“Direct cinema is anything but a fly on the wall”: a conversation with Albert Maysles

Frank Verano


Albert Maysles, along with his brother David, was a pioneer in American observational documentary in the early 1960s. Revolutionary technological breakthroughs developed by Maysles, producer Robert Drew, and filmmakers Ricky Leacock and D.A. Pennebaker allowed sound and image to be recorded in complete synchronization independent of any physical connectivity; this provided filmmakers a manageable mobility that positioned them to observe and interact with the world in a new way in pursuit of a new cinematic realism. In 1964, Albert coined a term for their practice, which thus distinguished it from the arbitrarily-applied misnomer cinéma vérité: direct cinema. 

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