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Obituary

Allan King's documentaries spoke to the human condition Add to ...

By now he and his first wife had divorced and he was married to screenwriter Patricia Watson. Beginning by directing her adaptations, including A Bird in the House and Red Emma , as half hour dramas for CBC, he eventually raised enough money to make a feature film of W.O. Mitchell's iconic coming of age novel, Who Has Seen the Wind . Filmed mainly on location in Saskatchewan, it became the top-grossing Canadian film of 1977 and won the Grand Prix at the Paris International film Festival.

He followed this success with One Night Stand , an adaptation of playwright Carol Bolt's odyssey about modern sexuality. Made for television, One Night Stand won five Canadian Film Awards.

Mr. King returned to his documentary beginnings in 1983 with an explosive film about unemployment called, Who's in Charge? The film followed a four day conference at which 30 out-of-work people meet in a communal residential setting, complete with food and drink, and discuss their problems and their prospects. As the days pile up, so do their frustrations with themselves, each other and the conference facilitators.

During the 1980s and 1990s, Mr. King made a living directing episodes of television series including Danger Bay , The Road to Avonlea , Madison and Lightning Force . He also served as president of the Director's Guild of Canada from 1989-1999 and made another feature film, Termini Station , based on a script by his third wife, Colleen Murphy. They had married in April, 1987, after his divorce from Ms. Watson.

In his 70s, Mr. King found a new audience and critical success with a series of documentaries about upheaval, death and disability. The Dragon's Egg (1999) dealt with the coming of democracy to Eastern Europe through the experiences of a small group of Estonians. Dying at Grace (2003) gently and empathically follows the lives of patients in palliative care at the Salvation Army's Grace Health Centre in Toronto. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival that year and won raves as "a defiantly humane film" and "the culmination of all he had been doing in dramas and documentaries for 50 years." The film won a Gemini for editing and the Donald Brittain Award for best social or political documentary and was screened at film festivals around the world.

Memory for Max, Claire, Ida and Company (2005), which was filmed at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto, followed the daily routines of eight resident patients suffering from some form of dementia, people who can't remember that they can't remember how to organize their own lives. Painful as it is to watch, it also takes us to a place where many of us fear we may be heading.

The final major film that he completed was EMPz 4 Life , which studied racial stereotyping of young black men in Toronto, in 2006. He was developing his last film, Endings , when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour in April.

ALLAN KING

Allan Winton King was born in Vancouver on Feb. 6, 1930. He died at home in Toronto on June 15, 2009. Mr. King, who was 79, leaves his third wife Colleen Murphy, four children, six grandchildren, his sister Sheila DeJong and his extended family. A memorial is planned for the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto on Monday, June 22.

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