You should know Haskell Wexler for his cinematography work, which has gotten himself two Oscar wins (for Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf? and Bound for Glory) and another three nominations. You should definitely know him for his directorial masterpiece, Medium Cool, a drama that was filmed amidst the riots outside the 1968 Democratic National Convention. But do you know him for his documentary career? Sure, Medium Cool could fit on his documentarian resume for featuring so much non-fiction content, but I'm talking about the films he's made that are straight docs. The Bus, The Bus II, Bus Rider's Union, Underground, etc. You probably haven't, because they aren't easily available. If it weren't for his son Mark's recent film Tell Them Who You Are, a sort of bio-doc that is actually more like an autobio-doc, I wouldn't have even seen the few bits and pieces that I've seen. But just because his stuff is hard to find doesn't mean he hasn't been influential to many other documentarians, and for that he's being honored by the International Documentary Association with their 2006 Career Achievement Award.

Wexler's directorial work, in drama and documentary, has been known to be controversial. His second fiction film, Latino, was barely distributed for being too supportive of Nicaragua's Sandinista government, and his documentaries include Introduction to the Enemy, which followed Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden in their anti-war travels through Vietnam. His latest, Who Needs Sleep? deals with the dangerously long hours worked by film and TV crew members.

I think it is great that Wexler is being recognized in his lesser-mentioned career, and I have to say he deserves the award just for appearing in Mark's documentary, which you should run out and rent (or queue up) for a better appreciation of the elder Wexler. You may even possibly appreciate the film itself, as it rises above being a horribly shot and edited, offensively self-involved portrait of the artist to become, in the end, a touching essay on father-child relationships (it comes to real fruition while Fonda discusses her own dad).
categories Awards, Cinematical