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Renovation Island on U.S. HGTV

Renovation Island on U.S. HGTV, image,

Renovation Island on U.S. HGTV
by Staff

(May 8, 2020 – Toronto, ON / CNW) You might already know the show as Island of Bryan but its name is changing for audiences south of the border. Retitled Renovation Island for the U.S. market, the series follows Bryan and Sarah Baeumler (pictured above) as they navigate the biggest renovation of their life; rebuilding and restoring the beachfront resort Caerula Mar Club in the Bahamas, with their four children in tow.

This is a landmark deal for the Canadian series as Season 1 and Season 2 have been picked up by the U.S. channel HGTV, which is owned by Discovery, Inc. Season 1 of the Corus Studios original hit is set to premiere in the United States on Sunday, June 7 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on HGTV. In Canada, the first season of Island of Bryan became the most-watched series on the network in the past 10 years. Now U.S. audiences will experience Bryan and Sarah’s story and their spectacular vision.

“Coru Studios focuses its strategy on developing engaging content with compelling storytelling and loveable characters,” said Lisa Godfrey, Vice President of Original Content, Corus Entertainment. “This series offers the essence of both these values, along with a storyline of escapism, family dynamics and outstanding reveals that will capture viewers and have them coming back for more, week after week. We are thrilled to see Corus Studios content expand to the U.S. market and look forward to seeing this record-breaking series build momentum across North America.”

Island of Bryan is produced by Si Entertainment in association with Corus Entertainment’s HGTV Canada. Corus Entertainment’s Original Content team driving its slate of unscripted series is helmed by industry executive Lisa Godfrey as Vice President of Original Content and supported by Krista Look (Director of Lifestyle Content), and Marni Goldman (Production Executive). Corus Studios is represented by Rita Carbone Fleury, who oversees the global sales of Corus’ original content slate and brokered this deal.

Established in 2015, Corus Studios, a division of Corus Entertainment, is a premium content studio that develops, produces and distributes a wide array of original lifestyle, unscripted and factual content globally. Offering dynamic programming that entertains, informs and drives audiences across platforms, Corus Studios content is featured across Corus’ suite of channels, including HGTV Canada, HISTORY®, Food Network Canada, and SLICE™. To date, Corus Studios content has been sold in over 150 territories worldwide.

You Are What You Eat

You Are What You Eat, image,

You Are What You Eat
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

(May 6, 2020 – Toronto, ON) The basis for the concept “you are what you eat” dates back to the mid 1820s but became more widely used in the 1920s and ‘30s when a nutritionist named Victor Lindlahr, who believed that food controls health, developed something called the Catabolic Diet. In 1942, Lindlahr published “You Are What You Eat: how to win and keep health with diet.” In the 1960s, those longhaired freaky people called Hippies talked about things like macrobiotic diets and the phrase “you are what you eat” became a universal slogan for healthy eating.

For a young boy in India named Uma Valeti, his awaking came when he was 11 and was at a birthday party. The food was delicious but when he stumbled into the backyard of the home he was visiting and saw how the chickens were slaughtered, his life changed. It began when he started to dream about meat growing on trees. Later in life he became the Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of a company named Memphis Meats. I learned all this watching a new documentary from Liz Marshall titled Meat The Future.
You Are What You Eat, Uma Valeti, image,
In 2020 there are now several companies making plant-based meat including Beyond Meat, Lightlife and others. Memphis Meat is different. They are making chicken, duck and beef using the living cells of those animals and growing real meat.

There are a lot of people (read talking heads) in Meat The Future and the things they talk about are often arcane and so specific to the subject that your eyes may glaze over but it is worth sticking with this documentary. The concept of creating meat is fascinating, and the details are punctuated by some terrific graphic treatments that help underline the story. Meat The Future is a serious documentary and there are a lot of facts. One of them is that raising meat does enormous damage to the environment.

In our May 1 story about this documentary we learned, “Animal agriculture dominates nearly half of the world’s land surface, producing more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation. The prospect of meat consumption doubling by 2050 is not only sobering, it is a wake-up call for solutions. Compared to conventionally-produced beef, cell-based beef is estimated, at scale, to reduce land use by more than 95%, climate change emissions by 74% to 87%, and nutrient pollution by 94%.”

In short growing meat in ultra-clean factories benefits everyone and the future world for our future generations becomes sustainable instead of the hell hole we seemed headed towards.
You Are What You Eat, image,
This film is a glimpse into both the future and the now and it should be seen. Uma Valeti has attracted some very impressive amounts of money from some very impressive high level investors. His company has gained recognition from the existing meat industries and the government agencies that regulate those industries. 

If we are indeed what we eat, then Meat The Future gives us an early look at not just what we might be eating but what all of us might become.

The World Broadcast Premiere of Meat The Future screens as part of Hot Docs at Home on CBC and GEM, 8:00pm (8:30 NT) and documentary Channel, 9:00pm ET/PT tomorrow, Thursday, May 7.

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.

Crazy Like a Lynx on APTN

Crazy Like a Lynx on APTN, image,

Crazy Like a Lynx on APTN
by Staff

(May 6, 2020 – Ottawa, ON) InterINDigital has announced its new and original documentary series, Crazy Like a Lynx, will have its world premiere on APTN this Friday May 8 at 7 p.m. ET (Ojibway) and Thursday June 4 at 8:30 p.m. ET (English). This new 13 part 30-minute documentary series is a modern twist on the original award winning series Fish Out of Water.

Crazy Like a Lynx follows comedian Dakota Ray Hebert and CSA-nominated host and comedian Don Kelly (pictured above) as they travel across Canada and immerse themselves – often with self-deprecating humour – into the lives of Aboriginals who are accomplishing amazing things. It’s an intimate look at some of Canada’s most successful and interesting Aboriginal organizations, businesses, programs, and people as the co-hosts take on different tasks at places like successful native owned restaurants, catering companies, resorts, golf and casino clubs, commercial lobster fishing boats/ processing plants to dog grooming companies, construction firms, mining prospectors/contractors, fashion runway shows, native theatre groups, record companies, the airline industry as well as sport teams involved in hockey, female boxing and snowboarding.

“It’s a really wonderful documentary series that is both educational and entertaining,” said Katery Legault the series producer and co-writer. Legault is also the owner of InterINDigital, a 100% Aboriginal-owned Canadian television production company. “When you challenge two comedians to immerse themselves into the day-to-day lives of strangers, the results are always entertaining, but this show delivers more than laughs. It’s an opportunity for Canadians to see the incredible work that is being done across the country by Aboriginal businesses.”

