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Canadian Documentary Filmmaker Peter Wintonick Has Passed Away

Canadian Documentary Filmmaker Peter Wintonick Has Passed Away

Peter Wintonick — a filmmaker, journalist, festival programmer and mentor who was a beloved presence in the international documentary film world — passed away this morning in Montreal.

Born in Trenton, Ontario in 1953, Wintonick was a pioneering voice in the  documentary film world. His career spanned 35 years, with involvement in more than 100 films and transmedia projects.  Among them were 1992’s “Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media” and 2000’s “Cinéma Vérité: Defining the Moment,” both documentary features he directed (the former with Mark Achbar).

He notably won the Canadian Governor General’s Award in 2006 for Visual and Media Arts (Canada’s highest such honor), and was one of the founders of DocAgora, an event inserted into various film festivals showcasing cutting-edge digital strategies.

Wintonick announced a few weeks ago that he had been diagnosed with Cholangio Carcinoma, a rare form of liver cancer. He was using the
diagnosis as motivation for a new film, “Be Here Now,” at the time of
his death. You can donate to help the film get completed by his colleagues at EyeSteelFilm here.

We also invite you to use the comments section of this article to share your own memories of Peter.

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Marteinn Thorsson

Peter! Why did you leave? Oh, more important things to do on the other side. Well, thanks for the good times. You are with us. Thanks for sharing all those moments in Reykjavik. Thanks for taking part in the Talent Lab. Thanks for constantly cracking me up. You're an inspiration to us all. See you later. Matti.

David Barsamian

Got to know Peter during Manufacturing Consent. Met him several times in recent years. A brilliant talent, gregarious. Larger than life. Condolences to family.

Jennifer Abbott

I met Peter now and then on the film festival circuit. Larger than life in so many ways, I admired his way of being, so at ease, funny, smart but more than anything, welcoming, warm, no pretence. I take my hat off to Peter (and Mark and Francis) for Manufacturing Consent – a masterpiece that helped change the way we saw the world. He will be deeply missed. Cheers to you Peter! Thank you for bringing love and light to this world.

Timothy Edzeani Doh

Two weeks ago, Peter sent me a text message saying because of his illness he couldn't continue as Executive Producer on my upcoming Documentary feature: 'Senior James and the Children of the White Volta'.
I met Peter Wintonick at the 2011 IDFAcademy Summer School in Amsterdam.
Thanks, Peter, for your Inspiration.

Timothy Edzeani Doh
Accra, Ghana

toto lozano

I met Peter when I was still in college. He was filming Seeing is Believing with Kat Cizek. I was studying Fine Arts back then. After watching Seeing is Believing…I know I will be holding handicams.

Thank you for leading us the way Peter. Your ninja moves live forever.


Debra Zimmerman

Brilliant, loveable, loving, kind, generous, funny, charming….there aren't enough words to describe Peter. He was – and remains – the heart and soul of the international documentary community. He was our own "thinker in residence". His generosity of spirit knew no bounds. He was an outstanding role model and mentor for a generation of filmmakers. The documentary world has lost a giant. And women filmmakers and I have lost a dear, dear friend. – Debbie Zee, as Peter always called me.

Anna Grieve and Martin Potter

Vale Peter. He was an inspiration for us documentary makers in OZ. He could see all the possibilities and he shared them with us. A beautiful big man who lived a beautiful big life.

Patricia Finneran

Peter will be deeply missed in communities of storytellers around the world. His passion for documentary as an art form and a powerful instrument for social change was unparalleled. His deep commitment to the form by nurturing other artists and giving of his time, energy and influence to build resources for our community was a major inspiration. All in addition to his work as a filmmaker…a sad day, a great loss, but also an enduring legacy.


I was a member in the FIPRESCI jury he presided over at the 15th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival last March. Vast experience and knowledge, tireless dedication to work, kindness, prudence, logic and sense of fairness are just some of his traits I got to see. His contribution to all aspects of documentary filmmaking was immense. He will be greatly missed.

Julia Meltzer

I met Peter in 1998 at the Banff Centre in Canada. He was an incredibly fun person and also an intellectual, a hard-to-find combination. He opened his arms to help filmmakers, this was part of his practice. When Laura Nix and I pitched our film at the Hot Docs forum in 2011, Peter was our coach. We couldn't have done it without him.

Sean Farnel

A sweet soul teddy bear of a man…and fiercely devoted to documentary. I'm writing from Montreal, where it's a particularly sad day, but of course Peter's passing will be mourned around the world, global citizen that he was.

Paul Kim

Wow, what a shock, and what a loss. Years ago as a student of film in the States I studied his work and consumed many of his thoughtful ideas about the future of the trade. They were so influential to me and many of my peers–particularly the warmth and love that came through for those working in the world of documentary.

Doug Block

Peter's passing is a indescribable loss for the documentary community worldwide. He was a terrific filmmaker, for one thing. But anyone lucky enough to have met Peter knows what a force of nature he was — funny, passionate, upbeat and ever inspiring. (God, it's awful to describe him in the past tense!)

One lesser known measure of his vast impact was that he and Karol Martesko were the founders of The Virtual Film Festival in the mid 90's, the first attempt to bring documentary professionals together worldwide via the internet. It wasn't to last long, but it was a big inspiration for The D-Word, which managed to pick up the baton and thrive over the years.

It's clear from the vast outpouring of tributes on FB and Twitter that Peter made a profound difference in the world. He certainly did in my world, and I'll miss him terribly.

Aviva kempner

Sorry to hear about Peter. He was very welcoming when I brought life and times of hank greenberg to Montreal. We had fun going to a baseball game there.

They don't make them like they used to.

Aviva kempner

PeÅ Holmquist

So sad. Peter was such an inspiring guy – and not afraid. Some years ago we came to IDFA-filmfestival with our film "Bullshit" . Peter did a marvelous work – moderating, provoking and getting everything moving. Thank you Peter, we will miss you!

Wendy Lidell

I am so sad to hear this news. I had the great pleasure of staying in Peter's home in Montreal back in the day when we were both starting our work in independent film, and he has always been an inspiration to me for doing the right thing. The good die young. Sigh.

Mark Rabinowitz

Peter was one of the finest people I have ever known. Introduced to me by Karol Martesko in the days leading up to the formation of indieWIRE, Peter was indeed a shining light of the doc world who cared deeply about his friends, film and the world. He was a lovely man, a dear friend and I will miss him immensely.

Emily Russo & Nancy Gerstman

We are deeply saddened to lose our wonderful co-director of Manufacturing Consent: Noam Chomsky and the Media, which we released in 1993. In the 20 years since, Peter has been a great friend and supporter of Zeitgeist; we have him to thank for guiding us toward the talented EyeSteelFilm team, and we will never forget the humor, insight, and clarity he brought to every encounter. We will miss him.

Karol Martesko

Peter was a pioneering voice for documentary filmmakers far and wide…not restricted to Canada…As a founder of indiewire I can also confirm that he was an ardent supporter of our launching iW back in the day. He was a great friend and fabulous colleague who will be missed everywhere..

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