Les Blank, documentary filmmaker extraordinaire

Les Blank, Image copyright of Harrod Blank

Les Blank has been making rich, resonant films about music, art, food and other filmmakers in the United States and beyond for over 50 years at his own Flower Films in Berkeley, California.  With a twinkle in his camera, he continues to make exceptional documentaries that celebrate, evaluate and, yes, document. I can truly say that I always leave a screening of one of his films feeling better than when I went in.

Recently honored with the International Documentary Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award, the Folk Alliance International Lifetime Achievement Award and a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and with two of his films in the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress (Chulas Fronteras and Garlic is As Good As Ten Mothers) we are honored to welcome Les Blank to DCIFF 2012.

– Deirdre Evans-Pritchard, DCIFF

Thursday, March 1
6.45pm – 9.15pm

Les Blank: Living With Film. A conversation with Les Blank featuring recent work interspersed with a taste of the classics in an exploration of a Well Spent Life.  A chance to learn about an extraordinary life in film by a  legendary documentary filmmaker who has worked with Ry Cooder, Werner Herzog, Dennis Hopper, Huey Louis, Harry Belafonte and many more.   Excerpted works from the 1960s through to 2011, including films in progress (Butch Anthony, a self-taught artist from Alabama and Richard “Ricky” Leacock, documentary film pioneer) and planned projects. Yum! Yum! Yum! 

Friday, March 2
12 noon

Screening of Sworn To the Drum/Q&A with Les Blank, in partnership with The Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage, the Latino Center, and the Americans All initiative of the Smithsonian Institution.

Presented at: The National Museum of American History, Warner Bros. Theater, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW, Wash DC.  Metro station: Federal Triangle or Smithsonian; Blue and Orange lines. Metro bus: 52. For more information call (202) 633-3776

When you think of Latin percussion, think of Francisco Aguabella. Perhaps the finest Afro-Cuban master percussionist, he became synonymous with his instrument – one of the highest compliments a musician can receive. Indeed, what Carlos Santana is to the guitar, Aguabella was to the conga drum.  A sacred drummer of the Santeria religion, Aguabella left Cuba in the 1950s. He performed with Dizzy Gillespie, Tito Puente, Peggy Lee, Frank Sinatra, Eddie Palmieri, Carlos Santana and the Doors. Francisco Aguabella, 1925-2010.


9 pm

A rarely screened film on a major rock star of the 70s, described by the Washington Post “The best film ever made on rock.” (1974/90 mins./USA)  Q&A with Les Blank.

Saturday, March 3
12.30PM – 2.00pm

Masterclass with Les Blank,  US Navy Memorial Heritage Center  

A chance to receive some pearls of wisdom and share a conversation about documentary techniques, documenting culture, filmmaking musical events, cameras and stylistic changes in documentary film. Les has not only directed over 35 films, but has also filmed noted documentary filmmakers Richard Leacock and Werner Herzog.  Limited to 20 participants.

Sponsored by The Tabard Inn and Teaism             


A rarely seen documentary by Les Blank – on a major rock star of the 70s, described by the Washington Post “The best film ever made on rock.” (1974/90 mins./USA)  Q&A with Les Blank. No recording devices permitted. In the big theater at the US Navy Heritage Center.