Legault sentiments are echoed by Don Kelly. “This series was such a joy to make. Dakota and I met some of the most passionate, driven, and successful people and I think viewers will be fascinated to learn that many of their trusted brands all share one commonality: the Aboriginal ancestry of the visionaries at the heart of the businesses.”

Crazy Like a Lynx debuts this Friday May 8 on APTN.

Natasha Calis

Natasha Calis, actress,

B: March 27, 1999 in Vancouver, British Columbia

Natasha Calis is pictured above in her role as Ashley Collins in a publicity still for the TV series Nurses.

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

Christmas Caper (TV-2007)
Sharp as Marbles (2008)
Barbie Presents: Thumbelina (voice, VR-2009)
Hold Hostage (TV-2009)

Daydream Nation (@010)
Gone (TV-2011)
Donovan’s Echo (2011)
The Possession (2012)
When Calls the Heart (TV-2013)
The Harvest (2013)
Advice to a Caterpillar (2012, short)
Just the Way You Are (TV-2015)
Barbie & Her Sisters in a Puppy Chase (voice, VR-2016)
Heartbeat (2017)
Gong Ju (2018, short

(The Lotus Flower (2020)

TV Series – Cast:
Impact (2008, mini-series)
Alice (2009, mini-series)

The Firm (2012)
Ties That Bind (2015)
Nurses (2020-)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
Dinosaur Train (voice, 2010, 2013, 2019)
Supernatural (2018)
The Good Doctor (2019)

Canadian Screen Awards Go Virtual

Canadian Screen Awards Go Virtual, image,
Photo of the 2019 Canadian Screen Awards © 2019 by Ralph Lucas for Northernstars.ca

Canadian Screen Awards Go Virtual
by Staff

(May 5, 2020 – Toronto to, ON) The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, in partnership with CBC and CTV and with the support of Telefilm Canada and the Canada Media Fund, has announced that a series of virtual presentations will reveal the winners of the 2020 Canadian Screen Awards, taking place Monday, May 25, 2020 through Thursday, May 28, 2020.

Following the cancellation of all Canadian Screen Week events due to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the Canadian Screen Awards Broadcast Gala, the Canadian Academy has worked to design a creative and sophisticated way to celebrate the nominees and announce the winners of the awards.

Eric McCormack, actor, photo,
Eric McCormack, at the 2019 Canadian Screen Awards.

Drawing inspiration from documentary films, podcasts, and music videos, the Canadian Screen Award virtual presentations will consist of eight pre-taped, thematically distinct online shows made up entirely of footage from the nominated artists, narrated by a notable Canadian. Narrators will include Eric McCormack, Herbie Kuhn, and Lloyd Robertson among others who will be announced in the lead-up to the virtual presentations. Nominees are encouraged to gather virtually to watch the announcements together, and winners are likewise encouraged to upload footage of their “winning moments” and acceptance speeches onto the social platform of choice with the hashtag #CdnScreenAwardWinner.

The virtual presentations will be live-streamed on the Canadian Academy Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube channels, as well as academy.ca.

“As we navigate our new normal, we’ve had to rethink how we come together as a community,” said Beth Janson, CEO of the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television. “These presentations will put our homegrown work front and centre and our hope is that teams will gather virtually to watch as we celebrate the best of Canadian talent from the past year.”

“Though almost every facet of our industry has changed over the past several weeks, creativity and innovation have persisted,” said John Young, Chair, Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television. “It is more important than ever to show support for our peers, and we look forward to virtually applauding the nominees and winners that contributed to another incredible year of work by Canadian creators.”

“As audiences turn to storytelling more than ever to inform, inspire and entertain during these challenging times, it’s important to take a moment to recognize the achievements of our hardworking news, sports and creative communities in Canada,” said Barbara Williams, Executive Vice-President, CBC. “These virtual awards will honour the best of Canadian talent and reinforce the vital role our industry plays at home and around the world.”

“Now more than ever, the hard work and accomplishments of the Canadian media industry deserve to be recognized and applauded for their efforts in informing and entertaining Canadians,” said Randy Lennox, President, Bell Media. “Thank you to the Academy for their dedication in creating and executing this new format for the Canadian Screen Awards.”

“The past year has revealed inspiring talents, and touching and surprising stories that have helped connect and unite Canadians from coast to coast, ” said Christa Dickenson, Executive Director, Telefilm Canada. “Once again this year, we can count on the Canadian Screen Awards to jointly celebrate the successes and excellence of our industry. This is an unmissable event for all of us to demonstrate our pride and our support.”

“The CMF is delighted to support the Canadian Academy as they reinvent the 2020 Canadian Screen Awards during these unprecedented times,” said Valerie Creighton, President and CEO, CMF. “We share with the Academy a common goal of recognizing and celebrating Canada’s creative talent and content. We look forward to honouring — in a virtual way and from a distance — our extraordinary talent and storytellers. Canada’s artists and creators continue to show exceptional creativity and unwavering capacity to adapt when faced with unprecedented disruption. They deserve to hear the heartwarming applause we’ll share from homes in Vancouver, St. John’s, Iqaluit and everywhere in between.”

Nominations for the 2020 Canadian Screen Awards were announced in February in 144 film, television, and digital media categories. The CBC comedy Schitt’s Creek leads both television and overall nominations with 26 in total, a Canadian Screen Award record. Leading film categories is François Girard’s The Song of Names with nine nominations. A full list of all nominees can be found at academy.ca.

The 2020 Canadian Screen Awards virtual presentations are Presented by CBC and CTV and with the support of Telefilm Canada and the Canada Media Fund. The 2020 Canadian Screen Awards for Children’s & Youth Programming is Presented by Shaw Rocket Fund.

2020 Canadian Screen Awards, Presented by CBC and CTV, with the support of Telefilm Canada and the Canada Media Fund:

Monday, May 25, 2020
7:00 PM ET: Canadian Screen Awards for Broadcast News
7:30 PM ET: Canadian Screen Awards for Sports Programming
8:00 PM ET: Canadian Screen Awards for Documentary and Factual

Tuesday, May 26, 2020
7:00 PM ET: Canadian Screen Awards for Children’s & Youth Programming, Presented by Shaw Rocket Fund
7:30 PM ET: Canadian Screen Awards for Lifestyle and Reality

Wednesday, May 27, 2020
7:00 PM ET: Canadian Screen Awards for Crafts in Scripted Programs
8:00 PM ET: Canadian Screen Awards for Scripted Programs & Performance

Thursday, May 28, 2020
7:00 PM ET: Canadian Screen Awards for Cinematic Arts.

