The founding film of American cinéma vérité follows John F. Kennedy as he campaigns for the 1960 Democratic presidential nomination.

Adventures on the New Frontier

A portrait of John F. Kennedy's inauguration and early days in office offers an unprecedented look inside the workings of the White House.

Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment

Inside the Oval Office and on the steps of the University of Alabama as the Kennedys confront George Wallace on racial integration.

Faces of November

An elegy for President Kennedy, as told by the grief-stricken faces of mourners filing by his coffin in the Capitol Rotunda and at his burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

The Kennedy Films

New 2K digital restorations of four classic films that form the bedrock of what President John F. Kennedy understood would be a new form of history.

Filmmaker Robert Drew

Interview with Robert Drew


"Drew is the D.W. Griffith of documentaries – the guy who figured out how to show a story rather than tell it."

Matt Zoller Seitz, New York Press

"No filmmaker has changed his branch of cinema more drastically, enduringly, or quietly than did Robert Drew."

Richard Brody, The New Yorker

"Modern art has Picasso. Rock-n-Roll has Bill Haley. And the documentary film has Robert Drew. All of us who make nonfiction movies can trace our lineage to what he created."

Michael Moore, filmmaker

American Cinema Verite

Origins of Reality Filmmaking

Robert Drew had a vision for a new kind of film, one that captured the drama of real life to allow viewers a direct experience of other worlds. With his 1960 film, PRIMARY, Drew and his Associates revolutionized the documentary. Drew continued to produce groundbreaking films for another 50 years.


Without scripts, directors or talking heads, the camera follows people freely through their stories and the footage is edited to convey the sense of what it was like to be there. Drew likened this method of real-life storytelling to a theatre without actors and plays without playwrights.



Drew’s style of filmmaking gave him unrivaled access to President John F. Kennedy. Kennedy himself grasped that the technique could create a new form of history, once musing to Drew that he wished he could have observed FDR in the 24 hours before he declared war on Japan.



Drew worked at Life Magazine in the 1950s and wondered why television’s moving images didn’t generate the electrifying excitement of candid still photography. He set out to change that and founded a company that produced films that revolutionized the documentary.




  • 1961 American Film Festival Blue Ribbon Award
  • 1961 Robert J. Flaherty Award for Best Documentary
  • 1961 London Film Festival Outstanding Film
  • One of the first 20 films named to the Library of Congress National Film Registry

Crisis: Behind A Presidential Commitment

  • 1964 CINE Golden Eagle
  • First Prize, 1964 Venice Film Festival
  • First Prize, 1964 International Documentary Film Festival, Bilboa, Spain
  • Invited Participant, 1963 New York Film Festival

Faces of November

  • First Prize, Plaque Lion de St. Mark, 1964 Venice International Film Festival
  • First Prize, San Giorgio Statuette, 1964 Venice International Film Festival
  • XIII International Film Week, 1964, Mannheim, Germany

"These films are about the pain and joy and poetry of being human, and they are a testament to the patience, sensitivity and respect that the great filmmakers at Drew Associates paid to their subjects."

Documentary magazine, Fall 2013

Promotions and Events

Full Frame to Screen Two Drew Kennedy Films

The 19th Annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival will feature two Drew Associates films as part of this year’s thematic program, “Perfect and Otherwise: Documenting American Politics.” Curated by filmmaker Read More

Criterion Live! to Feature Drew Kennedy Films

On April 6, The Criterion Collection will host its first-ever “Criterion Collection Live!” event at The Metrograph in Manhattan. Designed to give ticketholders a peek into Criterion’s discriminating process for Read More

Rare Drew Films Streaming on SundanceNow

These are rarely seen, cutting-edge films that form the bedrock of early American cinéma vérité. Robert Drew’s vision went far beyond his breakthrough film, PRIMARY, when he and Richard Leacock Read More

More Events

in the News

“The Children Were Watching” Joins The Criterion Channel

The latest Drew Associates classic film to join the lineup at The Criterion Channel is The Children Were Watching. This 26-minute documentary, filmed by Richard Leacock, lets you feel what Read More

2019 Drew Award Winners Announced

Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar, the dynamic filmmaking team behind this year’s American Factory, shared the 2019 Robert and Anne Drew Award for Documentary Excellence. American Factory went on to win the Read More

In Memoriam: D.A. Pennebaker

Our hearts are heavy with the news that D.A. Pennebaker, our friend and master filmmaker, has died. His passion to capture life on film, without artifice or interference, led him Read More

More Media


On The Pole

Beloved auto racer Eddie Sachs' obsession to win the 1960 Indianapolis 500 is captured with intimate camera techniques never used before.

