Robin Spry | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Robin Spry

Robin Spry

 Robin Spry, director, producer, writer (b at Toronto 25 Oct 1939; d at Montréal 28 Mar 2005). Robin Spry was the son of Canadian broadcast pioneer and CBC co-founder Graham SPRY. Robin Spry was educated at Oxford University, England, and the London School of Economics. He made several short films in England before returning to Canada to join the NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA (NFB) as an assistant director in 1964.

An important member of the emerging English-Canadian film scene of the late 1960s, Robin Spry made several cinéma-vérité documentaries focusing on social issues such as abortion (Illegal Abortion, 1966), the hippie movement in Toronto (Flowers on a One-Way Street, 1967) and the October Crisis (Action: The October Crisis of 1970, 1973, and its companion film Reaction: A Portrait of a Society in Crisis, 1973). He also appeared in Denys ARCAND's documentary Québec: Duplessis et après... (1972), reading selections from the Durham Report.

His first dramatic feature for the NFB, Prologue, the story of a love triangle centred on the police riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, won the Robert Flaherty Documentary Award from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts in 1970 and was the first Canadian film to be invited to the Venice Film Festival. Spry's NFB features were often in the docudrama mode, dealing with contemporary issues in a dramatized context and utilizing Spry's talent for social analysis. In 1977 he directed and co-wrote One Man, about a journalist's attempt to expose industrial pollution, which won 6 CANADIAN FILM AWARDS, and then he left the NFB to form his own company, Telescene Film Group, producing and directing more commercial work in both film and television.

These projects included Drying Up the Streets (1979), a drama made for the CBC about the darker side of the hippie movement; Suzanne (1980), a romantic drama starring Jennifer Dale, which was nominated for a GENIE AWARD for adapted screenplay; Léa Pool's À corps perdu (1988), which received 5 Genie nominations, including best picture; Obsessed (1988), a revenge drama with Colleen Dewhurst and Saul Rubinek that won the Best Canadian Film Award at the Montreal World Film Festival and was nominated for 4 Genies; Roger Cardinal's Malarek (1989), about a crusading journalist, starring Elias Koteas, which was nominated for 2 Genies and 1 GEMINI AWARD; André Forcier's Une Histoire inventée (1990), nominated for 3 Genies, including best picture; the Urban Angel TV series (1991), nominated for the best dramatic series Gemini Award; A Cry in the Night (1992), a crime mystery based on the Mary Higgins Clark novel of the same name; Hiroshima (1995), about the development of the H-bomb, winner of the Gemini Award for best television movie and nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for outstanding miniseries; and the series Student Bodies (1997-2000), The Hunger (1997-99) and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World (1999-2002).

At its peak in the late 1990s, Telescene was doing over $100 million worth of business annually, but it went bankrupt and ceased operations in 2000. However, Robin Spry recovered and continued producing until the day of his untimely death at age 65 in a car crash late one night on the streets of Montréal.