John Walker (credit: Nigel Markham)
John Walker’s films have been widely broadcast and have appeared at the major international film festivals in Toronto, Vancouver, New York, Los Angeles, Berlin, London and Tokyo.
He has received over 60 Canadian and international nominations and awards for his writing, directing, producing and cinematography. Of these, 19 are from Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, including the coveted Donald Brittain Award for best social/political documentary Utshimassits: Place Of The Boss; a Gemini for best documentary director The Hand Of Stalin; and a Genie for best feature documentary Strand: Under The Dark Cloth, a personal portrait of his mentor, the photographer/filmmaker Paul Strand. His film on the Cape Breton coal miners choir, Men Of The Deeps, won three Gemini awards including best performing arts, best documentary photography, best sound and a best director nomination. The film garnered three million viewers with its CTV broadcast.
His feature length films include Assholes: A Theory, Quebec My Country Mon Pays, Arctic Defenders, A Drummers Dream, The Fairy Faith, Tough Assignment, and the critically acclaimed feature drama A Winter Tan which received seven Genie nominations including Best Motion Picture, Best Director and won Best Actor for Jackie Burroughs.
He co-produced, wrote and directed the provocative feature film Passage, a fiction/documentary for BBC and History Television about the Sir John Franklin search for the fabled Northwest Passage. Martin Knelman of The Toronto Star called it “One of the great triumphs in Canadian documentary film history.” Winning numerous awards Walker was the first Canadian to receive the Organization of American Historians – Eric Barnouw Award.
Walker made several films for British television, tackling some of the foremost tragedies of the twentieth century. He directed and photographed the opening two films in the BBC/October Films trilogy The Hand Of Stalin, which addressed the devastating human suffering under Stalin’s regime. The first film was called a masterpiece and the films were broadcast to general acclaim: “oral history at its most devastating,” said London’s Daily Mail; “words fail the enormity of what these films reveal,” said The Observer. The British Press Guild, Royal Television Society, and the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television nominated the trilogy for best series.
His directorial credits on Great Britain’s Channel 4 include Hidden Children, about children who concealed their Jewish identity to survive the Holocaust. Orphans Of Manchuria, also nominated for the Donald Brittain Award, dealt with the plight of Japanese children orphaned in China at the end of WWII. His groundbreaking film Distress Signals, was the opening film on the Channel 4 series “Channels of Resistance: Global Television and Local Empowerment.” The film received Walker’s fourth nomination for a Donald Brittain Award for best social/political documentary.
With Utshimassits: Place Of The Boss he turned his attention to a tragedy on Canadian soil. Juxtaposing the powerful testimony of the Mushuau Innu of Davis Inlet with the vast Labrador landscape, Walker told the painful story of the nomadic Innu.
His passionate commitment to the documentary form led him to co-found the Documentary Organization of Canada. Walker has conducted master classes across the country and mentored numerous emerging filmmakers. He served as guest programmer for the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival and served on the board from 2011 to 2017. In 2018, he was honoured with a Hot Docs Focus On Retrospective and a Canadian Society of Cinematographers Masters Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Art of Cinematography.