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Tell Them Who You Are

16 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Mark Wexler's cinematic blend of biography and autobiography centers on his relationship with his father, legendary Oscar-winning cinematographer and filmmaker Haskell Wexler, whose long and illustrious career is a virtual catalogue of 20th-century classics. Haskell's collaborations with such world-class filmmakers as Elia Kazan, Milos Forman, George Lucas, Francis Ford Coppola and Mike Nichols include such works as Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf?, American Graffiti, Coming Home, Bound for Glory and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. The film features interviews with many of these artists, along with such luminaries as Jane Fonda, Michael Douglas and Sidney Poitier. But the true "star" of TELL THEM WHO YOU ARE is Haskell himself, a controversial, larger-than-life character who challenges his son's filmmaking skills while announcing with complete conviction that he could have done a better job directing most of the movies he's shot. As these two men swap positions on camera and behind it - sometimes shooting one another simultaneously - the film looks with honesty and compassion at their attempts to reconcile before it's too late.

Haskell Wexler was one of the most important cinematographers of the '60s and '70s who continued to work into the new century (in his eighties, no less). Besides earning two Oscars, he directed Medium Cool, a landmark, uneasy mix of fiction and documentary, and was a visible liberal activist. He also looks to be a pain in the butt. That aspect is brought into focus with his son's Mark's curious, self-therapeutic documentary. Both a biography of the genius with the camera, and a warts-and-all portrait of his father, the film, narrated by Mark, is a cinematic way to deal with a challenging upbringing. The senior Wexler has not lost any of his vitality or gruffness--he openly challenges his son about setting up a scene or the importance of catching a sunset. Talk about reality TV! There are several famous faces interviewed about the craft of filmmaking, but the most interesting comments come from those who know very well about dealing with famous fathers (including Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas). Equal time is given for Wexler's greatest achievements (including Bound for Glory, and American Graffiti) as well as his failures (he was fired from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest). It's not the easiest film to watch, but filled with honest, raw emotion including how this grand cinematographer deals with his colorblindness. Genius may love company, but sympathy may be hard to find for a cameraman who states there's "never been a movie I thought I could direct it better" and a son who finds such a public way of dealing with his own demons. --Doug Thomas

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Special Features

  • "On Fathers & Family": Bonus Interview footage featuring Martin Sheen, Michael Douglas, Ron Howard, Jane Fonda, Billy Crystal, Sidney Poitier, Bill Butler ASC, Conrad L. Hall ASC & Conrad W. Hall
  • Haskell Wexler's Reaction to 'Tell Them Who You Are'
  • Haskell Wexler Filmography
  • About Mark Wexler

Product Details

  • Actors: Billy Crystal, Micheal Douglas, Jane Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Ron Howard
  • Directors: Mark S. Wexler
  • Writers: Mark Wexler, Robert DeMaio
  • Format: NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: All Regions
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: R (Restricted)
  • DVD Release Date: July 27, 2006
  • Run Time: 95 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000ARXG3Q
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #174,525 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Tell Them Who You Are" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John Agnone on December 7, 2005
Format: DVD
This documentary touched me deeper than any documentary to date. As a former editor for National Geographic Publications, I hired Mark Wexler to shoot still pictures for a National Geographic Book. He was talented then, and when he started making documentaries several years ago, I was thrilled by their insight and quality. But when Mark worked for me I didn't know he was the son of Academy Award winner Haskell Wexler. Only within the past year did I realize Mark's father was his father and a difficult guy to get along with. Like most children, Mark has only wanted to get a nod of appreciation from his dad. That nod in Mark's significant and acclaimed professional career was never forthcoming and was a source of sadness for a son who admired a distant father.

As the film reveals, Mark decided to produce a documentary about his dad as his dad approached his 80th birthday. The film is a little uncomfortable to watch at times and completely unscripted, yet I could not stop watching. From the opening scenes where Haskell is critical of Mark's questions and filming approach, to the closing scenes where Mark takes Haskell to visit Mark's mother and Haskell's ex-wife who has Alzheimers, there is a steady softening of Haskell's attitude toward his son. In the end, Haskell expresses (a rare event for his hardened ego) gratitude for his son and the connection between father and son is made, or at least a connection is started on a new emotional level.

In-depth interviews with some of Hollywood's greats about being the offspring of a powerful parent (or being a powerful parent) adds to the universal appeal of this great documentary. This movie transcends Hollywood. No glitz here. Just regular people who happen to be in the entertainment business. Highly recommended. Thank you, Mark, for making this film.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By William Gerstein on December 27, 2005
Format: DVD
I am partial to those stories that really get at the heart of a family. Mark Wexler needed to do this film to work out his relationship with his parents. It worked. As you see this film forget that his father had a life where he worked with famous people. This story gets played out with most of us regular people. Worth seeing by all.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Gus on October 8, 2005
Format: DVD
An inspiring, moving documentary.

What could have been a dreary, by-the-numbers clebrity bio becomes instead a profound and deeply felt investigation into the sometimes thorny relationship between acclaimed cinematographer/documentarian Haskell Wexler and his not-so-famous filmmaker son Mark. It's a film that is both humorous and heart-breaking, with many insightful moments from surprising sources. It's fascinating to watch this documentary expand far beyond the limits of its localized Hollywood subject matter and touch such a universal emotional chord with fathers and sons in all walks of life.

I thank both Wexlers for this brave film.
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Format: DVD
Haskell Wexler is one of a handful of cinematographers who have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, having won a pair of Oscars for filming "Guess Who's Coming to Dinner" and "Bound for Glory." Other nominations came for "Matewan" and "Blaze." He was also nominated for "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" along with Bill Butler, because Wexler was fired during the shoot. Two minutes into this documentary, you will understand why that would happen. You will also quickly figure out that this 2004 documentary is not about a great cinematographer, but about the relationship between Wexler and his son Mark, who is the one making the documentary.

The title of the film comes from Haskell Wexler's advice to his son when Mark started getting involved in the business. What it meant was tell people your father is Haskell Wexler. Born into a privileged life, Wexler got into making documentaries and established a reputation as a first-rate cinematographer and as an outspoken liberal. The son of Wexler's second wife, Mark talks about the point in his life when he realized that the U.S. government was bigger than his father and became a conservative, more out of a need to tick off his father than out of profound ideological conviction. That becomes part of the inherent tension between the documentarian and his subject (Wexler refuses to sign the release form for the film despite Mark's plea to trust him), but there is also the fact that Wexler thinks he knows more about making a documentary than his son. He probably does, but the old man (Wexler is in his early 80s), has no compunctions about communicating his superiority.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Kcorn TOP 500 REVIEWER on February 1, 2006
Format: DVD
This is a curious and oddly entertaining little film. The son of a troubled but talented director makes a movie about his realtionship with his father, in the process exploring his father's life and work while also focusing on family dynamics. Should he have done such a public expose'? See what you think.

If you're looking for soap opera, this film really doesn't stoop to that level. It can be painful to watch at times but I always got the sense that Mark Wexler always strove for the truth (as best he could) in his father's life and the reasons for their confrontations.

I came away from this one thinking of how families affect each other - for better or worse- and how the son of someone famous may have a special cross to bear...since genius can come with its own set of idiosyncracies, not all of them pleasant. Fascinating!
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