Docu pioneer was professor emeritus at UCLA

Jorge Preloran, a pioneer in the field of ethnographic documentary film and a professor emeritus at UCLA, died March 28 in Los Angeles following a 10-year battle with prostate cancer. He was 75.

Born in Buenos Aires, Preloran began making films on rituals and celebrations in rural communities in Argentina after his graduation from UCLA in 1961.

A cinematic icon in his native Argentina and a UCLA alumnus, Preloran taught at the UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television from 1976 until his retirement in 1994. Celebrated for developing a cinematic genre known as ethnobiography, he was the recipient of the school’s first International Cinema Artist award, conferred at the commencement ceremony in 2008.

“Imaginero,” about a creator of religious images from the Andean high plateau, was recently named one of the 10 best Argentine films of all time by a panel of the nation’s film critics.

Preloran also directed the feature fiction film “My Aunt Nora” (1983), the short film “Luther Metke at 94” (1979) and the seven-part television series “Patagonia — In Search of Its Remote Past” (1992). A departure was “Zulay, Facing the 21st Century” (1989), which was both reflective and reflexive, filmed as a dialogue between Preloran, his anthropologist wife, Mabel, and Zulay Saravino, a woman from Ecuador who traveled to Los Angeles to help them edit a film about her community.

Preloran received a lifetime achievement award at the 2005 Mar del Plata Film Festival in Argentina. He was a Guggenheim fellow in 1971 and 1975 and a Fulbright scholar in 1987 and 1994, and he was invited to the White House by President Ronald Reagan in the 1980s.

 The National Anthropological Archives and Human Studies Film Archives, located in the Smithsonian Institution, decided this year to archive all of Preloran’s films because of their importance to the field of anthropology. A feature-length documentary on Preloran, “Huellas y Memoria” (“Footsteps and Memory”), will be released in 2009.

 Preloran spent the years since his retirement from UCLA writing an in-depth biographical series “Masters Among Us” of colleagues and artists, many of whom were also the subjects of his films.

Donations may be made to the Fund for Excellence in Film, Television and Digital Media at the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television, Development Office, 214 East Melnitz, Box 951622, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1622 or by calling 310-206-1349. Checks may be made payable to “The UCLA Foundation” with the memo: In Memory–Preloran (Account #3976).

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