We lost one of the most important documentarians of all time last night, and he deserves a post. I don’t have the words to do Albert Maysles’s life, work, influence and legacy justice. I don’t have any great anecdotes, as I only met him once and that was at a panel where I was actually tasked with asking him for a comment for an Indiewire article on the passing of Ricky Leacock.
But I have to thank him in part for the namesakes of my daughter, Edith. And for making a number of my favorite documentaries, including Grey Gardens, Gimme Shelter and Salesman. And for inspiring almost every great documentarian working today. Thank you, Al. And wherever you are, I hope you’re back with your brother and creative partner, David. Tell him thank you, too.
Here is the statement on his passing from the Maysles Documentary Center:
“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of our father, following a brief battle with cancer. Albert was a loving husband, father, brother as well as a friend to many. For more than five decades, Albert created groundbreaking films, inspired filmmakers and touched all those with his humanity, presence and his belief in the power of love. He was also a teacher, mentor and a source of inspiration for countless filmmakers, artists and everyday people.”
Maysles, a pioneer of Direct Cinema along with his late brother David, was the first to make nonfiction feature films, where the drama of life unfolds as is without scripts, sets, interviews or narration. The Maysles brothers founded Maysles Films together in the 1960s. Among his more than 50 films are some of the most iconic works in documentary history: including the first Beatles’ film What’s Happening, Salesman, Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens.
In the spring of 2015, Iris, a portrait of Legendary New York style icon Iris Apfel will have a worldwide theatrical release, and In Transit, a portrait of America told through the personal stories of riders aboard Amtrak’s Empire Builder, premiering in competition at the 2015 Tribeca Film Festival in April.
Maysles’ celebrated career has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Peabody Awards, three Emmy Awards, six Lifetime Achievement Awards, the Columbia DuPont Award, and the award for best cinematography at Sundance for HBO’s Lalee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton (2001), which was also nominated for an Academy Award. Eastman Kodak has saluted him as one of the “world’s 100 finest cinematographers”. In 2014 Albert received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama, along with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s “Made In New York” award.
Erika Dilday, Executive Director of Maysles Documentary Center, founded in 2006, echoes the family’s sentiments. “While we mourn the loss of Albert, we also celebrate his remarkable life and hope that it serves as inspiration to people around the world to be willing to push themselves creatively and take the time to observe and reflect on life as it unfolds.
Albert’s legacy will continue as new generations of film goers and filmmakers discover his work, and as we at Maysles Documentary Center continue to celebrate his movies and his mission through our production, Education and Cinema programs.”