Haskell Wexler

 In Film

Up until about a year ago, I was running a film-related blog called The Jump Cut. As a graphic designer, a lot of what appeals to me about Hollywood is visual. Sure, I love the way a film is written and acted too. But what I always notice the most are things like cinematography and set design. Those—along with marketing materials and film-inspired art—are what The Jump Cut was about.

In August of 2013, it was the 50-year anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s march on Washington, which helped to pass both the Civil and Voting Rights Acts. I wrote a post on The Jump Cut about this because where I learned much of what I know about it was through a documentary called The Bus.

The director of that documentary, Haskell Wexler, was best known as a cinematographer, and director of the cult film, Medium Cool. He worked on some amazing films like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and Bound for Glory (he won Oscars for the two latter). I’m writing this because Wexler passed away in his sleep today at the age of 93. I thought it would be a good time to repost my piece from The Jump Cut as a way to show some of the great activist work he did, and because he will be sorely missed. Godspeed, Haskell Wexler.

From The Jump Cut, August 28, 2013:


Haskell Wexler and the March on Washington

Today marks the march on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech. The event remains one of the largest political rallies in history—between 200,000-300,000 attendees—and is widely credited with helping to pass the Civil Rights Act (1964) and the Voting Rights Act (1965).

There have been a lot of documentaries about the march, and earlier this week Anath White wrote about one of themfor RogerEbert.com. The Bus is a short film made by Haskell Wexler—Oscar-winning cinematographer and long-time civil rights activist—as he rides a bus from San Francisco to Washington D.C. with a group of activists from all walks of life and captures them as they move toward the common cause of equality in America. It’s incredibly intimate and inspiring.

Wexler photographed such classic films as Bound for Glory, In the Heat of the Night, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, along with over 70 others. He also wrote and directed >Medium Cool, the highly controversial and innovative 1969 political documentary-drama-hybrid, in which a newsman has trouble separating himself from the violence around him at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

I’ve posted some clips from The Bus below. It’s a quick ten minutes, but well worth a watch, especially today.