Reel Life Stories: Documentary Film and Video Collections
in the UC Berkeley Library's Media Resources Center

Bay Area Documentary Filmmakers

Les Blank

Yum, Yum, Yum! (1990)

Les Blank marries his passion for spicy, down home food and his love for Cajuns and Creoles in this mouth-watering, exploration of the cooking and other enthusiasms of French-speaking Louisiana. Features tangy music, Marc Savoy, Paul Prudhomme, and other great cooks. Media Center: Video/C 2128

J'ai Été Au Bal / I Went to the Dance (1989)

The definitive film on the history of the music of French Southwest Louisiana. Includes many Cajun and Zydeco greats, featuring Michael Doucet and Beausoleil, Clifton Chenier, Marc and Ann Savoy, D.L. Menard, and many others. Media Center: Video/C 1828

Gap-Toothed Women (1987)

A charming valentine to women born with a space between their teeth, ranging from lighthearted whimsy to a deeper look at issues like self-esteem and societal attitudes toward standards of beauty. Interviews were conducted with over one hundred women, including model Lauren Hutton and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Media Center: Video/C 3558

In Heaven There Is No Beer? (1984)

A joyous romp through the dance, food, music, friendship, and even religion of the Polka. The explosive energy and high spirits of the polka subculture are rendered with warmth and dedication to scholarship in this journey through Polish-American celebrations. Media Center: Video/C 2111

Sprout Wings and Fly (1983)

This touching tribute to Appalachian culture profiles legendary, old-time fiddler Tommy Jarrell. His unpretentious folk wisdom is interlaced with family scenes and reminiscences, plus plenty of old-time music. Media Center: Video/C 1828

Always For Pleasure (1978)

Captures the music, food, and street celebrations that typify New Orleans. Focuses on the annual revival of Black Indian social and cultural traditions, featuring the Wild Tchoupitoulas and other Black Indian tribes as they prepare for and celebrate Mardi Gras. Media Center: Video/C 1830

Chulas Fronteras (1976)

A complex, insightful look at the Chicano experience as mirrored in the lives and music of the most acclaimed Norteño musicians of the Texas-Mexican border, including Flaco Jimenez and Lydia Mendoza. Media Center: Video/C 1830

Hot Pepper (1972)

Documents the life and music of Black zydeco-blues accordionist Clifton Chenier. Captures the sources of his music in the lives and culture of southwest Louisiana's urban and rural French-speaking Blacks. Media Center: Video/C 1305

The Sun's Gonna Shine: The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins (1969)

A lyrical recreation of Lightnin' Hopkins' decision at age eight to stop chopping cotton and start singing for a living. Media Center: Video/C 1831

Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers (1980)

Celebrates the virtues of garlic, from a Chinese restaurant's sizzling wok to the stuffed piglet specialty of Berkeley's Chez Panisse and the garlic festival at Gilroy, Calif. Media Center: Video/C 1835

Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe

When documentarian Errol Morris was a student and German director Werner Herzog his professor at the University of California at Berkeley (at least this was the relationship as I recall it) Morris approached his mentor with an idea for a film on pet cemeteries. Herzog was so certain of the subject's obscure difficulty, he immediately declared that if a successful documentary were ever to be made on the subject he would "eat his shoe."

Now Herzog could have stated something to the effect that he would be a "monkey's uncle," or even that he could foresee a "cold day in Hell." But he didn't, and true to his word, when Errol Morris finished his first feature length documentary Gates of Heaven in 1978, Herzog literally ate the damn thing.

Luckily for us Les Blank was around to document it in his 20 minute short Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe. Herzog chose the choice cut that his leather work boots offered, sauted and cooked them in a pot with garlic, broth and a few spices, and had himself served on stage in front of a packed house.

It's all rather bizarre, but the impassioned director explained that he held himself to his word for a few reasons: 1) he wanted to acknowledge what he felt was a brilliant effort by Morris, one that utilized its subject to reveal something about humanity; 2) he wanted to show his student audience the importance of setting a goal and following a course that you think is right, ignoring the naysayers.

In addition to the shoe-eating scenario, Blank's film provides a stage for Herzog and his theories on filmmaking and life - revealing him as a bold, impassioned and oft-crazed philosopher. Shoe was screened immediately preceding Blank's Burden of Dreams, and it proved both the perfect introduction to Herzog as a person and an essential part of a three-film Herzog/Morris package.

Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times

The Films:
Burden of Dreams (1982), by Werner Herzog. Media Center Video/C 1352
Gates of Heaven (1978), by Errol Morris. Media Center Video 999:441
Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1979), by Les Blank. Media Center Video/C 1352

Other Les Blank Films in the Media Center

The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists (1994) Media Center Video/C 4066

Innocents Abroad (1991) Media Center Video/C 7643

Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella (1985) Media Center Video/C 4067

Ziveli! Medicine for the Heart (1987) Media Center Video/C 3554

Del Mero Corazon (1979) Media Center Video/C 1303

Dry Wood (1973) Media Center Video/C 1306

Spend It All (1971) Media Center Video/C 1302

Dizzy Gillespie (1965) Media Center Video/C 3557

God Respects Us When We Work, But Loves Us When We Dance (1968) Media Center Video/C 3561

Copyright (C) 1996-2003 The Regents of the University of California. All rights reserved.
Media Resources Center
Last updated 4/30/03.