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Albert Maysles to be honored at The Chicago International Documentary Festival

The Chicago International Documentary Festival (CIDF) will pay tribute to celebrated filmmaker Albert Maysles by awarding him their inaugural Lifetime Achievement Award during the Opening Night Gala on Friday, April 1, 2005 at the Doc Films- Max Palevsky Cinema in Ida Noyes Hall (1212 E. 59th Street). The gala will feature a cocktail reception with live entertainment starting at 6pm, followed by the award presentation and film screening at 8pm. Tickets are $50 per person to attend the reception and screening or $20 per person for the screening alone.
The CIDF Lifetime Achievement Award was conceived to honor filmmakers who have made significant contributions to the genre of documentary filmmaking. And in this first year, the award recognizes Albert Maysles for forging new directions in documentary filmmaking with his passion, pursuit of truth, innovative techniques and independent style. “With the inaugural CIDF Lifetime Achievement Award, the Festival pays tribute to Al Maysles groundbreaking work in documentary film”, states festival director Christopher Kamyszew.
Since the 1960’s Maysles and his brother David (1932-1987) have been inspirational leaders in non-fiction films. They are recognized as pioneers of “direct cinema”, a riveting, non-interventional approach to documentary filmmaking. The Maysles Brothers were among the first to capture the drama of human life as it unfolded before their camera: without scripts, sets, or narration.
Born on November 26, 1926 in Boston of Jewish immigrant parents from Eastern Europe, Maysles earned a B.A. from Syracuse, and earned a M.A. from Boston University where, for three years he taught psychology. In the summer of 1955 he made a transition from psychology to film by taking 16mm Keystone camera to Russia to film patients in psychiatric hospitals. The work resulted in a 15-minute film PSYCHIATRY IN RUSSIA, his first foray into filmmaking. After making PRIMARY, a film about the Democratic primary races of Kennedy and Humphrey, where the story was told with hand-held cameras and synchronous sound, the Maysles brothers captured one of the most exciting moments in show business history in WHAT’S HAPPENING! THE BEATLES IN THE USA (1964). Their passionate interest in cultural phenomena continued in MEET MARLON BRANDO (1965) which showed the filmmakers’ genuine sense of scene-behind-the-scene. Soon followed the landmark non-fiction feature film SALESMAN (1968), an intimate portrait of four door-to-door Bible salesmen from Boston. Released with a great success theatrically and regarded as the classic American documentary, the film was honored by the Library of Congress for its historical, cultural and aesthetic significance. The next two Maysles’ films inspired the film world and today are perceived as cult classics. GIMME SHELTER (1970) is the dazzling portrait of the Rolling Stones on an American tour which culminated in a murder at the notorious concert in Altamont, California. GREY GARDEN (1976) captured the haunting relationship of the Beales, aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, mother and daughter living in seclusion in a decaying East Hampton mansion. In 1980 Albert and David delivered MUHAMMAD AND LARRY, a fascinating insight into preparing for the World Heavyweight Boxing Championship. In it, Muhammad Ali at his training camp and Larry Holmes at his, are each obsessed with the other. Maysles Films Inc. also produced many films on arts and artists, including the long-standing collaboration between celebrated artists Christo and his wife Jeanne-Claude, whose monumental environmental projects were documented in the Academy-nominated CHRISTO’S VALLEY CURTAIN (1974), RUNNING FENCE (1978), ISLANDS (1986), CHRISTO IN PARIS (1990), and UMBRELLAS (1995).
In February 2005 Albert Maysles and Antonio Ferrera are shooting THE GATES, a new Christos’ installation of 7,500 gateways covered in flying saffron fabric, a celebration gracing the walkways of Central Park in New York City, for 16 days. At the same time, Albert continues his work on HAND-HELD AND FROM THE HEART, an audio-visual self-portrait. His two other films in progress are IN TRANSIT about trains as a metaphor for life, and THE JEW ON TRIAL: SEARCHING FOR MENDEL BEILIS about the case of Mendel Beilis, falsely accused of the legendary blood libel, famous in its day (Kiev, 1913); one of the great trials of the century, all but lost in history.
Among numerous distinctions Albert Maysles received worldwide are International Documentary Association Career Achievement Award (1994), John Grierson Award for Documentary (1997), American Society of Cinematographers’ President’s Award (1998) given for the very first time to a documentarian, Hot Docs Lifetime Achievement Award (1999), the Flaherty Award (1999), and the Thessaloniki Lifetime Achievement Award (2001). In 1999 Eastman Kodak saluted Albert as one of the 100 world’s finest cinematographers.
In addition to awarding Maysles the Lifetime Achievement Award, the CIDF will showcase the retrospective of his works including SALESMEN, GIMME SHELTER, GREY GARDEN, the rarely seen gem 77-minute director’s cut of WHAT’S HAPPENING! THE BEATLES IN THE USA, popular shorts MEET MARLON BRANDO and MUHAMMAD AND LARRY, an example of his work on Christo – CHRISTO IN PARIS, as well as a session of trailers for his yet unfinished films THE GATES AND HAND-HELD AND FROM THE HEART with Albert Maysles’ own commentary and Q&As following the screening.
Established in 2003, the CIDF is a thought-provoking 10-day film event, dedicated to the celebration and cultivation of the documentary film. The eclectic programming is designed to extend appreciation of the art of documentary film and its unique power to inspire and communicate a world of ideas and cultures. Each edition presents an array of extraordinary programs, showcasing the work of brilliant filmmakers and providing a venue for established and emerging artists of film. This year over $50,000 in unrestricted cash plus other prizes will be awarded by a jury.
Tickets may be purchased daily from noon - 6:00 pm. at the CIDF Main Box Office, c/o The Society for Arts (1112 Milwaukee Ave., Chicago, IL 60622), or charged by phone at (866) 466-ARTS and online at Visa, MasterCard, American Express or Discover are accepted and all charges are subject to a nominal handling charge. For up-to-date and detailed Festival information, visit or call (773) 486-9612.
Presented by the Society for Arts, the CIDF is a non-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization that depends on contributions from individuals, businesses and government to make the program possible.


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