In 1963, while he was with the Board's legendary Unit B under executive director Tom DALY, he was assigned to direct a half-hour docudrama about a probation officer and a juvenile delinquent. He instead delivered a mostly improvised, now legendary feature on teenage angst and the generation gap, NOBODY WAVED GOODBYE (1964). It was the first film to give Toronto a cinematic identity and is an inspired work that blends cinéma-vérité with fiction. After an initially tepid response from the NFB, the film was submitted to the New York Film Festival, where it received critical acclaim. Subsequently it was released theatrically in Canada at the end of 1964 and won the prestigious Robert Flaherty Documentary Award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 1965. Nobody Waved Goodbye remains an icon of English-Canadian filmmaking and was designated a ""masterwork" by the AV Preservation Trust, which until 2009 was dedicated to the preservation of Canada's audio-visual heritage.
Don Owen followed up Nobody Waved Goodbye with 2 more films, the intriguing but unsatisfactory Notes for a Film about Donna and Gail and The Ernie Game (a rare NFB/CBC co-production), a perceptive drama about the rebellious youthful spirit of the late 1960s; the film won CANADIAN FILM AWARDS (CFA) for best feature and direction and was nominated for the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival. Leaving the NFB in 1969, Owen directed several shorts and dramas for television, including Unfinished Business (GENIE AWARD nominations for best director and screenplay), a 1984 sequel of sorts to Nobody Waved GoodBye.
His other films include Runner (1962; about Olympic runner Bruce Kidd, narrated by W.H. Auden), À Saint-Henri le cinq septembre (1962; one of many directors who worked on this famous collaboration), Toronto Jazz (1964), High Steel (1965; about the Canadian Mohawks who worked the skyscrapers in New York city, which won the CFA for best editing and the Youth Film Award for best short at the Berlin festival), Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen (1965; directed with Donald BRITTAIN, CFA for best TV information), Monique Leyrac in Concert (1966), Gallery: a View of Time (1967), Snow in Venice (1970, about the artist Michael SNOW); Richler of St. Urbain Street (1971, TV), the documentary Cowboy and Indian (1972), the theatrical feature Partners (1976) and the made-for-television movie Turnabout (1987).
In 2005, the Toronto International Film Festival held a retrospective of Don Owen's films and published the monograph Don Owen: Notes on a Filmmaker and His Culture by Steve Gravestock, the festival's senior Canadian programmer.
Author WYNDHAM WISE
Links to Other Sites
View Don Owen's short documentary about the Mohawk Indians of Kahnawake who work in Manhattan erecting the steel frames of skyscrapers. From the National Film Board of Canada.
Ladies and Gentlemen... Mr. Leonard Cohen
View a 1965 documentary about Leonard Cohen's performing career and his ties to his home town of Montréal. From the National Film Board of Canada.