Donald Winkler was born in Winnipeg in 1940, graduated from the University of Manitoba in 1961, and as a Woodrow Wilson Scholar, did graduate study at the Yale School of Drama. From 1967 to 1995 he was a film director and writer at the National Film Board of Canada in Montreal, and since the 1980s, a translator of Quebec literature: in 1994, 2011, and 2013 he won the Governor General’s Award for French to English translation, and has been a finalist for the prize on three other occasions.
Winkler’s films have dealt largely with the world of culture and the arts. His work has included short experimental films (Doodle Film and Travel Log); films on crafts and the graphic arts (In Praise of Hands and Bannerfilm); on theatre (Breaking a Leg – Robert Lepage and the Echo Project); on social history (The Summer of ’67); and, notably, a series of films on Canadian literary figures, collected under the overall title “Poets: A Sestet.” These documentaries provide a film record of six cultural pioneers who helped lay the foundations for modern Canadian writing. They include F.R. Scott: Rhyme and Reason; Poet: Irving Layton Observed; and films on Al Purdy, Earle Birney, Ralph Gustafson, and P.K. Page.
Winkler’s later films include Tomson Highway: Thank You for the Love You Gave, a biographical profile of the remarkable native-Canadian playwright; The Diva in Winter, on the great Canadian contralto Maureen Forrester; A Red Carpet for the Sun, on the life and career of poet Irving Layton; and A Voice for All Seasons, a profile of the brilliant young Quebec contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux. In 2004-2005 Winkler directed Moshe Safdie: the Power of Architecture, a portrait of the distinguished Canadian-Israeli architect, and The Pines of Emily Carr, based on the musical composition by Canadian composer Jean Coulthard. He also co-directed The Colour of Memory: Conversations with Guido Molinari, a contemplative portrait of the Quebec artist, filmed during the last months of his life .
2007 saw the release of Ode to a Requiem, featuring a performance of Mozart’s Requiem by the Quebec based ensemble Les Violons du Roy, along with a consideration of the work’s history and musicology. This film was followed by Suzie LeBlanc: A Musical Quest, which focused on soprano Suzie LeBlanc’s quest for and performance of traditional Acadian music, and, in 2011, by Margaret & Evergon, recounting the intriguing story behind a unique series of larger than life nude photographs the artist took of his elderly mother. Winkler’s complete filmography is available in the Films section.
Winkler entered the realm of translation in 1988, with his rendering of Roland Giguère’a selected poems, Rose & Thorn, which was a finalist for The Governor General’s Award. Since then he has translated over 40 works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry, and has won the Governor General’s Literary Award for French to English translation three times, and been a finalist on three other occasions. Authors he has translated include Pierre Nepveu, Carole David, Hubert Reeves, Daniel Poliquin, Roch Carrier, Nadine Bismuth, Jean-Claude Germain, Mauricio Segura, Samuel Archibald, Andrée A. Michaud, Joséphine Bacon, François-Marc Gagnon, Maya Ombasic, Louise Dupré, Georges Leroux, Frédérick Lavoie, François Ricard, Kevin Lambert… and Jean Chrétien. Yet to appear are translations of two collections of poetry by Larry Tremblay, Pierre Nepveu’s most recent collection of verse, That Space Caressed by Your Voice, and Kevin Lambert’s second novel, Querelle of Roberval. The complete list of Winkler’s translations may be found in the the Translations section.