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by Peter Knegt
November 18, 2013 11:28 AM
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Canadian Documentary Filmmaker Peter Wintonick Has Passed Away

Peter Wintonick and his daughter Mira Burt-Wintonick in "PilgrIMAGE" RIDM

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.


  • Marteinn Thorsson | December 21, 2013 3:32 AMReply

    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 | November 30, 2013 4:01 PMReply

    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 | November 23, 2013 12:41 AMReply

    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 | November 19, 2013 11:59 AMReply

    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 | November 19, 2013 10:50 AMReply

    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 | November 19, 2013 3:22 AMReply

    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.

  • Yali de Keijzer | November 19, 2013 6:03 PM

    What a sad day, but what a great life! I couldn't agree more with Debra's account. As an emerging filmmaker that was exactly my experience with Peter since the first moment I met him.
    I've yet to make my first film, but he thought me at my first Hot Docs Festival to introduce myself as a filmmaker… and what a simple yet powerful lesson that was. Life changing, like a baptism.

    Peter was one of the first people who actually listened to, visualized and believed in the power of my story. He was a utopian, and he was proud to say it, and so I’m I because of our time together. What a gift! What a man! Hopefully new mentors and legends will be inspired to shine their light in the silent space his presence left in our lives. He will be missed worldwide.

  • Anna Grieve and Martin Potter | November 19, 2013 12:51 AMReply

    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.

  • everyone was close to Peter, I, his mom, Norma Dixon, now 87 cannot believe this early passing of a blessed, gifted, down-to-earth, giving of himself always person. Fun and games and serious and thoughtful, known all over the globe and sincerely loved by myself, who being by his side at the Gov.General's award was a thrill beyond compare, and typing his 'insight' high school newsletter in l970, it could have been written today...this farsighted, brilliant boy of mine..such love...the quickness of this level 4 is unbelievable. Love mom Norma Dixon | November 18, 2013 6:44 PMReply

    the unbelievable has to be believed now....Peter was the joy of so many lives around the world, his capacity to speak well, and when to not speak and listen well, I have his l970 high school newspaper he started all alone called 'Insight''s as relevant today as it was then, his camera his dad bought him at seven paved his way to what he wanted to do, and did it...he reached out to so many others worldwide and Mira his only daughter has been blessed to received those genes with cbc radio, their film together 'PilgrIMAGE' and just all the others, serious and fun, take your pick.....Many, many thoughts were still inside of you Peter, you have taken them to share with others beyond those blue skies with those big blue eyes.....Much love, mom, Norma Dixon, (married to Peter's dad John Wintonick RCAF who died too early in life in Greenwood NS at age 44)...he'd bought Pete his first camera at age 7, and I guess as Pete said 'I guess I never looked back'.....friends galore in high and low places will be lost with his down-to-earth advice (if they wanted it)....he never forced anyone, he just attracted them by his presence. Love, again, mom Norma...

  • Louise Emmerson | November 18, 2013 11:53 PM

    Dear Norma,

    I was so shocked and saddened to hear of Peter's passing. We have connected a few times over the years - I asked him a while back if the female name on the CBC radio show that I listen to is any relation - and yes, he replied - it's his daughter! Have tried to find Suzie several times over the years but no success - he remained silent on that topic so I never pressed for more information. I have such fun memories of your family while living on Windermere with your Mom, Mrs. Latham - that is when we all first met. Suzie and I were great friends for a long time. You always said that I was dramatic - and yes, I have grown up and am still dramatic!! ha. It has served me well. I hope that your great memories of your son will give you some comfort over the next while. I always thought Peter to be a great guy. Please get in touch : All for now, Louise (Emmerson)

  • Patricia Finneran | November 18, 2013 6:22 PMReply

    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.

  • NIKOS TSAGARAKIS | November 18, 2013 5:01 PMReply

    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 | November 18, 2013 4:55 PMReply

    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 | November 18, 2013 4:45 PMReply

    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 | November 18, 2013 4:16 PMReply

    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 | November 18, 2013 4:02 PMReply

    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 | November 18, 2013 3:37 PMReply

    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 | November 18, 2013 2:52 PMReply

    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 | November 18, 2013 2:40 PMReply

    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 | November 18, 2013 2:37 PMReply

    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 | November 18, 2013 1:02 PMReply

    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 | November 18, 2013 11:47 AMReply

    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..