CO-FOUNDER

Jennifer Baichwal Jennifer Baichwal was born in Montréal and grew up in Victoria, British Columbia. She studied philosophy and theology at McGill University, receiving an M.A. in 1994, supported by a McGill Major Fellowship and an FCAR Master’s Scholarship.

 

Baichwal has been directing and producing documentaries for 25 years. Among other films,

installations and lens-based projects, she has made 10 feature documentaries which have played

all over the world and won multiple awards nationally and internationally.

 

Let it Come Down: The Life of Paul Bowles, her first feature documentary, won an International

Emmy for Best Arts Documentary 1999. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival

in 1998 and was nominated that year for a Best Feature Documentary Genie Award. It won Best

Biography at Hot Docs in 1999 and was picked up for theatrical release by Mongrel Media in

Canada, Zeitgeist Films in the U.S., and Uplink in Japan. The film has been sold for broadcast all

over the world, and has been selected for a number of international film and television festivals,

including Jerusalem, Buenos Aires, FIPA, Banff (where it received a Rockie nomination),

Istanbul and Edinburgh.

 

The Holier It Gets documents a trek Baichwal took with her brother and two sisters to the source

of the Ganges river with her father’s ashes. The film won Best Independent Canadian Film and

Best Cultural Documentary at Hot Docs 2000, Geminis for Best Editing, Best Writing, and Best

Direction, and was nominated for the Donald Brittain Award and the Chalmers Documentarian

Award. It was commissioned by TVOntario and features music by Ravi Shankar and John

McLaughlin.

 

The True Meaning of Pictures is a feature length film on the work of Appalachian photographer

Shelby Lee Adams. It was commissioned by TVOntario, Bravo!, SBS Australia and Discovery

Germany. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2002 and was invited

to the Sundance International Film Festival in January 2003. It won a Gemini Award for Best

Arts Documentary in 2003, has played at numerous international festivals and is used throughout

North American universities as a pedagogical tool to explore issues of representation in

documentary film and photography.

 

Baichwal, along with her partner Nicholas de Pencier, was commissioned in 2003-4 to make

forty short films on artists who have been supported over the past four decades by the Ontario

Arts Council. These include writer Michael Ondaatje, artist Michael Snow, pianist Eve Egoyan

and playwright Judith Thompson, and are in periodic rotation on TVOntario. The collection

received a 2006 Gemini nomination for Best Direction in a Performing Arts Program or Series.

 

Manufactured Landscapes, a documentary about the work of artist Edward Burtynsky, was a

co-production among Mercury Films, Foundry Films and the National Film Board. It premiered at

the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2006 and won Best Canadian Feature Film,

was in competition at Sundance the following January, and has since received a number of other

awards, notably a Genie for Best Documentary, Al Gore’s Reel Current Award and the 2006

Toronto Film Critics Award for Best Canadian Feature and Best Documentary. It played

theatrically in over 15 territories worldwide, after a prolonged and successful run in Canada, and

was named as one of 150 Essential Works In Canadian Cinema History by TIFF in 2016.

 

Act of God, a documentary on the metaphysical effects of being struck by lightning and another

collaboration between Mercury and Foundry, opened the Hot Docs Film Festival in April 2009

and was released in Canada afterwards by Mongrel Media. It played at a number of international

festivals, and was also released by Zeitgeist Films in the U.S. and Against Gravity in Poland. The

film features Paul Auster, Dannion Brinkley and Fred Frith. It was commissioned by The

Documentary Channel in Canada, Arte in France and Channel 4 in the U.K.

 

In 2011, Baichwal completed Payback, a documentary adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s

Payback: Debt and the Shadow Side of Wealth, with the National Film Board of Canada and

Ravida Din (Director General, English Language Program). The film premiered in the World

Documentary Competition at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012 and was released in

Canada (Mongrel Media) in March 2012 and the U.S. in April 2012. It won a special jury prize

for Best Environmental Documentary at FIFE, 2013.

 

The feature documentary, Watermark —about human interaction with water around the world

— marked Baichwal and de Pencier’s second collaboration with Edward Burtynsky. The

documentary is co-directed by Burtynsky, produced and filmed by de Pencier. It premiered at the

Toronto International Film Festival in September 2013 and was a box office success in Canada,

playing in theatres for 4 months. It won the Toronto Film Critics Association Prize for Best

Canadian Film in Jan 2014 and Best Documentary at the Canadian Screen Awards 2014. It has

been released in eleven countries. To complement the release of Watermark in Canada, Baichwal

and de Pencier created a large-scale video installation, utilizing live-mixed imagery from

Watermark that ran for 12+ hours during Nuit Blanche 2013, in Toronto.

 

In 2015, Baichwal and de Pencier were commissioned to transform the Art Gallery of Ontario’s

center hall into a northern forest, to commemorate the 20 th Anniversary of the Rheostatics’

celebrated Music Inspired by the Group of Seven. The sold out live performance ran for three

nights and the large scale video installations, projected and live-mixed across all four walls of

Walker Court, created an immersive environment. In 2016, an element from this piece, Ice

Forms, was exhibited as part of the AGO’s The Idea of North: The Paintings of Lawren Harris,

and has since travelled to the Art Gallery of Hamilton as part of Water Works in 2018.

 

Baichwal and de Pencier created live playback film for the Tragically Hip’s 2014 and 2016 tours,

and co-directed Long Time Running, a feature documentary on the Tragically Hip’s 2016

summer tour. The documentary, produced by Banger Films, premiered at TIFF 2017, was

subsequently released by Elevation Pictures, and broadcast by Bell and Netflix.

 

Baichwal has given numerous workshops and talks on documentary film practice and her work,

and has taught both undergraduate and graduate courses at York University’s film department.

She sits on the board of Swim Drink Fish Canada, and is a member of the Ryerson University

School of Image Arts Advisory Council. She has been a Director of the Board of the Toronto

International Film Festival since 2016, and is a passionate ambassador of their Share Her

Journey campaign, a five-year commitment to increasing participation, skills, and opportunities

for women behind and in front of the camera.

 

Baichwal is currently in post production for The Anthropocene Project, a four year collaboration

with de Pencier and Edward Burtynsky, which includes a feature documentary, major museum

exhibition, art book and educational program, scheduled for release in the fall of 2018.

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