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.
The film starred John Labow as Doug and Henry Tarvainen as Peter, two students at the University of Toronto who develop a complex quasi-romantic relationship, 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.
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. 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.