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National Film Board Archives - Alberta Media Production Industries Association

Alberta Trailblazer: Colin Low (1923 – 2016)

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Cowboy, artist, storyteller and pioneering Canadian filmmaker; director, animator, producer, mentor and collaborator at the National Film Board of Canada, Colin Low was born in Cardston, AB on the borders on the Kainai Nation Indian Reservation, which became a subject of two of his later films. Low attended the Banff School of Fine Arts and the Calgary Institute of Technology, now known as SAIT. His career at the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal spanned over six decades, on more than 200 productions, most often as director, producer or executive producer. IMAX 3D exists as a format largely due to the initiatives of Colin Low, who headed the National Film Board’s push to continue its experimentation in 3D during the 1970s and 80s.  Mr. Low earned two Oscar nominations as a producer, and worked on another six Oscar-nominated films.

Colin’s personal theories and opinions on the value of an extra large screen and the logical compatibility of IMAX and 3D were presented to the Society of Motion Picture and Television engineers. Colin’s sustained energy in promoting and testing his theories over the course of more than a decade led directly to the creation of the first IMAX 3D film for Expo 86. Low received his second Palme d’Or for best short film at the Cannes Film Festival, along with another BAFTA award and Oscar nomination for his 1957 documentary, City of Gold, on the Klondike Gold Rush, co-directed with Wolf Koenig. City of Gold made use of slow pans and zooms across archival photos and has been cited by Ken Burns as a key inspiration for the so-called ‘Ken Burns’ effect.

In 1960, Low and Roman Kroitor co-directed Universe, capturing the attention of Stanley Kubrick, who was preparing to make 2001: A Space Odyssey. Low was invited to work on 2001: A Space Odyssey but had to decline due to his work on “In the Labyrinth”, an experimental multi-screen production for Expo 67 though some of Low’s ideas were incorporated into Kubrick’s film. Collective brainstorming in the aftermath of “In the Labyrinth” gave rise to the inspiration that created the IMAX format, which overcame the technical challenges of multi-screen projection by combining them of a single large negative. Low was involved in a series of firsts in the wide-screen genre. He co-directed the first IMAX 3D production Transitions for Expo 86 in Vancouver, as well as co-directing Momentum, the first film shot and projected in 48 frames per second IMAX HD for Expo 92 in Seville, Spain – anticipating HFR cinema by more than two decades. 

Colin Low excelled at the kind of informative, intimate documentaries of ordinary people’s lives for which the National Film Board became world famous. He will be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award posthumously during the Rosies Gala and 43rd Alberta Film and Television Awards. 


Albertan Filmmaking Pioneer: A Colin Low Tribute

Sunday, April 30 at 1:00pm
8712 109 St, Edmonton, Alberta
Free Admission

Event Info – Metro Cinema

The National Film Board (NFB), Alberta Media Production Industries Association (AMPIA) and the Metro Cinema present a retrospective of some of Colin Low’s most famous short films.

Rosie Dransfeld featured at HOT DOCS

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AMPIA is pleased to announce that this year’s Hot Docs’ Focus On retrospective will pay tribute to award-winning Edmonton producer and director Rosie Dransfeld.

The renowned documentary film festival, which takes place April 28-May 5 in Toronto, will screen five of the artist’s works, including three films she produced with the National Film Board: Beaverman (2002), The Dogwalker (2007), and Who Cares (2012), a powerful cinema vérité look at women caught in a cycle of addiction, violence and prostitution in Edmonton’s sex trade. The NFB is currently co-producing Dransfeld’s next documentary, Memento Mori.

Congratulations Rosie!

Gil Cardinal to Receive David Billington Award

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Award-winning filmmaker Gil Cardinal has been announced as this year’s David Billington Award.

“AMPIA is proud to be able to honour Gil Cardinal as recipient of the David Billington Award this year “ said Joe Novak, Chair of the Board of Directors. “Gil is a remarkable filmmaker and I believe he has set the professional standards for great storytelling that all of us in the industry aspire to today. This is a man who have given so much to so many, and now we will be able to honour his work and his passion.”

Bill, Evans, AMPIA Executive Directors knows that Gil has made many valuable contributions to the screen industry over the last four decades. ”To honour Gil with The David Billington Award is very special as Gil was a colleague of the late David Billington. From his pioneering work with the very personal documentary ‘Foster Child’, through the epic historic mini-series ‘Big Bear’, to his many documentary projects and more recently the gritty drama series ‘Blackstone’, to me Gil has been a tireless voice for those suffering injustice and neglect in our society.”

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.  The 27th Annual David Billington Luncheon will take place on Saturday, November 7 at the Sutton Place Hotel in Edmonton, Alberta. 

Purchase tickets for the David Billington Luncheon here.