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Film Fests East & West

Film Fests East & West
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

(September 23, 2021 – Toronto, ON) When I first looked into the fall film festival season two weeks ago, there were a number of festivals that had yet to release their schedules. That has changed, new festivals have been added to our pages and there’s lots of festival news.

The Ottawa International Animation Festival started yesterday, the Calgary International got underway today, and the Vancouver International (VIFF) launches October 1st. All My Puny Sorrows screens in Calgary online and in-cinema tonight and tomorrow night and as a Video-on-Demand on September 26. VIFF offers up 32 Canadian films this year and All My Puny Sorrows kicks off at noon on Friday, October 1. Other Canadian films to look for at VIFF include Bootlegger, Drunken Birds, Night Blooms and many others.

All My Puny Sorrows, image,
Sarah Gadon & Alison Pill in a publicity still for All My Puny Sorrows.

The Edmonton International also starts October 1. Tickets went on sale September 17. A great mixture of features and documentaries with 36 Canadian titles including All My Puny Sorrows. Also look for Bonecrusher, Learn to Swim, Night Raiders and the wonderful Charlotte, which is an animated drama that tells the true story of Charlotte Salomon, a young German-Jewish painter who comes of age in Berlin on the eve of the Second World War. Voices are provided by Keira Knightley, Marion Cotillard, Brenda Blethyn, Jim Broadbent, Sam Claflin and others in a 92-minute film directed by Eric Warin, Tahir Rana. It’s a Canada-France-Belgium coproduction.

Night Blooms, Jessica Clement, movie, image,
Jessica Clement stars as Carly in the 2021 film Night Blooms.

Jumping all the way to the Atlantic side of the country, the 32nd edition of the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival (SJIWFF ) begins its 5-day run on October 13. From a record 950 submissions, organizers have crafted a program of 54 films made by women from Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, and worldwide. The opening feature is the highly-anticipated coming-of-age film Night Blooms from Nova Scotia director/writer Stephanie Joline. People in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, and Ontario can stream all 54 films on-demand, with some provincial restrictions.
Night Raiders, movie, poster,
Closer to home, the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival has announced its programming for the 22nd annual festival with live in-person and virtual events from October 19-24. This year the festival presents over 145 works from artists representing 51 Indigenous nations in more than 26 Indigenous languages. The Opening Night Gala is Night Raiders by Danis Goulet. It will be an in-person screening with Q&A at TIFF Bell Lightbox in downtown Toronto. Night Raiders is a Canadian-New Zealand science fiction apocalyptic film starring Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Brooklyn Letexier-Hart, Alex Tarrant, Amanda Plummer, and Violet Nelson.

One day after imagineNATIVE begins, the ReelWorld Film Festival launches its schedule with films created by Canadian filmmakers who are Black, Indigenous, Asian, South Asian, and People of Colour. The opening night Gala is Kaveh Nabatian’s Sin La Habana, a complex love story chronicling a Cuban Ballet Dancer’s emigration to Canada. Seen through the eyes of three people, Sin La Habana focuses on Leonardo (Yonah Acosta), a ballet dancer, and Sara (Evelyn O’Farrill), an ambitious lawyer, two young Black Cubans desperate to leave their country. They realize that their ticket off the island is for Leonardo to seduce one of the foreign students at the salsa school where he teaches. When he meets Nasim (Aki Yaghoubi), a Canadian-Iranian divorcée, and moves to Montreal, the international love triangle disintegrates into a situation where nobody gets what they wanted, but everyone ends up closer to their true destiny. ReelWorld runs from October 20-27 in Toronto.

Two more October festivals loved by Toronto filmgoers is Cinéfranco (October 26 to November 2) and Rendezvous with Madness (October 28 to November 7). The Banff Centre Mountain Film and Book Festival runs October 30 to November 7.

We list 16 Canadian film festivals in November, although some have been on hold since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. A new festival (to us) that you might find interesting is Ottawa’s International Vegan Film Festival which actually kicks off on October 30 and runs until November 7. One of the most important festivals in November is Montreal’s RIDM or The Montreal Documentary Film Festival. It runs from October 10 to 21. Also look into Silver Wave Film Festival in Fredericton, New Brunswick.

Also see: October Film Festivals.
November Film Festivals.

Northernstars logo imageRalph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.

Jessica Clement

Night Blooms, Jessica Clement, movie, image,
Jessica Clement stars as Carly in the 2021 film Night Blooms.

B: 1996

Jessica Clement began her acting career when she was 12.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Small Town Murder Songs (2010)
The Man Who Loved Flowers (2010, short)
The Time Traveler (2012, short)
Dear Scavengers (2012, short)
Paranormal Radio (2013, short)
Let Me Down Easy (2015, short)
Life (2015)
A Christmas Horror Story (2015)
How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town (2015)
Kill Order (2017)
Perfect Citizen (TV-2017)

Couronnes (TV-2020)
Letters to Satan Claus (TV-2020)
Night Blooms (2021)

TV Series – Cast:
Pure (2017-2019)
V.C. Andrews’ Heaven (2019, mini-series)

TV Series – Guest appearances
Degrassi: The Next Generation (2012)
Hemlock Grove (2015)
SurrealEstate (2021)

How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town
How to Plan an Orgy in a Small Town poster courtesy of Northern Banner.

