On December 21, 2021 the Canadian film industry lost an iconic figure to cancer – Andre Bennett. Bennett was a game changer, a determined, energetic promoter who was unpretentious and enthusiastic, but mostly an integral architect for a new wave of Canadian directors that enticed not only international festivals like Cannes, but garnered the interest of the box office paying public. Bennett was responsible for launching the careers of heavyweight Canadian directors like Atom Egoyan (Family Viewing), Bruce McDonald (RoadKill), Patricia Rozema (I’ve Heard the Mermaids Singing), Guy Maddin (Tales From The Gimli Hospital), Peter Mettler (The Top of His Head) and many others through his distribution company Cinephile, dubbed the Miramax of the north.
Bennett, who originally hailed from Pasadena, California was incredibly passionate about his adopted country. With an unprecedented love for Canadian art films he spent most of his time before the advent of home video, VOD and streaming, conjuring up and cultivating relationships at major European film markets in order to secure theatrical distribution for the films he adored.
In 1999 I met Bennett after I finished producing my first feature film, “Famous Dead People.” After having the film turned down by every festival and distributors alike, Andre Bennett was my last hope. I vividly remember climbing four flights of stairs to his Queen Street West office in the midst of an August heatwave. Upon arriving, Bennett was on the phone, wearing a sweat stained grey dress shirt as classical music (probably Beethoven) played in the background. For a month, he assisted my team in re-cutting our film. Afterwards, he distributed the feature and sold it internationally to different territories worldwide. Over the next decade I would partner and be mentored by him, releasing films on video and theatrically via his new label, Cinema Esperanca. I will truly miss his incredibly entertaining stories, his mentorship and most of all his friendship.