Barry Greenwald has been called one of the most passionate documentary filmmakers in Canada. Critic and documentarian Peter Wintonick writes, “Barry Greenwald’s films are marked by the extraordinary access he gets to his subjects. Greenwald allows us to visit, vicariously, places beyond the velvet ropes of the status quo, beyond the private boundaries; to meet people we might never have expected to meet. His films are known for their populist impulse, honesty, and their pro-activism.”
Greenwald’s path to film making began at the age of eight, when he acquired a used box camera and taught himself photography. Growing up in the social and political vortex of the 1970s, Greenwald developed a passion for both films and student politics, spending evenings at the local repertory theatre, while serving as vice-president of the League for Student Democracy. By the time he finished high school, he had made three 16mm short films. Greenwald enrolled in the film program at Conestoga College, where he was inspired by Czech documentary filmmaker Vaclav Taborsky, a refugee who fled after the Soviet invasion in 1968. In his final year, Greenwald made Metamorphosis, which won the Palme d’Or for Best Short Film at the Cannes International Film Festival.
After graduating, he participated in the National Film Board of Canada’s Toronto drama workshop and worked as a film editor. He began directing documentaries as an independent at the National Film Board in 1981 mentoring with Arthur Hammond, John Kramer, and John Spotton.
In 1983, Greenwald co-founded the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC). Formerly known as the Canadian Independent Film Caucus, DOC is the voice for independent documentary filmmakers in Canada. A former chair and honorary member Greenwald was instrumental in the nationalization of the organization in the mid 1990s. He served on the Steering Committee in the early years of the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival, an initiative of DOC. He currently chairs the Directors Guild of Canada’s (DGC) Documentary Committee and serves on the Board of Directors of POV Magazine.
His films have received numerous honours, including the Sesterce d’Argent at the Festival International du Film Documentaire in Nyon, Switzerland for Between Two Worlds; the Silver Boomerang for Best Documentary Direction at the Melbourne International Film Festival for Taxi!; a Blue Ribbon at the American Film Festival for Who Gets In?; and Best Feature Documentary at the Winnipeg Aboriginal Film Festival, the NFB Kathleen Shannon Award at the Yorkton Film Festival, and the Directors Guild of Canada’s Allan King Award for Excellence in Documentary for The Experimental Eskimos.
The filmmaker lives in Toronto. He is still crazy about the movies and politics.
Tong, Allan. “Close-Up on Barry Greenwald.” Montage Magazine, Spring 2012