Stephanie Joline

Stephanie Joline, filmmaker, director,

Stephanie Joline is an Indigenous writer, director, and producer based in K’jipuktuk/Halifax, Mi’kma’ki/Nova Scotia. Her Indigenous roots come from her mother who is Inuit from Labrador; her father is French Acadian from the South shore of Nova Scotia. Equally adept at film and television, her stories are deeply rooted in inclusivity and feminism. On some of Stephanie Joline’s films she is credited as Stephanie Clattenburg. We list her credits as a Director first.

Her film Night Blooms was selcted to open the 2021 St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Ednos (2013, short)
A Suicide at the Gun Range (2015, short)
Play Your Gender (2016, documentary)
Play Rewind Play (2017, short)
Hopeless Romantic (2018)
Sticky (2018, short)

Night Blooms (2021)
Stream Me (2021)

TV Series:
Farm Crime (2021, 1 episode)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
Ednos (2013, short)
A Suicide at the Gun Range (2015, short)
Play Your Gender (2016, documentary)
Play Rewind Play (2017, short)
Hopeless Romantic (2018)

Night Blooms (2021)
Stream Me (2021)

TV Series:
Farm Crime (2021, 1 episode)

Credits as a Producer:
Heartbeat (2014)
Play Rewind Play (2017, short)

Night Blooms

Night Blooms, Jessica Clement, movie, image,
Jessica Clement stars as Carly in the 2021 film Night Blooms.

100 minutes – Drama
Language: English
Festival release date: October 13, 2021 (St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival)
Release date: TBA
Production company:
Canadian distributor:

17-year-old Carly lives with her deadbeat mom and dreams of a different life, escaping her reality through drugs and unrealistic fantasies of making it as a rock star. She spends most of her time at her best friend Laura’s house. When Laura’s young, handsome father Wayne re-enters her life, Carly bears witness to what a ‘good man’ is for the first time; Wayne is recently sober, keeps a nice home, and seems to care for his daughter. Exploring her newly discovered sexuality, Carly sets her sights on Wayne, sending their fragile lives into a permanent spiral.

Night Blooms was selected to open the 2021 SJIWFF

No poster available, image,



Jason Levangie
Marc Tetreault

Executive Producer:

Marcel Gallant
Chris Goguen
Marc Savoie


Stephanie Joline


Stephanie Joline


Paul McCurdy


Amy Mielke


Nathan Wiley

Production Designer:

Michael Pierson

Cast: Roles:

Jessica Clement
Nick Stahl
Alexandra McDonald
Jennie Raymond
Calem MacDonald
David Rossetti
Oliver Boyle
Bob Mann
Micha Cromwell
Sammy Davison
Tyrell Casimir
Marcus Simmonds

Mr. Randall

A.rtificial I.mmortality

74 minutes – Documentary
Language: English, Japanese, partial subtitles
Festival release date: April 29, 2021 – Hot Docs, Toronto (World Premiere)
Release date: September 24, 2021 (Toronto)
Production company:
Canadian distributor: Fathom Films

A.rtificial I.mmortality asks the question: If you were able to create an immortal version of yourself, would you? The film explores the latest advancements in AI, robotics and biotech with visionaries who argue for a new age of post biological life. As scientists point us toward a world where humans and machines merge, we have to ask ourselves will AI be the best, or the last thing we ever do? Features Deepak Chopra, who has created his own A.I. mind twin.

Also see: Ann Shin to Open Hot Docs.

A.rtificial I.mmortality, movie, poster,



Gerry Flahive
Erica Leendertse
Hannah Donegan

Executive Producer:

Ann Shin
Gerry Flahive


Ann Shin


Ann Shin
Erica Leendertse
Julia Nunes

Story Editor:

Shannon Kennedy
Julia Nunes


Iris Ng
Stephen Chung


Steve Taylor
Shannon Kennedy
Geoff Matheson


Todor Kobakov

Art Director:

Alexandra G. Brillembourg

Cast: Roles:

Nick Bostrom
Lincoln Cannon
Heather Chmura
Deepak Chopra
Billy Crone
Bruce Duncan
Ben Goertzel
Hiroshi Ishiguro
Takeshi Mita
Alysson R. Muotri
Hossein Rahnama
Gabriel Rothblatt
Douglas Rushkoff
Taufik A. Valiante
Neal Vanderee

Character Robot
Self – Author of Superintelligence
Self – Technologist
Self – Founder of Singularity.net
Self – Japanese roboticist
Self – Author of Team Human

CBC Greenlights Black History Docuseries

CBC Greenlights Black History Docuseries, image,

CBC Greenlights Black History Docuseries
by Staff Editors

(September 16, 2021 – Toronto, ON) The CBC and showrunner Leslie Norville’s Studio 112 have announced that a new 8-part docuseries, Black Life: A Canadian History has been greenlit by the network.

The series will explore the rich history of the Black experience in Canada and show the vital role Black Canadians have played in shaping the country. While tracing the complex and hopeful stories of Black Canada, the series will reveal the truths of a history fraught with violence, racism, hardship, and perseverance.  Black Life: A Canadian History will illuminate the struggles and triumphs of Black Canadians, and celebrate the contributions of both famous and lesser-known individuals.  Epic in scope, the series spans more than 400 years with an eye towards contemporary issues, culture, politics, music, art, and sports.

“The docuseries will be an honest and nuanced look at Black Canadian history – and while some may find this uncomfortable, it’s critical to understand and grapple with the complexities of Canada’s past,” said Leslie Norville, showrunner and executive producer. “I couldn’t ask for a more talented team to help bring this rich history to audiences and to explore and celebrate the stories and people whose contributions have shaped the country we know today.  Miranda and I are delighted that Black Life: A Canadian History has found a home at CBC and value their support and enthusiasm for the project.”

