Canadian documentarian Allan King dies

Works included 'Warrandale,' 'A Married Couple'

TORONTO -- Veteran Canadian documentary maker Allan King, a pioneer of the cinema verite movement, died Monday at home in Toronto after a short illness. He was 79.

King began his filmmaking career in the mid-1950s at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., the country's public broadcaster, but by 1958 moved to Ibiza to become an independent filmmaker.

By 1960, King and fellow filmmakers under the Allan King Associates banner in Toronto and London were making documentaries and current affairs programming for the CBC, PBS, Granada, the BBC and other international broadcasters.

King next moved into early cinema verite filmmaking. His first major feature doc was the 1967 film "Warrendale," a controversial portrait of 12 emotionally disturbed children in a treatment center followed over seven weeks.

The CBC commissioned the film, but refused to air it. Besides theatrical screenings, the documentary sat on the shelf for 30 years until TVOntario finally aired it in 1997.

"Warrendale" earned the Prix d'art et d'essai at Cannes in 1967, and shared the British Academy's best foreign film prize with Antonioni's "Blow Up."

King's next film proved equally controversial. The 1970 work "A Married Couple," a fly-on-the-wall portrait of an argumentive couple in the midst of divorcing, was described by New York Times critic Clive Barnes as "quite simply one of the best films I have ever seen."

His first dramatic feature film, "Who Has Seen the Wind," became a classic Canadian work after it won the Grand Prix in 1976 at the Paris International Film Festival.

King also did extensive TV directing, alongside continuing documentary making with recent titles like "Dying at Grace" (2003), and "Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company" (2005), which dealt with aging and Alzheimer's, and the 2006 film "EMPz 4 Life," a portrait of stereotyped young black men in north Toronto.

The Toronto International Film Festival staged a retrospective of King's films in 2002. And he was developing his last film, "Endings," when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor in April of this year.

He is survived by his wife, Colleen Murphy, four children and his Golden Retriever, Abby.
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