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, actress,

B: 2002 in Mississauga, Ontario

Maitreyi Ramakrishnan, who had no professional acting experience, was one of 15,000 hopefuls who auditioned to play the teenage character of Devi Viswakumar on the Netflix comedy series, Never Have I Ever. She was chosen to play the key role by Executive Producer Mindy Kaling, who is known for her wok on The Office, The Mindy Project and Late Night.

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

TV Series – Cast:
Never Have I Ever (2020-)

Liz Marshall’s Meat The Future

Meat The Future, image,

Liz Marshall’s Meat The Future
by Staff

(May 1, 2020 – Toronto, ON) That’s not a typo. We didn’t mean Meet. Let’s back up a bit, say seven years. In 2013, documentary director Liz Marshall focused on the inhumanity and environmental impact of animals exploited for food, fashion, entertainment, and research with award-winning documentary The Ghosts in Our Machine. It screened at Hot Docs and other festivals and was ultimately seen by hundreds of thousands of people in 92 countries.
Meat The Future, movie, poster,
Now Marshall is back and this time it’s a story of human ingenuity and planetary hope inspired by one of this century’s biggest ideas: cell-based meat. Meat the Future is a close-up and personal look at the visionaries who are risking everything to innovate and produce real meat without slaughtering animals and without environmental destruction. It could also prevent zoonotic foodborne disease and the next health pandemic.

“What the future holds for cell-based meat is unclear,” said director Liz Marshall, “but I believe its revolutionary promise and historic journey into the world will stand the test of time.”

Animal agriculture dominates nearly half of the world’s land surface, producing more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation. The prospect of meat consumption doubling by 2050 is not only sobering, it is a wake-up call for solutions. Compared to conventionally-produced beef, cell-based beef is estimated, at scale, to reduce land use by more than 95%, climate change emissions by 74% to 87%, and nutrient pollution by 94%.

While plant-based eating is on the rise, a mass conversion to vegetarianism is unlikely. So, the planet’s future may lie with cell-based meat, also known as “clean meat” and “cultivated meat”, a scientific process of growing animal cells to harvest real poultry, beef, pork, fish and seafood.

Filmed between 2016 and 2019, Meat the Future follows the genesis phase of the clean meat movement in America, behind the scenes with its pioneers – they are activists, scientists, researchers, marketers and policy experts, all focused on the goal of an ethical, sustainable and profitable food future. 

This timely character-driven documentary that largely on one individual, Mayo Clinic-trained cardiologist Dr. Uma Valeti, the co-founder and CEO of start-up company Memphis Meats. Valeti and his team are at the forefront of an industry, they have attracted worldwide interest and investment from the likes of billionaire influencers Bill Gates and Richard Branson and from food giant corporations Tyson and Cargill and others.

On the food regulatory side, Meat the Future witnesses the story out of Washington, D.C. There, ranchers, farmers, and conventional meat lobby groups fight to protect their recognized brand of meat and beef “harvested in the traditional manner,” while representatives from the cellular agricultural community work to define a clear regulatory framework, urging America to be first to market.
Meat The Future, image,

And there are salivating moments as well, as top-ranked chefs perform their magic on the meat-of-the-future. 

The World Broadcast Premiere of Meat The Future will screen as part of Hot Docs at Home on CBC and GEM, 8:00pm (8:30 NT) and documentary Channel, 9:00pm ET/PT
next Thursday, May 7.

New Series on Family

New Series on Family, image,

New Series on Family
by Staff

(April 28, 2020 – Toronto, ON/CNW) WildBrain Television’s Family Channel is bringing families together this May with an epic programming line-up featuring two magical new series, Heirs of the Night and The Bureau of Magical Things, alongside brand new episodes of audience favorites as well as fun-filled movie nights for the whole family to enjoy. Also, throughout May, Family Channel will offer “Two Hours Together”, a chance for families to come together for a laugh and a smile for two hours of ad-free specials, movies and channel favourites every weekday from 10am-12pm ET/PT, including Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir; Spy Kids; Kung Fu Panda and Trolls: The Beat Goes On.

“Just as Canadian families may be in need of fresh screen entertainment, Family Channel’s May line-up is brimming with fantastic new series as well as favourite films to turn screen time into valuable family time and bring audiences a little magic directly into their homes,” said Katie Wilson, VP Content and Curation at WildBrain Television. “We’re looking forward to giving families the chance to come together and enjoy new series which offer something for everyone, including Heirs of the Night and The Bureau of Magical Things, alongside new episodes of fan-favorite shows and fantastic movies. Canadian families can depend on Family Channel to provide much-needed joy, escape and positivity during these difficult times.”
Family Channel, logo
Vampire series Heirs of the Night (pictured above) will take a bite out of Family Channel with its North American debut on Monday, May 4 at 8pm ET/PT, featuring a two-part premiere event. Based on Ulrike Schweikert’s bestselling novel series, the show is set in 1889 and tells the story of the five remaining vampire clans in Europe, who are training their “Heirs” to survive. The heirs of each clan, previously enemies, become classmates in vampire school, teaching their unique clan powers to each other and navigating the social and emotional dynamics of teens faced with the immense responsibility of survival. In their midst is 14-year-old Alisa, of Clan Vamalia, who must struggle with her unique power to choose between eternal life as a vampire or for all vampires to live as humans. Click here to watch a trailer for this series.

Bringing even more spellbinding adventures to families, The Bureau of Magical Things will premiere on Monday, May 4 with a new episode every weekday at 6:30pm ET/PT. The Bureau of Magical Things follows teenage girl Kyra who accidentally discovers a mystical world that gives her magical powers. When an unexpected threat emerges, she must unite fairies, elves and humans to save them all.

Family Channel’s May line-up includes new episodes of many favourite series, including American Ninja Warrior Junior; Holly Hobbie; Trolls: The Beat Goes On! and Boss Baby: Back in Business. Plus, new episodes of My Perfect Landing continue every Sunday at 11:30 am ET/PT and Family movie nights continue weekly from Wednesday to Sunday at 7pm ET/PT, featuring family favorites such as Ballerina, Mr. Peabody & Sherman, Hook, Despicable Me and Shrek.

SOURCE: WildBrain Television

Aykroyd Does Paranormal, Again

Aykroyd Does Paranormal, Again, image,

Aykroyd Does Paranormal, Again
by Staff

(April 27, 2020 – Toronto, ON/CNW/) T+E’s has announced a new original 10-part documentary series, Hotel Paranormal, which is narrated by Dan Aykroyd, no stranger to the unexplained. The 10 episode first season is produced by Toronto-based Saloon Media, a Blue Ant Studios company, and follows the terrifying, true stories of those who have come face-to-face with otherworldly hotel guests.

