and journalist, Blumer was contributing editor of the film magazines Take One and Cinema Canada. His publications include a book on Canadian filmmaker Donald Brittain.

Right: Muffie Meyer

Meyer’s credits span directing, writing and producing projects that range from historical documentaries to educational programming for children. Highlights include Liberty!, a Peabody Award-winning PBS series; Behind the Scenes a 10-part PBS series on the arts; and Grey Gardens, which she co-directed with pioneering cinema verité documentarians David and Albert Maysles and co-edited with Ellen Hovde. 

Now in its sixth year, The Independents series features screenings and talks by outstanding indie filmmakers and scholars, offering an insider’s look at the working world of film and television.