A Tribute to Les Blank

February 11, 2014, 7:00 P.M.

The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108, George Lucas Building, USC School of Cinematic Arts Complex, 900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007

The USC School of Cinematic Arts invites you and a guest to attend

A Tribute to Les Blank

7:00 P.M. on Tuesday, February 11th, 2014
The Ray Stark Family Theatre, SCA 108
George Lucas Building, School of Cinematic Arts
900 W. 34th Street, Los Angeles, CA 90007
Featuring three short documentary screenings and a moderated panel discussion about Les Blank, his work, and his legacy, featuring Harrod Blank and Beau Blank, hosted by Dr. Michael Renov, SCA Vice Dean of Academic Affairs.

Film screenings will include:
Running Around Like A Chicken With Its Head Cut Off (1960), 4 minutes
The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins (1968), 31 minutes
Spend it All (1971), 41 minutes


About Les Blank

Les Blank (1935-2013), is a renowned independent filmmaker, whose poetic work offers intimate, idiosyncratic glimpses into the lives, culture, and music of passionate people at the periphery of American society. Topics have included Cajun, Mexican, Polish, Hawaiian, and Serbian-American music and food traditions, Afro-Cuban drummers, Texas bluesmen, Appalachian fiddlers, flower children, garlic, and gap-toothed women.

Blank is perhaps best known for his feature-length Burden of Dreams (1982), documenting the chaotic production of Werner Herzog’s 1982 film Fitzcarraldo in the jungles of South America. Honored with a Criterion DVD edition and winner of the British Academy Award, Roger Ebert called the film “one of the most remarkable documentaries ever made about the making of a movie.”

Another of Blank’s best-loved works is Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers (1980), a seminal food film featuring culinary pioneer Alice Waters and the Gilroy Garlic Festival. The film, notorious for its mouthwateringness, is traditionally shown in “Aromaround”, with garlic simultaneously roasted in-theater.

Blank’s most recent film, All In This Tea (2007), is a feature documentary following tea specialist David Lee Hoffman to the most remote regions of China in search of the perfect leaf. Hoffman single-handedly opens the government’s eyes to the value of their own tradition, ensuring the survival of small, artisinal growers (“. . .a delicious documentary!” – New York Times; “. . .an entertaining portrait of an eccentric figure whose singular passion proves infectious.” – Hollywood Reporter).

Visit the Official Les Bank Website: www.LesBlank.com

“I can’t believe that anyone interested in movies or America…could watch Blank’s work without feeling they’d been granted a casual, soft-spoken revelation.” – Time Magazine

“Blank is a documentarian of folk cultures who transforms anthropology into art.” – New York Times (John Rockwell)




“A master of movies about the American idiom… one of our most original filmmakers.” – New York Times (Vincent Canby)




About the Films

Running Around Like A Chicken With Its Head Cut Off (1960), 4 minutes

Les Blank’s first student film, starring Gail Blank, Pieter Van Deusen, and Les himself. An hommage to Ingmar Bergman’s Seventh Seal, the film that inspired Blank to become a filmmaker.

The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins (1968), 31 minutes

The great Texas bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins is captured brilliantly in this deeply moving film. Blank reveals Lightnin’s inspiration, and features a generous helping of classic blues. Includes performances at an outdoor barbeque and a black rodeo; and a visit to his boyhood town of Centerville, Texas. This powerful portrait is among Blank’s special masterworks.

Spend it All (1971), 41 minutes

A rich portrayal of the lives and music of the French-speaking Cajuns of Louisiana, featuring the Balfa Brothers, Marc Savoy and Nathan Abshire.


About Dr. Michael Renov, Ph.D., Vice Dean, USC School of Cinematic Arts

Michael Renov, Professor of Critical Studies and Vice Dean for Academic Affairs, is the author of Hollywood's Wartime Woman: Representation and Ideology and The Subject of Documentary, editor of Theorizing Documentary, and co-editor of Resolutions: Contemporary Video Practices, Collecting Visible Evidence, The SAGE Handbook of Film Studies and Cinema's Alchemist: The Films of Peter Forgacs.

In 1993, Renov co-founded Visible Evidence, a series of international and highly interdisciplinary documentary studies conferences that have, to date, been held on four continents. He is one of three general editors for the Visible Evidence book series at the University of Minnesota Press, which has published 25 volumes on various aspects of nonfiction media since 1997. In 2005, he co-programmed the 51st annual Robert Flaherty Seminar, a week-long gathering of documentary filmmakers, curators and educators, creating 20 screening programs and filmmaker dialogues on the theme "Cinema and History."

In addition to curating documentary programs around the world, he has served as a jury member at documentary festivals including Sundance, Silverdocs, the Buenos Aires International Independent Film Festival, Brazil's It's All True and the International Environmental Festival of Film and Video, also in Brazil. He has  taught graduate seminars at the University of Stockholm and Tel Aviv University and has led documentary workshops in Jordan for the Royal Film Commission and in Cyprus. Renov's teaching and research interests include documentary theory, autobiography in film and video, video art and activism and representations of the Holocaust.


Check-In & Reservations

This screening is free of charge and open to the public. Please bring a valid USC ID or print out of your reservation confirmation, which will automatically be sent to your e-mail account upon successfully making an RSVP through this website. Doors will open at 6:30 P.M.

All SCA screenings are OVERBOOKED to ensure seating capacity in the theater, therefore seating is not guaranteed based on RSVPs. The RSVP list will be checked in on a first-come, first-served basis until the theater is full. Once the theater has reached capacity, we will no longer be able to admit guests, regardless of RSVP status.


The USC School of Cinematic Arts is located at 900 W. 34th St., Los Angeles, CA 90007. Parking passes may be purchased for $10.00 at USC Entrance Gate #5, located at the intersection of W. Jefferson Blvd. & McClintock Avenue. We recommend parking in Parking Structure D, at the far end of 34th Street. Metered street parking is also available along Jefferson Blvd.

Contact Information

Name: Alessandro Ago
Email: aago@cinema.usc.edu