The Miranda Norville will be working with is Northwood Entertainment’s Miranda de Pencier, as well as an exceptional group of creative talent, activists, and historical and cultural consultants behind this series. They include philanthropist and NHL All-Star P.K. Subban (Ugly Duck Productions) who is on board to executive produce as is the multi-hyphenated Nelson George, and co-executive producer and Black Lives Matter (Canada) co-founder Sandy Hudson.  Norville and de Pencier have also put together an unparalleled team of consulting producers and writers to bring this story to life.  Consulting producers, who have a substantial and ongoing role in shaping the series, include former Governor General the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, rapper and broadcaster Shad (Shadrach Kabango), and activist Ravyn Wngz.  The producers will partner with eight Black Canadian directors, one for each episode, who will bring their unique approach and style to the series.

Studio 112 and Northwood Entertainment have also gathered a preeminent group of historical/cultural consultants, academics, and writers to faithfully render the story of Black Canada, including David Austin, Dr. Claudine Bonner, Dr. Afua Cooper, Annette Henry, Issac Saney, Dr. Rinaldo Walcott, Dr. Dorothy W. Williams, and top writer Jael Richardson. 

“One of the many things that attracts me to this project is that it connects events across 400 years of history to the present day,” said Sandy Hudson, co-executive producer. “Reckoning with the past and confronting our present can be a foundation through which we imagine and build liberatory Black futures.”

“I can’t wait to share the educational and engrossing stories of Black Life: A Canadian History,” said P.K. Subban, executive producer.  “We’re pushing the boundaries of conventional storytelling to create a series that is gripping and dramatic in a way that audiences haven’t seen before.  The inclusion of everything from civil rights to sports, and justice to music, is sure to engage viewers across the country and around the globe.”

“CBC is honoured to partner with this remarkable team to bring the untold history of Black Canadians to audiences across the country with authenticity and depth, led by the lived experiences, insight and perspectives of Black storytellers,” said Sally Catto, General Manager, Entertainment, Factual & Sports, CBC.

Black Life: A Canadian History is produced by Studio 112 in association with Northwood Entertainment, and Ugly Duck Productions and is scheduled to premiere on CBC and CBC Gem in 2023.

Image from the website for the series.

Best Sellers

100 minutes – Drama, Comedy
Language: English
Festival release date:
Release date: September 17, 2021
Production companies: Wishing Tree Productions, Item 7, Wacki Media Production
Canadian distributor: Mongrel Media

Lucy Stanbridge (Aubrey Plaza) has inherited her father’s boutique publishing house, and the ambitious would-be editor has nearly sunk it with failing YA titles and bad reviews. When she discovers the company is owed a book by Harris Shaw (Michael Caine), a reclusive, cantankerous, booze-addled author who originally put the company on the map, she looks to him for one last stab at salvation, both commercial and critical. Her timing couldn’t be more perfect. Harris owes money and he happens to have a new book – which he hates. Lucy’s ecstatic until she finds out Harris’s old contract stipulates that no one edit his work. However, in exchange, he must tour the book. And so is born the book tour from hell – where fame doesn’t equal fortune, twitter followers don’t add up to shit, and the legacy you’re trying to uphold might be born out of lies the past can’t contain.

Best Sellers, movie, poster,



Jonathan Vanger
Pierre Even
Cassian Elwes
Arielle Elwes
Wayne Marc Godfrey

Executive Producer:

Petr Jákl
Martin J. Barab
Hussain Amarshi
Sashi Arnold
Paul-E. Audet
Kevin Bernhardt
Mark Damon
Jere Hausfater
Adam Goldworm
Joe Sisto

Associate Producer:

Tom Vanger
Jeannette Garcia

Consulting Producer:

Nicki Cortese


Lina Roessler


Anthony Grieco


Claudine Sauvé, CSC


Arthur Tarnowski


Paul Leonard-Morgan

Production Designer:

Mario Hervieux

Art Director:

Stéphane Dufour
Ginette Paré (Set Decorator)

Costume Designer:

Sophie Lefebvre

Cast: Roles:

Michael Caine
Aubrey Plaza
Scott Speedman
Ellen Wong
Cary Elwes
Luc Morissette
Veronica Ferres
Frank Schorpion
Florence Situ
Philip Le Maistre
Linda Nourse
Sebree Laurie
Briauna James
Charli Birdgenaw
Massimo Diem
Sofia Timotheatos
Thomas Niles
Brandon Lorimier
Chance Jones Sauray
Max Laferrière
Michelle Rambharose
Susie Almgren
Natalie Darbyson
Sarah Navaratnam
Christopher Hayes
Alex Petrachuk
Benjamin Muir
Rachel Osborne
Patrick Park
Joelle Jeremie
Elana Dunkelman
Udit Bombay
Victoria Sanchez
Georgia Remond
Elisabeth Etienne
Megan Jonker
Rahul Gandhi
Frank Fiola
Alessandro Russotti
Glen Bowser

Harris Shaw
Lucy Stanbridge
Jack Sinclair
Rachel Spence
Halpren Nolan
Joseph Stanbridge
Drew Davis
Phil Rosen
Dr. Chen
Verne Olson
Sister France
Hipster – Lizard Lounge
Teen Reviewer
Tattooed Kid
Tween Girl
Earnest Manager
Bro Stoner
Grant Recipient
Legal Minion
Legal Minion
Book Launch Guest
Nun Receptionist
Second Tween Girl
News Anchor
Guy at Road House Bar
Book Employee
Girl Beside Lucy
Hipster – Road House Bar
Hotel Clerk
Nurse with Harris
Young Guide
Bar Patron
Michael Caine Double

Sharron Matthews

Sharron Matthews, actress,
Photo of Sharron Matthews at the 2019 Canadian Screen Awards © Ralph Lucas.