Each episode features spine-tingling stories of paranormal encounters told from stays at grand hotels, highway motels and short-term rentals around the world. From hotel workers and guests witnessing objects flying across the room to uncovering trapped ancient spirits and experiencing demonic possession, Hotel Paranormal brings to life terrifying encounters with dramatic recreations and paranormal expert insights.

“I was excited to come on board and narrate T+E’s Hotel Paranormal because I think the show is going to be a real skeptic-buster and as a believer in ghosts that makes me happy,” said Dan Aykroyd. “I’ve been watching T+E’s paranormal programming for years and when you marry a great channel with gripping and entertaining real-life ghost stories, such as those told in Hotel Paranormal, I’m on board.”

“T+E is the home of paranormal programming and when we heard that Canada’s own Dan Aykroyd was a fan of our channel, we leaped at the chance to work together on our newest original series,” said Jamie Schouela, President, Canadian Media, Blue Ant Media. “Now more than ever audiences are looking for gripping new TV shows to watch and we can’t wait to bring Hotel Paranormal to millions of Canadians, coast-to-coast.”

The debut episode, which will air on May 15, gives viewers a terrifying taste of what is in store when they check into Hotel Paranormal. A demonic spirit takes possession of a travelling businessman in a Texas motel, a dark force is unleashed by high school students in an Italian guest house and an evil entity attacks a news reporter in a New England B&B.

Hotel Paranormal is an original Canadian series produced by Saloon Media, a Blue Ant Studios company. Sarah Zammit is the Series Producer. Michael Kot and Betty Orr serve as Executive Producers. Dave Tebby and Mick Grogan are Directors and Josh Pelham is the Co-Director. Overseeing the series for T+E is Sam Linton, Head of Original Content for Blue Ant Media’s Canadian channels. Blue Ant International oversees international licensing for Hotel Paranormal.

The world broadcast premiere of Hotel Paranormal airs Friday, May 15 at 9 p.m. ET/PT, exclusively on T+E.

Source: Blue Ant Media Inc


Photo of Billy Campbell as Cardinal courtesy of CTV.

6 x 60 minutes – Crime, drama, mini-series
Date of first broadcast: January 25, 2017
Originating Network: CTV

2017 – 6×60 minutes (January 25, 2017)
2018 – 6×60 minutes (January 4, 2018)
2019 – 6×60 minutes (January 24, 2019)
2020 – 6×60 minutes (April 6, 2020)

Cardinal is based on the books of Canadian author Giles Blunt and his characters of police detective partners John Cardinal, played by American actor Billy Campbell and Lise Delorme, played by Karine Vanasse. The series is set in the fictional Algonquin Bay, which Blunt named his version of the real locations of North Bay and Sudbury, Ontario where the series is shot. Cardinal, the detective, seems distant, distracted, almost reclusive and unable to connect with his partner, who seems to need a connection in order to function within the confines of a professional relationship where trust is a necessary component behind the idea of being part of a team. The main cast remains in place for each season but the supporting actors change for each mini-series as each deals with a different crime. We have, where possible, identified those key players by putting the year of their appearance in brackets.

For those who have complained about the blandness of Canadian TV production, Cardinal is crafted to a level equal too and in places better than foreign series such as Broadchurch or Wallander without getting as extreme as the often bizarre Fortitude.

Producer: Jessica Daniel
Executive Producer:

Jennifer Kawaja
Julia Sereny
Daniel Grou
Jocelyn Hamilton
Armand Leo
Aubrey Nealon
Sarah Dodd
Patrick Tarr

Co-Executive Producer:

Giles Blunt
Alison Lea Bingeman
Jennica Harper
Jeff Renfroe


Elise Cousineau
Andrea Glinski

Consulting Producer:

Peter Geiger


Daniel Grou (2017, 2019)
Jeff Renfroe (2018)
Nathan Morlando (2020)


Aubrey Nealon
Patrick Tarr
Noelle Carbone
Sarah Dodd
Alison Lea Bingeman
Jennica Harper
Russ Cochrane
Aaron Bala
Shannon Masters


Dylan Macleod
Steve Cosens


Teresa De Luca
Daniel Sadler
Matthew Anas
Michael Doherty


Todor Kobakov

Production Designer:

Rob Gray (2017)
Rory Cheyne (2018)

Art Director:

Dennis Davenport (2017)
Harold Gay (2018)

Costume Designer:

Ginger Martini (2017)
Bonnie Sutherland (2018)
Bernadette Croft (2018)


Billy Campbell
Karine Vanasse
Eric Hicks
Alanna Bale
Zach Smadu
Brendan Fletcher (2017)
Kristen Thomson (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020)
Glen Gould (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020)
Deborah Hay (2017)
Alden Adair (2017)
James Downing (2017)
James Thomas (2017)
David Richmond-Peck (2017)
Robert Naylor (2017)
Gail Maurice (2017)
Jonathan Keltz (2018)
Bruce Ramsay (2018)
Alex Paxton-Beesley (2018)
Allie MacDonald (2018)
Brock Morgan (2018)
Nicolette Pearse (2018)
Kathryn Alexandre (2018)
Aaron Ashmore (2018, 2019)
Susan Coyne (2018, 2019)
Sophia Lauchlin Hirt (2018)
Tom Jackson (2018, 2019)
Devery Jacobs (2018)
Rya Kihlstedt (2018)
Alex Ozerov (2018)
Jennifer Podemski (2018, 2019)
Carmen Moore (2020)

John Cardinal
Lise Delorme
Constable K. Fox
Kelly Cardinal
Detective Ash Kular
Eric Fraser
Noelle Dyson
Det. Jerry Commanda
Catherine Cardinal
Detective McLeod
Detective Hannam
Malcolm Musgrave
Dorothy Pine
Edie Soames
Rachel Wells
Abby Harris
Randall Wishart
Susan Bell
Lloyd Kreeger
Sam Doucette
Sharlene ‘Mama’ Winston
Wendy Doucette
Shiela Gagne

CDN Movies – Now Playing

CDN Movies - Now Playing, image,

CDN Movies – Now Playing

by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

(April 24, 2020 – Toronto, ON) If there is one constant in Canadian film it’s the fact that anyone can probably get a film made, with a lotta help from your friends, but not everyone will ever have a chance to see it. The constant weakest link in the Canadian film industry has been the exhibitors. An issue the federal government first tried to change in 1975 and gave up on two years later.

