In 1955, Albert Maysles traveled by motorcycle throughout Russia. During this trip, he made his first film, Psychiatry in Russia, an unprecedented view into Soviet mental healthcare. This short film, along with Showman (1963), the first Albert and David Maysles collaboration, were catalysts for five decades of powerful and innovative documentary filmmaking. Over the years, the Maysles worked in partnership on more than a dozen films, pioneering the methodology of Direct Cinema—filmmaking without intervention. By making documentaries in an aleatory manner, the Maysles captured the unpredictability of life on film, providing audiences with the exhilaration of the Rolling Stones in Gimme Shelter (1970), the loss of the American dream in Salesman (1968), and the endearing eccentricities of Grey Gardens (1976). In 1987, David Maysles died; following his death, Maysles Films entered a second phase, in which Albert Maysles continued to make compelling films true to the brothers’ original intent, but with a variety of collaborators. This exhibition explores the career trajectory of these influential filmmakers, their substantial contribution to nonfiction film, and the “power of truth” that their cameras have captured for 50 years.
Organized by Anne Morra, Assistant Curator, Department of Film and Media