Filmmaker Les Blank, whose documentaries about blues and jazz musicians and music of the South were widely acclaimed, died April 7 at his home in Berkeley, Calif. He was 77; the cause of death was bladder cancer.
Beginning in 1965 with a short film on Dizzy Gillespie, Blank set a new standard for creating intimate and revealing portraits of musicians and music-based cultures. He made "The Blues According to Lightnin' Hopkins" in 1968, "Hot Pepper" about zydeco legend Clifton Chenier in 1973 and "Sprout Wings and Fly" about the the Appalachian fiddler Tommy Jarrell in 1983.
"J'ai été au bal" ventured into Cajun country and "Chulas Fronteras" traveled back and forth across the Texas-Mexico border with norteno musicians; he also made a 31-minute film with Huey Lewis and the News on the making of their video for "Stuck With You." "In Heaven There is No Beer," which won a special jury prize at the 1985 Sundance Film festival, he explored the world of polka.