IDFA Screens Celia Maysles Debut Film ‘Wild Blue Yonder’, Made Without Uncle Albert’s Blessing

maysleswithcapote.jpgFans of the Maysles brothers films will be interested to hear that the late David Maysles daughter Celia has followed in her father and uncle’s respective footsteps, debuting her first documentary feature, ‘Wild Blue Yonder’ (not to be confused with Werner Herzog’s sci-fi masterpiece of the same title) at this years IDFA film festival. The interesting part is the controversy surrounding her film, which is described as a daughter trying to uncover information about her enigmatic father who passed on when she was only seven. Here’s the synopsis from the IDFA site:

The brothers Albert and David Maysles are known as the co-founders of the movement that became known as direct cinema. Their 1976 film Grey Gardens, about an eccentric mother and daughter in a run-down mansion, became a cult classic. Albert still runs Maysles Films, but David died in 1987 at the age of 54. Celia Maysles, David’s daughter, is now 27. She was a young girl when her father died, but the loss strongly influenced her life and even led to a serious mental breakdown many years ago. She is determined to find out more about her father and the autobiographical nature of his work. Celia is especially curious about the project that David was working on right before his death; a personal film called Blue Yonder. One of the people she interviews is her uncle Albert, who initially supports her plan, but then suddenly banned her from the Maysles film archive. Celia is deeply disappointed, but is determined to continue her quest.

It turns out that Albert Maysles has not been entirely supportive of Celia’s project, refusing permission to use film clips from the Maysles catalog and her fathers own unfinished autobiographical film, ‘The Blue Yonder’. According to IndieWire, Albert sites a family rift as a sore spot, claiming that Celia’s Mother had interrupted an agreement between the two brothers regarding the control of their filmography in the event of one of their deaths. Either way, Celia ended up using footage from Grey Gardens, Gimme Shelter, Salesman, Christo in Paris and The Running Fence under the ‘fair use’ copyright doctrine. Now she just has to hope uncle Albert doesn’t sue.

The film features interviews with D.A. Pennebaker, Susan Froemke, Christo and Jean Claude among others, and was made with the help of Charlotte Zwerin, Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. That’s quite the who’s who of the documentary world. I’m excited to learn a little more about the Maysles process, although I can’t say I’m that interested in their personal lives. They spent their time surrounding themselves with some of the most interesting figures in modern history, and that’s a hard group to top. They obviously had/have a knack for gaining the trust of others, obtaining access to some pretty intimate situations. Now I guess it’s Albert’s turn to trust his niece as a filmmaker. Big thanks to Kurt from Twitch for the heads up on this one.


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