West Wind documentary about Tom Thomson is a winner

By Penny Caldwell »Penny Caldwell

November 14th, 2011

West Wind Cover

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“Dear Father.” Tom Thomson, that near mythical figure whose life and death have become as embedded in the story of northern Ontario as his famous paintings, started his letters home with those words. His own spiritual home became Algonquin Park, in particular a little cabin on Canoe Lake.

Perhaps you knew all that. I did too. Well, not the “Dear Father” part. But when I curled up on the couch recently to watch a new documentary about the Canadian icon, his whole story came alive.

West Wind: The Vision of Tom Thomson is a powerful film. It features remarkable archival recordings and written memories of those who knew the man, including A.Y. Jackson, J.E.H. MacDonald, Fred Varley and Lawren Harris, plus Winifred Trainor, herself near the heart of the Thomson mystery, and Dr. James MacCallum, who hosted the painter at his Georgian Bay cottage.

The voices of Gordon Pinsent, Eric Peterson, susan Coyne and Catherine Disher—plus Interviews with Thomson biographers and others who have studied his art, such as Roy MacGregor, Eric Jackman, and Charles Hill—round out the film.

West Wind was two years in the making by filmmakers Michèle Hozer and Peter Raymont, and filmed in Leith, Seattle, Toronto, Algonquin Park, and Georgian Bay. Finally previewed at Film North in Huntsville, it premiered at the The Vancouver International Film Festival, where Thomson’s great, great nephew was in attendance. Since then it has been feted in screenings at the Dulwich Picture Gallery opening of Painting Canada: Tom Thomson and The Group of Seven, at the Isabel Bader Theatre in Toronto, at the National Gallery in Ottawa, and at the McMichael Gallery in Kleinberg.

Despite all that, Nancy Lang, one of the film’s producers, says it was the response of a viewer in Huntsville, who has had a crush on Tom Thomson for 52 years, that really warmed the hearts of those involved in making the film:

From the opening second I was enthralled, and never did the film lose my constant attention. It was visually stunning, and hit all the right notes for info, giving you just enough facts to create a very good idea of the man behind the paintings. I really can’t say enough about the film, it was so good. It helps us keep in mind who we really are, and what is really vital, before we spin our silly selves off this planet.

Before we spin our silly selves off this planet. I couldn’t agree more. Follow the film’s progress on the White Pine Pictures website.


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