(b. February 28, 1950 Ottawa, Ontario)
A prolific filmmaker, journalist and writer, Peter Raymont has produced and directed more than one hundred documentary films over his thirty-year career. Often provocative investigations of politics, the media and big business, as well as Native, social and environmental issues, his films have taken him to Ethiopia, Nicaragua, India and the High Arctic, and throughout North America and Europe. They have won more than forty awards at major international film festivals and have been broadcast around the world.
Raymont made his first documentary while studying film and politics at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. His career began in 1971 at the National Film Board in Montreal, where he worked for seven years as an editor, director and producer. Though his early films tended towards reportage of political events – see, for instance, History on the Run: The Media and the ’70 Election (1979) and Flora: Scenes From a Leadership Convention (1977) – his work since then has become more analytical in its orientation, perhaps most notably in Magic in the Sky (1981), which reflects his continuing interest in northern Canada. (In fact, while at the NFB, he taught film and video production in the Canadian Arctic.) In 1978 he moved to Toronto and established his own independent film and television production company, Investigative Productions.
A founding member of the Canadian Independent Film Caucus (now the Documentary Organization of Canada, or DOC), Raymont has also written for The Globe and Mail and Canadian Business Magazine and has produced a number of radio documentaries for Sunday Morning, the flagship CBC radio current affairs programme. He was awarded a best documentary Genie Award for The World Is Watching (1988) – a critical examination of the role of the media in Nicaragua – and a Gemini for The New Ice Age (1997-98), his six-hour series on the business of hockey.
Raymont teamed up with socially conscious filmmaker Lindalee Tracy (whom he would later marry) to form White Pine Pictures, a division of Investigative Productions, in 1998. The television series about the immigrant experience in Canada, A Scattering of Seeds, served as the impetus.
Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire, his compelling documentary on Lt. General Roméo Dallaire’s return to Rwanda, was named one of Canada’s Top Ten of 2004 by an independent, national panel of filmmakers, programmers, journalists and industry professionals. It also received the World Cinema Documentary award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Raymont followed Shake Hands with the Devil with A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman (2007), a portrait of the celebrated Chilean author. (The film was named one of Canada’s Top Ten films that year, Raymont’s second straight appearance on the list.) White Pine Pictures then produced Patrick Reed’s Triage: The Humanitarian Dilemma of Dr. James Orbinski (2008), which screened at Sundance and Hot Docs that year. All three films employed an inherently dramatic journey structure, following the principals as they return to troubled regions for the first time in many years – regions explicitly associated with profound personal trauma for Raymont’s subjects.
As prolific as his work as a director has been, Raymont has been equally as productive as a producer. In addition to Triage, White Pine has also produced three seasons of the fiction television series The Border, which aired on the CBC and the U.S. broadcaster PBS (a rare coup for a Canadian produced television serial). The timely series, which focused on customs officers who specialize in counter-terrorism, sold to numerous other countries. Several episodes of The Border were written by Lindalee Tracy, who sadly passed away in late 2006. (In 2007 Raymont established the Lindalee Tracey Award, which is awarded annually at Hot Docs to an emerging filmmaker who focuses on social justice issues.)
In 2009 Raymont returned to feature length filmmaking with Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, a portrait of the iconic, reclusive pianist, co-directed by Raymont’s long time colleague and editor Michèle Hozer. (Hozer won a Gemini for editing Shake Hands with the Devil.) An affectionate portrait of Gould, the film boasts surprising revelations about Gould’s private life and peccadilloes. One of the more notable aspects of the piece, though, is its humility. There have been numerous films on Gould, including Francois Girard’s much-beloved Thirty-Two Short Films about Glenn Gould and countless television specials. But unlike many of the other works on Gould, Genius Within doesn’t purport to be the first film on him, and references key early work such as the two short National Film Board documentaries made in the 1950s by Roman Kroitor and Wolf Koenig, as well as John McGreevey’s Cities installment. In many ways, Genius Within is the best introduction to Gould’s life for the uninitiated. The film received significant distribution in the United States in 2010 and, at the time of this writing, was short-listed for the Academy Award® for best feature documentary.
Film and video work includes
Just Another Job, 1972 (editor)
The Innocent Door, 1973 (co-producer with Wolf Koenig; editor)
The Coldspring Project, 1974 (co-producer with Wolf Koenig; editor)
The Forest Watchers, 1975 (director; writer)
Sikusilarmiut, 1975 (director; co-producer with Wolf Koenig)
Natski Hunting, 1975 (co-producer with Wolf Koenig)
Lumsden, 1975 (director)
River: Planet Earth, 1977 (director; co-editor with Ian Rankin, Michael Rubbo)
The Hunters: Asivaqtiin, 1977 (producer)
Flora: Scenes From a Leadership Convention, 1977 (director; writer; editor; narrator)
The Art of the Possible, 1978 (director; writer; editor; narrator)
Reflections on a Leadership Convention, 1978 (director; writer; editor; narrator)
Magic in the Sky, 1981 (director; writer; producer)
Falasha, 1983 (co-cinematographer with Martin Duckworth)
Prisoners of Debt: Inside the Global Banking Crisis, 1983 (co-director with Robert Collison; narrator)
With Our Own Two Hands, 1985 (director; co-writer with Judith Haiven; narrator)
The Brokers, 1987 (director; producer; narrator)
The World is Watching, 1988 (co-director with Jim Munro; co-writer with Harold Crooks)
Only the News That Fits, 1989 (director)
Between Two Worlds, 1990 (producer)
Flooding Job’s Garden, 1991 (co-producer with James Cullingham, Kent Martin)
Tikinagan, 1991 (co-producer with James Cullingham, Graydon McCrae, Dale Phillips)
Starting Fire with Gunpowder, 1991 (co-producer with James Cullingham, William Hansen, Kent Martin)
Time Immemorial, 1991 (co-producer with James Cullingham, Kent Martin)
Abby, I Hardly Knew Ya, 1995 (co-producer with Lindalee Tracey)
The Skeptics Journey, 1996 (director)
Brothers From Vietnam, 1998 (executive producer)
A Sephardic Journey: Solly Lévy… From Morocco to Montreal, 1999 (producer)
A Scattering of Seeds series, 2000 (producer; TV, one episode)
The Undefended Border series, 2002 (director; co-writer with Lindalee Tracey; producer; TV)
The Hero’s Hero: The Forgotten Life of William Barker, 2003 (executive producer; TV)
The World Stopped Watching, 2003 (director; co-writer with Harold Crooks)
Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Roméo Dallaire, 2004 (director; producer)
Bhopal: The Search for Justice, 2004 (co-director with Lindalee Tracey)
A Promise to the Dead: The Exile Journey of Ariel Dorfman, 2007 (director; producer)
Triage: Dr. James Orbinski’s Humanitarian Dilemma, 2007 (producer)
The Border series, 2008-2010 (writer, 25 episodes; executive producer, 12 episodes; TV)
The Experimental Eskimos, 2009 (producer; executive producer)
Pet Pharm, 2009 (producer)
Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel, 2009 (co-producer with Brigitte Berman, Victor Solnicki)
Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould, 2009 (co-director with Michèle Hozer; co-producer with Michèle Hozer)
The Prosecutor, 2010 (co-producer with Julia Bennett)