Tell Them Who You Are – USA – Dir: Mark Wexler – 4/5
(This review is one of mine from the 2005 Sydney Film Festival)

This is a biography of sorts by director Mark Haskell of his famous cinematographer father, Haskell. But Haskell is injecting himself into the film. Haskell wants his son to make a different kind of biographical film – one about feelings.  Mark wants to make a film about Haskell, the father (who was married 3 times).

Haskell's father, Simon Wexler, made a fortune in electronics during the Depression.  Haskell was a rebel.  He published paper called 'Against Everything'. He liked being there but not being there – being the observer. He was a pioneer of cinema verite or  'direct cinema'.  He says that you need to like the people you are filming - so they trust you (so says Albert Mayles). He distrusts videotape.  He says: ‘The magician is part of the chemistry & the chemistry is lost when you get into video.'

In many ways this is a similar film to My Architect. It is different from other biographical films because it foregrounds the relationship of father and son. Haskell won't do stuff for his son that he'd probably do for others. Basically Haskell is a Bastard – he calls his son 'messed up'.

Haskell was fired from One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Michael Douglas talks about that and about how his father intimidated him as well. Jane Fonda had problems too: 'intimacy was not their gift,’ she says.

The best part (and most disturbing) part of the film is the section dealing with the relationship between Haskell and his wife (Mark’s mother).  Haskell says that what split him & his wife was not just one thing. It was: ‘Those subtle human things that we seldom understand'.

She has Alzheimer’s and is in a home. There’s a reunion scene that’s both very touching and maybe too intrusive. Haskell asks himself if the camera intruded and then says: 'So what? It didn't stop the real thing'. I felt privileged to see this moment of extreme intimacy. As someone else says: ‘There's nothing more important than making peace before it's too late’.  I think that’s what the film is all about.