Ron Holloway
November 26, 1933 – December 16, 2009

Veteran Film Historian and Critic Ron Holloway Dies at 76

17 December, 2009 | By Martin Blaney

Ron Holloway

The international film festival circuit will not be the same following the sad news that the veteran film historian, critic and filmmaker Ron Holloway died in Berlin on Wednesday morning at the age of 76.

Hailing from Peoria, Illinois, Holloway had come to Paris at the end of the 1960s as a Rockefeller Fellow on a two-year grant and completed a doctoral thesis on "The Religious Dimension in the Cinema, with particular reference to the films of Carl Theodor Dreyer, Ingmar Bergman and Robert Bresson" at the University of Hamburg.

He had just completed his dissertation when an offer came from Variety to serve as the US trade paper's correspondent for Germany and Eastern Europe. He and his wife Dorothea Moritz moved to Berlin in 1976 after Ron was invited by the newly appointed Berlinale festival director Wolf Donner to become a member of the Berlinale selection committee with responsibility for Russia. In addition, he played an instrumental role in the setting up of the German Films sidebar which Donner launched in 1977 to spotlight certain types of cinema which had been neglected beforehand.

In 2007, Berlinale director Dieter Kosslick recognised the Holloways' special contribution to the festival over 30 years by presenting them with the Berlinale Camera Award.

Apart from his writings for publications as diverse as The Hollywood Reporter, Moving Pictures, Financial Times, Herald Tribune and many academic journals in Europe and the US, Ron had been known at festivals around the globe for the journal KINO - German Film & International Reports which he published from Berlin with his wife Dorothea.

Launched in 1979 to coincide with a German Film Tour in the US, the film magazine celebrated its 30th anniversary this autumn with a jubilee edition including tributes from Dieter Kosslick, Wim Wenders, Volker Schlöndorff, Andreas Dresen, and Regina Ziegler among many friends and colleagues from around the globe.

Ron Holloway directed two documentaries on the filmmakers Elem Klimov and Sergei Paradjanov as well as two TV features about film - Made in Germany and Sundance for public broadcaster ZDF. He was also a co-founder of the Chicago Center for Film Study and the Cleveland Cinematheque.

His awards included the German Cross of Merit (the equivalent of the UK's OBE), Polish Rings, the Gold Medaille Cannes, the American Cinema Foundation Award, and the Diploma for Support of Russian Cinema.

Just a week before his death, Ron had been presented with the German Film Critics' Association (VDFK) Honorary Award in recognition of "his tireless commitment for the international circulation of German and East European cinema."

"The New German Cinema of the 70s owes its worldwide success in large part to the journalistic support from Ron Holloway," the critics' body had said.

Film festivals like the Berlinale and Cannes will not now be the same without the familiar figure of Ron Holloway reaching into his shoulder bag to produce the latest issue of KINO - German Film hot off the presses to slip into a colleague's pocket.


The Holloway File

The Holloway File is an early internet project to collect information about film artists in formerly socialist and Communist nations who, in the first flush of the Nineties, were in particular danger of being forgotten in the rush towards change. Ron meant the Holloway File as an experiment in using the relatively new internet as a public encyclopedia. It has warnings about the "big" files because at that time internet access throughout eastern and central Europe was via slow dial-up connections, requiring the American Cinema Foundation to use every trick of bandwidth compression to provide a useful service in the early days of the web. In truth, nowadays much of this information might be found on or through Google, but Ron Holloway was well ahead of his time. It was never just a list; it was an end-of-the-century grand summing up of only some of the artistic debt owed to Soviet and ex-Soviet filmmakers of every persuasion, and continued to tinker with it for years. We are deliberately presenting the text unchanged and in the present tense, as you might have read it in 1999, ten years after the fall of the Wall.


Ron Holloway, A Personal Remembrance:

Ron Holloway
Freezing in Berlin: After the Dress Rehearsal for the first Wajda Prize, December 1998. Patricia Tricorache, Gary McVey, Ron Holloway, Tanja Meding (Zieglerfilm) and Dorothea Moritz Holloway.

In the appealing fantasy "Paris at Midnight", a stellar collection of the brightest minds of 1920s Europe make themselves improbably available, friendly and supportive to an eager young American, ready to meet "the greats". That's what actually happened to Ron Holloway, arriving at the movies in the Sixties, in the rush of the most exciting decades that art cinema would ever know. And that, in turn, is what he made his life's work: proudly arranging meetings and alliances for another two generations of filmmakers, scholars and critics.

Ron seemed otherworldly but was shrewder and more practical than he looked. The first time I went to Cannes, I ran into him on the street plying Miramax honchos with copies of his KINO Magazine. He knew me from visiting our L.A. festivals and sensed, like a smart social worker, that I could use a little face-saving blue collar to blue collar advice about surviving the festival: "Say, let me show you the place where the real Cannes people eat. The regulars! The longtimers in the know! I came here with Alain Resnais last year. Forget about the phonies, let's eat with the film lovers!" And the whole time he's gently steering us towards out-of-the-way buffets with great food that cost only what he (rightly) suspects my budget can stand; and all of this, of course, deftly, without saying a word. How many of us sunstruck Americans got this paternal treatment? Plenty.

Despite all the vast journeys in his life, in some ways Ron always remained what he started out as a young man: an idealistic Catholic priest—in time, to become the kindly, modest vicar of all that was best, most valuable and most fragile in world cinema, most especially that brilliant part of it still shining in eastern and central Europe. There isn't a place on the globe where conscientious film people don't remember the loss when they read the news of his passing. Rest in peace, Ron, an unforgettable friend to all of us. You are loved and will be missed.

—Gary McVey