Winter Kept Us Warm

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Winter Kept Us Warm
Winter Kept Us Warm movie poster.jpg
Directed byDavid Secter
Produced byDavid Secter
Written byDavid Secter, Ian Porter, John Clute
Music byPaul Hoffert
CinematographyRobert Fresco, Ernest T. L. Meershoek
Edited byMichael Foytényi
Distributed byFilmmakers Distribution Center
Release date
  • 1965 (1965)
Running time
81 minutes
BudgetCAD 8,000

Winter Kept Us Warm is a Canadian romantic drama film, released in 1965. The title comes from the fifth line of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land.

An independent film written, directed, and funded by David Secter, it occupies a unique place in the history of Canadian cinema as the first English-language Canadian film ever screened at the Cannes Film Festival.[1] Its debut was as the opening film of the Commonwealth Film Festival (Cardiff, September 27, 1965).[2] It was also given a Special Jury Award at the 7th International Montreal Film Festival.[3]

The film starred John Labow as Doug Harris and Henry Tarvainen as Peter Saridan, two students at the University of Toronto who develop a complex quasi-romantic friendship, and Joy Tepperman and Janet Amos as their girlfriends Bev and Sandra. The film's gay subtext was carefully coded by Secter, who wrote the film based on his own experience falling in love with a male fellow student but feared that a more explicitly gay film would not attract an audience. Even some of the film's cast have claimed in interviews that they did not know at the time that the film was actually about homosexuality.[4]


Although not widely remembered among the general public, Winter Kept Us Warm is considered a major milestone in the Canadian film industry as one of the first Canadian films ever to attract international attention. Secter made a second film, The Offering, in 1966, one of the first Canadian films to depict an interracial romance. Secter subsequently moved to the United States. He directed the low budget sex comedy Getting Together, but subsequently left the film industry.

In the 1990s, Secter's nephew Joel rented Getting Together, not knowing that his uncle had directed films. Seeing David's name in the credits, Joel contacted his uncle to talk about his film career. Those discussions ultimately led to Joel Secter's own debut as a filmmaker, the 2005 documentary The Best of Secter & the Rest of Secter.[5] Notable figures who discussed Secter and Winter Kept Us Warm in the documentary included David Cronenberg, Michael Ondaatje, Philip Glass, Ed Mirvish and Lloyd Kaufman.[5]

The film was released on DVD by TLA Video in early 2011.[6]

In 2015, the film was screened at Buddies in Bad Times during Toronto's Pride Week as the centrepiece of a selection of LGBT-themed Canadian films, to mark the launch of Thomas Waugh's Queer Media Database project.[7]


  1. ^ "Queer pioneer", Montreal Mirror, January 3, 2002. The film was screened during "Critics' Week", a special non-competitive portion of the festival at which works of new filmmakers are shown. (Toronto Globe and Mail, May 19, 1966.)
  2. ^ Globe and Mail, November 17, 1965; Toronto Telegram, October 2, 1965, p. 7.
  3. ^ Toronto Daily Star, August 5, 1966, p. 14.
  4. ^ "David Secter, the Varsity visionary: How a low-budget student movie went to Cannes and influenced a generation of Toronto filmmakers". Toronto Star, June 25, 2011.
  5. ^ a b "Seeking Secter",, May 20, 2005.
  6. ^ "David Secter's Winter Kept Us Warm". Xtra!, April 8, 2011.
  7. ^ "Online database of queer Canadian movies launching at Toronto Pride". The Globe and Mail, June 24, 2015.

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