Wintopia is an intimate father-daughter story and poignant search for the meaning of utopia. Following the quick and tragic death of Peter Wintonick, Canada’s “documentary ambassador to the world”, his daughter Mira Burt-Wintonick dives into her father’s obsession with untangling the contradiction that is utopia. The remains of his unfinished film and several hundred hours of raw footage shot over 15 years leads Mira to surprising places and connections with her father, compelling all of us to live life with purpose.
“One sole being is missing, and the world is a desert,” wrote Lamartine (translation from Gérard Genette).
It’s this kind of unfillable void that the great filmmaker Peter Wintonick left behind after his sudden disappearance in 2013. Affectionately dubbed the “patron saint of documentary film,” this giant of the documentary world, a clear-eyed idealist who was able to preserve his sense of childlike wonder, was a major role model for many in the Canadian and international documentary scene. A devoted artist and a generous, passionate and playful colleague, Wintonick left a mark on many through his profoundly human body of work and his legendary sense of care.
Drawing from her personal archives, memories and other traces—including raw footage from his unfinished film Utopia—his daughter Mira digs into the question of what is left after a loved one disappears. This comprehensive approach to the rituals of grief is laid bare for the viewer in a touching posthumous dialogue between the filmmaker and her father. With the help of priceless archives that allow her to rediscover her father figure, recontextualize some painful moments of her family history and transcend the simple paying of respects, she brings us on a retrospective journey within herself. Each archival image of her father is treated with infinite tenderness, like a painstakingly unearthed relic, and selected either to reveal a hidden truth or demonstrate the power of premonitions. In pursuing the quest of her father, a modern Don Quixote indefatigably searching for this unattainable ideal, his Utopia, Mira—miraculously—seems to reach destination. Wintopia is a film that opens us up to new possibilities, sensitizes us to the beauty of the world, and, more than ever, inspires us to embrace life. And Papa Pete, after watching his daughter’s film, would surely say with a twinkle in his eye: “Finally! I’ve found it!”
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Mira Burt-Wintonick is an award-winning radio producer and filmmaker living in Montreal. She is the co-creator and senior editor of CBC’s Love Me, a podcast about the messiness of human connection. She sometimes makes videos that make people laugh and cry (How To Age Gracefully) and absurd comedy podcasts (WireTap, Pen Pals).