(b. 27 November 1935
, United States
) is an American documentary
filmmaker best known for his portraits of American traditional musicians.
Blank attended Tulane University in New Orleans, where he received a B.A. in English literature and an M.F.A. in theater. He had also studied communications at the University of Southern California. Following his university education he founded his own production company, Flower Films, and all of his films since that time have been independently produced, often with the assistance of grants from cultural agencies, both governmental and non-governmental.
Most of his films focus on American traditional music forms including (among others) blues, Appalachian, Cajun, Creole, Tex-Mex, polka, tamburitza, and Hawaiian musics. Many of these films represent the only filmed documents of master musicians who are now deceased.
Blank's films focusing on musical subjects often spend much of their running time focusing not on the music itself but on the music's cultural context, lending richness to the portrayals of the surroundings from which these American roots musics come.
Other notable films on non-musical subjects include a film about garlic and another about gap-toothed women, as well as two films about German film director Werner Herzog: Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980) and Burden of Dreams (1982), the latter about the filming of Herzog's Fitzcarraldo. His most recent film, All In This Tea (originally titled White Feathers, Black Bones), begun in 1997 and released in 2007, is a profile of the Berkeley, California-based tea importer and adventurer David Lee Hoffman.
Les's son, Harrod Blank, has also become a documentary filmmaker.
Blank lives in El Cerrito, Contra Costa County, California, where his company, Flower Films, is based.
- 1960 - Running Around Like A Chicken With Its Head Cut Off
- 1960-1985 - Six Short Films of Les Blank
- 1961, 1962 - Strike! & And Freedom Came!?
- 1965 - Dizzy Gillespie
- 1967 - Christopher Tree
- 1968 - God Respects Us When We Work, But Loves Us When We Dance
- 1969 - The Arch
- 1969 - The Sun's Gonna Shine
- 1969 or 1970 - The Blues Accordin' to Lightnin' Hopkins
- 1970 - Chicken Real
- 1971 - Spend It All
- 1971 - A Well Spent Life
- 1973 - Dry Wood
- 1973 - Hot Pepper
- 1974 - A Poem Is A Naked Person
- 1976 - Chulas Fronteras
- 1978 - Always for Pleasure
- 1979 - Del Mero Corazon
- 1979 or 1980 - Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe
- 1980 - Garlic is as Good as Ten Mothers
- 1982 - Burden of Dreams
- 1983 - Sprout Wings and Fly
- 1984 - In Heaven There Is No Beer?
- 1985 - Cigarette Blues
- 1985 - Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella
- 1986 - Huey Lewis And The News: Be-Fore!
- 1987 - Gap-Toothed Women
- 1987 - Ziveli! Medicine for the Heart
- 1988 - A Blank Buffet
- 1988 - Ry Cooder And The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces
- 1989 - The Best of Blank
- 1989 - J'ai Été Au Bal / I Went to the Dance
- 1990 - Yum, Yum, Yum! A Taste of Cajun and Creole Cooking
- 1991 - Innocents Abroad
- 1991 - Julie: Old Time Tales of the Blue Ridge
- 1991 - Marc & Ann
- 1991 - Puamana
- 1994 - The Maestro: King of the Cowboy Artists
- 1994 - My Old Fiddle: A Visit with Tommy Jarrell in the Blue Ridge
- 1994 - Roots of Rhythm
- 2005 - Smitten (co-directed with Nancy Kelly) documentary on DiRosa Preserve shown on PBS
- 2007 - All In This Tea (co-directed with Gina Leibrecht)