Albert Maysles, Renowned Documentarian and Sundance Veteran, Dies at 88

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Albert Maysles at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival alongside a still from "LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton."

Renowned documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles, a visionary in the realm of cinema verite who directed no less than five Sundance Film Festival selections, died Thursday evening. He was 88.

Albert Maysles and his brother David Maysles are best known for spearheading the American cinema verite movement with films such as Salesman, Grey Gardens, and Gimme Shelter. Beginning in the late 1950s, their innovative approach to nonfiction filmmaking was marked by a strict adherence to objectivity and observation, partially achieved by not interviewing their subjects.

Robert Redford, President & Founder of Sundance Institute, said, "The strength of modern documentary filmmaking is built on a bedrock of creativity, innovation and uncompromising vision laid by pioneers like Albert Maysles. His influence on the genre is profound, and it will surely continue for years to come."

Tabitha Jackson, the director of the Sundance Institute Documentary Film Program, recalls Maysles' contributions to the craft in her remarks below.

Filmmaker Stacy Peralta and Albert Maysles at the
2001 Sundance Film Festival. © WireImage | J Vespa.

“The philosopher Bertrand Russell said that the Good Life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. I was reminded of this on learning the sad news that we have lost Al Maysles. His approach to documentary filmmaking and to the many filmmakers to whom he so generously gave his time, seemed to embody both. Love of the creative endeavor, of his subjects, and of the documentary community; and knowledge—knowledge he had accumulated over decades in which he (along with his brother David) helped to invent the form, both documented and changed the culture, and enabled us to come to know the ordinary and extraordinary people who were the subjects of his films.

"We at the Sundance Documentary Film Program were lucky enough to be able to add a little support to his most recent labor of love In Transit, which will premiere at Tribeca in April. Thanks Al. We hope you enjoyed the ride.”

Albert and David Maysles screened three feature-length films at the Sundance Film Festival, including Island (1987), Ozawa (1987), and Christo In Paris (1991), prior to David’s passing in 1987. Albert Maysles went on to premiere LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton (2001), for which he won the award for Excellence in Cinematography, and the short film The Secret of Trees, which appeared as part of the Focus Forward collection of short films at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. 


Lead photo:

Albert Maysles at the 2001 Sundance Film Festival alongside a still from "LaLee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton."