Alumnus wins Gemini award

(Edmonton) Iconic Alberta filmmaker and U of A alumnus Tom Radford took home a Gemini award Aug. 30 for Code Breakers, winning the award for Best Science, Technology, Nature, Environment or Adventure Documentary Program.

The film, which investigates a new theory for the arrival of the first people to the Americas by boat rather than over the Bering Bridge, first aired last January on CBC's The Nature of Things and is partly based on the research of U of A anthropologist Andrzej Weber. Radford produced and directed the film with his partner, Niobe Thompson, a former Killam Postdoctoral Fellow in anthropology at the U of A.

"You never understand the power of film distribution in this country until you enter the Geminis," said Radford of his second Gemini win. The first was in 2008 for Arctic Dreamer. "Much of the industry is centralized in the east, and [as a western filmmaker] you're always fighting uphill. So to win is special, to win two is extra special." Code Breakers also garnered a best photography award for local cameraman Daron Donahue.

Radford is a highly acclaimed filmmaker whose career as a writer, director and producer has earned him numerous national and international awards and accolades. For more than 40 years, he has had a profound influence on Canada’s television and film industries. In 1980, as an executive producer at the National Film Board, he founded the NFB Northwest Studio in Edmonton, which launched more than two decades of unparalleled film activity in Alberta and supported the development of many of the country’s filmmakers. He also initiated the National Screen Institute and established one of the first independent production companies in Edmonton.

Radford graduated from the U of A in 1966 with a bachelor's degree in history, which he says “was a very exciting time.”

“My wonderful professor at the U of A was Lewis Gwynne Thomas, who really brought Western Canadian history to the forefront. He realized the importance of our own history, and that for me was the set-up for making movies about our history.

"Lewis realized the best thing we could do with history is go into other fields—he really encouraged that."

A champion of environmental and social causes, Radford uses his creativity to showcase the distinctive character and heritage of Alberta and Canada’s North to the rest of the world. The Tipping Point, Radford and Thompson's recent critical look at Alberta's oilsands industry, also looked to the U of A for inspiration—the water research of David Schindler.

Radford has always explored the human experience and brings important—and sometimes forgotten—aspects of Canada’s natural history to the public’s attention. His ability to enthrall audiences extends to other art forms as well. He is the co-author of the bestseller Alberta: A Celebration, and his photography has been displayed at the National Gallery of Canada.

Thompson, before completing his post-doctoral fellowship at the U of A and teaming up with Radford to create Clearwater Media, earned a PhD in anthropology from the Scott Polar Research Institute at Cambridge University, spent three years as a human rights researcher in Africa and South Asia and worked as a forest fire fighter in northern Canada. His most recent book, Settlers on the Edge, is based on five years of research in the Russian Arctic.

Radford will receive the U of A's Distinguished Alumni Award Sept. 22 .

For more information on the Alumni Recognition Awards visit www.ualberta.ca/alumni/weeekend