On Monday, July 26th, 2021 we tragically lost our beloved coworker, mentor and friend Dave Barber. Dave passed away peacefully and surrounded by his family. Those of you who had the privilege of knowing him know what a gentle, kind, curious, funny, and selfless soul he was. He lived his passion for film, music and people every day, pouring that tireless creative energy into his work at the Winnipeg Film Group and impacting the lives of the thousands of people he met along the way.
Dave Barber was the programmer at the Winnipeg Film Group’s Cinematheque since its inception in 1982. He was a crucial figure in the development of independent cinema in Winnipeg and an outstanding ally to generations of Winnipeg filmmakers.
Winnipeg was not always a “filmmaking civilization”. In the last few decades this became a tangible reality, and if we were to piece together the historical evolution of filmmaking in Winnipeg, we would see that Dave Barber was an absolutely vital figure. As early as 1982 Dave was bringing art house films to Winnipeg that were completely inaccessible to local audiences and artists. He was a cultural pioneer, who managed to break down Winnipeg’s notorious isolation. In the process, Dave not only enriched Winnipeg culture, but most crucially he introduced emergent film talents in Winnipeg to the cinema of the world. A cinematic culture does not emerge in a vacuum, and in the work of every Winnipeg filmmaker are ideas and visions that began their gestation in Dave’s Cinematheque’s programs.
Dave’s place in the annals of Winnipeg film history is also assured by his extraordinary devotion to the development of Winnipeg cinema. He programmed and promoted the work of emerging filmmakers with the same enthusiasm, vigor, and publicity as he did the work of any international film master. Cinematheque is the only theatre in Winnipeg where the general public could consistently encounter Winnipeg and Canadian cinema. Without Dave Barber, many local films would be lost to the mists of oblivion and local filmmakers would never discover their talent for communicating with an audience. Dave Barber was a huge source of encouragement and support for multiple generations of Winnipeg filmmakers.
Dave will be tremendously missed by his family at the Winnipeg Film Group. It’s hard to imagine a way forward without him, but we must use his life as proof that if you are doing what you love surrounded by the people you love, it’s all worth it. Dave would have wanted us to carry on his work of preaching the gospel of Canadian cinema no matter what. To him, we owe it all.
It’s not possible with any single effort to honour his memory and the impact he has had on our community. Cinematheque would not exist without Dave. It was his theatre and always will be. On the celebration of what would have been his 68th birthday, we officially renamed the theatre Dave Barber Cinematheque in his honour.