Les Blank, the independent documentarian known for exploring American musical genres and teaming with Werner Herzog on both 1980’s Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe and 1982’s Burden Of Dreams, about the making of Fitzcarraldo, died Sunday in Berkeley. He was 77. Blank had been battling cancer in recent months and passed away in his sleep, son Harrod Blank told Deadline. Among Blank’s works on idiosyncratic subjects were 1976’s Chulas Fronteras, about norteño music along the Mexico-Texas border, and the 1980 docu Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers, which featured culinary icon Alice Waters. Both films were selected for preservation by the Library of Congress. Blank established his Flower Films in El Cerrito, California in 1967 just outside of Berkeley, where he was based through a four-decade career during which he garnered lifetime achievement awards from AFI and the International Documentary Association, a BAFTA for Best Documentary (Burden Of Dreams), and a Special Jury Prize from the Sundance Film Festival (In Heaven There Is No Beer?).
More recently in 2007 he co-directed (with Gina Leibrecht) All In This Tea, about the Chinese tea industry. Prior to his death, Blank had three projects in the works and shot second camera on a Burning Man documentary for son Harrod, who is also a filmmaker and artist. “Les was more than just a father”, said Harrod Blank. “He was my cohort in adventure and my friend as well”.