B: September 16, in Hamilton, Ontario

Sharron Matthews is known for her portrayal of “Joan The Secretary” in Tina Fey’s iconic 2004 film Mean Girls. Matthews is a diverse, award-winning artist, actress, singer, comedienne, writer and producer. She has worked on stage and screen with artists like John Travolta, Andrea Martin, and Ron Howard, as well as toured her award-winning one woman shows around the world from Africa to New York, Scotland and beyond. She was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Canadian Screen Award in 2019 and 2021 for her work as Flo Chakowitz on the CBC series Frankie Drake Mysteries. She is the co-creator, executive producer, screenwriter, and voice actor on Mary and Flo on the Go!, an animated series based on her and Rebecca Liddiard’s characters from Frankie Drake Mysteries.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

The Last Debate (TV-2000)
Mean Girls (2004)
Cinderella Man (2005)
Take the Lead (2006)
Hairspray (2007)
Camille (2008)

Parental Advisory: Disciplinary Measures (2014, short)
The Curse of Buckout Road (2017)

TV Series – Cast:
I Was a Rat (2001, mini-series)
Pecola (voice, 2001-2003)
Frankie Drake Mysteries (2017-2021)

Ruby and the Well (2022)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
Street Time (2003)
Doc (2004)
Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye (2004)
Love You to Death (2007)

Murdoch Mysteries (2010)
She’s the Mayor (2011)
Scaredy Squirrel (voice, 2010, 2011, 2013)
Odd Squad (2014, 2015)
Taken (2017)
Tokens (2019)

Hudson & Rex (2020)

Sharron Matthews is represented by:
Edna Talent Management
318 Dundas Street West
Toronto, ON M5T1G5
Phone: 416.413.7800 ex:228
Fax: 416.413.7804
Email: info(at)etmltd.com

Remembering Norm MacDonald

Remembering Norm MacDonald, image,

Remembering Norm MacDonald
by Staff Editors

(September 14, 2021 – Toronto, ON) Northernstars has learned that Norm MacDonald has died. Born in Québec City, he started out in show-biz as a stand up comedian, performing in small comedy clubs across Canada. Eventually he was booked by bigger and bigger clubs and eventually moved to Los Angeles. He became a writer and joined the cast of Saturday Night Live where he made his mark doing impressions of Larry King, Burt Reynolds, David Letterman, Bob Dole and others. His most notable position on SNL was his three-year stint as anchor of the news-spoof segment, Weekend Update. He was the host for the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards. Since 2010 he has shown up as Rusty Heck in 1 episode of The Middle every year including 2017.

Norm Macdonald was 61 when he died after a long and private battle with cancer. He had reportedly been sick with an undisclosed form of cancer for nine years but declined to make his illness public.

Also see: Norm MacDonald filmography.

imagineNATIVE Announces 2021 Fest

imagineNATIVE Announces 2021 Fest
by Staff Editors

(September 13, 2021 – Toronto, ON) The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival has announced their programming for the 22nd Annual Festival, using a live feed on Facebook this morning. In keeping with the guidelines on the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, the festival will feature 145 works representing 51 Indigenous Nations at both live in-person and virtual events running from October 19-24, 2021 in Toronto.
Night Raisders, movie, poster,
The Opening Night Gala will be Night Raiders by Danis Goulet (Cree/Métis) as an in-person screening with a Q&A session at the TIFF Bell Lightbox. Night Raiders is a Canadian-New Zealand science fiction apocalyptic film starring Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Brooklyn Letexier-Hart, Alex Tarrant, Amanda Plummer, and Violet Nelson. imagineNATIVE’s Closing Night Gala on Sunday, October 24 will be Iwianch, el Diablo Venado (Iwianch, the Devil Deer) by José Cardoso (Achuar/Shuar) as a virtual screening. In this documentary feature, an enigmatic presence haunts the depths of the Amazon rainforest, where an Indigenous Achuar teenager has disappeared. Secrets of this dreamlike forest, and Amazonian visions of life after death, are explored.

Feature film highlights from imagineNATIVE 2021 include: the Ontario premiere of Portraits From A Fire by Trevor Mack (Tŝilhqot’in (Chilcotin)), a coming of age film following an eccentric teenaged misfit as a family secret begins to unravel; the Ontario premiere of Run Woman Run by Zoe Hopkins (Mohawk), a magical anti-romcom about a single mom who is goaded into running a marathon by the ghostly appearance of legendary Onondaga marathon runner Tom Longboat; Ste. Anne by Rhayne Vermette (Métis), tracing an allegorical reclamation of land through personal, symbolic and historical sites all across Treaty 1 Territory, heartland of the Métis Nation; Bootlegger by Caroline Monnet (Algonquin), a dramatic French feature where two radically opposed women divide their reserve in northern Quebec into two clans to determine the best path to independence; and Cousins by Ainsley Gardiner (Te Whanau-a-Apanui/Ngati Pikiao/Ngati Awa) and Briar Grace-Smith (Nga Puhi/Te Arawa), based on the 1992 novel by Patricia Grace where three cousins, connected by blood but separated by circumstances, spend a lifetime in search of each other.

