Gordon Pinsent doc at TIFF ‘most honest’ one about him, director says
Brigitte Berman reveals the many stories of the acclaimed actor in “The River of My Dreams: A Portrait of Gordon Pinsent.”
“The River of My Dreams: A Portrait of Gordon Pinsent,” is set to make its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival. (THE CANADIAN PRESS) .
Acclaimed actor Gordon Pinsent once used his wit and charm to sneak into Canada from his native Newfoundland before its confederation with the country.
That revelation and more can be found in The River of My Dreams: A Portrait of Gordon Pinsent, which is set to make its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.
“He has made a number of films but I think that this film is truly the most honest and revealing and beautiful film about him,” says Brigitte Berman, the documentary’s director, who won an Oscar in 1987 for Artie Shaw: Time Is All You’ve Got.
“Others were very good and they are further back in time. But right now, catching this incredible artist at this time of his career, also looking back at his life — and he does it honestly and he’s so forthcoming in the film — it’s quite extraordinary.”
Berman is known for her documentaries on arts and entertainment personalities. Her other credits include Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel, Robert Bateman: A Celebration of Nature and The Osbornes: A Very Special Family.
She says she came into the Pinsent project three years ago, when she met the now-86-year-old at a party.
“When you talk to Gordon he just pours out all these amazing stories,” she recalls, “and I was watching him and I thought, ‘This will make a really good film. I want to make this film.’ And the next day I emailed him and it started.”
She, along with producers Daniel Pellerin and Victor Solnicki (her husband), spent many hours chatting with Pinsent and building his trust.
They used animation to depict Pinsent at various stages of his life, which began in Grand Falls, N.L.
The youngest of six children, he took a few risks in order to jump-start his acting career, which has seen him win accolades for roles in big and small-screen projects — from the TV series Due South and The Red Green Show, to Sarah Polley’s Oscar-nominated 2006 Alzheimer’s drama Away From Her.
“You learn that in the film, when he left Newfoundland to come to Canada, Newfoundland was not part of Canada yet, so he actually had to sneak into Canada and he did amazing things to con the customs people to get into Canada,” says Berman.
“And in Winnipeg when he started, he wanted to be an actor and he wasn’t yet working as an actor; he started teaching dance at Arthur Murray (Dance School) and didn’t know how to really dance, so he kept learning how to dance as he was going along. Some funny, funny, funny stories.”
And some heartache, too.
“There are highs and lows in his life and things that he has gone through and he talks about all of it, and you can sometimes see how difficult it is for him to speak about it and the pain is on his face and in his voice and it is incredible,” says Berman, who also interviewed his family.
“It’s a true pastiche of humanity and it’s a story about Gordon but it’s much bigger than that. It’s a true human experience of living life fully — its pains, its trials, its successes, all of it, it’s all there.
“He’s a very triumphant, incredible character who isn’t afraid.”
He’s also down to Earth, funny and charming, she adds.
“As it comes across in the film — young, old women everywhere, when he’s somewhere, women just congregate towards him,” says Berman.
“He just oozes this personality. He’s a great storyteller and he is a deep, warm human being and not afraid to talk about even the hurts of his life and I admire that.”