There is no question our filmmakers can make really great movies. We also make our share of dogs and some years we turn out far too many horror movies. But for decades the chances of seeing a Canadian film on the big screen was just a hit-or-miss proposition. Once upon a time films might get a two week run. Then the norm became one week. When there was an effort to drive bums into seats for the opening weekend of a Canadian film, exhibitors cynically began to program these films for Friday-Saturday-Sunday only. Enter COVID-19 and the landscape has shifted, possibly permanently.

The fact is, television has always been good for Canadian film. Regulated to carry a certain amount of Canadian content, movies were inexpensive to license for broadcast and a single showing on a national network held the possibility of reaching a larger audience than a two week run in a ragtag selection of screens across the country. Film was a major problem. Before digital each cinema had to have its own print of the film. U.S. films became blockbusters because they had the advertising budgets to drive interest and opened wide on a few hundred screens at the same time. A Canadian film might open on five screen in week one, then the prints would be shipped on and it would play on five screens somewhere else, and with no chance of momentum, no possibility of building a national buzz, they would die a lonely death in an empty theatre in some forsaken corner of our vast country with the guy who makes the popcorn and the projectionist the only people in the seats.

The shift to streaming and broadcasting has been fast and dramatic and it was all driven by timing. As provincial governments mandated an end to gatherings of 50 or more people, cinema chains were shuttered while at the same time people we asked to “shelter in place.” That meant a captive audience with not much to do but turn on their computers and claim first dibs on the TV’s remote. Hot Docs at Home on CBC, The Canadian Film Fest on Super Channel, Blue Ice Docs launching their own streaming service in conjunction with…wait for it, cinema-owned streaming websites, and far, far more.

This will of course pass—TIFF is still planning for a full film festival in September—and there will be Hollywood blockbusters and James Bond movies everyone will want to see on the big screen. But Canadian film may have finally found a reliable way to reach a national audience with a single digital file. Give it a few years and we may finally have a Canadian film industry that is larger than ever before and a true star system equal to what we at Northernstars have been trying to build these last two decades.

These are just a few selections from what’s on the small screen today and the next few days. You may have to set the PVR to record some of them. All times Eastern. Look for:

Saturday April 25:

CBC: 7:00 p.m. Still Mine. The 2013 film costars Genevieve Bujold, James Cromwell, Julie Stewart, Rick Roberts and others.
9:00 p.m. Brooklyn. The film that introduced most of us to Saoirse Ronan.

Sunday April 26:

9:00 a.m. Stockholm

Monday April 27:

CRAVE (Various channels, check local listings):
4:25 a.m. Lie Exposed
6:00 a.m. Menteur (In French with English subtitles. Funniest film this year.)
10:00 a.m. The Fall of the American Empire
6:36 p.m. The Woman Who Loves Giraffes (documentary).

These are Hollywood Suite channels. You may need to subscribe:

70s Movies:

5:05 a.m. The Stone Angel

7:55 a.m. Agency (Thriller directed by George Kaczender.)

80s Movies:

8:30 a.m. Afghan Luke

2000 movies:

9:05 a.m. Eve and the Fire Horse

Tuesday April 28:

CRAVE (Various Channels):

6:00 a.m. Anthropocene: The Human Epoch
7:30 a.m. Sharkwater Extinction

9:05 a.m. The Death and Life of John F. Donovan
1:55 p.m. Carmine Street Guitars (documentary)

And there is more. Look around. Use the PVR. There are lots of Canadian Movies Now Playing and Coming Soon and you can find them on your television.

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.

Blue Ice Forms Docs Online Cinema

Blue Ice Forms Docs Online Cinema, image,

Blue Ice Forms Docs Online Cinema
by Staff

April 23, 2020 – Toronto, ON) Blue Ice Docs, now in its 6th year of operation, has launched a new streaming service dedicated to documentaries. Calling the venture D.O.C. for Documentary Online Cinema, we are forced to wonder what the DOC (Documentary Organization of Canada) thinks of the name.

Working closely with their theatre partners across the country, D.O.C. will be available as a link on participating theatre’s websites, and will present Blue Ice Docs’ first-run and award-winning feature films not available on any other platform or media in Canada.

The cinemas will promote these titles to their audiences in the hopes of keeping their patrons engaged with new quality content that would normally have graced their screens prior to the pandemic. The revenue generated by each film rental will in turn be shared between the film’s rights holder and the cinema itself.

Working through this pandemic and keeping the love of film alive and cinema doors open, Blue Ice Docs will be launching three new films through the D.O.C. service.

The Booksellers is first up starting tomorrow Friday April 24. Upcoming releases are This is Not a Movie, and Beyond Moving. All films will be available at all the participating cinema’s websites, as well as at Blue Ice Docs’ own website.

The following cinemas will be carrying the new D.O.C. link, and Blue Ice Docs hopes to include more theatres soon:

Vanity Theatre – Vancouver
Metro Cinema – Edmonton
Hyland Cinema – London
Calgary International Film Festival – Calgary
Cinematheque – Winnipeg
Apollo Cinema – Kitchener
Cinema du Parc – Montreal 
Princess Theatre – Waterloo
Playhouse Theatre – Hamilton.

9/11 Kids

9/11 Kids, image,

88 minutes – Documentary, 9/11
Festival release date: April 23, 2020 (Hot Docs at Home on CBC, Canadian Premiere)
Release date:
Production company: Saloon Media, a Blue Ant Company
Canadian distributor: Blue Ant Media

On the morning of September 11, 2001 as a plane hit the second tower of the World Trade Center, US president George W. Bush was reading a story to a classroom of second-graders at Emma E. Booker Elementary School in Sarasota, Florida. For the 16 kids and their teacher, this iconic moment in American history is forever etched in their minds. Now, almost 20 years later, what has become of this classroom of gifted, predominantly African American children? 9/11 Kids catches up with many of those present that fateful day. Many have gone on to thrive, but for some, life has been challenging, marred by petty crime and periodic incarceration. As the film reflects on the poignant theme of race in America, it calls into question what the American Dream means today.

9/11 Kids9/11 Kids
Producer: Steve Gamester
Executive Producer:

Steve Gamester
Betty Orr
Michael Kot


Elizabeth St. Philip


Elizabeth St. Philip


Chris Romeike


Greg West

Elizabeth St. Philip

Elizabeth St. Philip, director,

Elizabeth St. Philip holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Montreal’s Concordia University in Journalism and Communications She is a senior producer at CTV National News where she covers stories for both the national news broadcast and the award-winning investigative series W5. Her work has won or been nominated for 20 awards from organizations such as the Canadian Association of Journalists, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television and the Radio Television Digital News Association. She also worked as a producer for CBC, Discovery Channel and was a field producer at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. She wrote and directed two documentaries for the National Film Board of Canada which appeared at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival and aired on CBC and the Documentary Channel. She wrote and directed Breakin’ In – the Making of a Hip Hop Dancer, which was nominated for a Golden Sheaf Award at the Yorkton Short Film & Video Festival and awarded the Certificate of Honourable Mention in the social issues category at the Columbus International Film & Video Festival. She is also a recipient of a Reelworld Film Festival Trailblazer Award. We list her edits as a director first.

