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Pennebaker, D. A.

Pennebaker, D. A. (Donn Alan Pennebaker), 1925–2019, pioneering documentary filmmaker, b. Evanston, Ill. His first film, Daybreak Express (1958), is a five-minute short detailing New York's doomed Third Avenue Subway, set to Duke Ellington's song of that name. Subsequently concentrating on the worlds of rock music and politics, he made more than 40 documentaries, becoming one of the creators of a distinctly American cinéma vérité after the development of handheld 16-mm cameras with synchronous sound allowed filmmakers to interact freely with their subjects. Dont Look Back (1967), which chronicles Bob Dylan's first tour of England, is widely considered one of the finest documentaries ever made. His rock and jazz documentaries include Monterey Pop (1968), one of the best live rock-concert films. He also filmed close-up portraits of performers and rock groups, including Jane Fonda (Jane, 1962), John Lennon (John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band, 1969), David Bowie (Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, 1973), and Elaine Stritch (Elaine Stritch: At Liberty, 2004). His earliest political film, Primary (1960), follows the Kennedy and Humphrey presidential primary campaigns; later ones include The Energy War (1978) and The War Room (1993), a look at Bill Clinton's presidential run. From 1976 Pennebaker collaborated with filmmaker Chris Hegedus, whom he married in 1982.

See K. Beattie and T. Griffiths, ed., D. A. Pennebaker: Interviews (2015).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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