Cinema Verite Documentarian Robert Drew Dies at 90


Filmmaker Robert Drew, a pioneer of the modern documentary who in “Primary” and other movies mastered the intimate, spontaneous style known as cinema verite and schooled a generation of influential directors that included D.A. Pennebaker and Albert Maysles, has died at age 90, abcnews.go.com informs. His son, Thatcher Drew, confirmed he died Wednesday at his home in Sharon, Connecticut. Starting in 1960 with “Primary,” Drew produced and sometimes directed a series of television documentaries that took advantage of such innovations as light hand-held cameras that recorded sound and pictures. With filmmakers newly unburdened, nonfiction movies no longer had to be carefully staged and awkwardly narrated. Directors could work more like journalists, following their subjects for hours and days at a time and capturing revealing moments. Filmmaker Michael Moore said Wednesday that Drew, along with Pennebaker and Richard Leacock, “made it possible for real stories to be told through film.” “Modern art has Picasso. Rock-n-roll has Bill Haley. And the documentary film has Robert Drew,” Moore said. “All of us who make nonfiction movies can trace our lineage to what he created.” Drew’s dozens of films included “The Chair,” a 1963 documentary about a death penalty case in Illinois, and “784 Days That Changed America: From Watergate to Resignation,” winner in 1982 of a Peabody award. Many of his movies were edited and co-produced by his wife, Anne Drew, who died in 2012. While a photographer and editor with Life, Drew formed Drew Associates in 1960 with the goal of applying his magazine experience to films. Among those joining him were such future directors as Pennebaker (“Don’t Look Back,” ‘’The War Room”), Maysles (who with brother David made “Gimme Shelter” and “Grey Gardens”) and Leacock (“Happy Mother’s Day”).

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