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

Breakin’ In: The Making of a Hip Hop Dancer (2005, documentary)
The Colour of Beauty (2010, documentary, short)
9/11 Kids (2020, documentary)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
Breakin’ In: The Making of a Hip Hop Dancer (2005, documentary)
The Colour of Beauty (2010, documentary, short)
9/11 Kids (2020, documentary)

Canadian Film Fest Lives!

Canadian Film Fest Lives!, image,

Canadian Film Fest Lives!
by Staff

(April 21, 2020 – Edmonton, AB) Postponed due to restrictions on how many people can get together at the same venue at the same time during the COVID-19 pandemic, Edmonton-based Super Channel and the Canadian Film Fest have partnered to bring a virtual edition of the festival to Canadian film fans across the country, and this year becomes known as, The Canadian Film Fest presented by Super Channel. Screenings begin May 21 and continue until June 6.

“When we learned that the CFF was postponed and in jeopardy of being canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we felt we had to do something to enable these important Canadian films to be experienced and enjoyed by film lovers during these uncertain times,” said Don McDonald, President and CEO, Super Channel. “We jumped at the chance to not only resurrect the festival experience for CFF fans, but to also expand its audience by bringing a virtual version of the festival to Super Channel viewers across the country. We are sure that our audience is going to be delighted with the opportunity to view these exceptional Canadian films, many of which are Canadian premieres.”

“On behalf of the Board, our filmmakers and our small but mighty team at the Canadian Film Fest, we are forever grateful to Super Channel for seeing the value of our festival and partnering with us to revive our 2020 edition,” said Bern Euler, Executive Director, Canadian Film Fest. “We are proud to showcase some of our country’s freshest voices and talent to Super Channel’s national audience, further reinforcing the importance of our Canadian storytellers.”
The Cuban, movie, poster,
As originally planned, The Canadian Film Fest presented by Super Channel will kick off on May 21 with The Cuban (dir. Sergio Navarretta), starring Ana Golja from Degrassi: Next Class and Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr., which follows a young Afghan immigrant’s unexpected friendship with an elderly Cuban musician in this coming-of-age drama about the power of music over Alzheimer’s. Closing out the Festival experience on June 6, will be the 2020 Slamdance Film Festival Audience Award-winner Shoot to Marry (dir. Steve Markle), a real-life romantic comedy about a heartbroken filmmaker who uses documentary filmmaking as a means to meet the love of his life.

Including those films and between those dates, 9 Canadian Film Fest features, plus 25 short films, will premiere exclusively on Super Channel Fuse. There is more information online. Click here to see where you can find Super Channel Fuse from your cable service provider.

Changes at MELS

Changes at MELS, Martin Carrier, image,

Changes at MELS
by Staff

(April 21, 2020 – Montréal, Québec) France Lauzière, President and CEO of TVA Group, has announced the appointment of Martin Carrier as Senior Vice-President, Business Development of MELS Studios and Postproduction, a well-known name in the film industry. Its services include soundstage and equipment rental, visual effects, sound and picture post-production, mobile unit rental, theatrical distribution, and distribution for television, Internet and smart devices.

Carrier, pictured above, will take over from Michel Trudel as President of MELS on January 1, 2021. Mr. Carrier will be able to draw on his 20-plus years of experience managing and leading companies of international stature in his new mandate to continue MELS’ development and accelerate its growth. His appointment is effective today and he will replace Michel Trudel, who is leaving his position as President of MELS at the end of his contract on December 31, 2020.
The next few months will be used to ensure the smooth transition.
MELS logo, image,
“I am delighted to welcome to the management team a manager with Martin Carrier’s experience, who has distinguished himself at major companies through his vision and leadership,” said Ms. Lauzière. “He will lead MELS into a new phase of expansion in Quebec and around the world.”

She also underscored Trudel’s contribution since the acquisition of the company five years ago: “I want to thank Michel for his contribution to MELS’ success and, more generally, to the emergence and development of Quebec’s film and television industries since 1988.”

Lauzière wants to position MELS to seize even more opportunities to shoot mega-productions and foreign series at its studios and to maximize business opportunities for its visual effects and postproduction services. Denis Rozon will continue as Vice-President, Production, Operations and Technology of TVA Group and Chief Operating Officer of MELS.

“I very pleased to be joining MELS for the next stage in its evolution,” said Martin Carrier. “Together with our teams, we will pursue the goal of combining a forward-looking technological vision with the company’s historical know-how in order to drive MELS’ growth on the local and international scenes and attract more and more large-scale am productions.”

Carrier’s record locally and internationally is impressive. Until recently, he was President and CEO of the video game developer Frima. He previously served as Vice-President and Studio Head at Warner Bros. Games Montreal. He has also worked at O&O, a consulting firm he founded, Bluestreak Technology, and Ubisoft Montreal, where he served as Vice President, Communications and Corporate track Affairs.

Source: TVA Group, CNW Telbec.

Stars Shine for Canada

Stars Shine for Canada, mage,

Stars Shine for Canada
by Staff

(April 20, 2020 – Toronto, ON) They are some of the biggest names in Canadian entertainment. Michael Bublé, Céline Dion and Bryan Adams pictured above, along with Shania Twain, Sarah McLachlan, Howie Mandel, Jann Arden, Rick Mercer, Alessia Cara, Russell Peters, Connor McDavid and many more. They will come together when Bell Media, CBC/Radio-Canada, Corus Entertainment, Groupe V Média, and Rogers Sports & Media present Stronger Together / Tout Ensemble in support of the frontline workers fighting the battle against COVID-19 across Canada. This multi-platform, all-Canadian special will air on English and French services on Sunday, April 26 at 7 p.m. across all markets/7:30 p.m. NT.

Conceived and produced in an unprecedented collaboration between Insight Productions, Bell Media Studios, and CBC/Radio-Canada, the broadcast will see more than two dozen TV, radio, and streaming platforms donate their air-time for the one-hour, commercial-free broadcast, presented in part through the support of MADE | NOUS, the national, consumer-focused, industry-wide movement recognizing and celebrating creative Canadian talent.

