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The common humanity of documentaries


The power of documentaries
Albert Maysles Film-maker
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Another thing that I'd like to point out is that when you approach documentary filmmaking with an- as open a mind as possible, you get into discovering things that sometimes you don't even realize until you're in the final stages of the film or even later on. For example, none of us gave that much weight to the film's depiction of the housewives in the film as- as- and as the title suggests, the title was "Salesman" right? Sales-Man, right? So- but it's not just the- not just the sales-Man, that film was kind of revolutionary in that, at that time in 1968, we paid so much attention to the unhappy role of the housewife. I don't know many films- or of any films that have gone into that deep an explanation into what a housewife goes through. And so, so the film becomes in a way a feminist film as well as a film that connects us with all kinds of aspects of life in our culture. And simply from this deliberate, concentrated observation, patience and empathy that we gave our subjects. By the same token in "Grey Gardens" it didn't occur to us quite fully that suddenly in a, in a feature film- a documentary- attention was paid to the mother / daughter relationship, so important, the most profound human relationship- the mother / daughter relationship. How is it that literature and cinema had neglected this particular relationship when it's so important? Even Freud neglected to analyze that kind of relationship and instead shows the mother / son relationship- the Oedipus Complex. But just by that random attention to, to these women that attracted us, partly because of their eccentricity and their way of life in a kind of haunted house, all of which inspired us to investigate more fully, right? And in that process of investigation and discovery, we came up with a film that so profoundly attaches itself to the- to that human relationship. So profoundly that- I've met so many people who've seen the film over and over and over again.

Albert Maysles (1926-2015) known for his important documentaries on Muhammad Ali, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles, pioneered the documentary style known as Direct Cinema. He helped create techniques still widely used in modern documentary production, as well as many of the techniques used in reality TV.

Listeners: Rebekah Maysles Tamara Tracz Sara Maysles

Rebekah Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is an artist living between New York and Philadelphia. She has her own line of clothing, Blackberryrose, and co-runs the store Sodafine in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, New York, a vintage and handmade store that sells clothing, books and other products made by artists.

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

Sara Maysles, daughter of Albert Maysles, is currently doing her BA in East Asian Studies at Columbia University, and working as an Archivist of the photographs and photographic material at Maysles Films Inc., Albert‚s film production company. She spent ten months out of two years working with Tibetan refugees at a center in Nepal, and continues to travel back and forth between America and Asia.

Tags: Salesman, Grey Gardens, Oedipus Complex, Sigmund Freud

Duration: 3 minutes, 33 seconds

Date story recorded: September 2004

Date story went live: 24 January 2008