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Dave Barber was the senior programmer at the Winnipeg Cinematheque since 1982. When he died last July, there was an outpouring of warmth for Dave, the person many described as the heart of Winnipeg's film community. We asked Marc Glassman, the Editor-in-chief of POV (Point of View) Magazine, to talk to some of Dave's friends and colleagues and put together a remembrance of this quiet and inspiring person. As usual, Marc came back with a wonderful piece of writing - which we publish in full, below.

Thanks as always for reading.
Photo entête
Photo courtesy of the Winnipeg Film Group
The Passing of Winnipeg's Gentle Giant
Remembering Dave Barber, programmer of the Winnipeg Cinematheque
by Marc Glassman
When Dave Barber passed away suddenly this July, the outpouring of affection for the witty, solidly built long-standing member of the Winnipeg Film Group offered proof that his hard work for the city's community had truly been recognized. Barber was no ordinary film programmer. He was, according to many prominent members of the Winnipeg film community, the bulwark of the city's Cinematheque and its finest ambassador. Supportive of young filmmakers and programmers, Barber mentored generations of Winnipeggers while building up their reputation throughout the country.
When Barber began working at the Film Group in 1982, the co-op had few staff members, and everyone was expected to more than pull their weight. That came naturally to Barber, who multi-tasked as the programmer, projectionist, distributor, writer, poster maker, print traffic controller, workshop coordinator and whatever else came up, over nearly four decades of faithful service
Tom McSorley, the executive director of the Ottawa based Canadian Film Institute, remembers, "When I came out for screenings, Dave was the projectionist as well as the Cinematheque programmer. Dave got on stage, introduced me, and then headed to the booth to project the films. Later on, he ran the post-screening reception.  His devotion to every aspect of the Cinematheque was remarkable. He was like a soldier who did all the work and expected nothing in return. When I think of the film culture of Winnipeg, it's unimaginable without him being there."
Photo courtesy of the Winnipeg Film Group
That Barber would literally do anything for the Group was neatly illustrated by his bizarre appearance in Guy Maddin's legendary first feature Tales from the Gimli Hospital (1988). Maddin recalls that he was walking down the beach in Gimli when he found a dead seagull and decided that it was perfect for his film.  "I was assembling footage for an edit and thought I'd shoot the seagull and edit it in. I decided that the seagull could cure people of smallpox. So I drove straight to the Film Group because I needed to rent a light. 
"Dave Barber was sitting there in his incredible office filled with posters, books and tapes. I had my mortician's wax that I used to create smallpox scars and I asked Dave if he would be willing to be a smallpox sufferer. And so I set up a camera and the light and put my mortician's wax and mascara to make some fissures on Dave's abdomen. Then I turned on the camera. Well, he lay on a desk with a white sheet on him. And I rubbed this dead seagull on his torso in much the same way the blind guy did in Bunuel's Los Olvidados. Dave had this wonderful look on his face. And it is in the film."
The story of that shoot became so famous that Matthew Rankin (The Twentieth Century, 2019) decided to make the short Barber Gull Rub (2008) to commemorate it. "I thought it would be fun to do a fake behind the scenes recreation of that moment in the style of Guy. Watching the film now I was struck by—this was a few weeks ago, I hadn't watched it in a long time—how it's a beautiful artifact of Dave's spirit because that's exactly what Dave would do. Someone would enter the Film Group with some utterly weird and preposterous artistic need and Dave would be there to help. There's one line where he says, ‘No one else will do this so I have to do this.' And that's Dave."
To Rankin, Barber was almost a surrogate father. When Rankin was seven, Barber showed the Marx Brothers' Duck Soup to a group of Winnipeg school kids. Rankin became obsessed with Groucho and Barber was kind enough to converse with him about the great comic actor in a way that made him feel like an adult. "Dave was really good with kids," recalls Rankin. "It's strange because his outward appearance was kind of austere and maybe a little gruff, but as you know, he wasn't like that. Dave was really beloved by his nieces and nephews and all their friends. Anyway, he spoke to me like a peer and, you know, I was a precocious annoying kid and he really took me seriously. That really meant a lot to me."
