Documentarian and good-will ambassador Peter Wintonick struck a typically graceful chord for international relations on Saturday night by having the world premiere of this long-awaited new feature PilgrIMAGE at the International Documentary Film Festival in Amsterdam.
Introducing the film and Montreal filmmaker to a sold-out audience were an impressive ensemble of Dutch and American friends including IDFA founder and director Ally Derks, managing director Cees van’t Hullenaar and producer Diane Weyermann (An Inconvenient Truth, Standard Operating Procedure).
Visibly moved, the usually articulate Wintonick (Manufacturing Consent), who hosts the festival’s acclaimed Media Talks, barely got through his introduction – likely confused by the fiery, contradictory injunctions of Derks: ‘Don’t cry!’ and ‘We love you.’
PilgrIMAGE is a funny, insightful, digressive delineation of the roving filmmaker’s evolving friendship with his twentysomething daughter Mira, who co-directed the film. Framed by photographs from a hand-written diary, the Wintonicks take viewers on a trip across Europe, which turns into a generational sparring match.
When he introduces her to Rimini – the birthplace of Fellini whose expansive, romantic films influenced his cinema – the younger harder-edged daughter counters by profiling the young, tough and political British documentarian Franny Armstrong, her role model. He scores points in Salzburg by parodying her favorite childhood film The Sound of Music and she replies by showing her father a more current obsession, the new media projects at the Venice Biennale.
Mira Burt-Wintonick didn’t fly to the Amsterdam screening; she is too ‘green’ to allow personal desires to triumph over her antipathy towards the pollution of air travel. But that didn’t stop Wintonick from calling her on a speaker phone after the screening – and the first thing she heard was an enthusiastic round of applause.
Steve James, the Oscar-winning director of Hoop Dreams asked her the obvious question: Did the process of making the film bring her closer to her father? The answer – which might apply to others in the audience – was yes.