D.A. Pennebaker
D.A. Pennebaker (Ron Adar / Shutterstock.com)

D.A Pennebaker, the Father Of The Rock Documentary, Dead At 94

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(CelebrityAccess) — Groundbreaking film-maker D.A. Pennebaker, one of the progenitors of the modern cinéma vérité rock documentary has died. He was 94.

According to the New York Times, Pennebaker’s death was confirmed by his son Frazer.

Pennebaker was one of a small group of filmmakers who helped introduce the ‘fly on the wall’ documentary filmmaking style cinéma vérité, to American audiences.

Pennebaker’s filmmaking style emphasized capturing real-life situations and conversations over staged moments, which was enabled by the development of synchronous-sound cameras, which captured both audio and video.

His filmmaking also tried to deemphasize the presence of the filmmaker as much as possible, noting that production changed the essence of a scene.

“If you’re setting up lights and tripods and you’ve got three assistants running around, people will want to get you out as fast as they can,” he told Time magazine in 2007.

“But if you go the opposite way, if you make the camera the least important thing in the room, then it’s different,” he added.

Born Donn Alan Pennebaker in Evanston, Illinois in July 1925; he learned camera technique from his father, a commercial photographer.

After a stint in the U.S. Navy, Pennebaker studied engineering at M.I.T. and Yale but found his way into documentary filmmaking after seeing a short documentary film on New York made by a friend.


Over the course of his career, Pennebaker helped to capture seminal pieces of rock history, including “Don’t Look Back” Bob Dylan’s 1965 tour of England as the folk artist transitioned from his former folk-based sound to something new and decidedly electric.

The film seemed to refine Dylan’s performances to their quintessential essence, but at the same time, the film did not lionize its subject, providing an unvarnished look at the rocker’s breakup with Joan Baez.

Don’t Look Back was a commercial and critical hit, and was the first of numerous music-focused documentary works by Pennebaker.

Other rock films from Pennebaker include his Monterey Pop, which captured the 1968 Monterey Pop Festival, and Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, which captured the final performance by Bowie as Ziggy Stardust at the Hammersmith Odeon in London on July 3rd, 1973.

In addition to his work as a music documentarian, he also focused his lens on the world of politics, including The War Room, glimpse into the 1992 campaign of Bill Clinton in his bid to become President of the United States.

In addition to his son Frazer, Mr. Pennebaker is survived by his wife, and seven other children; 13 grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren, the New York Times reported.

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