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D.A. Pennebaker (1925–2019), Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker

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Known for iconic films on Dylan, Bowie, Monterey Pop, and Bill Clinton

Iconic documentary filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker was a pioneer of cinema verite and the first documentarian to be awarded a lifetime achievement Oscar. Pennebaker never used voice-over narration or asked questions of his subjects, letting the camera do the talking. His best known film may be 1965’s “Don’t Look Back,” where he followed Bob Dylan on tour in England as the rock star transitioned from acoustic to electric folk rock. Other rock docs include “Monterey Pop” about the iconic rock festival and David Bowie tour documentary “Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.” Pennebaker was nominated for an Oscar for 1992’s “War Room,” an inside look at Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign. The political documentary made stars of James Carville and George Stephanopoulos.

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Died: Thursday, August 1, 2019 (Who else died on August 1?)

Details of death: Died at the age of 94.


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After Dylan screened “Don’t Look Back”: “He saw it out in Hollywood at a dreadful screening. Afterward, he said, ‘We’ll have another screening and I’ll write down all of the things we have to change.’ Of course, that made me a little gloomy. The next night, we assembled again and he sat in the front with this yellow pad. At the end of the film, he held up the pad and there was nothing on it. He said, ‘That’s it.’” —2007 interview with Time magazine

What they said about him: “Thank you D.A. Pennebaker for so much, but most especially for this moment from Monterey Pop: Mama Cass saying ‘wow’ after seeing Janis sing ‘Ball and Chain’” —Rolling Stone writer Rob Sheffield

At the start of “Don’t Look Back,” Pennebaker famously films Dylan flipping lyrics on cards to his song “Subterranean Homesick Blues”:

Full obituary: New York Times

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