Yanki No!

Anti-U.S. sentiment builds in Latin America, fueled by leaders like Cuba's Fidel Castro.

The Children Were Watching

The first week of school integration in New Orleans is marked by violent demonstrations of hatred by white parents as their children look on.


This fly-on-the-wall doc paints a deeply personal portrait of a young, naive Jane Fonda as she prepares for an ill-fated Broadway play.

The Chair

A crusading lawyer and his novel legal strategy to save a man from the electric chair.

Mooney vs. Fowle

Rival high school football coaches prepare their teams for a legendary showdown at the Florida state championship.

Petey & Johnny

The story of a former gang leader and ex-convict turned social worker, Piri Thomas, trying to save a gang leader, Johnny, from death or prison.


The first candid film made on a foreign chief of state, three weeks in the life of Jawaharlal Nehru.


A talented jazz trumpeter tries to get clean in Synanon House, a unique drug-treatment center on the beach in Santa Monica, Calif.

Susan Starr

Susan Starr is a talented young concert pianist preparing for the biggest competition of her life. She also happens to have a terrible cold.

Mission to Malaya

Real-life suspense unfolds as a Peace Corps nurse must bypass Indonesian pirates to get her pregnant patient to an emergency surgery.


Eddie Sachs is once again on the pole for the 1961 Indy 500, with highlights from the previous year's race.

Letters From Vietnam

A U.S. helicopter pilot flying combat missions in Vietnam records letters home to his wife and infant son.

Storm Signal

A young couple in love, with a baby they love, fall into heroin addiction.

The Big Guy

Jim Beattie, 6'9" tall, vies for the heavyweight crown against Dick Wipperman in Madison Square Garden.

On the Road with Duke Ellington

A wild ride on the Duke's merry-go-round that presents him at the pinnacle of his 50-year career.

Man Who Dances: Edward Villella

An intimate portrait of Edward Villella, one of the greatest ballet dancers in history.

Jazz: The Intimate Art

The personalities of Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie and Charles Lloyd shape their musical styles.

The Space Duet of Spider and Gumdrop

A human look at three astronauts and their Apollo 9 mission.

The Sun Ship Game

Remarkable aerial photography captures the beauty and speed of flying as two glider pilots vie to win the 1969 U.S. Soaring Championship.

Who’s Out There?

Orson Welles hosts an exploration from science fiction to science fact about extraterrestrial life.

Men of the Tall Ships

A trans-Atlantic sailing race and grand entrance into New York Harbor for the U.S. bicentennial, as seen aboard six Tall Ships.

Kathy’s Dance

Documentary following modern dancer/choreographer Kathryn Posin as she shares the joy of her art and independent lifestyle.

Herself, Indira Gandhi

This up-close portrait of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi reveals the complex dynamics of the world's largest democracy.

Warning From Gangland

A Los Angeles gang attacks a grocer and his family who fight back with the aid of the police and the courts.

Shootout on Imperial Highway

Jailed Los Angeles gang members tell their side of the war with a grocer, and meet again in a Los Angeles courtroom.

For Auction: An American Hero

Auctioneer travels Nebraska disposing of farms, farmers and one of America's great traditions.

Life and Death of a Dynasty

A unique and intimate look into the Nehru-Gandhi political family that shaped modern India over three generations.

River of Hawks

Using a custom, home-built experimental plane, Robert Drew captures remarkable aerial shots of a hawk migration over Panama.

L.A. Champions

Two high school basketball team captains prepare to face off in the city championship, where winning can offer a chance of a better life.

From Two Men and a War

Bob Drew’s war as a teenage fighter pilot profiled by Ernie Pyle and how those experiences influenced his development of American cinéma vérité.

On the Pole: Eddie Sachs

The anticipation and fervor builds as Eddie Sachs, a beloved and charismatic driver, starts both the 1960 and 1961 Indianapolis 500 from the pole, or lead, position.

The Kennedy Films

New 2K digital restorations of four classic films that form the bedrock of what President John F. Kennedy understood would be a new form of history.

Watch Options

© Drew Associates 2016

Designed by Visually Dynamic