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Screen Tribute to a Mentor's Films


Denis Sanders also directed a number of TV shows and worked on studio features such as the 1964 "Shock Treatment," which will be shown Friday at SDSU. Colleague Real recalled that the film "had a pretty big-name cast, and Denis said that, on the first day, all he did was shoot the close-ups of Lauren Bacall because he was so nervous."

Lee noted that Sanders "became less and less enchanted with Hollywood. He just felt that it wasn't very exciting, and he didn't feel he had any freedom. He felt that you had much more freedom to be creative and imaginative in educational films."

Sanders left the mainstream to produce "Czechoslovakia 1968," which brought him his second Oscar, this time for best short subject. The innovative film relied on visuals, music and sound to the exclusion of narration, and provided an eloquently simple impression of Czech life during the 50 years leading up to the Russian invasion.

On Thursday, "Czechoslovakia 1968" will screen with two other Sanders documentaries: "Adlai Stevenson: Ambassador" and "Elvis: That's the Way It Is."

Sanders also received a pair of Emmy nominations for his television documentaries "Trial: The City and County of Denver vs. Lauren P. Watson" (1970) and "The American West of John Ford" (1971).

Real, who helped choose the films for the festival, noted that in a way "Soul to Soul," screening at 7 tonight at the museum, is "typical of Denis. It has a more complex structure than you're looking for. It's some kind of hybrid MTV before its time, travelogue and a documentary--almost an anthropological, ethnographic film."

The film focuses on a 1971 concert in Ghana that showcased such talent as Ike and Tina Turner, Roberta Flack and Santana. Sanders intercut concert footage with scenes of native dances and village life to broaden the perspective.

The festival would not be complete, Real said, without "Invasion of the Bee Girls" (midnight Friday at SDSU), a campy horror film.

"Denis loved that film," he said. "He never apologized for it."

Sanders became SDSU's film maker in residence in 1980. Sherri Sanders was a student of his when they met, and the two were working together on a documentary when he died.

"He so loved teaching. He loved to give back what had been given to him," she said. "He really understood what it was like to be a student. He was actually part student, part kid, but he had all that wisdom from experience. He was great with kids and incredibly funny."

"It's so ironic that he died so up, so happy," Sherri Sanders said. "The day he died, he had just gotten word that the project we were working on would get financing. And we were planning to go to Israel. He had just gotten a Fulbright Scholarship.

"He was so full of life, so curious," she said. "I feel so fortunate to have met him. But his work will go on through other people--through me and other students."

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