(Photo Credit: Jacky Azoulay)


      You can probably count on your fingers the people who were able to significantly enrich creativity in an entire field of art with just their influence and without creating artwork of their own. According to people who knew him professionally, Colin Young was one of these rare individuals. Lecturer, educator, theoretician, born in Glasgow in 1927, Colin Young marked the lives of many filmmakers who are today film legends in their own right. During the second half of the 1960s, he chaired the School of Theater, Film and Television at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), at the time when Francis Ford Coppola and Paul Schrader were students there. After his return to Great Britain in 1971, he founded the National Film School, which produced – among others – Bill Forsyth, Nick Park and Lynne Ramsey. Two decades later he moved to France, in order to participate in the founding of a special training center for film producers – Ateliers du CinémaEuropéen, a project that also contributed to maintaining a professional film climate in Europe.

Decades of work have brought him knighthoods of Great Britain and France, as well as the most significant award that BAFTA is able to grant. However, in the field of ethno-anthropological film his sensibility for ethnographic documentaries is of particular importance. Although not formally educated in the fields of ethnology or anthropology (or even film!), Colin Young recognized that ethnographic documentary film is a tool that might change the entire art of cinema. Therefore, during his time at the University of Los Angeles, he founded a school of ethnographic film, which had a profound impact on work of Judith and David MacDougall, Timothy Asch, Paul Hockings, Jorge Preloran and many others, who are now considered classics of ethno-anthropological film.

Never a dogmatic, Colin Young changed the rules on the fly, but always emphasized the primacy of establishing genuine human relationships between the filmmaker and the people in the camera’s focus. He passed away on November 27, 2021, at the age of 94.

The films screened as part of this program are courtesy of Documentary Educational Resources, founded by John Marshall and Timothy Asch.