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The David Billington Award

The David Billington Award is presented each year to an individual who has made an invaluable contribution to Alberta’s production community and celebrates those individuals who inspire us all with their vision, passion and dedication. We are pleased to announce that Gil Cardinal has been selected by the community to be honoured with this award.

Gil Cardinal is an award-winning filmmaker from Edmonton, Alberta, known for exploring raw subject matter such as substance abuse, the foster care system and the struggles of his own cultural identity and Métis ancestry. Cardinal has a long list of documentaries and has directed episodes of hit TV series such as North of 60 and The Rez, as well as the Gemini nominated mini-series Big Bear. He penned the pilot for Blackstone, which is now an award-winning series broadcast around the world, starring Michelle Thrush and produced by Prairie Dog Film + Television. Gil also called David Billington a friend. It is our honour to celebrate the many contributions Gil Cardinal has made to our industry. More About Gil Cardinal [expand title “Gil Cardinal”]

After graduating from the radio and TV arts program of the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology in 1971, Gil worked as a studio cameraman at the Alberta Education Communications Corp (Access), where he shot his first film, a documentary about the pianist Marek Jablonski. In 1975 he was promoted to director and associate producer of Come Alive, an hour-long magazine-format show. Another project he directed for Access was Shadow Puppets: Indian Myths and Legends, a series of programs based on Cree and Blackfoot legends.

Gil Cardinal became a senior producer before leaving Access in 1980 to work for the National Film Board (NFB) as a freelance director, researcher, writer and editor. His first film for the Board was Children of Alcohol (1983), a documentary about a group of teenagers and pre-teens focusing on the effects of parental alcoholism. He also shot a series of short documentaries and dramas, notably Hotwalker (1985), co-written by David Billington about racetrack grooms and trainers, before embarking on the very personal Foster Child (1987), a cinéma-vérité documentary about his search for his family roots. His simple, straightforward approach led him to discover the identity of his Métis mother, who ended her tragic life in a series of boarding houses on Edmonton’s skid row. The film was a success on the festival circuit and broadcast on CBC’s “Man Alive” series. Gil Cardinal was awarded a Gemini Award for Best Direction for a Documentary Program in 1988, and Foster Child remains one of the most internationally acclaimed films produced by the NFB.


Watch Foster Child, courtesy of the National Film Board.

In 1987 Cardinal made Keyanaw Tatuskhatamak, about the struggle for Native self-government among the remote people of Northern Alberta, and in 1988 he directed Bordertown Café, a half-hour drama for the CBC. His other NFB credits include The Spirit Within (1990), on native cultural/spiritual programs in prisons, and David with F.A.S. (1997), an exploration of fetal alcohol syndrome. In 1997, Cardinal was recognized with a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Film and Television.

In 1998 he directed the big-budget CBC miniseries Big Bear starring Gordon Tootoosis and Tantoo Cardinal (for which Gil Cardinal was nominated for a second Gemini), and in 2006 the CBC drama Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis, about the 1990 standoff between the federal government and the Mohawks of the Kanesatake Reserve. Cardinal has also directed numerous episodes of North of 60, The Rez, and the feature-length documentary Totem: The Return of the G’psgolox Pole, which screened at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival.

Watch Totem: The Return and Renewal, courtesy of the National Film Board.

In 2009, Gil Cardinal wrote the pilot for the TV series Blackstone after gathering extensive research on the issues facing many Aboriginal communities. Now an award-winning series broadcast on CBC, Hulu and APTN, Gil has continued to contribute to the show as a writer and consultant.


Watch Blackstone, courtesy of the CBC. 


Event Details

Saturday, November 7, 2015
Cocktail Reception – 11:30 am
Lunch & Program – 12:30 pm

Sutton Place Hotel Edmonton
10235 101 Street, Edmonton, Alberta

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Previous Billington Recipients

More about David Billington 

David Billington_CC
David Billington came to Alberta in 1975 with 2 national newspaper awards and a stint at Reuters behind him. He worked as a cowboy then joined the Calgary Herald in 1977. In 1978 he became entertainment editor and rodeo commentator for the newly established Edmonton Sun. David was the first print journalist to give serious attention to the arts and in particular, film and television in Alberta. In 1974, David covered Alberta’s first film festival, four years later he was a founding member of the Commonwealth Games Film Festival and was on the pre-selection committee for the first Banff Television Festival in 1979 – a role he played until his death in 1987. David believed that Alberta film should be held to the exacting standards of the global industry. David Billington was given the very first Billington Award posthumously in 1988. It was accepted by his son Dai Billington.