RIP John Kastner: 1946-2019

John Kastner
Photo by Nicole Rogers / NFB

By Pat Mullen

POV was saddened to learn of the passing of filmmaker John Kastner. The late documentarian died on Thursday, November 21. He was at his home in Toronto with his partner Susan Teskey. Kastner left behind three children and a significant body of work. The news of Kastner’s passing was brought to our attention by the NFB.

During his prolific career making documentaries for film and television, Kastner won four Emmy Awards for Four Women (1978), Fighting Back, (1980), The Lifer and the Lady (1984), and Life with Murder (2010). Life with Murder, a tough and sobering portrait of a family both ripped apart and united by a homicide, also won the Donald Brittain Award for best social/political documentary at the 2011 Gemini Awards.

Kastner’s films frequently offered empathetic glimpses into the criminal justice system and the impact of institutions on individuals and families. His most recent documentaries observed and interrogated the ways in which the justice system rehabilitates people deemed “not criminally responsible” for their actions. NCR: Not Criminally Responsible (2013) took viewers inside the Brockville Mental Health Centre and into the lives of its residents, as did its follow-ups Out of Mind, Out of Sight (2014), which won Best Canadian Feature at Hot Docs, and Not Criminally Responsible: Wedding Secrets (2016). These films exemplified the best of Kastner’s work with their objectivity, access to subjects, and empathetic considerations of all parties connected by crime and justice.

In 2012, Kastner was honoured to be the subject of the Focus On retrospective at Hot Docs, which highlighted his unique body of work within the documentary field. He also received the Academy Achievement Award at the 2007 Gemini Awards in recognition of his contribution to documentary.

Revisit Kastner’s work by watching NCR and Out of Sight, Out of Mind below:

NCR: Not Criminally Responsible, John Kastner, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Out of Mind, Out of Sight, John Kastner, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

More to follow.