Austrian filmmaker Michael Glawogger, who worked under-the-radar and pushed himself to the brink as a documentary and feature filmmaker, has passed away at age 54 in Africa. He died from Malaria while working on his latest film.
Glawogger’s final finished feature was “Whores’ Glory” in 2011, a stylish and gritty documentary triptych on prostitutes from Mexico, Thailand and Bangladesh. But he also worked on “Cathedrals of Culture,” a 3D architecture doc, alongside Werner Herzog and Wim Wenders.
Throughout his prolific career, Glawogger sought to capture the rhythms of lives both ordinary and extreme in far away places, most notably in his 2005 masterpiece “Workingman’s Death,” about manual laborers in far-flung corners of the Earth, and 1998’s cross-cultural portrait “Megacities.” All of his documentaries look closely at globalization and its resonance, but they are also incredibly cinematic.
Gorgeously lensed — and typically on celluloid, which he preferred to digital — his radical, genre-busting films are like no documentaries you’ve ever seen. But Glawogger also dabbled in narrative features, as in 2009’s “Kill Daddy Good Night,” which examines the consequences of war and its effects on three families (clearly, he loved working in threes).
In person, Glawogger was a gruff, suffers-no-fools type who wasn’t afraid to tell you if your question didn’t interest him. He especially wasn’t interested in talking about the “craft” of filmmaking but, rather, he loved sharing his extraordinary encounters with the world. You could almost say he was more visual anthropologist than filmmaker. Glawogger never cared for tidy conclusions or reassuring answers, and he worked tirelessly up until the very moment of his death.