Allan King

Allan King

Allan Winton King (b. February 6, 1930, Vancouver, British Columbia) is a celebrated Canadian film director.


During the Depression he attended Henry Hudson Elementary School in Kitsilano, Vancouver. [ "Memories of Maria: A Contribution to the Discussion on "The Image of the Working Class in Canadian Media"] , Allan King, Take One, 1 December 2001] He He says he became a documentary filmmaker because, "I used to have a fantasy everyone would see my films and be changed for the better. That's why you want to make films."Fact|date=October 2008

In 2002, he was made an Officer of the Order of Canada. A collection of ten of King's films was released as a collection representing various stages of life. His work was also the focus of a retrospective at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival. The Museum of Modern Art hosted a retrospective in 2007. [CBC [ "MoMA retrospective celebrates veteran filmmaker Allan King "] ]

He currently runs Allan King Films Limited in Toronto.

Preeminent documentarian

King was a pioneer of cinema-verite documentary filmmaking. King describes his style as "actuality drama - filming the drama of everyday life as it happens, spontaneously without direction, interviews or narrative." He says he strives to "serve the action as unobtrusively as possible" and does so by becoming very familiar with the environment and people he films - paying particular attention to movement patterns, routines and light quality. He believes actuality drama does not and cannot effectively provide information and background. Rather in King's hands, direct cinema is pure, visceral form.Fact|date=October 2008


After more than a decade of documentary filmmaking, his 1967 film "Warrendale" transformed King from journeyman filmmaker into a legend. The film tells about emotionally disturbed children who live in a Toronto institution known as Warrendale. The school practiced an experimental "holding" technique of safely restraining a child when she or he loses control because of fear, rage or grief. the therapy is designed to push children to verbalize their emotions so they learn to identify and deal with them. Holding is employed instead of drugs or other techniques. The documentary is not an expose of the restraining technique. It neither chastises or applauds the approach. Rather, "Warrendale" is an absorbing, empathetic glimpse of children in distress.

Unlike Frederick Wiseman, who spends a short period exploring an institution before he begins filming, King spends a significant amount of time with subjects before filming to develop trust with his subjects. King spent four weeks at the Warrendale school with 12 children and then another two weeks there with his camera crew before filming began. The crew had complete access to all aspects of the home/school situation at Warrendale - including one meeting where the top school administrator gently admonishes a counselor for using the holding technique at an inappropriate time. King lit the entire home and replaced dark paneling in a hallway with lighter paneling to improve the lights. Filming lasted eight weeks. Getting to know people before filming and staying with situations for a significant chunk of time is essential, he had said, "because in order for anything significant to occur in action or drama the subjects must make a huge leap of faith in the filmmaker."Fact|date=October 2008

The pivotal moment in "Warrendale" is when the counselors break the news to the children that their cook Dorothy has died suddenly. Children with emotional illnesses often believe their thoughts and feelings cause trauma and tragedy. The filming is intimate during the most tense and tender moments - with the camera sometimes inches from pained faces as they scream and cry - all the while being restrained by counselors. The cook's death happened early on during the filming, but King made it the film's climax.

Upon seeing "Warrendale," director Jean Renoir wrote, "Allan King is a great artist. His remarkable work exposes one of the most suspenseful action I have ever seen on a screen."Fact|date=October 2008

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, which commissioned the film, refused to show it because the children often swore, uttering such words as "fuck" and "bullshit" that were not permitted on Canadain telvision at the time. Instead, the CBC allowed King to show "Warrendale" in theaters. Shown in the Parallel Section at the Cannes Film Festival in 1967, it won the Prix d'art et d'essai. It also shared BAFTA's Best Foreign Film Award with Michaelangelo Antonioni's "Blow Up" and the New York Critics' Circle Award (1968) with Luis Bunuel's "Belle de Jour".

"A Married Couple"

Despite censorship, King continued to innovate and in 1969 directed "A Married Couple" which explores a crisis in a real marriage and the issue of choice. "New York Times" ' critic Clive Barnes described "A Married Couple" as "quite simply one of the best films I have ever seen."Fact|date=October 2008

Other genres

During more than 50 years of filmmaking, King has worked in every film genre except animation, creating an enormous and diverse portfolio. To support his documentaries, King has also directed episodic television and feature films. His first dramatic feature film, "Who Has Seen the Wind" (1976), based on the novel by W. O. Mitchell, won the Grand Prix at the Paris International Film Festival and the Golden Reel Award for the highest-grossing Canadian film of the year. The many television dramas he has directed have won top awards.

Now (2008) in his seventies, King's passion for actuality drama is vibrant. In 2003, he produced the documentary "Dying at Grace," an intimate actuality drama about five people in their final days at the Palliative Care Unit of the Salvation Army Toronto Grace Health Centre as they come to terms with their deaths. It won awards at major film festivals including Toronto and Berlin.


Films and telefilms

* "Skid Row" (1956)
* "The Pemberton Valley" (1957)
* "Rickshaw" (1960) (TV)
* "Interview with Orson Welles" (1960) (TV)
* "A Matter of Pride" (1961) (TV)
* "Dreams" (1962) (TV)
* "The Field Day" (1963)
* "" (1963) (TV)
* "Running Away Backwards" (1964)
* "" (1967)
* "Warrendale" (1967)
* "A Married Couple" (1969)
* "Come on Children" (1973)
* "Red Emma" (1974) (TV)
* "Maria" (1977) (TV)
* "Who Has Seen the Wind" (1977)
* "One Night Stand" (1978) (TV)
* "Silence of the North" (1981)
* "Tucker and the Horse Thief" (1985) (TV)
* "The Last Season" (1986)
* "Termini Station" (1989)
* "The Dragon's Egg" (1998) (TV)
* "" (1998) (TV)
* "Dying at Grace" (2003)
* "Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company" (2005)
* "EMPz 4 Life" (2006)

Television series

* "Alfred Hitchcock Presents" (1985)
* "Philip Marlowe, Private Eye" (1986 episode)
* "" (1987)
* "The Twilight Zone" (1988 episode)
* "Bordertown" (1989 episode)
* "Road to Avonlea" (1989)
* "Neon Rider" (1990 episode)
* "" (1990, 1991 episodes)
* "By Way of the Stars" (1992 miniseries)
* "Madison" (1993 episodes)
* "" (1993)
* "Twice in a Lifetime" (1999)

Further reading

* Seth Feldman, ed., "Allan King: Filmmaker", Indiana University Press 2002, ISBN 0968913210
* Stanley Kaufmann, "Children of Our Time", 1967;
* Nik Sheehan, "Crisis, What Crisis", 2002)


External links

* [ Allan King Films]
* [ The Philosopher King]

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