Andrew Berends, Cameraman on Oscar-Winning ‘Free Solo,’ Dies at 46

The documentarian made several films that shed light on conflicts across the globe, particularly in Africa

Last Updated: March 3, 2019 @ 8:18 PM

“Free Solo” cameraman and documentary filmmaker Andrew Berends has died. He was 46.

Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, co-director of the Oscar-winning film, posted a tribute to her “wonderful friend” on Instagram Sunday.

“We have lost a wonderful friend and an important filmmaker,” wrote Vasarhelyi, whom he collaborated with on several films, including “Incorruptible,” “Little Troopers” and most recently “Free Solo,” which won the Best Documentary Feature Oscar earlier this year.

“You touched so many lives,” she continued. “I know the pain you felt was profound, real and relentless. I know you suffered. I can only hope you have finally found some peace and justice as you so deserve it. I’m sorry it was this way. Our community lost an amazing person. I will always love and remember you Andy.”

His cause of death was not released Sunday.

Berends made several films that shed light on conflicts across the globe, particularly in Africa. During the filming of “Delta Boys,” which explored the militancy in the oil-rich Niger Delta region of Nigeria, he was arrested, detained for 10 days, and expelled from the country by the Nigerian government in a bid to suppress media coverage of the conflict.

His first documentary, “Urk,” about Dutch fishermen on the North Sea, was nominated for the International Documentary Association’s Pare Lorentz Award, and was awarded the International Documentary Association “Courage Under Fire” award for his film “The Blood of My Brother” about an Iraqi family whose son was killed by an American patrol.

Read Vasarhelyi’s complete tribute in the post below.

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We have lost a wonderful friend and an important filmmaker – Andrew Berends. I first met Andy in 2006 when I saw his film Blood of my Brother. I was taken by his poignant and human images and asked our mutual friend Gwyn Welles to introduce us. We found that we had a lot in common including our passion for Africa. Andy and I went on to make 2 films together, Incorruptible and Little Troopers. We also collaborated on many other projects. We traveled throughout West Africa, Europe, Kosovo, the US and most recently he filmed with jimmy and my team on Free Solo. Andy’s intelligence, sensitivity, bravery, loyalty, strength, perfectionism and fierce sense of justice made him an excellent filmmaker and a trusted friend. Andy the images you captured and the stories you told are beautiful and critical and they will live on. Thank you for being my friend and collaborator all these years. I will miss your goofy sense of humor, your infectious hope, your gravely voice, your sensitivity, your great notes giving, your creativity, your biking outfits, your unique morning routines, your fraught but hilarious relationship stories, your unbridled passion, your exacting perfectionism, your love and your friendship. You protected me when things got tough both in and off the field. Your work was so so good. You accepted me and other friends worts and all — yet always demanded that we rise to our best selves. You required the same of yourself and that’s why you were such a good filmmaker and such a complex friend. You touched so many lives. I know the pain you felt was profound, real and relentless. I know you suffered. I can only hope you have finally found some peace and justice as you so deserve it. I’m sorry it was this way. Our community lost an amazing person. I will always love and remember you Andy. I encourage everyone to watch Andy’s remarkable films. Urk (2003) The Blood of My Brother (2005), Delta Boys (2012), Madina’s Dream (2015)

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