By Abby Zimet / Common Dreams
After decades of insisting on using “our art to reflect human values,” incomparable cinematographer and tireless activist Haskell Wexler died this weekend at 93. Wexler helped create some of the best films of our time –– while unceasingly “giving his gifts to the revolution” by highlighting issues of war, racism, poverty and torture – and accumulating a 500-page FBI file for his trouble. Wexler was best known by mainstream audiences for his work on big-name and often Oscar-winning films – Bound for Glory, In the Heat of the Night, Matewan, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Conversation until he fought with the directors.
But many progressives revered him for Medium Cool, his seminal 1969 movie about the turbulent Democratic National Convention in Chicago the year before, and a dozen smaller, more politically explicit documentary films – on the 1963 March on Washington, the Weather Underground, the Southern Freedom Riders, the Contras in Nicaragua, torture under the U.S.-backed junta in Brazil and, back in Chicago in 2012, anti-NATO protests. After winning an Oscar for Mike Nichols’ Virgina Woolf in the midst of the Vietnam War, Wexler declared his hope to “use our art for peace and love.” After many years and films, the words, which “came from a deep place,” still rang true.