Feature documentary highlights include the International premiere of Warrior Spirit by Landon Dyksterhouse (Navajo), about the first Native American UFC champion Nicco Montano (Navajo) and a stark look at how the UFC exploits their fighters for millions; the Canadian premiere of Tote Abuelo by María Sojob (Tzotzil), which follows a grandfather weaving a traditional hat, with a granddaughter who does not remember her childhood well, as the threads of family history unravel; and Kímmapiiyipitssini: The Meaning of Empathy by Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (Blackfoot/Sámi), an intimate portrait of survival, love and the collective work of healing in the Kainai First Nation, a Blackfoot community facing the impacts of substance use and a drug-poisoning epidemic.

From October 19-24, 2021, imagineNATIVE artists, organizers and audiences will come together to exchange ideas, share space, and connect with kin globally. This gathering, in person and online, influences the curatorial theme: Fall Camp – a time of Harvest, nourishment, and celebration before much-needed rest. For six days the Festival is a collective and creative occupation that trails the fall equinox, a time of movement, harvesting, and gratitude.

The imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival is the world’s largest Indigenous festival showcasing film, video, audio, and digital + interactive media made by Indigenous screen-content creators. The Festival presents compelling and distinctive works from Canada and around the globe, reflecting the diversity of Indigenous nations and illustrating the vitality and dynamism of Indigenous arts, perspectives, and cultures in contemporary media.


Alistair Hepburn Steps Up at ACTRA TO

Alistair Hepburn, image
Photo of Alistair Hepburn courtesy of ACTRA Toronto.

Alistair Hepburn Steps Up at ACTRA TO
by Staff Editors

(September 10, 2021 – Toronto, ON) ACTRA Toronto Council has named Alistair Hepburn as Executive Director, a position previously held by Sue Milling.

Hepburn moves up from his role as Director of Film, Television and Digital Media (FTDM) at the branch, transitioning to his new role today. Ms Milling will stay on in an advisory capacity through the transition and will remain on the board of FilmOntario until its annual general meeting in November.
ACTRA Toronto, logo,
Alistair Hepburn began in the entertainment business as a Director of Production and Technical Director on large-scale theatre shows. He served as a Business Representative with sister union, Equity, before coming to ACTRA Toronto as Director of the FTDM department in 2016. During COVID, he has distinguished himself representing performer concerns on the Section 21 Health and Safety Committee for the screened entertainment industry, helping to develop the protocols that kept the industry working during the pandemic, as well as facilitating the stage industry to transition to online presentation. He remains a key contributor to bargaining ACTRA’s collective agreements. Hepburn also sits on both the Durham Region and Toronto Film, Television & Digital Media Board.

Sue Milling came to ACTRA Toronto in 2009 from United Steelworkers. She led the FTDM department before becoming Executive Director in 2013. She assisted three presidents through transformative and challenging times, including the #MeToo movement in 2017, Black Lives Matter in 2020 and helped the industry and union adapt quickly to the COVID pandemic.

“Sue Milling has been an invaluable resource for ACTRA Toronto’s members and its elected Council,” says President David Gale. “Throughout her tenure, she has guided ACTRA Toronto with wisdom, commitment and deep personal integrity. Sue has been a tremendous mentor and we know ACTRA Toronto is in good hands under Alistair Hepburn’s leadership.”

ACTRA Toronto is the largest organization within ACTRA, representing more than 15,000 of Canada’s 27,000 professional performers working in recorded media in Canada. An advocate for Canadian culture since 1943, ACTRA is a member-driven union that continues to secure rights and respect for the work of professional performers.


Big Stars on Small Screens

Family Law, TV series, image,
L-R: Zach Smadu, Genelle Williams, Victor Garber, Jewel Staite.

Big Stars on Small Screens
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

(September 9, 2021 – Toronto, ON) While writing about the start of the Film Festival Season, I made a note to remember this is also the start of the new television season. For some of the same reasons the film industry holds its best until fall, networks do the same thing.

Joshua Jackson, Dr. Death, image,
Joshua Jackson as Dr. Death. Image courtesy of Showcase.

The first that caught my attention was Dr. Death. It stars Joshua Jackson as the terrifyingly real Dr. Christopher Duntsch. Between 2011 and 2013 he operated on 38 patients in the Dallas area, leaving 31 paralyzed or seriously injured and two of them dead. In 2018 a podcast titled Dr. Death was launched and this 8 episode mini-series is based on that podcast. Costars include Christian Slater, Alec Baldwin and Carrie Preston. It makes its debut this Sunday, September 12 on Showcase.

Only Murders in the Building, image,
Selena Gomez, Steve Martin, Martin Short. Courtesy of Hulu.

On a completely different level, Only Murders in the Building is an offbeat hilarious take on true crime television. It would have to be because it costars Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez. Like Dr. Death, this is an American series and this one created by Steve Martin and John Hoffman. It follows three strangers, played by the aforementioned stars who all live in the Arconia apartment building and are obsessively committed to a true crime podcast. Martin Short plays Oliver Putnam, a struggling Broadway director who spawns the idea of starting their own podcast. Only Murders in the Building was set to debut on Hulu on August 31st and I assume it has. If you’re a subscriber you can stream the 8-episode Only Murders in the Building series on Disney+ in Canada. So far no info about a second season.

