Obituary – Do Look Back –
August 3, 2019 – Pennebaker made his first film, Daybreak Express, in 1953. In 1960, he worked on Primary, which captured John F Kennedy’s run in the presidential primary against Hubert Humphrey. He returned to politics with The War Room (1993), co-directed with his wife, Chris Hegedus, with whom he made most of his films. Their behind-the-scenes documentary looking at Bill Clinton’s presidential campaign received an Oscar nomination in 1994.
Perhaps his most famous film, however, is Dont Look Back (sic), released in 1967, which depicts Bob Dylan’s last acoustic concert tour of the UK in 1965. It broke box-office records at the time, and is considered a benchmark in rock documentary. In an interview with Time in 2007, Pennebaker reflected on Dylan’s reaction to the film. “He saw it out in Hollywood at a dreadful screening. Afterward, he said: ‘We’ll have another screening and I’ll write down all of the things we have to change.’
“Of course, that made me a little gloomy. The next night, we assembled again and he sat in the front with this yellow pad. At the end of the film, he held up the pad and there was nothing on it. He said: ‘That’s it.’” In an interview with the website Film Comment in 2017, Pennebaker said: “Half the things that happened to me, that I look back on and were really good, were all kind of I think of as luck. Chance.”