Richard Leacock, Filmmaker . 1921-2011

 Richard Leacock died in Paris yesterday. He was 89. Ricky was one of the founders of the cinema vérité movement, and a constant innovator in documentary filmmaking. Ricky’s last great work is an upcoming multi-media memoir that will also serve as a personal history of documentary.

Ricky was also my mentor and my friend. This is for him:

Ricky's memoir

Ricky with his partner & collaborator Valérie Lalonde (photo Anne Aghion)

Hey Ricky

Thanks for showing me how to look
not to watch, but to really look
with a camera

Thanks for your panning zooms,
your wonderful focusing zooms
and the swish pans

Thank you for all the hard cuts
Thanks for the sync sound and the MOS
Thanks for those bemused cut-aways
Thanks for all the brief shots of beautiful sound women
without headsets

Thank you for creating sequences
Thanks for composing in 1.33
Thanks for inviting serendipity into your frame

Thank you for Jazz Dance,
Primary, Company, Happy Mother’s Day,
Monterey Pop, The Chair, Stravinsky,
Les Oeufs à la Coque

Thanks for being so contagiously dazzled
by women, music, technology, science, cooking and
all the laughing ironies
of being there with a camera

Thanks for inventing the future of documentary
time and again in 16 millimeter, Super 8, Hi 8 and mini DV,
with Auricons, Nizos, Aatons, and Sonys
and for re-inventing the history of documentary
with your upcoming book.

You never ever ceased
to be amazed

Thank you for being my teacher

God bless your soul



You can pre-order Ricky’s multimedia memoir here


Some obituaries:

All These Wonderful Things A J Schnack
indiewire Eric Kohn
New York Times William Grimes
New Yorker Richard Brody
Boston Globe Mark Feeny
The Guardian Ronald Bergan
Screen Rush: Pennebaker on Leacock Eric Kohn
Visible Evidence Brian Winston
indieWIRE Hope for Film David van Taylor


Cinéma du réel is currently running a tribute to Leacock at the Pompidou Center in Paris.

About Benjamin B

Benjamin B

Benjamin B (a.k.a. Benjamin Bergery) is a journalist, teacher and media artist. He is a European correspondent for American Cinematographer and the author of the book Reflections: 21 Cinematographers at Work. He produces seminars and workshops on the art and technology of cinema; his teaching experience includes posts at MIT and USC. He is the founding editor of Lumières, published by the AFC (French society of cinematographers). He lives in Paris. Email:


  1. Marek

    Benjamin, Glorianna, everyone. It is hard to write about Ricky, without filling at least several pages, or chapters.

    Ben, your tribute is very touching. Glorianna, “And thank you Ricky for all the connections that live on! ” is very, very apt indeed.

    That photo from Ed’s farm and Ricky’s “American Gothic” pose are priceless. I saved it right away. Wasn’t even aware that it existed.

    Ricky was a true original in many myriad ways and I will treasure my time at the Film Section, not only because of him, but also because of all of you guys!

  2. Luc Courchesne

    Ricky’s birthday picnics at Halibut Point remain high moments of my Summers in Massachusetts. I went back last year at about that time to do this recording:

    Many thanks Ricky for everything, from the beautifull food you cooked to the example of a great human being you gave us all.

  3. Glorianna

    Benjamin, A lovely tribute! If I may I would add
    — And thank you Ricky for all the connections that live on!

    It was great to reconnect with you at Cinema du Reel on Friday night. I don’t think I will ever forget the the expressive tension of that audience as they watched the evening program of Canary Bananas, Primary, Happy Mother’s Day and Chiefs. Cheers


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