All television seems based on three main themes or professions. Crime/Police, Medicine/Doctors, Law/Lawyers. In that last category, along comes Family Law, pictured at the top of this article. Shot in and set in Vancouver, this new Global TV series stars Jewel Staite as a lawyer under suspension who is a recovering alcoholic named Abby Bianchi. As a condition of her probation, she is forced to work at her estranged father’s (Victor Garber) firm, Svensson and Associates, and practice in family law for the first time. Meanwhile she needs to forge new relationships with the half-brother (Zach Smadu) and half-sister (Genelle Williams) she’s never met. The result is a dysfunctional family law firm operating to help other families with their own dysfunctions. Family Law debuts on Global Friday, September 17.

We have already covered The Chair, which stars Sandra Oh and it continues on the Netflix streaming service. And we previously reported on the Fall 2021 CBC schedule.

Northernstars logo imageRalph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.

Charles Vandervaart

Charles Vandervaart, actor,

B: September 9, 2000 in Toronto, Ontario

Charles Vandervaart played Larry Stanley in 52 episodes of The Stanley Dynamic between 2014 and 2017. He will play the role of Robbie Hobbie on 20-episodes of the tween drama series Holly Hobbie. He played Constable John Brackenreid on the series Murdoch Mysteries.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

At Risk (TV-2010)
Camp Rock 2: The Final Jam (TV-2010)
Miskate (2012, short)
Port Hope (TV-2013)
Every Day (2018)

The Craft: Legacy (2020)

TV Series – Cast:
Murdoch Mysteries (2013-2019)
The Stanley Dynamic (2014-2017)
Holly Hobbie (2018-2019)

October Faction (2020)

TV Series – Guest Appearances:
Bomb Girls (2012)
The L.A. Complex (2012)
Wild Kratts (2014)
Babar and the Adventures of Badou (voice, 2013)
Reign (2015)
Private Eyes (2017)
PAW Patrol (voice, 2018)

Lost in Space (2021)

Zach Smadu

Zach Smadu, actor,

B: in Regina, Saskatchewan

Zach Smadu is a Regina born, Toronto-based actor. He played the role of Detective Ash Kular on CTV’s award winning series Cardinal. He plays Daniel Svensson on Global TV’s 2021 series Family Law.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Little Brother (2012, short)
Scenes from an Actor’s Life (2014, short)
Miss Sloane (2016)
Perfect Citizen (TV-2017)
A Simple Favour (2018)
Believe Me: The Abduction of Lisa McVey (TV-2018)
Return to Christmas Creek (TV-2018)
Two Turtle Doves (TV-2019)
Angel Falls: A Novel Holiday (TV-2019)

Country at Heart (TV-2020)
Getting to Know You (2020)
Mistletoe and Molly (TV-2021)

TV Series – Cast:
Minority Report (2015, mini-series)
Cardinal (2018-2020)
The Expanse (2019)

Family Law (2021-)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
B.J. Fletcher: Private Eye (2009)
The Border (2009)

Warehouse 13 (2012)
Mayday (2015)
Degrassi: The Next Generation (2015)
Designated Survivor (2016)
Kim’s Convenience 2016)
Workin’ Moms (2017)
Some Kind of Life (2017)
Shadowhunters: The Mortal Instruments (2017)
Titans (2018)
The Crossword Mysteries (2019)
Save Me (2019)
Jett (2019)
Rusty Rivets (voice, 2019, 2020)

Good Witch (2020)
Letterkenny (2020)
Hudson & Rex (2021)

Miss Sloane, movie, poster,
Jessica Chastain plays the title character Miss Sloane in this VVS Films release.

Family Law

Family Law, TV series, image,
L-R: Zach Smadu, Genelle Williams, Victor Garber, Jewel Staite.

60 minutes – Series, Drama
Language: English
Originating network: Global TV
Date of first broadcast: September 16, 2021
Production company: SEVEN24 Films, Lark Productions
Distributor: eOne

Season 1: 10 episodes (2021)
Season 2: 10 episodes (2022)

Family Law follows suspended personal injury lawyer and recovering alcoholic Abigail ‘Abby’ Bianchi (Jewel Staite) who finds herself struggling to put her career and family back together after hitting rock bottom. As a condition of her probation, Abby is forced to work at her estranged father’s (Victor Garber) firm, Svensson and Associates, and practice in family law for the first time while forging new relationships with the half-brother (Zach Smadu) and half-sister (Genelle Williams) whom she’s never met. The result is a dysfunctional family law firm operating to help other families with their own dysfunctions. Set in and shot in Vancouver, Susin Nielsen created the series and serves as showrunner. This Family Law series should not be confused with the series of the same name created by Paul Haggis that ran from 1999 to 2002.

