August 4, 2019

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Filmmaker and documentary filmmaker Donn Alan Pennebaker dies at 94

The American director D.A. Pennebaker, a documentary genre teacher and a filmmaker very interested in popular music, died Thursday at age 94, Variety media reported.

The filmmaker who signed musical documentaries about Bob Dylan, David Bowie or the 1968 Monterrey Festival was a crucial figure in the development of "direct cinema", a subgenre of the documentary that in the 60s tried to reflect the reality of in the most objective way possible including spontaneity and without forgetting technical errors or imperfections in the final result.

Pennebaker received in 2012 an honorary Oscar for his long and recognized career, in which non-fiction titles such as «Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back» (1967), »Monterey Pop» (1968), «Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars ”(1973),“ The War Room ”(1993),“ Down from the Mountain ”(2000),“ Elaine Stritch at Liberty ”(2002) or“ Kings of Pastry ”(2009).

Born in 1925 in Evanston (Illinois, USA), Pennebaker, after taking his first steps in the cinema and directing several short documentaries, participated in "Primary" (1960), a very influential documentary about the confrontation between two American politicians , John F. Kennedy and Hubert H. Humphrey, for the Democratic nomination to opt for the White House.

In "Primary" also worked Robert Drew, Richard Leacock and Albert Maysles, who along with Pennebaker would be some of the top representatives of "direct cinema".

Taking advantage of the technological improvements that allowed cameras and sound equipment increasingly lighter, these filmmakers tried to capture reality without filters, using techniques similar to journalism and without using artificial or aesthetic resources such as voice over to reflect the facts without just mediation and as you would see them "a fly on the wall", according to the famous phrase of Leacock.

Pennebaker applied these ideas especially to portray the counterculture of the 60s and his film «Monterey Pop», centered on the first macro festival of the hippie era, was an exemplary work when it came to the cinema in a vibrant way the libertarian utopia rebel spirit of those young people.

The scene of Bob Dylan is also well remembered, in his documentary «Don't Look Back», in which the singer-songwriter shows posters with the lyrics of «Subterranean Homesick Blues» while playing this song at the same time .

Beyond music, Pennebaker also addressed other topics from nonfiction such as politics in "The War Room," about the presidential campaign of former US President Bill Clinton (1993-2001).

This film co-directed with Chris Hegedus, his third wife and with whom he collaborated behind the cameras on numerous occasions, gave Pennebaker an Oscar nomination for best documentary. . (tagsToTranslate) pennebaker