Doc film world mourns loss of di­rec­tor Peter Win­ton­ick,

His 1992 film Man­u­fac­tur­ing Con­sent played in more than 300 cities and gar­nered 22 awards

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - MATTHEW PEAR­SON AND BREN­DAN KELLY mpear­son@ot­tawac­i­t­i­

On the day Norma Dixon went to see her son’s film de­but at the ByTowne Cin­ema on Rideau Street, she was wor­ried no one else would show up.

The doc­u­men­tary, Man­u­fac­tur­ing Con­sent, had taken di­rec­tor Peter Win­ton­ick four years to make and ran nearly three hours long.

But much to Dixon’s relief, peo­ple were there that day. A lot of them. “There was a line all the way around the block,” she re­mem­bered Thurs­day.

Man­u­fac­tur­ing Con­sent: Noam Chom­sky and the Me­dia, which probed the life and work of the Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal thinker, went on to be­come one of the most suc­cess­ful Cana­dian doc­u­men­taries ever. The 1992 film, codi­rected with Mark Ach­bar, played in more than 300 cities around the world and won 22 awards.

Win­ton­ick, who be­came renowned in the film world both as a di­rec­tor and men­tor to up-and-com­ing film­mak­ers, died Mon­day morn­ing at Mon­treal’s Jewish Gen­eral Hos­pi­tal, fol­low­ing a bat­tle with cholan­gio­car­ci­noma, a rare form of liver can­cer. He was 60.

“(Win­ton­ick) is one of Canada’s most im­por­tant doc­u­men­tary film­mak­ers,” said pro­ducer Mila Aung-Th­win from EyeSteelFilm, Mon­treal’s lead­ing doc­u­men­tary pro­duc­tion house and a fre­quent col­lab­o­ra­tor with Win­ton­ick.

“Man­u­fac­tur­ing Con­sent changed the land­scape in­ter­na­tion­ally in terms of what a Cana­dian doc­u­men­tary could be in­tel­lec­tu­ally and com­mer­cially.

“Be­fore that, there weren’t many fea­ture docs — es­pe­cially about sub­jects as dif­fi­cult as Noam Chom­sky — that had been box-of­fice smashes around the world, and that one was.”

Win­ton­ick also di­rected the 2000 doc­u­men­tary Cinéma Vérité: Defin­ing the Mo­ment, and See­ing Is Be­liev­ing: Handicams, Hu­man Rights and the News, a 2002 film about the in­flu­ence of video equip­ment on po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism.

He won the Gov­er­nor Gen­eral’s Award in vis­ual and me­dia arts in 2006.

Born in Tren­ton, Ont., he moved to Ottawa at a young age and grew up in West­boro.

He was vale­dic­to­rian of his grad­u­at­ing class at Ne­pean High School and went on to study film at Al­go­nquin Col­lege.

A thought­ful, down-toearth young man, his in­ter­est in film­mak­ing be­gan in his teen years, when he’d run around the neigh­bour­hood with friends record­ing footage on a Ko­dak cam­era.

Win­ton­ick was ded­i­cated to his fam­ily, loved na­ture and was a con­sum­mate men­tor to other film­mak­ers, in­clud­ing Aung-Th­win.

“Peter was a di­rect men­tor to me right out of univer­sity and to (EyeSteelFilm part­ner) Daniel Cross, and was di­rectly re­spon­si­ble for our ca­reers start­ing.

“But we’ve been hear­ing that from all around the world in the last cou­ple of days. He men­tored young film­mak­ers and cham­pi­oned them and helped them with their films,” she said.

‘His con­tri­bu­tion was far greater than the sum of his films. It en­com­passed a larger view of the doc­u­men­tary as quin­tes­sen­tial to the moral well-be­ing of the universe.’ TOM PERL­MUT­TER Na­tional Film Board

The Mon­treal doc­u­men­tary fes­ti­val paid trib­ute to Win­ton­ick on Sun­day, and his friends and col­leagues had hoped the noted film­maker would at­tend.

The fes­ti­val screened pil­grIM­AGE, a 2009 film he codi­rected with his daugh­ter, Mira Burt-Win­ton­ick, that looks at how dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions ex­pe­ri­ence film, with the fa­ther-and-daugh­ter team vis­it­ing cin­e­matic land­marks, in­clud­ing Fed­erico Fellini’s home­town and Char­lie Chap­lin’s grave.

The screen­ing was fol­lowed by a get-to­gether where peo­ple from the film world shared their mem­o­ries of Win­ton­ick.

He was too ill to make an ap­pear­ance, and the event at the Ren­con­tres in­ter­na­tionales du doc­u­men­taire de Mon­tréal served as a fi­nal ho­mage to one of Canada’s great doc­u­men­tary au­teurs.

As news of Win­ton­ick’s death spread, tributes poured in on so­cial-me­dia sites, with tweets com­ing from ac­tivist Judy Re­bick, Toronto In­ter­na­tional Film Fes­ti­val artis­tic di­rec­tor Cameron Bai­ley and film­maker Mor­gan Spurlock.

Spurlock, the di­rec­tor of Su­per Size Me, tweeted, “Just landed in Den­ver and am gutted to hear about the loss of Peter Win­ton­ick — doc world (loses) an amaz­ing friend and cham­pion to­day.”

The Na­tional Film Board’s Tom Perl­mut­ter called Win­ton­ick “one of the greats of the doc­u­men­tary world.”

“He cre­ated a sig­nif­i­cant body of work, but his con­tri­bu­tion was far greater than the sum of his films. It en­com­passed a larger view of the doc­u­men­tary as quin­tes­sen­tial to the moral well-be­ing of the universe.

“He ex­pressed this in con­ver­sa­tion, in his writ­ings, in his globe-trot­ting men­tor­ing and pro­gram­ming ac­tiv­i­ties, and al­ways with a sharp wit that could take your breath away with the sub­tlety of the thought and the sheer joy in his man­ner of ex­pres­sion,” he said in a state­ment.

The NFB was in­volved with sev­eral of Win­ton­ick’s films, in­clud­ing Man­u­fac­tur­ing Con­sent and Cinéma Vérité.

In the past cou­ple of months, Win­ton­ick had been work­ing on a new doc­u­men­tary, Be Here Now, which will in­clude footage he shot over the course of his life. Eyesteelfilm plans to com­plete the project with help from his daugh­ter.

Dixon said she last saw her son about three weeks ago, when fam­ily gath­ered for a few nights in Mon­te­bello, Que. He looked ill, but was lively as ever in con­ver­sa­tion.

“When you lose a child, whether he’s bril­liant or not bril­liant, that’s the sad­dest thing in life,” she said.

A me­mo­rial to cel­e­brate Win­ton­ick’s life will be held in the com­ing weeks.

He is sur­vived by his wife, Chris­tine Burt, and his daugh­ter, as well as his mother and younger sis­ter, Suzanne, and her fam­ily.


Cana­dian film­maker Peter Win­ton­ick, who grew up in Ottawa’s West­boro area, died Mon­day in Mon­treal.

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