NEW YORK (Reuters) - Award-winning American filmmaker Robert L. Drew, a pioneer of the cinema vérité documentary style, died on Wednesday in Sharon, Connecticut at the age of 90, his family said.
Drew, who made more than 100 films on social issues, politics and the arts during a career that spanned more than five decades, died peacefully surrounded by children and friends.
“He had been declining for some time and it was not completely unexpected,” his son, Thatcher Drew, said.
Drew, a former correspondent and editor at Life Magazine and a fighter pilot during World War Two, helped to develop cinema vérité, a direct type of observational or fly on the wall filming to capture reality.
He also founded the documentary film company Drew Associates in the early 1960s. Many of his films were shown on television and screened at international film festivals.
“He believed in the pure form of cinema vérité. It was a strict code that allowed no directing of subjects, no set up shots and no on-camera narrator or correspondent,” his son explained.
Along with his innovative directing techniques, Drew also developed lightweight cameras. His film “Primary,” which followed John F. Kenney and Hubert Humphrey during the 1960 Wisconsin presidential primary, was the first in which a sync-sound motion picture camera was used.
His most well-know films include “The Chair,” about a criminal who finds redemption, and “Faces of November,” a short about Kennedy’s funeral following his assassination in 1963, which won a prize at the Venice Film Festival.
Drew also won an Emmy in 1969 for the ballet documentary “Man Who Dances.” His last film, 2005’s “From Two Men and a War,” in which he recounted his war experiences and friendship with war correspondent Ernie Pyle, was shown at the Tribeca Film Festival.
“He was deeply involved in every aspect of his craft and was obsessed with it till the end,” his son said.
Two of Drew’s films are in the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry.
Drew is survived by three children and three grandchildren. His wife, Anne, a partner in their filmmaking, died in 2012.
Reportiing by Patricia Reaney,; Mary Milliken; editing by Andrew Hay