No poster available, image,



David Valleau

Executive Producer:

Tom Cox
Erin Haskett
Andy Mikita

Supervising Producer:

Sonja Bennett

Consulting Producer:

Sonja Bennett
Damon Vignale


Jordan Canning
Mathias Herndl
Alysse Leite-Rogers
Andy Mikita


Sonja Bennett
Ken Craw
Sarah Dodd
Corey Liu
Susin Nielsen
Damon Vignale


Lisa Robison


Adam Lastiwka

Production Designer:

David Clarke
Don Macaulay

Art Director:

David Clarke
Lisa Pouliot
Matthew Versteeg

Costume Designer:

Maria Livingstone

Cast: Roles:

Jewel Staite
Victor Garber
Zach Smadu
Genelle Williams
Luke Camilleri
Brenden Sunderland
Eden Summer Gilmore
Bobbi Charlton
Brett Kelly
Kelli Ogmundson
Lynda Boyd
Jennifer Spence
Spencer Lord

Abigail ‘Abby’ Bianchi
Harry Svensson
Daniel Svensson
Lucy Svensson
Frank Bianchi
Nico Bianchi
Sofia Bianchi
Cecil Patterson
Nina Beasley
Crystal Steele
Winnie Sugimoto

Anastasia Phillips

Anastasia Phillips, actress,

B: September 8, 1972 in Toronto, Ontario

Anastasia Phillips received her bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from the University of British Columbia. She played the role of Vera Burr on the series Bomb Girls.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Fumi and the Bad Luck Foot (voice, 2005, short)
Cradle of Lies (TV-2006)
Christie’s Revenge (TV-2007)
Nonsense Revolution (2008)
Sold (TV-2008)

I Hate That I Love You (TV-2011)
Where Are the Dolls (2012, short)
Bomb Girls: Facing the Enemy (TV-2014)
Don’t Talk to Irene (2017)
Angry Angel (TV-2017)
Ghostland (2018)
Tammy’s Always Dying (2019)

Kismet (2020, short)
Obsession: Escaping My Ex (TV-2020)
Obsession: Her Final Vengeance (TV-2020)
Bee Problem (2021, short)

TV Series – Cast:
M.V.P. (2008)
Stoked (2009-2011)

Bomb Girls (2012-2013)
Lucky 7 (2013)
Reign (2017)

Moonshine (2021)

TV Series – Guest appearances:

Blue Mountain State (2010)
The Dating Guy (2010)
Murdoch Mysteries (2010, 2015)
Skins (2011)
The Mentalist (2015)
Grey’s Anatomy (2017)
Frankie Drake Mysteries (2018)
Hudson & Rex (2019)
Killjoys (2019)

Film Festival Season – 2021

Film Festival Season - 2021
, image,

Film Festival Season – 2021
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

(September 7, 2021 – Toronto, ON) It is the day after Labour Day. In the film calendar this is the start of the annual Film Festival Season. In the next three months there are at least 49 Canadian film festivals and we’re sure there are more. By counting the red maple leaf symbols on our film festivals pages there are 14 Canadian festivals this month, 20 in October and 15 in November.

There are a number of reasons why so many festivals are crammed into the Autumn months. In part the large studios have made it through the summer blockbuster period and are now looking to Christmas and next year’s release schedule. Also, with the end of summer and the start of school, families have returned from vacations and filmgoers are looking for what’s new on the big screen. There’s an odd personal cachet in being able to brag to your friends that you saw such-and-such film months before it was released. An even bigger draw with even greater bragging rights is the vital presence of the stars, including big name directors or producers.
Dune, movie, poster,
Having a film win an award at a prestigious festival helps drive the box office take. Just having it screen at a number of large festivals creates a word-of-mouth base that also contributes to the all-important box office. Dune is a perfect example. It premiered at the 78th annual Venice Film Festival on Friday and will screen at The Toronto International Film Festival in mid-September. It will in fact enjoy 5 in-cinema screenings here as well as a cross-Canada satellite screening on September 12. This will be Villeneuve’s 8th film to screen at TIFF. The 155-minute film is generating terrific buzz with Eric Eisenberg writing for Cinemablend saying “Denis Villeneuve’s Dune is a perfect adaptation of one of the great literary sci-fi epics.” Variety critic Owen Gleiberman said Dune was an “eye-bogglingly vast adaptation” of the 1965 Frank Herbert novel.

For us this time of year is a bit of a toss up. We can report on some festivals and not others. Just one example is the Vancouver International Film Festival. It opens October 1st but they won’t publish their schedule until tomorrow and we don’t want to wait.

We’ve already covered a few of the Canadian films screening at TIFF, and we’re pleased with the fact that many of the festivals taking place this month have a respectable number of Canadian productions in their programs. This includes small festivals in large cities like the annual Cabbagetown Short Film Festival, which is celebrating its 30th year. Three programs offer films from France, Spain, Russia the United States and elsewhere. Seven of the short films are from Toronto-based directors.

Wildhood, movie, image,
Wildhood promotional still by Riley Smith. Used with Permission.

The FIN Atlantic Film Festival in Halifax starts two days before TIFF ends. It’s also offers shorts as part of their schedule including Canada Shorts and Atlantic Shorts. Their opening film is the Canadian feature Wildhood.

Like Vancouver, the Calgary International, opening on September 23, won’t release it’s full schedule until tomorrow but we do know Michael McGown’s adaptation of the best-selling novel All My Puny Sorrows will screen there. It will screen at TIFF on September 10. It isn’t scheduled to go into general release until April of next year so bragging rights are available for people who see it during its festival run.

All My Puny Sorrows, image,
Sarah Gadon & Alison Pill in a publicity still for All My Puny Sorrows.

Some festivals are really narrow in their subject matter. For example the Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival. How many Canadian films get made where a motorcycle plays a part? Festival organizers proclaim that this year they reached a new milestone with five Canadian films in the program selected from 13 Canadian submissions. Who knew?? The Toronto Motorcycle Film Festival opens September 17 and runs until September 25.

