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Colin Low, Legendary Canadian Film Director, Dies At Age 89

02/25/2016 11:39 EST | Updated 02/25/2016 11:59 EST

MONTREAL — Colin Low, a prolific and pioneering force in Canadian cinema who earned two Oscar nominations and inspired the likes of Stanley Kubrick, has died.

The National Film Board of Canada says the Alberta native died Wednesday in Montreal. He was 89.

The director and producer worked on over 200 titles during his six decades at the NFB, where he was a groundbreaking filmmaker and head of the animation unit.

He directed the NFB's first film to be nominated for an Oscar for best animated short, 1952's "The Romance of Transportation of Canada,'' which won a short film Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and a special BAFTA Award.

The film's "industrial animation'' style was unconventional for the NFB at the time, when Norman McLaren's auteur model was favoured.

Colin Low has died this Wednesday in Montreal. Mark the passing of a true film pioneer with trailblazing achievements in...

Posted by NFB on Thursday, 25 February 2016


Low earned another Oscar nomination, for his 1957 documentary "City of Gold.''

Low's other pioneering projects included his 1954 documentary "Corral,'' which won an award at the Venice Film Festival. The NFB says the piece, which didn't have any words, "helped to change the way cowboys were depicted on screen'' and broke NFB tradition of heavily narrated documentaries.

The NFB says Low also had an influence on Kubrick with 1960's "Universe,'' which he co-directed with Roman Kroitor.

Kubrick ended up using "Universe'' narrator Douglas Rain as the voice of the HAL 9000 computer in 1968's "2001: A Space Odyssey.'' He also hired Wally Gentleman, who had done optical effects for Low.


Born in Cardston, Alta., Low studied at the Banff School of Fine Arts and the Calgary Institute of Technology.

His other career achievements included "In the Labyrinth,'' a multi-screen presentation that the NFB says "helped lead to the creation of Canada's IMAX giant-screen format.''

He also helped create the NFB's Challenge for Change program, which was intended to inspire social change in communities.

Low was a Member of the Order of Canada and a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts.

He is survived by his wife Eugenie and sons Alexander, Ben and Stephen.

Watch "The Romance of Transportation of Canada" above.

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