Only a small percentage of filmmakers can boast a career of over ten films, but over sixty is the rarest of accomplishments. Yet, somehow, Richard Leacock (or Ricky, as he prefers to be called), has mesmerized, astounded and transfixed his viewers with some of the most indelible images for the last 66 years.
Born in London, July 18, 1921, Leacock grew up on a banana plantation in the Canary Islands until shipped off to school in England. In 1935, he made his first film, Canary Bananas, a 14-minute silent film about an agricultural element of his homeland that would impress Robert Flaherty to such a great extent that the legendary maker of Nanook of the North would hire Leacock after the war. Leacock read physics at Harvard but found himself focusing on the creative arts. After working for years with cumbersome cameras and equipment, Leacock was among the early pioneers who developed and utilized the first portable 16mm synchronous sound and film cameras. This development resulted in what came to be known as "direct cinema," a revolution that allowed for the French Cinema Verita and American Independent movements.
Through his renowned work as a cameraman, producer and director, remarkable images and stories have been gloriously brought to life for the screen, as stories that envelop and eminate the experience of life and its entire brilliance unfold before our eyes. At the heart of Leacock's work, however, is this sense, this necessity, to not simply capture images on film--as occurs with many films--but to capture the essence of places, people, situations, tragedies, comedies...life--what he defines as the "feeling of being there." Leacock does more than inform his audience: he involves them, bringing them into the life and body of his subjects. Leacock's compelling body of work includes Primary, a look at Senator Kennedy's election campaign; Yanki No!, an explosive view of Castro's takeover in Cuba; Petey and Johnny, an hour-long portrait of teenage gangs in East Harlem; Lulu in Berlin, his fascinating film depicting a rare interview with Louise Brooks; Happy Mother's Day, documenting the events surrounding a town-sponsored celebration of the birth of quintuplets; Community of Praise, delving into Fundamentalism; and his significant number of collaborative works with filmmakers Robert Flaherty, Robert Drew and D.A. Pennebaker.
With the advent of new digital filmmaking technologies, Leacock's work in recent years has remained both astounding and just as important as those of his early career. His fascination with lightweight digital technology has led him further into exploring the possibilities and boundaries of filmmaking and has allowed for the creation of some of his most personalized work. Through his teachings, he has influenced many filmmakers, and from his farm in Normandy, he continues to produce his own digital work with his partner and colleague, Valerie Lalonde.
Cinequest is privileged and honored to present our Maverick Spirit Award to a true master of his craft, a visionary filmmaker and an explorer. - Mike Rabehl, Geoff Alexander.
Please join Mr. Leacock at his events: An Educational Evening with Richard Leacock. Noted for his innovative documentaries, Leacock also spent a memorable part of his career making classroom academic films, three of which will be showcased at this expected sold out event (arrive early for a seat). Mr. Leacock in attendance. Cinequest DXD: From Nanook to Today. A captivating look at ways that technologies have influenced the artistry of direct filmmaking over the past sixty years. Maverick Spirit Award Presentation, A Musical Adventure in Siberia with Sarah Caldwell - Using the latest digital cameras, Leacock brilliantly captures the preparation for the first-ever performance of the once banned opera, Prokovievs Eugene Onegin. Featuring conductor Sarah Caldwell, whom Newsweek calls "Opera's First Lady!"