Academy Award-winning documentary and experimental filmmaker Hilary Harris died of kidney failure Oct. 26 at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. He was 69.
A New York native, Harris attended Columbia U in the 1940s. In the 1950s, he molded his interests in film and engineering to make two short films, “Longhorns” (1951) and “Generation” (1956). The shorts experimented with abstract motion and were influenced by modern artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. Harris’ next film, “Highway,” contained fast-moving images of New York City set to rock ‘n’ roll music. The film won the Bronze Medal at the Brussels World’s Fair in 1958.
Harris’ early success won him the attention of the Scottish Film Board. In 1962, the board hired Harris to direct a documentary on Glasgow’s shipbuilding called “Seawards the Great Ships.” It won the Academy Award for best short subject in 1962.
In the early 1960s, Harris formed his own film studio in New York, where he produced documentary, experimental and animation films. Films made there included Harris’ “Nine Variations on a Dance Theme,” an abstract film about a modern dancer and considered one of Harris’ best- known works. The pic toured the film festival circuit in 1966, winning numerous awards.
Throughout his career, Harris continued to push the bounds of experimental film, pioneering time-lapse photography, most evident in the film “Organism” (1975), and founding the idea of “kinesthetics,” in which images are structured around movement with the camera in constant motion.
Harris is survived by his wife, Dena, and three children.