DA Pennebaker, Documentary Director and Cinema Verite Pioneer, Dies at 94

The filmmaker and cinematographer received an honorary Oscar in 2013

Last Updated: August 3, 2019 @ 8:39 PM

D.A. Pennebaker, the documentary filmmaker who helped pioneer cinema verité in films like the 1967 Bob Dylan film “Don’t Look Back” and 1993’s “The War Room,” died Thursday at his home at age 94, Pennebaker’s son and executive producer and distributor for nearly all Pennebaker Hegedus films, Frazer Pennebaker, told TheWrap.

The celebrated cinematographer and director received an honorary Oscar in 2013 for his work, and an Oscar nomination, with Chris Hegedus, for “The War Room,” an inside look at the 1992 presidential campaign of Bill Clinton that helped make a star of Clinton’s then communications director and current ABC News chief anchor, George Stephanopoulos.

Pennebaker first rose to fame in the early ’60s after he and his colleague Richard Leacock developed one of the first fully portable 16mm synchronized camera and sound recording systems which revolutionized filmmaking.

His innovative concert tour documentaries include 1967’s “Don’t Look Back,” about Dylan’s last acoustic concert tour in England, 1968’s “Monterey Pop” chronicling the 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival that launched the careers of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, and a 1971 film about the cast recording of the Stephen Sondheim Broadway musical “Company.”

Pennebaker’s most recent film projects included “Startup.com,” “Al Franken: God Spoke,” “Kings of Pastry” and “Unlocking the Cage,” a documentary about animal rights lawyer Steven Wise and his lawsuit seeking personhood for a chimpanzee.

In 2013, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized Pennebaker’s body of work with an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement.

He is survived by his wife and filmmaking partner Chris Hegedus and his eight children, Stacy, Frazer, Linley, Jojo, Chelsea, Zoe, Kit and Jane.

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