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A theater student at Tulane University and a communications major at U.S.C.-Los Angeles, Les Blank became a professional filmmaker at the age of 29, when he co-directed the documentary featurette Dizzy Gillespie. Blank has since articulated his fascination with music, food, and ethnic culture in a series of offbeat full-length documentaries, bearing such titles as Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers (1979) and In Heaven There Is No Beer? (1984). After completing 1981's Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, Blank followed Herzog to South America. It was here that Blank assembled his most famous film, Burden of Dreams (1982), a behind-the-scenes documentary on the making of Herzog's Fitzcarraldo. Making a rare foray into television in 1983, Blank directed the free-wheeling adaptation of Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad. The subject of numerous major museum retrospectives, Les Blank has been honored with the Maya Deren Life Achievement Award.

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