Allan King | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Allan King

Allan Winton King, filmmaker (b at Vancouver 6 Feb 1930, d at Toronto 15 June 2009).

Allan King

Allan Winton King, filmmaker (b at Vancouver 6 Feb 1930, d at Toronto 15 June 2009). Allan King was one of Canada's earliest makers of direct cinema, often called cinema-verité. He attended junior and high schools in Kitsilano, where he was given the opportunity to see 2- and 4-reel silent comedies and to serve as a stagehand on his friend Stan Fox's first film, Glub. He earned a degree in philosophy from the University of British Columbia and in 1950-51 ran the UBC's groundbreaking concert season, which King considered his most valuable learning experience at the time.

After touring Europe for a year and a half, King returned to Vancouver, where he was involved in operating the Vancouver Film Society and completed an honours BA at UBC; he joined CBC Vancouver in 1954. A wish to see, explore and film more of the world took him to Spain in 1958; there he became the independent filmmaker he has remained. Allan King Associates was formed in Toronto in 1960, and the following year Allan King Associates England was incorporated. King shot his first dramatized documentary, Running Away Backwards - about Canadian expatriates living on the island of Ibiza - in 1964.

He returned to Canada in 1967 and soon commanded international attention with two documentaries, Warrendale (1967) and A Married Couple (1969). The first, a film about emotionally disturbed children, was banned by the CBC and only received its television premiere in 1997 when TV Ontario showed the film. It won the Prix d'art et d'essai in Cannes in 1967, and shared the British Academy's Best Foreign Film Award with Antonioni's Blow Up and the New York Critic's Award with Buñuel's Belle du jour. His growing interest in fiction resulted in the "staged" documentary Come on Children (1973). This trilogy constitutes a remarkable portrait of a society in crisis.

Turning his attention to drama, King directed a number of distinguished films for the CBC: A Bird in the House (1974), Six War Years (1975), Red Emma (1976) and One Night Stand (1977). He made a successful transition to theatrical filmmaking with his adaptation of W.O. Mitchell's Who has seen the wind (1977), which won the Golden Reel Award that year. His second dramatic feature, Silence of the North (1981), was not a commercial or critical success. He returned to the documentary form with a controversial film on unemployment, Who's in Charge? (1983), and the television drama The Last Season (1986). His dramatic feature film Termini Station (1989) was a stark, uncompromising look at a dysfunctional family in northern Ontario.

King directed many television series episodes, but returned to the feature documentary form with The Dragon's Egg (1999), which dealt with the coming of democracy to eastern Europe through the experiences of a small group of Estonians. This began an intense period of creativity as he subsequently made three highly acclaimed films. Dying at Grace (2003) and Memory for Max , Claire, Ida and Company (2005) dealt respectively with issues of aging and Alzheimer's. In 2006, EMPz 4 Life explored Toronto's rising gun culture, which has resulted in numerous deaths. These films travelled internationally to many festivals and received theatrical releases.

Allan King served as president of the Directors Guild of Canada in 1970-71 and from 1993-2000. In 1988, he was awarded the Ontario Film Institute Award for excellence in Canadian cinema. In 1992 he won a Gemini Award for best director for one of his many episodes of the TV series Road to Avonlea. He was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada in 2002, and in 2006 he received an honorary doctorate of fine arts from Simon Fraser University. In 2009 he was posthumously awarded a special Gemini, the Academy Achievement Award, for his contribution to television.

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