Ailing documentary filmmaker Les Blank – whose penetrating and often off-beat documentary films have won a devoted following of loyal fans – was honored Tuesday night with a proclamation declaring Jan. 22, 2013 as "Les Blank Day in the City of Berkeley."
A number of Blank's supporters and friends attended the meeting to hear the proclamation in the name of Mayor Tom Bates, who prefaced the reading by referring to Blank as "a wonderful, wonderful person in our community" and "a great filmmaker."
Blank is a Berkeley resident, while his film company, Flower Films, has long been based in El Cerrito. His office is upstairs from Down Home Music on San Pablo Avenue.
He's made more than 40 films in half a century, including the award-winning Burden of Dreams in 1982.
The proclamation said Blank "has captured the essence of aspects of American culture" with a "soft spoken demeanor, an eye for beauty, an insightful mind and great enthusiasm." It also said that Blank "through his respectful, quiet presence, and non-didactic style created films that allow his subjects to reveal their true selves in a unique way."
Blank attended the meeting in a wheelchair, and his son Harrod Blank thanked the council on his behalf. The filmmaker received a standing ovation after the proclamation.
The proclamation was read by Councilwoman Susan Wengraf, who made the film Love It Like A Fool about singer-songwriter Malvina Reynolds and who is a friend of Blank. The full proclamation can be found at the bottom of this article.
The presentation ceremony can be seen and heard in the video of the council meeting on the Berkeley City Council website. Berkeleyside published an article about the honor with a photo of Blank at the meeting by former Albany Patch Editor Emilie Raguso.
El Cerrito Patch published a feature based on an interview with Blank in February 2011.
Here is the proclamation:
IN HONOR OF LES BLANK
WHEREAS, Les Blank was born in Tampa, Florida and attended Tulane University where he played football and has lived in Berkeley for more than 35 years, making independent documentary films, and
WHEREAS, with a soft spoken demeanor, an eye for beauty, an insightful mind and great enthusiasm, Les Blank has captured the essence of aspects of American culture, and
WHEREAS, Les Blank, through his respectful, quiet presence, and non-didactic style created films that allow his subjects to reveal their true selves in a unique way, and
WHEREAS, some of the most interesting aspects of our culture have been documented by Les, creating a distinguished body of work of more than forty films over fifty years, all with a respect and love for people, their rituals, quirks, music and their food, including “The Blues According to Lighting Hopkins”, “Dry Wood”, “Chulas Fronteras”, “Always for Pleasure”, “Garlic is As Good as Ten Mothers”, and “Burden of Dreams”, to name a few, and
WHEREAS, Les Blank has received the recognition of being one of America’s finest documentary filmmakers, with retrospectives mounted across the globe and a British Academy Award for “Burden of Dreams” in 1982; Grand Prize, Melbourne Film Festival for “In Heaven There is No Beer” in 1985, the American Film Institute’s Maya Deren Award for outstanding achievement as an independent filmmaker in 1990 and the Edward MacDowell Medal in 2007.
WHEREAS, The City of Berkeley is very proud to have Les Blank as a resident and joins others who have celebrated his contributions to the documentary and honor him for his work that has enlightened so many about America’s rich and diverse cultural legacy
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that I Tom Bates, Mayor of the City of Berkeley, recognize and honor Les Blank in his hometown of Berkeley, California and do hereby declare January 22, 2013 as Les Blank Day in the City of Berkeley in recognition of his creativity, sensitivity, humanity and enormous contribution to the documentary genre.