Tribute to Haskell Wexler

A great filmmaker has died.

Cinéma du réel had paid tribute to his inspiring and politically engaged work in 2015. His friend and longtime collaborator Pamela Yates was with us then. Together they directed his last film Rebel Citizen. It was co-produced by Cinéma du réel.

Pamela pays him hommage:

Haskell Wexler was my life-long friend and mentor.

Haskell was well known as the Academy Award-winning cinematographer of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Bound for Glory, but his incredible body of work making political documentary films over seven decades is less known.

For more than 30 years I’d been having conversations with Haskell about life, love, politics and cinema, and what it means to be a politically engaged documentary filmmaker. Every morning when Haskell woke up, he railed against the injustices in the world and what we have to do to end them. Earlier this year, I filmed one of our conversations over several days and turned it into a documentary called Rebel Citizen. In Rebel Citizen, he told some great stories: Did you know that in 1963 Haskell made The Bus, a film about a group of civil rights activists as they traveled overland from California to the March on Washington where Martin Luther King gave his “I Have a Dream” speech? This documentary has great resonance with today’s Black Lives Matter movement. He made a host of films about US intervention in Latin America, in Nicaragua and Brazil. These films profoundly affected how I chose to take artistic risks as a committed filmmaker.

His fearlessness was contagious: His film Underground about the radical Weather Underground fugitives (which he made with Emile Di Antonio and Mary Lampson), cost him his job as the cinematographer of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, when the FBI came to the set to investigate him (Bill Butler took over as cinematographer). Yet he never stopped making risky documentaries. Haskell was one of our most honored elders at 93 years old. He fought for social justice up until the day he died.

Pamela Yates, Director

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