Filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker & Chris Hegedus
D.A. Pennebaker (Evanston, Illinois, 1925) is widely regarded as one of the founders of the cinéma vérité. He has been working since 1976 with Chris Hegedus (1952), whom he married in 1982.
They are, among other things, famous for the music films they've made. In the classic Dont Look Back (1967) for instance, Pennebaker followed Bob Dylan during a tour in England. Together, Pennebaker & Hegedus made music films such as Searching for Jimi Hendrix, Depeche Mode 101 and Down From The Mountain, and music videos for artists like Soul Asylum and John Hiatt. The War Room (1993), a look behind the scenes of the Bill Clinton election campaign, was nominated for an Oscar. The duo compiled a Top 10 for IDFA in 1997, which also showed a retrospective of Pennebaker. The Pennebaker Hegedus Films company is run by Pennebaker's son Frazer.
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In the primary election campaign of 1960, senators John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey engaged for the democratic candidacy. primary reveals how the two candidates clashed with each other with great fierceness, giving rise to preconceptions and slander, and Humphrey warning the farming population against ‘that man from the east’. At any rate, this strategy clearly exposed the difference in character. Robert L. Drew of Drew Associations Films supervised this documentary. He told the democratic candidates that the filmmakers should be allowed to work day and night, under the motto ‘trust us or it cannot be done.’ Drew formed three teams to be able to follow the whole political pandemonium simultaneously. The technically grounded D.A. Pennebaker, once manager of an electronics company, had designed an easily transportable set to be able to edit on location.
Lambert & Co
What gives the films of D.A. Pennebaker their energy is the underlying desire to make everything dance: he wants to make films that have their own momentum. The spectator is meant to be fetched by this inner, non-verbal thrust, not by what is said. As soon as the images demand explanation, they lose too much of their strength, the director feels. According to him the combination of music, architecture and scenery make up the nucleus of a music film. Pennebaker also applied these principles to his documentary film Lambert & co. In 1964 Dave Lambert was the eldest living bebop singer, and rather a maverick with his big beard and thongs. A portrait.
You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You
After Timothy Leary had left Harvard, the apostle of the subculture moved into a country estate in Millbrook to set up a commune with a number of his friends. Here Leary married the model Nanette van Schlebrugge in 1964. The Miles Davis Quartet played at their wedding, without Miles though, and jazz legend Charles Mingus delivered a speech about conjugal fidelity. Other guests were Peggy Hitchcock, her brothers Billy and Tommy, writer friends and members of European royal families. The Puerto Rican showbiz hair stylist Monte Rock 111, who did Nanette‘s hair, brought the Maysles brothers to Millbrook to capture the wedding. This film, for which D.A. Pennebaker did the camera work, was even shown in the art house circuit for a while. To the question how Leary would want to be remembered, he answered much later: ‘in the Guiness Book of Records, as best husband in the universe‘.
In the summer of 1967 some 50,000 music lovers gathered for a long weekend in northern California. Otis Redding characterised this motley crew of ‘flower children’ at the Monterey Pop Festival as ‘the love crowd’. His sparkling show on Saturday night, accompanied by ‘Booker T & the MG‘s’ and ‘The MarKeys’, made a profound impression. D.A. Pennebaker, also responsible for the classic rock documentaries DON‘T LOOK BACK, MONTEREY POP and ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS, manages to capture the essence of Otis’ performance at Monterey in SHAKE. Redding plays the r&b-classics ‘Shake’, ‘Try a little tenderness’, ‘Respect’, ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘I‘ve been loving you too long’. Six months after Monterey, Otis Redding would die in a plane crash.
In 1965 Bob Dylan did a tour of England and it was D.A. Pennebaker who captured it all with his hand-held camera. But when don‘t look back was released in 1967, Pennebaker was busy again in California, where he was recording the now famous Monterey Pop Festival, the first and greatest rock festival in the history of music. In the summer of 1967 50,000 people had travelled to North California to devote themselves not only to love and peace for a long weekend, but particularly to their great musical heroes: The Who, Jefferson Airplane, The Mamas & the Papas, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, The Animals, Ravi Shankar, Simon & Garfunkel and last but not least Otis Redding, whose legendary show even induced Pennebaker to make, in addition to monterey pop, shake, a separate film of twenty minutes about Otis Redding‘s effervescent performance.
Jimi Plays Monterey
When Jimi Hendrix did a concert at the Monterey pop festival in California in 1967, most visitors were not prepared for what was to come. His nickname ‘the wild man of rock’ had not yet become fully adopted. Between that memorable performance and his early death in 1970 he grew into the legend, that since then is known as one of the greatest guitar players of all times. The film contains footage, never shown before, of the events preceding the show at the Monterey pop festival, and follows the still young Hendrix during his stay in England, where he is putting together a band. Pennebaker also laid his hands on some old tapes from Hendrix‘ estate. The guitarist plays some of his most successful songs and a few covers, including his now world-famous version of ‘Wild thing’ and his version of Dylan‘s ‘Like a rolling stone’.
Company - Original Cast Album
The music of the Broadway musical Company is considered the major work of composer Steve Sondheim (West Side Story, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Gypsy). The recording of the musical, that took fifteen hours without interruption, was cut down to one hour of film by D.A. Pennebaker. company was one of the biggest successes at the 1970 New York Film Festival, where the film was shown for the first time, but since then it has seldom been screened again. In the best tradition of cinéma vérité the film depicts the recording sessions, the atmosphere among the musicians and the cast, the exhaustion and a visit to a bar during one of the rare brakes.
Moon over Broadway
In moon over broadway D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus portray TV star and ‘Queen of Comedy’ Carol Burnett and Broadway veteran Philip Bosco, the leading characters in the new Broadway show Moon over Buffalo. Burnett is not sure whether her decision to return to the stage has been such a fortunate one, playwright Ken Ludwig has more or less the same doubts, the cast looks upon the numerous script changes with sorrow, and stage director Tom Moore does his job with an iron discipline without leaving too much room for any input from his actors. All this results in a humoristic glance behind the scenes of America‘s drama factory. D.A. Pennebaker (1925) is one of the founding fathers of direct cinema, the most important documentary school in the United States. Since the seventies he has been working together with his wife Chris Hegedus.
Down from the Mountain
O BROTHER, WHERE ART THOU?, the film by Joel and Ethan Coen (2000) based on Homer’s epic about Odysseus, is set in the south of the United States, in Mississippi. The music and numerous songs that were used for the film originate from this region. Many veterans of country and bluegrass, musical genres based on traditional North American music, collaborated on the film, alongside newcomers to the genre, turning the soundtrack into a great commercial success. Documentary filmmakers Pennebaker, Hegedus and Doob captured a concert and its preparations in May 2000 in Nashville, where a host of musical celebrities (including Emmylou Harris, John Hartford, Ralph Stanley and Alison Krauss) came together one more time. The film is an account of a musical party, celebrating in style the passion for this purely American music.