Prolific documentary filmmaker Les Blank died on Sunday (April 7) at the age of 77, according to The New York Times. He passed away from bladder cancer in his home in Berkely, Ca.
Blank (full name: Leslie Harrod Blank Jr.) was born on November 27, 1935 in Tampa, Fla. While he never became a household name, his lengthy career earned him lifetime achievement awards from the American Film Institute and the International Documentary Association, though he didn’t think of himself as a documentarian. Rather, he saw himself as a filmmaker whose work happened to be about real people, according to his former wife Chris Simon.
Best known for his films that turned the lens on fellow filmmaker Werner Herzog (1979’s “Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe” and 1982’s “Burden of Dreams”), Blank was also known for spotlighting the periphery of America, providing exposure on pockets of culture that Hollywood often steered away from.
Of Blank, director Taylor Hackford told the Times, “You could call him an ethnographer; you could call him an
ethnomusicologist or an anthropologist. He was
interested in certain cultures that Americans are unaware of. He shot
what he wanted, captured it beautifully, and those subjects are now
gone. The homogenization of American culture has obliterated it.”
Blank is survived by sons Leslie Harrod Blank III and Beau Blank, daughter Ferris Robinson, and three grandchildren.