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Albert Kish: Tribute to a virtuoso filmmaker

Albert Kish: Tribute to a virtuoso filmmaker

Albert Kish: Tribute to a virtuoso filmmaker

The first time I ever visited the NFB was during my days as a film student, to see the sound mix of the film The Age of Invention. I was kindly invited by filmmaker and editor Albert Kish. I sat with him and the sound mixer and marvelled at their work; it gave me an inside look at what goes on in this incredible institution. When I began working here a year later, I would often cross paths with Albert Kish, who always greeted me with a smile.

I was saddened this week to learn that Mr. Kish had passed away. I have had the privilege of knowing this great filmmaker and seeing him work. He directed some 20 films at the NFB, including many award winners. He also did incredible work as an editor on more than 30 films. To pay tribute to this great man and the work he produced in his 28 years at the NFB, I have chosen four of his films to recommend, which are all personal favourites. Here they are, in no particular order:

Los Canadienses is Mr. Kish’s documentary on Canadian volunteers in the International Brigade that fought in the Spanish Civil War. It is a sensitive, haunting portrait of the brave young men who joined the fight against fascism. The film won several awards, including the Flaherty Documentary Award at the BAFTAs.

Los Canadienses, Albert Kish, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Albert Kish edited the absolutely spellbinding film Juggernaut, a documentary that follows a calandria (the 70-ton heart of a nuclear reactor) on a 600-mile journey through India to its destination in the province of Rajasthan.

Juggernaut, Eugene Boyko, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

This Is a Photograph is an experimental documentary, directed by Mr. Kish in 1971. It consists of hundreds of photos of new immigrants in Canada. The stills were all taken by Albert Kish and edited into a very unusual but ultimately satisfying portrait of the immigrant experience. The film won two Canadian Film Awards, including Best Theatrical Short.

This Is a Photograph, Albert Kish, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

In Our Street Was Paved With Gold, Mr. Kish once again showcases European immigrants, this time in Montreal. From Hungary to Portugal and from Italy to Poland, these immigrants settled on St. Lawrence Boulevard, right between the French and English. This is a beautiful, thoughtful portrait of the immigrant experience in Canada.

Our Street Was Paved with Gold, Albert Kish, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

I invite you to watch these wonderful films and discover (or re-discover) this amazing filmmaker. Thank you Mr. Kish, for letting me sit in on your sound mix session so many years ago, and for leaving us this beautiful body of work.

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  1. I have put Albert on Wikipedia, would appreciate it if you could check his page for possible errors.
    Thanks very much and Merry Xmas!

    — Katalin Futo,
  2. A good feeling well done film reminds me of my family
    Who immigrated from the Ukraine & Ireland . I was always
    Taking pictures & 8mm movies so my hats off to Mr. Albert
    Kish & others like him whom showed us how to look at this
    country Canada & the People that made it great.

    Thanks Mr. Bob.

  3. A friend of his son, I met Albert often at his home on Westmount Park after 1982. Lucky enough to be learning at the time from the NFB’s Derek Lamb and Michel Choquette at McGill, it was really being around Mr. Kish where I learned not how a filmmaker works, but how a filmmaker lives.

    I don’t mean his lifestyle, his décor, his food and drink… I mean when talking casually with him you learned how to live honest with yourself. Albert was grounded in a wonderfully truthful reality, always honest about the insecurities many great communicators nonetheless feel.

    For some reason I always remembered the time he told me about one of his favourite New Yorker cartoons :

    (To be read with a Hungarian accent…)

    Panel 1 : A man enters his office, shoulders slouched past his coworkers, briefcase in hand, “They’re going to find me out” he is thinking.

    Panel 2 : Same scene, “They’re going to find me out”. He is thinking.

    Panel 3 : Same again, “They’re going to find me out”. He thinks.

    Last Panel : Man is being escorted from his office between two huge men in suits, coworkers looking on, “They found me out,” he is thinking.

    It was nice to meet you Albert (Mr. Kish), rest in peace.
    Donald Wiedman

  4. Thank you very much for this wonderful tribute to my late husband Albert. Please note that Albert joined the NFB in 1967 and left in 1995. This makes his time with the NFB 28 years not 24. (He also went back for another year on contract after he retired.)

    — Katalin Futo,
    1. Thank you for the kind words Katalin. I have made the change regarding his years of service.

      Albert Ohayon
      NFB English Collection curator

      — Albert Ohayon,
  5. albert kish was always …”building a better Canada”….

    he was also a neighbour and friend for some years in montreal….i lived upstairs from him and shared the many “ongoings” of Melville avenue…

    happy editing Albert….b

    — bob cohen,
  6. Nice tribute, and good reminder to watch some of Kish’s important documentary work.

    — katherine,

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