The man who helped to invent cinema verite, DA Pennebaker, turns 94 years young today.
Pennebaker — Penny, as we call him — created the cameras, and the ideas, that led to anything we call documentary filmmaking today. An Oscar nominee with his filmmaker wife Chris Hegedus for “The War Room,” (1994) Penny received a Lifetime Achievement Oscar in 2013. His comrades in arms were Albert Maysles and Richard Leacock. With those guys and Bob Drew, Penny was invited into the JFK presidential campaign. They made four landmark films about JFK and Robert Kennedy, as well.
And yes, today we celebrate Penny– father of 8, grandfather of (who can count), mentor and friend to so many.
Penny’s great major film achievements came with Bob Dylan’s “Dont Look Back,” “Monterey Pop,” “The War Room,” and dozens more including the great Emmy nominated film about Elaine Stritch, “At Liberty,” for HBO. I was lucky to make a film with him and Chris in 2002 called “Only the Strong Survive.”
Right now on IFC you can see Seth Meyers and John Mulaney’s tribute to Penny, a parody of his famous film about Stephen Sondheim recording the cast of “Company” with Elaine Stritch. It’s in their “Documentary Now” series and it’s priceless.
Penny’s short film of “Subterranean Homesick Blues,” taken from “Dont Look Back,” is the most copied, most revered, music video of all time.
Yes, the credits and accolades are endless. But today we just give a nod to the whole Pennebaker oeuvre. And blow out the candles with a wish for many good years to come!