Documentary Year in Review Countdown #8: Cinéma Vérité Pioneer Richard “Ricky” Leacock Dies

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We’re counting down the top documentary news of 2011 on New Year’s Eve!

Richard “Ricky” Leacock, who’d first worked with Robert Flaherty (Nanook of the North) on Louisiana Story, provided the portable and unobtrusive filmmaking technology that freed filmmakers such as Robert Drew (Primary), D A Pennebaker (Dont Look Back) and the Maysles brothers (Salesman) to define a new genre of immediate, fly-on-the-wall documentaries.

And as a professor at the program he helped establish at MIT, Leacock mentored a new generation of filmmakers, including Ross McElwee (Sherman’s March) and Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding).

Leacock died in March at age 89.

The 2011 Documentary Year in Review Countdown…

#12: Online payments
Ford Foundation Funds Webified Documentaries

#11: Off-camera confrontation
Michael Moore Sues the Weinsteins over ‘Fahrenheit 9/11′ Accounting

#10: A film by you
‘Life In A Day,’ a Documentary Culled from 80,000 Filmmakers, Premieres Online

#9: Cameraless documentary
‘Senna’ Breaks U.K. Box-Office Records

#8: Mobile device legend
Cinéma Vérité Pioneer Richard “Ricky” Leacock Dies

#7: Good karma
‘My Reincarnation’ Breaks Records on Kickstarter

#6: Seeing is beliebing
3-D Documentaries Hit Theaters

#5: Risks become real
War Documentarian Tim Hetherington (‘Restrepo’) Killed in Action

#4: No flash in the pan
Popcorn.js Brings HTML5 and Interactivity to Documentaries

#3: Mystery man
What if Banksy Wins an Oscar?

#2: Web threats
The Stop Online Privacy Act Catches the Web Off Guard

#1: Freedom fighters
The West Memphis 3, Subjects of the ‘Paradise Lost’ Documentary Series, Are Set Free

POV Staff
POV Staff
POV (a cinema term for "point of view") is television's longest-running showcase for independent non-fiction films. POV premieres 14-16 of the best, boldest and most innovative programs every year on PBS. Since 1988, POV has presented over 300 films to public television audiences across the country. POV films are known for their intimacy, their unforgettable storytelling and their timeliness, putting a human face on contemporary social issues.
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  • Frankiem77

    My list is the same as yours w/ the substitution of Vivan Las Antipodas in place of The Imposter (which I sadly didn’t see). What I love about this festival is that I go to express my gratitude in person to 3 of the directors through casual interactions at restaurants during the festival and tweet with one of the others. Thanks for promoting this gem we love (I’m a local Columbian). The utter lack of pretentiousness (e.g. no VIP seating…I sat by complete accident next to Malik in the 15th row for Sugarman) and pure love of the film is what I enjoy. I hope we never lose that.

  • True/False Veteran

    I’m the outlier here regarding “Bully”: too unfocused, too many people profiled, too little depth in terms of policy.  Yes, powerful scenes, particularly with the “second” couple from a ranch in rural OK but they weren’t subjected to much study.  A mile wide and an inch deep in terms of content.

  • detroitjetaime

    Vivan las Antipodas was screened? Wow, amazing! Just discovered this festival, thanks for sharing that, planning to attend next year!

  • Tom Roston

    Thanks for the comments all. This reminds me I should have mentioned the two films I most regret missing. Indeed, as you say, there’s a lot of talk about Antipodas (although I know one person who didn’t like it so much). The other one is 1/2 Revolution, about the Arab Spring in Egypt. Someone told me it was like Cloverfield. Ah, man! I wish I was there.

  • Sarah CD

    Tom, thanks so much for the good press.  So glad you enjoyed our festival!  In reference to this:   “Usually, there are giant swaths of seating off-limits, reminding
    everyone that very cool, more important people than they are, will be
    coming.”– Welcome to the Midwest, where that sort of holier-than-thou attitude is highly discouraged.  I’d say the quickest way to piss off a local would be to look down your nose at her!

  • Gary Marx

    Great review of the festival, Tom. I saw 8 full-length docs and almost 20 shorts, and I loved most of them. But one that gave me fits was “1/2 Revolution.” I think it did a good job of putting the audience in the middle of an urban uprising, but it failed disastrously when it tried to make a broader statement. Too many sweeping indictments without evidence or political/historical context. The film was beating the drum of a one-sided argument, but it consistently undermined that argument by giving false testimony (at one point, a demonstrator holds up a spent plastic shell as evidence that the police were using 9mm guns on the crowd) without qualifying comment or explanation. The film painted with very broad brushstrokes — the demonstrators (and the first-person film makers) were “fighting for freedom” and the counter-demonstrators (the numerous Mubarek supporters) were dismissed simply as “thugs” and “motherfuckers.” The hand of the editor was heavy and obvious throughout the film, and it got to the point where I didn’t believe any of the cuts or the chronology. It eventually lost all credibility. This film festival is called True/False, and this film definitely does not fall on the True side. In a panel discussion on Saturday morning, the director, Karim el Hakim, said  “journalism is a corpse,” it is dead, and he spoke about the virtues of manipulating the audience during the editing process. “If they (the audience) buy in at the beginning, they will follow you down the rabbit hole,” he said. Perhaps he was talking about shaping a point of view, or pointing the audience in a certain direction, but he used the term “manipulation,” and his film made me feel manipulated in the worst way. His indictment of journalism is misguided, and his ideas about editing facts and footage into fiction and shaping stories and public opinion are truly frightening.  This film, he would agree, is not journalism. I might be citizen journalism at its worst, perhaps, but it is not journalism. The sad thing is that I probably agree with El Hakim’s politics. It is equally sad that his film gets any air time. This film is propaganda, the tool of despots, the same type of despot El Hakim presumably wishes to overthrow.     

  • Will

    T/F 2011 was my 6th year (I missed 2009, 2010 because I was out “finding myself”) and the best year yet.  The docs were great but they have always been great.  For me, the festival is getting better because more people are attending, the organization is improving every year and the music is improving every year.  Pearl and the Beard blew me away before Comic-Con Episode IV which was a great film.  Can’t wait for next year, this festival is one the highlights for my year.  My top three for the festival:

    Marina Abromovic: The Artists is Present

    The Ambassador 

    Me at the  Zoo

    Great article.

  • Mackenzie

    Great review. True/False Film Fest was a really big hit with the Millennial generation, read our blog about why here: