Haskell Wexler is an acclaimed cinematography who is well-known in Hollywood for marching to the beat of his own drummer. People either love or hate the man who has been quoted as saying, " I don't think there's a movie that I've been on that I wasn't sure I could direct better."
Included in this assessment is his son Mark's documentary, Tell Them Who You Are.
Haskell Wexler has worked with a host of talented and highly regarded directors, including Elia Kazan, Mike Nichols, Woody Allen, Milos Forman, George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola. He's won Academy Awards for his cinematography work on Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Bound for Glory. Other films for which he is famous include American Graffiti, In the Heat of the Night and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.
If Haskell Wexler is highly regarded for his director of photography work, he's also developed quite a reputation for social activism. In 1969, he wrote, produced and directed the counterculture classic Medium Cool, a documentary that was filmed in the midst of Chicago's 1968 Democratic Convention. He took a trip to Hanoi with Jane Fonda at the height of the Vietnam war to film a documentary. Wexler believes he was dismissed from the crew of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at the request of the FBI due to his activism. When his son Mark rebelled by, as Haskell puts it, "embracing the Establishment," Haskell suspected Mark of spying for the FBI himself.
Such a reputation caused Mark to keep his distance from his father. Although Haskell was known to say, "Tell them who you are" (meaning "Tell them you're Haskell Wexler's son), Mark spent the bulk of his existence trying to separate himself from his father. At the same time, he deeply hoped to become close to him.
The result turned into the documentary Tell Them Who You Are, where father and son both literally point cameras at each other as they try to find some solutions to their troubled relationship. They become dueling directors through the course of the film, which is described as part therapy, part film school. (Kim Hollis/BOP)