Jonathan Oppenheim, an Emmy-nominated documentary editor who cut such films as Paris Is Burning and Sister Helen along with P.O.V. and Frontline entries for PBS, has died. He was 67. Sundance Institute confirmed the news today that Oppenheim died on July 17 in New York City.
“Our friend, collaborator and talented film editor Jonathan Oppenheim has passed away,” the group said. “He leaves behind a distinct and significant body of work, which we cannot categorize other than to say he dedicated his life’s work to the art form of documentary storytelling. We will miss him.”
His best-known film likely Paris Is Burning, a 1990 documentary about the New York City ball culture’s heyday in the 1980s. He also was the editor on Sister Helen (2002), about a woman who launched a rehab home in the Bronx after the deaths or her husband and two sons. It won the Directing Award at Sundance for Rob Fruchtman and Rebacca Cammisa,
Born on November 10, 1952, the native New Yorker’s 20-plus editing credits also include Streetwise (1984), Children Undergound (2001), Phyllis & Harold (2008), William and the Windmill (2013) and Blowin’ Up (2018).
Along with his many feature documentaries, Oppenheim shared a pair of News & Documentary Emmy noms for 2010’s The Oath, including Best Documentary. The film, which also earned an IDA Award from the International Documentary Association, about two men who worked as drivers for Obama bin Laden and how they ultimately ended up involved in 9/11, Guantanamo Bay and the Supreme Court.
Before he turned his focus to nonfiction films, Oppenheimer served as an assistant editor of features including Arthur (1981) and The Muppets Take Manhattan (1984),