NFB pioneer and IMAX co-inventor Roman Kroitor passes away

NFB chairman Tom Perlmutter calls Kroitor's (pictured) death "a terrific loss to the NFB, Canada and the world of cinema."

Roman Kroitor, a filmmaker who played a key role in the National Film Board during the 1950s and 1960s who also helped develop the IMAX format, passed away Sunday. He was 86.

“Roman Kroitor was a remarkable man who has made out-sized contributions to cinema as a filmmaker, producer and creative and technical innovator. He was a legend whose relentless pace of inventiveness continued throughout a long and productive career. His death is a terrific loss to the NFB, Canada and the world of cinema,” said Tom Perlmutter, the NFB’s chairman, in a statement.

Born on Dec. 12, 1926, in Yorkton, Sask., Kroitor helped develop the idea of direct cinema and also new approaches to documentary filmmaking. His early credits include  Paul Tomkowicz: Street-railway Switchman and the Candid Eye series.

Working alongside colleagues Wolf Koenig and Colin Low, he made Glenn Gould – On & Off the Record, Lonely Boy, Stravinsky and Universe.

As a producer, he helped the NFB move into fiction films, beginning with Don Owen’s 1964 feature Nobody Waved Goodbye.

Working again with Low and Hugh O’Connor and co-producer Tom Daly, Kroitor helped develop In the Labyrinth, an immersive cinema experience that caused a sensation at Montreal’s Expo 67. In 1967 Kroitor left the NFB to co-found Multi-Screen Corp.

Soon he would begin work co-inventing the IMAX film system and forming IMAX Corp. The first IMAX film Tiger Child, was directed by Donald Brittain and released in 1970 in time for the Osaka world’s fair.

In the years to come, Kroitor and IMAX would work closely with the NFB on such projects as the first IMAX 3D film, Transitions, and first IMAX HD film, Momentum. Both were directed for the NFB by Low and Tony Ianzelo.

In the mid-1970s Kroitor returned to the NFB to head dramatic productions, producing such acclaimed works as Giles Walker’s Bravery in the Field and John N. Smith’s First Winter.

Most recently, Kroitor had partnered with the NFB’s animation studio, led by animator Munro Ferguson. Together they worked on new creative applications for IMAX’s hand-drawn 3D stereoscopic animation technique, SANDDE.

Kroitor is survived by his wife Janet and children Paul, Tanya, Lesia, Stephanie and Yvanna.

Photo courtesy the NFB