Bruce Sinofsky

Bruce Sinofsky

New York-based documentarian Bruce Sinofsky got his start with Maysles Films, the "direct cinema" producers of such fare as "Salesman" (1969) and "Gimme Shelter" (1970), which he joined in 1977 while still a student at NYU. Within a year, he had worked his way up to associate producer, working on such projects as the Christo documentary "Running Fence" (1978). In 1989, Sinofsky met new Maysles employee Joe Berlinger and the pair collaborated on the documentary short "Outrageous Taxi Stories" (with Berlinger directing and Sinofsky editing). In 1988, Berlinger left Maysles to found his own production house, Creative Thinking International, Ltd. Three years later, Sinofsky also departed and purchased a 50 percent interest in Creative Thinking. Their first production was the jointly produced, directed and edited "Brother's Keeper" (1992) which--after a slow start--became the most successful self-distributed documentary to date. This story of a rural eccentric accused of his brother's mercy killing earned numerous critical prizes including the 1992 New York Film Critics Citation as Best Documentary. Sinofsky also edited Jordan Alan's feature debut, "Terminal Bliss" (1992), a teen triangle drama. "Brother's Keeper" established the Berlinger/Sinofsky look: cinema-verite, with no narration, scant subtitles and no artsy cinematic effects. The filmmakers tend to gain the trust of the participants, allowing them to tell their own stories in their own way, sometimes hanging themselves with their own words. Their official TV debut was "The Begging Game" an installment of "Frontline" (PBS, 1995), which followed the fortunes and misfortunes of several New York panhandlers. In 1996, the team had another success with the grisly and unsettling documentary feature "Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills." It began as the story of three uneducated teens accused of a triple murder, but developed into an uncertain look at mob stereotyping, local (Arkansas) mentalities and the flaws of the legal system. This acclaimed production premiered at the 1996 Sundance Film Festival before airing on HBO (June 1996). It also eventually received a theatrical release, picking up awards and critical praise. The success of the film led not only to two sequels, "Paradise Lost 2: Revelations" (2000) and "Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" (2011), but to the exoneration and release of the films' subjects, dubbed the West Memphis 3. A film about the depiction of drug use and abuse in films, "Hollywood High" (AMC 2003), preceded an in-depth--at times uncomfortably revealing--documentary about the metal band Metallica during the emotionally fraught recording of a new album. The film, "Metallica: Some Kind of Monster" (2004), garnered stronger reviews than the resulting record. Bruce Sinofsky died of complications from diabetes on February 21, 2015. He was 58 years old.