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Werner Herzog's Boots

A bet with a fellow filmmaker would result in German film director Werner Herzog leaving his boots in Edmonton, and a non-profit film and video society reaping the benefits.

Herzog was best known for his ongoing antagonistic working relationship with the German-Polish actor Klaus Kinski. Through the films, Aguirre: The Wrath of God, Fitzcarraldo and Nosferatu, Herzog's leading man often defined Herzog himself.

In a convoluted fashion, American documentary filmmaker Les Blank is the connection between fellow documentarist Errol Morris, Herzog, Kinski … and Edmonton.

In 1982, Blank filmed Burden of Dreams, the documentary on the making of Fitzcarraldo, for which Blank is perhaps best known. This would be Blank's second film on Herzog; in 1979, he directed a 22-minute short entitled Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, a film whose genesis relied on the loss of a bet.

Herzog, who in the '70s was Morris's film professor at the University of California at Berkley, had told his student that if his proposed feature-length film on pet cemeteries were ever made, he would eat his shoe. Blank's documentary records exactly that event, as Morris's film, Gates of Heaven, is completed in 1978.

Sautéed, and cooked in broth, spices and garlic, the dish of choice work-boot shoe leather was served to Herzog on a stage in a packed theatre.

In March 1996, Herzog visited Edmonton the guest director of the National Screen Institute's Local Heroes International Screen Festival.

In an apparent salute to the Blank documentary, Herzog donated a pair of boots to the Film and Video Arts Alberta Society of Alberta (FAVA) to be used in a fundraiser. One boot was raffled, and the other was incorporated into a trophy FAVA uses as an annual award. This fundraiser is described in the evening edition of Alberta Today, broadcast May 28, 1996.

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News and Current Events #42
As for Morris, his career as an acclaimed documentarian has continued with films such as The Thin Blue Line, Mr. Death and A Brief History of Time. Herzog continues to direct films, as does Blank; Klaus Kinski died in 1991.

Other stories from this broadcast of Alberta Today:

  • Calgary socialite Dorothy Joudrie, charged with attempted murder of her estranged business magnate husband, Earl, is under observation in a psychiatric ward.

  • Westray mine explosion.

  • School bus hijacked.

  • News and weather.

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