Former NFB head Jacques Bensimon passes away

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Jacques Bensimon, the filmmaker who headed the National Film Board during a key turning point in its history, died on the weekend at the age of 69.

A funeral will be held for him in Montreal on Monday.

Born in Morocco and raised in Canada, Bensimon headed the NFB from 2001 to 2006. When he took the helm in July 2001, the organization was still adjusting to federal cuts totalling $26 million—or about 32% of its yearly budget—between 1994 and 1998. He was widely credited with improving not only the NFB’s operations but its staff morale.

“Jacques was my mentor, my colleague and my friend,” said Tom Perlmutter, the current Government Film Commissioner and president of the NFB, in a statement. “He was passionate, intense and whole-heartedly devoted to filmmakers and filmmaking. He came back to the NFB as its head out of a sense of obligation for an institution, which he felt was absolutely vital for the future of filmmaking in Canada.”

Before taking the helm of the NFB, Bensimon had been the VP of the Banff Television Foundation. Previous to that, from 1986-2000, he was the director general of TFO, the French arm of Ontario pubcaster TVOntario.

Prior to that he’d worked for 20 years at the NFB in various roles, including as a producer, director, writer and editor. From 1981 to 1986 he was also chairman of the board’s French programming committee as well as its director of international programming.

He received the Order of Canada in 2005 for his efforts. In 1998 he received France’s Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres for his work in promoting French culture around the world.  In 1994 he was an advisor to the French government in its work in creating its first educational TV network.

Most recently in 2011 he’d been a consultant to the Brazilian Independent Television Producers Association, helping in the creation of the Rio Content Market.

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