© Primary — Robert Drew
1960, 58 minutes
Rather than being a relic of the past, Primary—founding film of the political documentary subgenre—feels shockingly relevant with its vérité style of filmmaking, following candidates John F. Kennedy of Massachussets and Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota as they battle it out for the Democratic Party nomination. With no interview and no narration to structure the film, Primary leaves it to the images captured on screen to tell the story; a riveting tale of political mechanics, in between automated handshakes and galvanizing if not exasperating campaign anthems.
Shot with hand-held cameras and portable sound equipment, always close but never interfering with the action, Primary has transformed the nature of documentary filmmaking. Surely enough some members of the team assembled by Dir. Robert Drew—Richard Leacock, Albert Maysles and D. A. Pennebaker— would some become leading practitioners of the form.