Colin Low (filmmaker)

Colin Archibald Low OC RCA (July 24, 1926 – February 24, 2016) was a Canadian animation and documentary filmmaker with the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).

Colin Low born in Cardston, Alberta, Canada, Low attended the Banff School of Fine Arts and the Calgary Institute of Technology, now known as the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology. His NFB career in Montreal spanned over six decades, on more than 200 productions, most often as director, producer or executive producer.[1]

Low is survived by his wife Eugénie and three sons, Stephen, Alexander and Ben. He died on February 24, 2016 in Montréal, Québec, Canada.[2][3]

Colin Low
Colin Archibald Low

July 24, 1926
Cardston, Alberta, Canada
DiedFebruary 24, 2016 (aged 89)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
OccupationFilm director, film producer
Years active19471996
Eugénie St. Germain (m. 1947)

Early work

Low's 1952 animated short, The Romance of Transportation in Canada, won a Short Film Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival, a special BAFTA Award and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Subject, Cartoons.[4][5]

His 1954 documentary Corral received was named best documentary at the Venice Film Festival.[6] He followed that with a second documentary shot in southern Alberta, the 1960 film Circle of the Sun, which marked the first time the Kainai Nation's sacred Sun Dance was filmed.[7]

Influence on Ken Burns

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.[8][9]

Influence on Stanley Kubrick

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, a multi-screen production for Expo 67—though some of Low's ideas were incorporated into Kubrick's film.[10]

Challenge for Change

Low worked with the people of Fogo Island, Newfoundland to shoot 27 films for the Challenge for Change program, using media as a tool to bring about social change and combat poverty.[11][2]


Low was involved in a series of firsts in the wide-screen genre. The experimental multi-screen production In the Labyrinth helped lead to the creation of the IMAX format. Low co-directed the first IMAX 3D production Transitions for Expo 86 in Vancouver, as well as co-directing Momentum, the first film in 48 frames per second IMAX HD for Expo 92 in Seville, Spain.


In 1972, he received the Grierson Award at the Canadian Film Awards for "an outstanding contribution to Canadian cinema."[12]

In 1996, Low was made a Member of the Order of Canada in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to cinema in Canada and around the world. In 1997, he was given the Prix Albert-Tessier, given to individuals for an outstanding career in Québec cinema. He was a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

In 2002, the Large Format Cinema Association presented Low and the NFB with its Abel Gance Award for outstanding work in large format filmmaking.[13]


  1. ^ Canada, National Film Board of. "Colin Low: Recollections from a Distinguished Career". Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  2. ^ a b Lacey, Liam (11 March 2016). "Colin Low: A gentleman genius of documentary cinema". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 15 March 2016.
  3. ^ "Quebec filmmaker Colin Low, pioneer of large-format cinema, dead at 89". Retrieved 2016-02-25.
  4. ^ Awards for The Romance of Transportation in Canada on IMDb
  5. ^ "Colin Low Biography". Archived from the original on September 29, 2007. Retrieved January 3, 2007.
  6. ^ "Directors". Archived from the original on 8 July 2014. Retrieved 25 February 2016.
  7. ^ Rosenthal, Alan; John Corner. New challenges for documentary. Manchester University Press. pp. 90–91. ISBN 0-7190-6899-1.
  8. ^ Williams, Charles. "Historical Photographs and Multimedia Storytelling". Archived from the original on 2007-10-13. Retrieved 2009-06-18.
  9. ^ Tibbets, John C. "All That Glitters: City of Gold Revisited" (PDF). Retrieved 2009-06-18.
  10. ^ "Filmmaker of vision". Take One.
  11. ^ Schugurensky, Daniel (2005). "Challenge for Change launched, a participatory media approach to citizenship education". History of Education. The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT). Retrieved 2009-10-16.
  12. ^ "Wedding in White voted top film". Canadian Press. Saskatoon Star-Phoenix. 16 October 1972. p. 8. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  13. ^ Kallay, William. "Achievements in Large Format". Retrieved 2009-06-18.

