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Critic and film programmer David Overbey died of an apparent heart attack Dec. 16 in Toronto. He was 62.

Associated with the Toronto Intl. Film Festival since 1977, he had distinctive and eclectic tastes that earned him a unique reputation among critics, film programmers and the acquisition community. For the past decade he also served on the selection committee of Cannes’ Critics Week.

Born in Detroit, Overbey pursued an academic career, earning a Ph.D. in English literature from Tulane U. Upon graduation he taught courses on 19th century authors at California State U. Chico, and became the institution’s first film professor when it formed a department of mass communications.

His growing interest in film led to gigs hosting a television show on classic cinema and a twice-weekly radio program of film reviews.

Frustrated by a lack of opportunities in the U.S., Overbey relocate to Paris in the early 1970s (he often credited director Fritz Lang with encouraging him to make the move). He took to the new environment immediately, becoming the English-language editor of Cinema de France and hosting a radio show on film.

He also became the chief reviewer for the alternative magazine Paris Metro, and wrote books on the Italian neo-realists (“Springtime in Italy”) and Filipino cinema.

Though cited for his championing of new Asian cinema and bringing gay cinema to a wider audience, Overbey was equally active about encouraging new talent from France, Italy, the U.K. and the U.S., embracing early films from such diverse talent as John Woo, Jean-Jacques Beineix, Lothar Lambert, Hou Hsiao Hsien, Gaspar Noe and Quentin Tarantino.

A memorial for Overbey will be held Jan. 8 in Toronto. The festival has requested that donations in his name be made to either Casey House or the Michael Plexman Foundation.