Archive for June 16th, 2009

Allan King Dead at 79

June 16, 2009

One of the filmmakers who convinced me that the Canadian film industry deserves way more respect then it gets abroad was filmmaker Alan King, who over the weekend died of a brain tumor at the age of 79. A couple years back we featured King in our series on the Canadian New Wave. I first experienced King’s work at the Toronto International Film Festival who honored him with a retrospective in the festival. King was the first in a series of Canadian awakenings I found myself experiencing at the festival.

“A giant of Canadian cinema has departed the scene,” said Piers Handling, director of the Toronto International Film Festival.

“Unquestionably, one of the most influential filmmakers to have ever stepped behind a camera in the country, actually. Allan’s impact on the documentary is right up there among some of the major international documentary filmmakers in the world.”

Renoir, who saw King’s early work declared him “A great artist”. I second the statement. I had the pleasure of meeting King in Minneapolis back in 2004 when I brought him to the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Film Festival for his film DYING A GRACE.I found him to be a kind and gentle man, whose commitment to the craft was unquestionable. He’s a must see for both filmmakers and film lovers, and I for one will miss him dearly.

Here’s a recap of his career:

Skid Row, 1956: A CBC documentary about alcoholic men on Vancouver’s East Side.

Warrendale, 1967: King’s first feature doc is an unflinching look at emotionally disturbed children in an institution. It shares the British Academy’s Best Foreign Film Award with Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow Up.

A Married Couple, 1969: King’s second feature doc chronicles a couple on the brink of divorce and was featured at the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes in 1970.

Come on Children, 1973: Sees young Toronto residents trying to live on a farm without their parents to see how they fare.

Who Has Seen The Wind, 1976: King’s first dramatic feature won the Grand Prix at the Paris International Film Festival and the Golden Reel Award for the highest grossing Canadian film of the year.

Who’s in Charge?, 1983: King returns to the documentary form with a portrait of unemployment.

The Dragon’s Egg, 1999: Captures the emergence of democracy in Eastern Europe through the eyes of a group of Estonians.

Dying at Grace, 2003, and Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company, 2005: Deal with issues of aging and Alzheimer’s.

EMPz 4 Life, 2006: Explores the racial stereotyping of young black men in Toronto.