On August 14, the DGA’s Documentary Series hosted a screening of acclaimed filmmaker Les Blank’s feature-length film, Burden of Dreams, at the Guild’s Los Angeles Theater complex.
After an introduction from DGA Special Projects Committee Chair Jeremy Kagan (Heroes), the audience viewed a documentary about a director obsessed with making a film about a man obsessed with building an opera house in the South American jungle. Burden of Dreams chronicles the chaotic five-year production of Werner Herzog’s 1982 film Fitzcarraldo in the Amazon basin. The film explores Herzog’s determination to shoot the most daunting scenes without models or special effects, including a sequence requiring hundreds of native Indians to pull a full-size, 320-ton steamship over a small mountain. Burden of Dreams received the 1983 British Academy Film Award for Best Documentary.
Following the screening, Les Blank’s editor and long-time collaborator Maureen Gosling (Blossoms of Fire) showed a brief montage of his work that she crafted as a tribute to the filmmaker who died in April, 2013. Her montage contained favorite shots and scenes from such beloved works as Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers; Gap-Toothed Women; and his final documentary, All in This Tea, about a tea specialist's travels to the most remote regions of China in search of the perfect tea leaf.
To conclude the evening, DGA Special Projects Documentary Series subcommittee chair Chuck Workman (Precious Images) conducted a Q&A with Gosling, and Les’ son, fellow documentarian Harrod Blank (Driving the Dream), about the making of Burden of Dreams and the life and work of Les Blank.