A drawing of a young boy with an oversized head, a character from BLA BLA, an interactive website produced by Vincent Morisset in 2011.

Press Releases & Media Kits

National Film Board of Canada mourns the passing of Canadian film legend Don Owen

Press release

2016/02/24

February 24, 2016 – Montreal, Quebec – National Film Board of Canada

Canada has lost one of its cinema pioneers, with the passing of filmmaker Don Owen at the age of 84. Owen died February 21 in Toronto.

Born in Toronto on September 19, 1931, Owen was a trailblazing figure in feature filmmaking at the NFB, writing and directing a pair of groundbreaking films that brilliantly captured the restless spirit of the 1960s: Nobody Waved Good-bye (1964) and The Ernie Game (1967). 

Starring Peter Kastner and Julie Biggs, Nobody Waved Good-bye would go on to receive the Robert J. Flaherty Award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts―typically awarded to documentary works. It was named to TIFF’s Top 10 Canadian Films of All Time list in 1984. Owen would also direct a sequel to Nobody Waved Good-bye, 20 years later, entitled Unfinished Business.

Starring Alexis Kanner and Jackie Burroughs, and hailed as one of the most innovative examples of personal cinema from English Canada in the 1960s by Cinematheque Ontario, The Ernie Game was a double award winner at the Canadian Film Awards, winning Best Feature Film as well as the award for Best Direction.

Owen would also make some of the NFB’s most creative documentaries of the time, including a pair of 1965 classics: High Steel, a look at Mohawk steel workers that received a Special Youth Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival, and Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen, co-directed with Donald Brittain, winner of a Canadian Film Award. 

His genius for storytelling can also be seen in such NFB short works as Runner (1962), a profile of Canadian long-distance runner Bruce Kidd, narrated by W.H. Auden; Toronto Jazz (1963), a vibrant celebration of the city’s music scene; and Notes for a Film About Donna & Gail (1966), the story of two young women, which garnered Owen another Canadian Film Award.

A poet and student of anthropology at the University of Toronto before beginning a career in film, Owen first joined the NFB in 1960 as a part of a team of cinematographers working on the cinema direct classics La lutte (1961) and À Saint-Henri le cinq septembre (1962).

Owen was the subject of a retrospective at the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival.

Quote

“At a time when Canada and the NFB were undergoing sweeping changes, Don Owen brought a new spirit of risk-taking and authenticity to Canadian cinema. His dramatic and documentary films were a bellwether of the times, as Canadians of his age were questioning accepted wisdom, and taking life, art and cinema in bold new directions. I was deeply saddened to learn of his passing―but immensely grateful for Don’s rich artistic legacy, which will live on in trailblazing works of Canadian cinema.”

‒ Claude Joli-Coeur, Government Film Commissioner and NFB Chairperson 

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Media Relations

Jennifer Mair
NFB Publicist
Tel.: 416-954-2045
Cell: 416-436-0105
E-mail:  j.mair@nfb.ca
Twitter: @NFB_Jennifer

Lily Robert
Director, Communications, Marketing and Public Affairs
Tel.: 514-283-3838
Cell: 514-296-8261
E-mail: l.robert@nfb.ca

About the NFB

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) creates groundbreaking interactive works, social-issue documentaries and auteur animation. The NFB has produced over 13,000 productions and won over 5,000 awards, including 14 Canadian Screen Awards, 11 Webbys, 12 Oscars and more than 90 Genies. To access acclaimed NFB content, visit NFB.ca or download its apps for smartphones, tablets and connected TV.