Since the early 1960s, Les Blank has documented the lives of people living on the periphery of American society; he made some of the earliest films ever on Cajuns and Texas blues musicians. He is also known for following the unmitigated passions of artists and filmmakers who give their soul to their craft, like filmmaker Werner Herzog and restaurateur Alice Waters. His films are not only documents which serve as a preservation of American subcultures, but a celebration of their food, music, and way of being. His intimate, non-didactic style broke new ground in non-fiction film making and, by expanding the notion of what one can make a film about and how to do it, he inspired generations of filmmakers that followed.
Combining a cinema verite style of Blank’s current life with archival footage, still photographs, anecdotes from those who have known him, and clips and never-before-seen outtakes from his films, filmmaker Gina Leibrecht will illustrate the enigmatic and sometimes foibled journey of the artist’s life, complete with life changing mistakes and accidental inspirations. This film will reveal the creative force behind this legendary filmmaker and the way in which he uses film not as an end, but a means to express those things which he loves most about the world — the spirit and meaning underlying the way we live, and the many little moments that connect us and give birth to giant revelations of the soul — all the while preserving this national treasure’s legacy for generations to come.
This is a film about an artist, now in his 70s, who reflects back on his life and adventures making ground-breaking films simply by following his own bliss. The foundation of the film takes place in the present day, where we see Les shooting his current film about an artist in Alabama, and entertaining audiences at screenings of his films with tales of his film making adventures. We witness the paradox of a quiet, soft-spoken and insecure artist who’s powerful imagery one can watch over and over again. He has inspired many to seek their own creative voice, and the films he made forty years ago are celebrated now more than ever. These present-day moments reveal the impact Les has had on moviegoers, and also serve as jumping-off points to explore the making of his films, and the key turning points of his life that inspired him to follow his unique vision.
We hear from many of Les’s film subjects that his uniqueness and ability to film what is “real” is his “absence of presence,” his ability to blend in with the environment and allow events and people’s true character to unfold. He let’s the subject tell him what is true, and for the viewer, watching the film is an experience, a quiet revelation, rather than an exercise in digesting information. This gift led him to make treasured films like The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins, A Well Spent Life, Always for Pleasure, Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers, and Burden of Dreams, among many others — films one can watch over and over again.
As the film explores his life and work, Les talks about his style of film making that allows the viewer to have their own response. It is a style that doesn’t dictate an agenda, but is poetic in its layering of imagery, words and music, revealing a deeper truth behind human creativity. In Robert Gardner’s Screening Room, Blank says, “I’m putting images and music together to create some other thing.” He goes on to say that, “I don’t claim to be a sociologist or an anthropologist or any kind of a social scientist. I feel I have a right to paint humanity the way I see it.” In this regard, it breaks many of the rules of film making, and puts more faith in the viewer’s ability to watch, learn, and experience.
Kickstarter funds will, as the name says, kick start production on this film until other funding becomes available. Gina Leibrecht has already shot over 25 hours of footage, and is currently writing grants and shooting when time allows. Time is of the essence and a little funding will keep the ball rolling.
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