Entertainment & Arts

Pioneer of modern documentary Robert Drew dies aged 90

Anne and Robert Drew in Washington DC in 2007 Image copyright AP
Image caption Robert Drew ran a production company with his late wife, Anne.

The pioneering documentary film-maker Robert Drew has died at the age of 90.

Drew championed an observational style that avoided direct editing of subjects and the use of narrators.

Known as Cinema Verite, his fly-on-the-wall approach influenced contemporary documentary-makers such as Michael Moore.

In the 1960s, Drew gained prominence with two films about John F Kennedy, and went on to make dozens of others.

His output included pieces on politics, society and the arts.

"He was deeply involved in every aspect of his craft and was obsessed with it 'til the end," said his son, Thatcher.

His best known films included Primary, which documented Kennedy's campaign in the 1960 Wisconsin presidential primary, and The Chair, about a death-row convict whose sentence was commuted to life in prison.

Drew's ballet documentary, Man Who Dances, won an Emmy in 1969.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption John F Kennedy gave Drew access to the White House to film him working in the 1960s

In addition to his innovative directing technique, Drew also promoted the use of lightweight camera equipment that allowed film-makers to work more like journalists, and avoid staged set-up shots to tell their story.

"Modern art has Picasso. Rock-n-roll has Bill Haley. And the documentary film has Robert Drew," said Michael Moore, whose own work includes a film about the September 11 attacks in New York.

"All of us who make non-fiction movies can trace our lineage to what he created," he said.

A former World War Two fighter pilot and editor of Life magazine, Drew made many of his films with his wife Anne, who died in 2012.

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