The Toronto Film Critics Association has named John Dunning the recipient of its 2011 Clyde Gilmour award.“John Dunning is a major unsung hero of Canadian cinema,” said TFCA President Brian D. Johnson, film critic at Maclean’s. “Through the filmmakers he nurtured over the years, he’s left an indelible signature. This is a recognition that is already long overdue.”
Dunning founded the distribution company Cinepix in the 1960s with his business partner André Link, laying the foundations of commercial Canadian cinema and giving emerging talents such as David Cronenberg and Ivan Reitman a chance at national exposure. Denys Arcand, Don Carmody, Larry Kent and Vincent Gallo were among the other filmmakers nurtured by the company.
“John Dunning is the unacknowledged godfather of an entire generation of Canadian filmmakers,” said David Cronenberg, whose early films Shivers and Rabid were produced by Cinepix. “I still consider him my movie mentor, and Cinepix my film school. It’s thrilling and cathartic for me to see this wonderfully wry, gentle and supportive man finally get the public celebration he deserves.”
“I would say that John was not only a great mentor to me, but also my ‘real’ film school,” said producer Don Carmody. “He had incredible patience with us young film makers and treated us with respect beyond our abilities and made us understand the world of commercial film making.”
Now in his 84th year, Dunning is still active in cinema (he’s currently prepping another horror film with George Mihalka, director of the original My Bloody Valentine) and was thrilled at the news about receiving the honour from the TFCA.
“I think one would be hard pressed to find a glowing review from Clyde Gilmour for any of Cinepix’s productions,” Dunning says, referring to the Toronto critic after whom the award is named, “but I think Clyde and I would agree that our films proved that Canadian films could gain international acceptance and recognition.”
The Clyde Gilmour Award has been given to Canadians whose work has in some way enriched the understanding and appreciation of film in their native country. Past winners include Elwy Yost, James Quandt, Robin Wood and Allan King; the award was last given to Cinema Scope publisher Mark Peranson in 2009.