Celebrated cinematographer Haskell Wexler faces the camera in Tell Them Who You Are, an illuminating documentary helmed by the Oscar winner's own son, Mark. Thus we get to see Haskell from two angles, as professional and as patriarch. With dad calling junior's filmmaking skills into question at every turn, this is a fascinating blend of fact and friction. Plus it's got a super-starry line-up of talking heads: Julia Roberts, Jane Fonda, George Lucas, Sidney Poitier, Michael Douglas.
The celebs seem to divide into two camps: those who clearly adore Haskell (like Fonda) and those who think he's a pain in the ass, to quote director Norman Jewison (who's nonetheless worked with Wexler three times). But you won't hear a harsh word about his gift for painting with light, amply showcased in clips from films like American Graffiti and Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. (Remarkably, he turns out to be colour blind.)
"AS UNCOMFORTABLE AS IT IS MOVING"
Yet the film puts the focus onto Haskell's politics, his personal relationships and above all his parenting prowess. There's no playing happy families for the camera here. We open with the octogenarian tearing a strip off Mark, foregrounding a tension that reaches its prickly peak when the pair bicker literally till the sun goes down over the best place to shoot a scene. At times you feel you're intruding on a father-son therapy session, especially when Mark's Alzheimer’s-addled mum is wheeled on, a moment as uncomfortable as it is moving. Still, it's the profoundly personal point of view that makes this doc so compulsive.