By Ali Soulio

This week Adelaide hosts Doc Week as part of the Australian International Documentary Conference. In 2013, the festival showcases the outstanding lifetime works of renowned filmmakers DA “Penny” Pennebaker and his wife Chris Hegedus. On Thursday, the University of Adelaide played host to the An Evening With event, where loyal followers, film buffs, music fans and film students alike were given the opportunity to eavesdrop on a truly entertaining and informing evening long conversation with the two directors, moderated by Australian writer and journalist Elisabeth Wynhausen.

Recently becoming the first honorary Oscar winner for documentary filmmaking, Penny recollected his early life before film, and how he came to develop an interest in filming the truth. Focusing on the subjects of music and politics, Penny’s films embody the style of cinema verite unlike any other. Perhaps most apparent in his earlier work with Robert Drew in Primary (1960), which covered the Kennedy-Humphrey primary campaign in Wisconsin, and in his own Don’t Look Back, which followed acclaimed musician Bob Dylan during his tour of the UK, his style of minimal narrative and ultra-personal camera work creates an atmosphere in a documentary never before seen. His films appear to peel the inherent impersonal veil of the cinema screen back and almost transports the viewers to the exact position he was in when filming each scene.

On the night, the audience was also privy to some insight into the artistic style and motivation behind the works of Penny’s wife and creative partner Chris Hegedus, who he had collaborated with since they first met when, according to Penny, she knocked on his door because, “she needed equipment”. Since then, Chris and Penny had worked together on many projects, most notably a film on 1980’s band Depeche Mode called 101, infamous coverage of Bill Clinton’s campaign team in The War Room, and more recently Al Franken: God Spoke (2006). All of which amounted to Penny accrediting his Oscar to Chris’s artistry as much as his own efforts.

In awe at the purity of their artistic integrity and achievements in an industry driven by capital, the audience was greatly appreciative of the inspiring words of encouragement from DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

As Doc Week draws to a close this Sunday, some of the pair’s most recognised films will be on show over the weekend at the Palace Nova and Mercury cinemas. So if motor sport is not your cup of tea, heading down to see one of the docos screening this weekend will definitely getting your artistic thoughts flowing, and reintroduce you to the somewhat starved aspect of truth in modern filmmaking.

Kryztoff Rating: 5K.

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