David N. Gottlieb, filmmaker and environmentalist, 1947–2020

David Gottlieb. Photo by Hudson Le Grand

David Gottlieb passed away peacefully in Santa Monica on 15 January 2020 after a long struggle with dementia. He was 72.

David was born in Mount Vernon, NY, on 9 March 1947 to Allan and Josephine Gottlieb, American and British service members who met in London during World War II. While growing up on Long Island, NY, David made many long trips to the United Kingdom to visit his English family, inspiring a lifelong love of travel and appreciation of different cultures. Following his youth spent in New York and England, he moved to California to study Dramatic Arts at UC Berkeley and was active in the anti-war movement there.

David received an MFA in Film Production from USC. As a student he collaborated with Jim Ruxin in making the well-known documentary of the early years of Jim Jones’s cult, People’s Temple. He had a long career in the film industry making feature films, documentaries, and award-winning educational films and videos in the areas of education, medicine, resource conservation, and the environment.

David moved to Topanga in the late 1970s, where he raised his two boys, Gabe and Jamie. His impact on the Topanga and Malibu areas was most widely felt through his 30 years of volunteer work on the board of the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, where he championed the rehabilitation of Malibu Lagoon among other projects. He was a longtime president of the Topanga Democratic Club and often volunteered at Topanga Days.

He will be remembered for his generous heart and constant interest in the world around him. Family members learned, after his passing, of numerous selfless acts such as flying to Washington to move a cousin’s aging mother into a nursing home and sponsoring a friend’s plane ticket to visit an ailing brother.

Gottlieb is survived by his sons Gabe and Jamie, daughter-in-law Sarah, grandsons Elliot and Graham, and partner Abigail Bok.

He will be remembered with a memorial on 7 March at 11 a.m. in Topanga (RSVP to dgrsvp@gmx.com for location details).


By Gabe Gottlieb


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