Cinema Verité

Cinema Verité

21 Episodes

In the 1960s, filmmakers on both sides of the Atlantic spilled into the streets in search of cinematic truth, armed with lightweight cameras that allowed for an unprecedented level of intimacy and liberated documentary from the conventions of voice-over narration and talking-head interviews. Today the term cinema verité (“cinema of truth”) is used as a catchall for both the philosophical and ethnographic inquiries of Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin—who coined the term—and the Direct Cinema movement in the U.S., which revolutionized and popularized the documentary form by attempting to capture, with startling immediacy, the truth of everyday life, often finding it in the era’s churning counterculture. This program features defining works by Rouch and Morin (CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER), D. A. Pennebaker (DONT LOOK BACK), the Maysles brothers (SALESMAN), and Barbara Kopple (HARLAN COUNTY USA) that display the myriad contrasting methods these filmmakers employed to capture truth on film.

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Cinema Verité
  • Cinema Verité Teaser

    Episode 1

  • Primary

    Episode 2

    Directed by Robert Drew • 1960 • United States

    Robert Drew’s groundbreaking 1960 film PRIMARY is one of the most important and influential documentaries in the history of the medium. A pioneering work in the documentary movement that came to be known as cinéma vérité, PRIMARY follows the young c...

  • Chronicle of a Summer

    Episode 3

    Directed by Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin • 1961 • France

    Few films can claim as much influence on the course of cinema history as CHRONICLE OF A SUMMER. The fascinating result of a collaboration between filmmaker-anthropologist Jean Rouch and sociologist Edgar Morin, this vanguard work of what Mor...

  • Crisis

    Episode 4

    Directed by Robert Drew • 1963 • United States

    CRISIS: BEHIND A PRESIDENTIAL COMMITMENT provided filmmaker Robert Drew, his crew and his audience the rare opportunity to watch a President of the United States deal with a national crisis. In this case, the crisis of the title was the attempted in...

  • Dont Look Back

    Episode 5

    Directed by D. A. Pennebaker • 1967 • United States

    Bob Dylan is captured on-screen as he never would be again in this groundbreaking film from D. A. Pennebaker. The legendary documentarian finds Dylan in England during his 1965 tour, which would be his last as an acoustic artist. In this wildly...

  • Portrait of Jason

    Episode 6

    Directed by Shirley Clarke • 1967 • United States
    Starring Jason Holliday

    On the night of December 2, 1966, Shirley Clarke and a tiny crew convened in her apartment at the Hotel Chelsea to make a film. For twelve straight hours, they filmed the one-and-only Jason Holliday as he spun tales, sang,...

  • Warrendale

    Episode 7

    Directed by Allan King • 1967 • Canada

    For his enthralling first feature, Allan King took his cameras to a home for emotionally disturbed young people. Situated inside the facility like a fly on the wall, we witness the full spectrum of emotions displayed by twelve fascinating children and the...

  • Monterey Pop

    Episode 8

    Directed by D. A. Pennebaker • 1968 • United States

    On a beautiful June weekend in 1967, at the beginning of the Summer of Love, the Monterey International Pop Festival roared forward, capturing a decade’s spirit and ushering in a new era of rock and roll. Monterey featured career-making perform...

  • Salesman

    Episode 9

    Directed by David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin • 1969 • United States

    This radically influential portrait of American dreams and disillusionment from Direct Cinema pioneers David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin captures, with indelible humanity, the worlds of four ...

  • Woodstock

    Episode 10

    Directed by Michael Wadleigh • 1970 • United States
    Starring Richie Havens, Joan Baez, Roger Daltrey

    1969 was a year unlike any other. Man set foot on the moon. The New York Mets won the World Series against all odds. And for three days in the rural town of Bethel, New York, half a million peopl...

  • Gimme Shelter

    Episode 11

    Directed by David Maysles, Albert Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin • 1970 • United States

    Called the greatest rock film ever made, this landmark documentary follows the Rolling Stones on their notorious 1969 U.S. tour. When three hundred thousand members of the Love Generation collided with a few d...

  • Nationtime

    Episode 12

    Directed by William Greaves • 1972 • United States

    Best known for his avant-garde meta-documentary SYMBIOPSYCHOTAXIPLASM, William Greaves was also the director of over one hundred documentary films, the majority focused on African American history, politics, and culture. NATIONTIME is a report o...

  • A Poem Is a Naked Person

    Episode 13

    Directed by Les Blank • 1974 • United States

    Les Blank considered this free-form feature documentary about beloved singer-songwriter Leon Russell, filmed between 1972 and 1974, to be one of his greatest accomplishments. Yet it has not been released until now. Hired by Russell to film him at his ...

  • Grey Gardens

    Episode 14

    Directed by David Maysles, Albert Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer • 1976 • United States

    Meet Big and Little Edie Beale: mother and daughter, high-society dropouts, and reclusive cousins of Jackie Onassis. The two manage to thrive together amid the decay and disorder of their East Hampton...

  • Harlan County USA

    Episode 15

    Directed by Barbara Kopple • 1976 • United States

    Barbara Kopple’s Academy Award-winning HARLAN COUNTY USA unflinchingly documents a grueling coal miners’ strike in a small Kentucky town. With unprecedented access, Kopple and her crew captured the miners’ sometimes violent struggles with strikeb...

  • Running Fence

    Episode 16

    Directed by Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin • 1977 • United States

    RUNNING FENCE depicts the long struggle by the artists, Christo and Jeanne-Claude, to build a 24 mile fence of white fabric over the hills of California disappearing into the Pacific. Cost: 3 million dollars. ...

  • Always for Pleasure

    Episode 17

    Directed by Les Blank • 1978 • United States

    his 1978 documentary is Les Blank’s celebration of the spirit and social traditions of New Orleans, featuring Mardi Gras and St. Patrick’s Day celebrations as well as musical performances by Allen Toussaint, Kid Thomas Valentine, Professor Longhair, a...

  • Burden of Dreams

    Episode 18

    Directed by Les Blank • 1982 • United States

    For nearly five years, acclaimed German filmmaker Werner Herzog desperately tried to complete one of the most ambitious and difficult films of his career, FITZCARRALDO, the story of one man’s attempt to build an opera house deep in the Amazon jungle. ...

  • American Dream

    Episode 19

    Directed by Barbara Kopple, Cathy Caplan, Thomas Haneke, Lawrence Silk • 1990 • United States

    Fourteen years after her watershed documentary HARLAN COUNTY, USA, cinema-verité pioneer Barbara Kopple returned to the subject of union organizing in this eye-opening look at class struggle and solidar...

  • The War Room

    Episode 20

    Directed by Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker • 1993 • United States

    The 1992 presidential election was a triumph not only for Bill Clinton but also for the new breed of strategists who guided him to the White House—and changed the face of politics in the process. For this thrilling, behind-clo...

  • Kings of Pastry

    Episode 21

    Directed by D. A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus • 2009 • United States

    For French pastry chefs, the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France (Best Craftsmen in France) is nothing less than the Olympics of their trade: an intense three-day competition in which a selection of the country’s finest pâtissiers tu...