External links


21-87 is a 1963 Canadian abstract montage-collage film created by Arthur Lipsett that lasts 9 minutes and 33 seconds.The short motion picture, produced by the National Film Board of Canada, is a collage of snippets from discarded footage found by Lipsett in the editing room of the National Film Board (where he was employed as an animator), combined with his own black and white 16 mm footage which he shot on the streets of Montreal and New York City, among other locations.

Blackwood (film)

Blackwood is a 1976 Canadian short documentary film about Newfoundland artist David Blackwood, directed by Tony Ianzelo and Andy Thomson. Narration is provided by Gordon Pinsent. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short.

Circle of the Sun

Circle of the Sun is a 1960 short documentary film on Kainai Nation, or Blood Tribe, of Southern Alberta, which captured their Sun Dance ritual on film for the first time. Tribal leaders, who worried the traditional ceremony might be dying out, had permitted filming as a visual record.The film was directed by Colin Low, who was from the area. Low's father had been a foreman of the Cochrane Church Ranch in the area, southern Alberta and had known many Blood Tribe people since childhood. Colin Low had first witnessed the Sun Dance in 1953, the year he shot Corral. Footage of the Sun Dance was shot in 1956 and 1957, with the film completed in 1959. The film also included modern aspects of Blood Tribe life by shooting on an oil well on the reserve.

City of Gold (1957 film)

City of Gold is a 1957 Canadian documentary film by Colin Low and Wolf Koenig, chronicling Dawson City during the Klondike Gold Rush. The film is narrated by Pierre Berton and produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

Colin Low

Colin Low is the name of:

Colin Low (filmmaker) (1926–2016), Canadian animation and documentary filmmaker

Colin Low, Baron Low of Dalston (born 1942), British politician, law scholar and member of the House of Lords

Corral (film)

Corral is a 1954 National Film Board of Canada (NFB) short film documentary about the life of a cowboy, directed by Colin Low and produced by Tom Daly. It featured cinematography by Wolf Koenig and a musical score by Eldon Rathburn, and was produced as part of the NFB's postwar Canada Carries On series.

Cree Hunters of Mistassini

Cree Hunters of Mistassini is a 1974 documentary film co-directed by Boyce Richardson and Tony Ianzelo, chronicling a group of three Cree families from the Mistassini region of Quebec, as they set up a winter hunting camp near James Bay and Ungava Bay. The film explores the beliefs and the ecological principles of the Cree people.

Richardson had previously written a series of articles for the Montreal Star on Native rights and the environmental damage done by development on their land. He traveled to Mistassini to speak with Cree friends, pledging that their film would allow Native people to tell their own stories, and filming went ahead with three hunting families in the bush, over five months from 1972 to 1973.Produced by the National Film Board of Canada Cree Hunters of Mistassini received the award for Best Documentary over 30 minutes at the Canadian Film Awards as well as the Robert Flaherty Award for best one-off documentary from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

High Grass Circus

High Grass Circus is a 1976 National Film Board of Canada documentary film co-directed by Tony Ianzelo and Torben Schioler, exploring life in the Royal Brothers' traveling circus. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.The film was shot spring and summer of 1975 and part of 1976. Following its Oscar nomination, it was acquired by CBC-TV, which broadcast it on July 12, 1978. It was subsequently sold to television networks in New Zealand, the UK, South Africa and Yugoslavia. A nine-minute cut-down version of the film, entitled Little Big Top, played in Canadian theatres in late 1977, including a 15-week run in Vancouver. In August 1980, PBS acquired the film along with seven other NFB documentaries and broadcast them on 11 of its stations.

