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Fathers, daughters and the Wintonicks’ film PilgrIMAGE

In summer 2009, television, tv on 06/21/2009 at 12:43 pm
A snap of dad, in front of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Manchester, N.H. in May 1999.

A snap of dad, in front of St. Mary's Catholic Church in Manchester, N.H. in May 1999.

PilgrIMAGE is a new documentary film from acclaimed Montreal doc-maker Peter Wintonick and his new-media-making daughter, Mira Burt-Wintonick. Perfectly scheduled on Father’s Day, it is a film-log of their travels to the destinations that map their love of cinema; his old-school and hers very new school. It’s like the Lumiere Brothers meet YouTube. I wish I could say the film, of which I received a preview copy, is fantastic. But due to waiting to the last minute, I have been foiled by a faulty DVD, with no time to order a replacement copy. But I can say, emphatically, that what I did manage to see, first via DVD player and then via computer DVD player, is lovely. I watched this Fellini segment only via the Web, on Bravo’s video player and you can too, right now!
This is a very personal film from the man behind the Chomsky film Manufacturing Consent and, among others, the film about filmaking, Cinema Verite. He and his daughter take turns sharing views as they hit various destinations. Sweetly, they both chose Kansas as the starting point. Wintonick observes that most of us have seen the L. Frank Baum-inspired film The Wizard of Oz many many times. He cites it as a huge influence, naming the Wizard as his main character: “The role of filmmakers is to draw that curtain aside.”
The rest was a staccato mess of frozen frames and abrupt lurches. Something about Charlie Chaplin. And then… not so much fading to black and stalling. So I will be watching it with, hopefully, you, Sunday night at 8 p.m. ET, repeating June 26 at 7 p.m. ET on Bravo.
Of the parts of PilgIMAGE that I saw, there was no bickering. But even so and, I guess, inevitably, it put me in mind of road trips with my own father, in particular the trip where it was just the two of us, him visiting me in Montreal.
There were lots of highs, among them, walking up the steps of the Oratoire and hearing, somehow for the first time, that Brother Andre saved my father’s life when he answered my grandmother prayers to halt the runaway infection that had invaded my boy-father’s horribly broken arm. (He still bore the foot-long scar along his right(?) arm, which he had told a young me he’d gotten from a bayonet attack in the Boer War.)
There were several moments of stress, including the point in the road trip where I shouted at him, exasperated at the never-ending-reciting-of-highway-signs as I tried and retried to get from the seventh-level-of-hell-overpass to the Manchester, N.H. Radisson hotel that I could see but not get to. To my eternal shame, I shouted at him: “Please stop talking.” Then, hoping to soften the blow, I added, with less volume, “For 10 minutes.”
He looked crushed. But 10 minutes later, to the second, he was back on the verbal treadmill. Somehow we got through it.
The payoff? Attending mass at the Catholic church in Manchester that his Quebec family had attended, when they briefly relocated there for work in the mills.
At some point, I knew the date. They were there long enough for my great-great-great Aunt Amanda to be born. Then back to Quebec and, eventually, to Ste. Anne, Manitoba. I have a two-inch-thick book of the Duguay family history, from the arrival of Pierre Duguet/Duguay in Canada sometime shortly before 1694 to a generation before my grandfather. This rickety book is a great and special thing to have, but what I miss most about my dad, who died a few years back after a 25-year remission of colon cancer, is his stories. Whether the tall tales of Boer War action or the miracle healing of the broken arm.
So, happy Father’s Day, with thanks to Peter Wintonick and Mira Burt-Wintonick for letting us tag along on their road trip, and to all the road trips and family stories of our own. And if you’ve got one to share, please do.
— Denise Duguay

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