Burns, the meticulous documentarian who chronicles various lives and movements in American history, has been cut loose by the extremely imperiled GM, after twenty-two years of sponsorship. He's not the only American dreamer they've dropped.
Also no longer on the sponsorship payroll are great American hopes like golfer Tiger Woods and all those noble heroes who work in movies—GM will no longer funnel money, like Jane Fonda to the Vietcong, to the Academy Awards. Those two entities, though, can probably bounce back with their remaining kajillions intact. Burns, on the other hand, relied pretty heavily on GM's 35% stake in each of his films (like The Civl War and Jazz), and benefited in goodwill and prestige from the educational outreach the automotive manufacturer coordinated for each premiere.
A GM spokesperson keeps their reasoning short and simple:
We've been proud to be associated with Ken's work over the years, as he is certainly the 'gold standard' of documentary filmmaking. But the company's financial crisis has forced GM to rein in such spending.
Were this a Burns film (which generally air on PBS), this would be the point where the camera pans across the spokesperson's letter or email or whatever, while Joan Allen reads it aloud. The folksy music would swell or dip, and we'd get a great, choked-up feeling in our chests.
Much the same feeling Rick Wagoner gets when he looks at his bonus checks. As read to him, at great expense, by Joan Allen.