Oscar-winning Canadian documentarian John Zaritsky dies at 79

John Zaritsky, the Academy Award-winning documentarian, has died at the age of 79.

Filmmaker died of heart failure on March 30 in Vancouver

John Zaritsky is shown in a family photo. Zaritsky, the Academy-Award winning documentarian, has died at the age of 79. (Annie Clutton/The Canadian Press )

John Zaritsky, the Academy Award-winning documentarian, has died at the age of 79.

His family says the Canadian filmmaker died of heart failure on March 30 in Vancouver.

Born in St. Catharines, Ont., Zaritsky had a career that spanned over 40 years and often tackled controversial subjects, including disease, drugs and assisted suicide, while giving a voice to survivors.

He directed such notable and heavy-hitting titles as 2016's No Limits: The Thalidomide Saga, 2010's Leave Them Laughing and various critically acclaimed episodes of the docuseries Frontline, including 1996's Murder on 'Abortion Row.'

In 1983, Zaritsky won the Oscar for best documentary feature for an episode of The Fifth Estate titled Just Another Missing Kid, about a missing Ottawa teenager. 

He was also a two-time Gemini Award winner, for an episode of 2005's College Days, College Nights and 2008's The Suicide Tourist.

Zaritsky is survived by his wife, Annie Clutton, his stepdaughter Errin and son-in-law Bern, and his grandchildren, Imogen and Reid.

"In his memory he would like you to do two things," Clutton wrote in a statement. "Take a friend out for a beer or two, and watch a locally made documentary and allow your life to be changed a little."

WATCH | John Zaritsky's Just Another Missing Kid:

Just Another Missing Kid

9 years ago
Duration 1:27:00
On July 10, 1978, 19 year-old Eric Wilson left his Ottawa home and set out alone in his van for Boulder, Colorado where he was to attend a summer course. Four days later, he called from Nebraska and told his brother he'd had trouble with the van, and promised to call the next day at five o'clock. That was the last the Wilsons ever heard from him. Just Another Missing Kid chronicles the Wilsons' search for answers and how a private detective they hired pieced together the details of Eric's disappearance, leading to the eventual arrest and conviction of two men for his murder. Just Another Kid has won many awards including the 1983 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Hosted by Ian Parker and produced by acclaimed documentary filmmaker John Zaritsky.