Canadians who are able are invited to donate to Food Banks Canada in association with the broadcast to support local food banks from coast-to-coast-to-coast as they face the drastic impacts of COVID-19.

“Frontline workers, across so many sectors including food banking, have been drastically impacted by COVID-19,” said Chris Hatch, CEO of Food Banks Canada. “They need our support and we are thankful for Stronger Together / Tout Ensemble for helping our most vulnerable neighbours.”

Viewer or anyone can donate through sending an SMS message by Texting the word COVID to 30333 to donate $5, $10 or $20. Online, go to FoodBanksCanada.ca/StrongerTogether.

Featuring a mix of music, messages, and more, Stronger Together / Tout Ensemble presents iconic Canadians sharing their stories of hope and inspiration in a national salute to frontline workers combatting COVID-19. Canadian talent are uniting to show everyone working on the front lines of this pandemic that we are all #strongertogether.

With additional details to be confirmed later this week, talent performing and appearing to date include Alessia Cara, Arkells, Barenaked Ladies, Bianca Andreescu, Bryan Adams, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Céline Dion, Chris Hadfield, Connor McDavid, David Suzuki, Eric McCormack, Hayley Wickenheiser, Howie Mandel, Jann Arden, Jason Priestley, Margaret Atwood, Marie-Mai, Michael Bublé, Penny Oleksiak, Rick Hansen, Rick Mercer, Russell Peters, Sarah McLachlan, Shania Twain, Sofia Reyes, Tessa Virtue, Will Arnett, William Prince, and more.

Networks participating include:

Bell Media:
TV: CTV, CTV2, CTV Life Channel, TSN, CP24, MUCH, MTV, VRAK
Streaming: CTV.ca and CTV app; iHeartRadio.ca and iHeartRadio Canada app
Radio: Virgin Radio
On Demand: Crave; CTV.ca and CTV app; iHeartRadio.ca and iHeartRadio Canada app

Streaming: CBC Gem, CBC.ca
Radio: CBC Radio One, CBC Music, CBC Listen app, Sirius XM Channel 169
On Demand: CBC Gem, ICI TOU.TV

TV: Global, Slice, National Geographic, ABC Spark, and SériesPlus
Streaming: Global TV app, globaltv.com, globalnews.ca, and etcanada.com
On Demand: Global TV app and globaltv.com

Rogers Sports & Media:
TV: Citytv, FX, OMNI Television
Streaming: Citytv.com

Groupe V Média

Source: Bell Media

The Reincarnate

The Reincarnate, movie, image,
Scanned from an original still set for The Reincarnate in the Northernstars Collection.

122 minutes – Horror, Reincarnation, Cults,
Release date: April 30, 1971
Production company: Meridian Films

Everest Julian (Jack Creley), a dying lawyer, is the bearer of a brain which holds memories from before mankind lived on the planet, and all subsequent experiences. The member of a cult, Julian must find some poor fool to receive this unwelcome legacy before his time runs out. He chooses David Payne (Jay Reynolds), an artist who is slow to understand the implications of his request. One odd highlight of the film is the repeated appearance of a mysterious, problem-solving cat.

The ReincarnateThe Reincarnate
Producer: Seeleg Lester
Executive Producer:

Nat Taylor


Don Haldane


Seeleg Lester


Norman C. Allin


George Appleby


Milan Kymlicka

Art Director:

Harry Maxfield
David Bain (Set Decoration)

Costume Designer:

Web Catherfield


Jack Creley
Jay Reynolds
Trudy Young
Hugh Webster
Gene Tyburn
Rex Hagon
Colin Fox
Terry Tweed
Alan Clowes
Ron Hartmann
Anthony Kramreither
Bill McDermott
Patrick Boxill
Marcia Diamond
Stuart Gillard
Linda Houston
John Kerr
Gail Malenfant
Lorna Saddler

Everet Julian
David Payne
Van Broeck

Schitt’s Creek Wraps By the Numbers

Schitt's Creek, image,
The cast of Schitt's Creek at the 2019 Canadian Screen Awards. Photo by Ralph Lucas for Northernstars.ca.

Schitt’s Creek Wraps By the Numbers
by Staff

(April 16, 2020 – Toronto, ON) When the final episode of the hit comedy series Schitt’s Creek ran on CBC on April 7, it drew a huge audience from its loyal fan base. In fact, according to the Canadian rating agency Numeris, it became as the highest-rated Canadian comedy series for the 2019-20 broadcast season. The series finale, appropriately titled “Happy Ending” was also the most-watched Canadian comedy episode of the 2019-20 season with an average audience of 1.23 million including 572,000 viewers in the 25-54 demographic, the largest audience ever in this age group in the series’ history. And on CBC Gem, it was the most-watched show on the streaming service for the week of April 5 to April 11 accounting for 7 of the top 10 on-demand episodes, with the finale and special Best Wishes, Warmest Regards: A Schitt’s Creek Farewell ranking at #1 and #2, respectively.

Commissioned by CBC, Schitt’s Creek was created by Eugene Levy and Daniel Levy and produced by their own Not A Real Company Productions Inc. Executive producers include Daniel Levy, Eugene Levy, Andrew Barnsley, Fred Levy, David West Read and Ben Feigin. The series is distributed internationally by ITV Studios.

Schitt’s Creek won Canadian Screen Awards consistently over the past few years and was honoured south of the border with four Emmy nominations. If you missed the first season, you can catch a rebroadcast of all episodes on CBC on Tuesday evenings at 8:30 p.m. (9 NT). All seasons of the series as well as the “Best Wishes, Warmest Regards” special are available on CBC’s free streaming service, GEM.

Once Were Brothers on Crave

Once Were Brothers on Crave, image,
Daniel Roher, Robbie Robertson, Brian Grazer, Ron Howard at TIFF 2019. Photo © 2019 by Maurie Alioff.

Once Were Brothers on Crave
by Maurie Alioff

(April 16 2020 – Montréal, Québec) Daniel Roher’s documentary Once Were Brothers launched with Toronto producer Peter Raymont of White Pine Pictures and Bell Media’s Crave, which is now streaming the film on its online platform. Crave’s debut, earlier than originally programmed, followed North American theatrical screenings. The switch was clearly motivated by the Corona Pandemic.

Randy Lennox, Bell Media President told Market Insider: “We’re thrilled to finally debut this incredible documentary film on the streaming service where it began. With so many Canadians currently at home, it’s the perfect time to take a break and go on a journey revisiting the story of one of Canada’s larger-than-life cultural icons.”