In the Labyrinth (film)

In the Labyrinth (French: Dans le labyrinthe) was a groundbreaking multi-screen presentation at the Labyrinth pavilion at Expo 67 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. It used 35 mm and 70 mm film projected simultaneously on multiple screens and was the precursor of today's IMAX format.The film split elements across the five screens and also combined them for a mosaic of a single image. It was hailed as a "stunning visual display" by Time magazine, which concludes: "such visual delights as Labyrinth ... suggest that cinema—the most typical of 20th century arts—has just begun to explore its boundaries and possibilities."In the Labyrinth was co-directed by Roman Kroitor, Colin Low and Hugh O'Connor and produced by the National Film Board of Canada. Kroitor left the NFB shortly after to co-found Multi-Screen Corporation, which later became IMAX Corporation.NFB animator Ryan Larkin also designed animated sequences for the film.It inspired Canadian filmmaker Norman Jewison to apply similar techniques to his film The Thomas Crown Affair.

List of people from Montreal

This is a list of notable people from Montreal.

Momentum (IMAX film)

Momentum was the first film shot and released in the IMAX HD film format, which ran at 48 frames per second, and was also one of the first films to use Ambisonic surround sound. The film was produced for the Canada pavilion at Seville Expo '92 by National Film Board of Canada, by the same creative team that made the 1986 3D IMAX film Transitions for Expo 86. The film takes viewers across Canada, demonstrating the ability of the 48 frame/s process to portray motion on the giant IMAX screen with reduced strobing.

My Financial Career

My Financial Career is a 1962 animated short directed by Gerald Potterton, based on a story of the same name from Stephen Leacock's Literary Lapses collection of short fiction. The six and a half minute film takes a humorous look at a young man's attempt to open a bank account. Produced by Colin Low and Tom Daly for the National Film Board of Canada , the film was named Best Animated Short at the 1962 San Francisco International Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film at the 36th Academy Awards.

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

The Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) is a polytechnic institute in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. SAIT offers more than 100 career programs in technology, trades and business. SAIT is a member of Polytechnics Canada and one of Alberta's Top 50 Employers. Established in 1916, it is Calgary's second oldest post-secondary institution and Canada's first publicly funded technical institute.

The Romance of Transportation in Canada

The Romance of Transportation in Canada is a 1952 animated short film made by the National Film Board of Canada, as part of the postwar Canada Carries On series, offering a humorous account of the history of transportation in Canada. The film was directed by Colin Low and produced by Tom Daly. The Romance of Transportation in Canada featured animation by Wolf Koenig and Robert Verrall and was narrated by Guy Glover. Noted composer Eldon Rathburn composed the film score.

Transitions (film)

Transitions is the first full-colour 3D IMAX film, created for the Canada Pavilion at Expo 86, co-directed by Colin Low and Tony Ianzelo and produced by the National Film Board of Canada. It built upon We Are Born of Stars created for Expo '85 in Tskuba, Japan, which used anaglyph 3D. The film is also notable for the first use of stereoscopic computer animation.

Universe (1960 film)

Universe is a black-and-white short animated documentary made in 1960 by the National Film Board of Canada. It "creates on the screen a vast, awe-inspiring picture of the universe as it would appear to a voyager through space. Realistic animation takes you into far regions of space, beyond the reach of the strongest telescope, past Moon, Sun, and Milky Way into galaxies yet unfathomed."

This visualization is grounded in the nightly work of Dr. Donald MacRae, an astronomer at the David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill, Ontario, a facility formerly owned and operated by the University of Toronto, Canada, and now operated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. Using the technology of his era, MacRae prepares his largely manually operated equipment and then photographs, by long exposure, one star. He actually strikes an arc between iron electrodes and makes a simultaneous exposure, which he can compare to the star's spectrum to determine its movement relative to Earth.

The film was a nominee at the 33rd Academy Awards in the category of Best Documentary Short Subject in 1961.

Douglas Rain did the narration for the English version; the French version was titled Notre univers with narration by Gilles Pelletier. Eldon Rathburn composed the musical score.

Very Nice, Very Nice

Very Nice, Very Nice is a 7-minute-long avant-garde collage film made by Arthur Lipsett in 1961, and produced by the National Film Board of Canada.

While working at the National Film Board, Lipsett collected pieces of audio from the waste bins and pieced them together as a hobby. When his friends heard the product of this they suggested that he add images to it. The result was this film.

Films directed by Colin Low
Other IMAX ventures
Related topics

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