Photo courtesy of the Winnipeg Film Group
To the installation artist and filmmaker Noam Gonick, "Cinema was Dave's life. I mean, cinema is my life, too, to some extent, but I have other things I do." Gonick's eminent father Cy, the internationally recognized Marxist scholar was hired as a professor at University of Manitoba by Dave's dad, Clarence, who was then head of their Department of Economics. The two go way back. When Noam was curating a retrospective of Andy Warhol's work for the Cinematheque, "Dave really helped me with all the practical stuff—getting films sent from New York to us—the shipping, the insurance, all of that."
Gonick found it interesting that "Dave started to take on this aura of an icon for younger filmmakers, like Matthew Rankin. Some of them began to lionize him and almost fetishized him. They made little commercials that featured him advertising the Cinematheque. There's Dave merchandise: his face is on coffee cups and t-shirts." To Leslie Stafford, now a producer, but for many years a member of the Winnipeg NFB staff, "Dave was more than happy to take part in being a bit of a marketing commodity because the merchandise were very tongue-in-cheek. He was fine with that if it benefited the organization."
"He was always standing in the background watching the people come in or pacing back and forth with his head off somewhere I can't imagine," she remembers. "When I think about Dave, that's where I see him, hanging around at the back by the elevators, or near the concession stand, with his arms folded, looking a bit grumpy. Making sure there is enough people coming into the theatre."
To Stafford, "Dave was a bit of a hermit. Obviously, he had a lovely family [of brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews] but I don't know that he had a big social life. He wasn't married and had no kids. The cinematheque was his wife and home."
Laura Michalchyshyn, the Chief Creative Officer at Blue Ant Media, is from Winnipeg and worked at the Film Group in 1993, shortly after getting her master's degree. She and Dave worked together at the Group and became friends as he helped her by handling the print traffic and distribution details for the first all-woman film and video festival in Winnipeg, Revisions. Ten years later, when Barber turned 50, Michalchyshyn was in town and convinced Dave that he should celebrate his birthday by throwing his first and only big party at his apartment. She recalls that Barber said, "‘Okay, Laura, but you've got to help clean up.' 
"His apartment was more of a man cave than even his office at the Film Group. It was old and cool looking although he never renovated it to look quaint. There were lots of film books, picture books, art books, photo books. Dave had posters rolled up that hadn't been opened. He said to me, ‘One day I'm going to frame all these posters.' And I said, ‘you're never doing that.' He was a film archivist. 
"It took us almost a week to clear out what felt like four hundred years of newspapers and magazines. We took stuff to thrift stores [but kept all the archival material]. We had so much fun. And then we brought in beer and wine and hors d'oeuvres. David said, ‘Laura, this is my territory, you're the only person that'll see it before I'm dead.' I had a very big spot in my heart for him. He was a brother to me.
"When I read one of his niece's tribute on Facebook, I thought, ‘he always ate hamburgers and french fries.' Dave's diet was the worst-ever. We used to make fun of him, saying if you don't change, you're going to have a heart attack. And he'd reply ‘I'm going to die loving them. ‘"
Photo courtesy of the Winnipeg Film Group
Not many programmers end up making films but Barber got involved in two. Will the Real Dave Barber Please Stand Up (2014) is the hilarious but slightly sad documentary about Barber receiving the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Award at a very stuffy ceremony only to discover that another Manitoba Dave Barber was the real winner. The film beautifully exemplifies his dry wit. The other, a feature, is Tales from the Winnipeg Film Group(2017), which Barber made with documentarian Kevin Nikkel. Comments McSorley, "I was impressed. Dave was the institutional memory and, in a way, the embodiment of the group, so for him to work with Kevin was ideal. The film was so personal and yet it told the story well."
Rankin believes that "The power that Dave amassed—and he did have institutional power—was invested in community building 100 per cent. When you talk about the Winnipeg style and the obsessions that unite Winnipeg filmmakers—the things we find interesting and gravitate to—Dave shared all of that and really nurtured it. We live in a world where a lot of the gatekeepers and tastemakers focus on professional product and Spielbergian gloss—high production values. Dave got behind things that were really out-there--almost antipathetic to conventional wisdom. He was a big part of the whole Winnipeg aesthetic."
Gonick says, "Dave always brought people together for filmmaking. His memorial was organized right after he passed away, in a beer garden on Portage Avenue. Well over a hundred people showed up. It was Winnipeg's film community and it felt really poetic to see them, remembering him in his death. It was during COVID, so all the filmmakers got to see each other because of Dave,and his passing. Even in his death, Dave was still helping to connect people around the block around the idea of Cinema."
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