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Tell Them Who You Are

Let The Healing Beginů

For those struggling to better understand their parental units, photojournalist and filmmaker Mark Wexler has discovered a technique that will have psychotherapists in a tizzy wondering why they didn't think of it sooner. Wexler elected to make a documentary about his father, legendary cinematographer, Haskell Wexler.

Far from being a straightforward biopic, Tell Them Who You Are delves into the challenging dynamic between a cinematic icon and a son who has struggled to escape his father's formidable shadow and blaze his own trail. Mark paints a complex portrait of Haskell.

While Haskell is clearly a brilliant cinematographer as evidenced by his body of work which includes: American Graffiti, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, and Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf among others. He also comes across as a self-consumed egomaniac who's extremely difficult to work with, frustrating several directors and getting himself thrown off a number of films.

This is perhaps illustrated most clearly in Mark's efforts to film his famous dad. Throughout Tell Them Who You Are, Haskell questions Mark's approach, challenges his son's decisions, and generally is a pain in the ass. There are several occasions in which Haskell points his own camera back at Mark turning his son's documentary into an absurd game of dueling cameras.

It becomes easy to understand why Mark chose a path of greater resistance and did not often tell those around him [aka "them"] that was Haskell's son, in trying to advance his own career. Where Haskell was stridently political and railed against the FBI and other institutions, Mark embraced them irking his famous father to no end.

The most poignant and affecting parts of Tell Them Who You Are dig deeper into the nature of the estrangement between Haskell and Mark. Mark reflects on his father's often caustic tongue that cut deeply when he was a child. Pictures of an often sullen and dour Mark vividly reflect a childhood that was far from idyllic. Yet, it's evident Haskell loves his son as much as he is frustrated by him. Likewise, Mark admires and loves Haskell despite his shortcomings as a father.

Tell Them Who You Are succeeds in illuminating the complex and flawed relationship between one of film's greatest cinematographers and his son. How much healing was accomplished as a result of creating this documentary one can only guess, but celluloid psychotherapy appears to have at least opened up lines of communication between Haskell and his son.


Rating: 4 out of 5 stars