In Loving Memory – Don Marren

January 5, 2016

Don Marren in Whistler, BC.
Don Marren in Whistler, BC.

With the unfortunate passing of Don Marren just before Christmas, the Toronto film industry has lost a loyal cinephile and friendly face. According to an email sent out by his colleague and friend, Bonne Smith of Star PR, Don died peacefully in a comfy chair watching television, and Smith adds that she hopes he was watching a favorite film—and  chances are that’s exactly what he was doing.

That’s because Don was a consummate film lover, with discerning tastes and a sharp critical eye that revealed itself in quiet and subtle ways. He was the kind of person who was “a subscriber to Variety since age 14,” according to Smith, and that he “had an encyclopaedic knowledge of film and theatre.”

Many from the TFCA know Don as the man who greeted critics at press screenings and interviews.  There was always time for a quick word or two with Don, regardless of how rushed an interview schedule was, or how stressful a festival scenario may have been. Don always kept things in perspective.

Marc Glassman, editor of POV Magazine and film critic for Classical 93.6 AM, saw Don as a welcome sight. “He really was such a sweet presence. It felt as if he was quietly presiding over all of Mongrel’s screenings.”

Don worked with the Star PR firm, owned and operated by Bonne Smith, through 17 iterations of the Toronto International Film Festival.  He was a man who had “infinite patience and an inimitable sense of humour that kept us sane during the madness that is TIFF,” Smith remembered.

His energy and disposition reminded us that watching film for a living is not just a privilege, but a joy. He was a gentle soul who loved film as much, maybe more, than the people he served. From time to time, Don would inadvertently express his preference for smaller world-cinema and independent titles over big feature blockbusters, but the preference was rooted in affection rather than arrogance—there was never an assumption that one was better than the other.  And the films he represented, while mostly Mongrel Media titles, were the films he preferred.

Don will be missed by the film critics he greeted each morning, by the directors and actors he wrangled through a maze of interviews, by the distribution companies he was in contact with and, of course, by his family and his colleagues.

Bonne ends her tribute to Don with a fitting image: “Just recently, he visited New York and binged on the Broadway plays he loved. I smiled upon learning that the last photo taken of Don was at Radio City Music Hall – with a Rockette.”

In cinematic terms, that’s one hell of a final shot.

by Thom Ernst