The OIAF (Ottawa International Animation Festival) opens September 22 and is North America’s oldest and largest animation festival. If you’re into animation and anywhere near Ottawa this is the animation festival you must attend. Speaking of animation you might also be interested in the Montreal Stop-Motion festival opening September 10.

There’s Cinéfest Sudbury, the Montreal International Black Film Festival and many others. October brings another diverse range of festivals including the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival in Toronto, St. John’s Int’l Women’s Film & Video Festival in St. John’s, NL, CinéFranco, Rendezvous with Madness, the Reelworld Film Festival and Toronto Art House film festival this year hosted by Northernstars Toronto contributor Thom Ernst. Then there’s November.

In short, when it comes to Canadian film festivals there’s something for everyone. Follow the links to these film festival pages and find a location near to you. There’s lots to see and most of the festivals listed are hybrids. That is they are offering both in-cinema and virtual screening schedules so you can attend the festival while safely ensconced in the comfort of your own home.

September Film Festivals
October Film Festivals
November Film Festivals
Also see: Film Fests East & West.

Northernstars logo imageRalph Lucas is the founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.

Lina Roessler

Lina Roessler, director,
Michael Caine and director Lina Roessler on the set of Best Sellers, photo by Laurence Grandbois Bernard, © 2020 Atomic Autumn Productions Inc. and Best Sellers Film Limited

Lina Roessler is an actor and director. She studied at Toronto’s York University, Montreal’s Concordia and New York’s American Academy of Dramatic Art. She directed a number of award-winning short films (Little Whispers: The Vow, Winter, Mustard Seed) and made her feature film debut with Best Sellers, starring Michael Caine. We list her credits as an Actor first

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Ascension (2002)
The Last Casino (TV-2004)
Berlin (2006, short)
Lost Girl Found (2006, short)
Stuff (2007, short)
A Life Interrupted (TV-2007)
I’m Not There (2007)
12 Ways to Say I’m Sorry (2007, short)
Sunday (2008, short)

Snow & Ashes (2010)
Ties That Bind (TV-2010)
Funkytown (2011)
Sur le rythme (2011)
Second Chance (2012, short)
Seven Years (2012, short)
The Conspiracy (2012)
Exile (2012)
The Privileged (2013)
Shooting Oliver (2013, short)
The 9th Life of Louis Drax (2016)
Chubby (2019, short)

Tainted (2020)

TV Series – Cast:
Darknet (2014, mini-series)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
Naked Josh (2004)
The Beautiful Life: TBL (2009)

Lost Girl (2011, 2012)
Republic of Doyle (2013)
Supernatural (2014)
Motive (2014)
Killjoys (2016)
Private Eyes (2017)

Murdoch Mysteries (2020)

Web Series:
Murdoch Mysteries: Beyond Time (2017, 10 episodes)

Credits as a Director:
Little Whispers: The Vow (2014, short)
Winter (2015,short)
Mustard Seed (2017, short)

Best Sellers (2020)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
Little Whispers: The Vow (2014, short)
Winter (2015,short)
Mustard Seed (2017, short)

Best Sellers, movie, poster,

Emma Ferreira

Emma Ferreira, actress,
Emma Ferreira as Selma in Learn to Swim, Courtesy of Mongrel Media.

Emma Ferreira made her feature film debut in the 2021 film Learn to Swim. She was also named a TIFF Rising Star along with Thomas Olajide, her costar in the film. They both act and perform, Olajide playing the saxophone, and Ferreira singing. Some previous stage credits include appearing in Pygmalion (2018) and Copy That (2019).

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Enthralled (2019, short)
Leo (2019, short)
The Furious Five (2020, short)
Learn to Swim (2021)

Thomas Olajide

Thomas Olajide, Learn to Swim, movie, image,
Thomas Olajide in a publicity still for Learn to Swim, courtesy of Mongrel Media.

B: in Vancouver, British Columbia

Thomas Antony Olajide is a Dora Mavor Moore Award-nominated, Toronto-based actor and a graduate of the National Theatre School of Canada. He attended the Canadian Film Centre’s CBC Actors Conservatory, completing his studies in 2017. He co-authored the play Black Boys about the complex dynamics of the queer black male experience. His co-writers included two other black men, a black woman and a white man. Some theatre credits include Black Boys, Love’s Labour’s Lost, Hamlet, and King Lear in 2014, for which he received the Stratford Festival’s Peter Donaldson Award for Great Promise in Shakespeare and the Classics. Other plays include Macbeth, The Winter’s Tale, Oliver!, And Slowly Beauty, The Whipping Man, and Ruined. His work in the mini-series Nomades brought a Best Actor nomination at the 2020 Prix Gémeaux.

He was named a TIFF Rising Star in August 2021 along with Emma Ferreira, his costar in the feature Learn to Swim. In the film they both act and perform, Olajide playing the saxophone, and Ferreira singing.

Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release

Little Black Caddy (2005, short)

Kinhg Lear (2015)
The Taming of the Shrew (2016)
Hamlet (2016)
Mariner (2016, short)
Love’s Labour’s Lost (2017)
Calvin (2018, short)
All of Nothing (VR-2018, short)
White Lie (2019)

Learn to Swim (2021)
Between Realities Along the Edge of Time (2021, short)

TV Series – Cast:
Inhuman Condition (2016)
Seraphim (2016, mini-series)
The Regent Park Project (2017, mini-series)
Designated Survivor (2019)
Nomades (2020, mini-series)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
Terminal City (2005)
Combat Hospital (2011)