Colin Low (filmmaker)

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Colin Low
Colin Archibald Low

(1926-07-24)July 24, 1926
Cardston, Alberta, Canada
DiedFebruary 24, 2016(2016-02-24) (aged 89)
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
OccupationFilm director, film producer
Years active19471996
Eugénie St. Germain (m. 1947)

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, 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]

He died on February 24, 2016 in Montreal, Quebec.[2][3]

Early work[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]