The doc, based on Robertson’s memoir Testimony, was a natural for Crave, which Robertson praised at the Toronto International Film Festival’s gala opening night screening. (The service is also playing The Last Waltz, allowing viewers enjoy a The Band during Corona double bill.

Via Robertson, Martin Scorsese, whose The Last Waltz lushly documented The Band’s final concert, came on board, as did Imagine Entertainment’s director-producer team, Ron Howard and Brian Grazer (A Beautiful Mind, Apollo 13). At TIFF’s press conference for the picture, the duo fielded questions with Robertson and Roher, and in the room, Justin Wilkes and Sara Bernstein of Imagine’s new documentary division, looked on. At one point, Ron Howard beamed that the mega-distributor Magnolia has acquired the doc at TIFF and will handle it worldwide.

Once Were Brothers, image,
Publicity Still for Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band courtesy of TIFF

Of all legendary rock and roll bands, the most legendary, you could even say self-consciously legendary, was The Band. Levon Helm, Rick Danko, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, and of course Robbie Robertson emerged from Toronto rocker Ronnie Hawkins’s The Hawks, became Bob Dylan’s backup musicians, and then jammed and wrote songs with Bob in Woodstock, New York. In the midst of that bubbling creativity The Band, (as if they were the ultimate band, what movie producer Brian Grazer calls the “quintessential” band), released their first album, Music from Big Pink. It’s fifty years old this year.

There was nothing else like Big Pink. Songs like “The Weight” and “The Night They Tore Old Dixie Down,” highlighted in Once Were Brothers, seemed to have always been there, deeply ingrained Americana. The group’s solemn, bearded organist, Garth Hudson, looked like he somehow popped out of a 19th century portrait of a revivalist. The others resembled outlaws, preachers, and itinerant minstrel men with haunted, otherworldly voices to match. They looked like they rode with John Wesley Harding, the gunslinger Dylan once celebrated.

At the press conference, Robertson talked with his usual confident eloquence about a variety of subjects. On stage with the 76-year-old songwriter and musician, twenty something director Daniel Roher was incredulous that his film got programmed as the first Canadian documentary to open TIFF. “I can’t imagine a greater compliment then opening at the Toronto film Festival with a young Torontonian director,” said Robertson, “and this kind of team. It doesn’t get better.”

Robbie Robertson, whose upcoming album is called Cinematic, and wrote the score for Scorsese’s The Irishman, is a movie lover who once dreamt of collaborating with Ingmar Bergman. Yes, the Americana rock ‘n’ roller “was like first in line when a new Bergman film came out. A lot of inspiration for songs that I wrote came from movie scripts,” he continued, recalling a bookstore on 47th Street in New York City, (probably the Gotham Book Mart). In that special place, he could “buy the script for Persona, for The Seventh Seal, for 8 ½, for Bunuel films, for Kurosawa, for Howard Hawks, for John Ford.

“It was so wonderful to go behind that mystery of ‘I’m seeing a movie, and saying Wow, how did they do that?’ I needed to go deeper, I needed to know more. And I got really addicted to reading those scripts.”

While most Band fans assumed they were really the country boys they seemed to be, Robertson says, “I thought of this group as characters that I was casting in roles in the songs that I was writing. I would say, ‘You should sing this because of the story that I’m trying to tell. You should be the lead in this one, and you are going to sing the harmony, and you’re going to come in on the chorus.’ I don’t know of any other group, and I don’t know any other songwriter that comes from this kind of background. The songs were like little movies.”

Executive producer Brian Grazer, who unlike his long-time collaborator Ron Howard, has been immersed in music since childhood, explained what attracted him to Once Were Brothers. “It was the beginning of a movement, and we can actually proof this out almost like a cinematic equation, which is exactly what you do by the way in documentaries. You have a thesis, and you try to proof it out cinematically. I thought that Robbie and The Band is the quintessential survival story. It’s called The Band for a reason.”
Once Were Brothers, movie, poster,
The film recounts how members of the group survived wild times, not to mention infuriated folk music acolytes pelting the stage because Bob Dylan had “gone electric” during the sixties tour documented by D.A. Pennebaker in his ground-breaking cinéma vérité film, Don’t Look Back.

It was a charge that seems even more ridiculous now than it did then. “Talk about survival,” Robertson laughed. He was said to have modified his guitar strap so he could use his instrument as a weapon during the Dylan tour.

Once Were Brothers points out how wild times spun out of control into heroin popping and other addictions. Richard Manuel hung himself; Rick Danko and Levon Helm got sick and died prematurely.

Looking back on chaos, Robertson said at the press conference, “Some years ago, we didn’t really understand alcoholism and addiction. Today, when I look back on it, I feel very sad that we didn’t have the tools to help one another in this group. We probably did everything you’re not supposed to do. There wasn’t a support system, and so I carry a bit of sadness about that because I lost three of my brothers in this group.”

“Although I’m motoring along,” Robertson continued, “and I’ve got so many things I want to discover and get to in my work, whenever I go to that place in my heart where I think ‘I lost these guys,’ and I was helpless, it’s a devastating feeling.”

Brian Grazer’s credits include many projects that feature music: the Eminem film, 8 Mile, the Beatles doc 8 Days a Week, the just released Pavarotti (both directed by Ron Howard), and TV series like Empire.

Given the high-scoring track record of Imagine Entertainment, it’s surprising that Ron Howard and Brian Grazer are not always on the same page. “We often come at things very differently,” Howard explained, “and then reach an accord. “We do access on very important parts like theme,” Grazer said, “but we experience life almost entirely differently.”

Both moviemakers agree that any movie is, as Howard puts, “editorial. I don’t care whether it is journalism, or a scripted peace, or a documentary. Of course, it’s a point of view, an expression. Who knows what the truth is? It’s your sense of it.”

In the case of Once Were Brothers, Daniel Roher felt “like an archaeologist” seeking out, reviewing, and selecting huge amounts of archival material. “My creative instinct put it on a rocket ship and went to the moon.” During the most extensive research he ever did, Roher found accounts of the controversial feud that rocked The Band. Various observers have differing opinions about it.

Robertson offered his truth about the distance that grew between him and drummer-singer Levon Helm, the group’s sole American-born musician. “I love Levon,” said Robertson. “To me, we were brothers, and we went through the war together. We did so many amazing things in our life together. Years later, and I wasn’t there, for him it went to another place, and I had no control over that. So I just stepped aside. People are going to go where they’re going to go. I just take care of what’s on my side of the street.”

Since the doc is rooted in Canada, a country that supports film production, Howard mused about the fact that some countries like Germany and Italy are not supporting cultural identity. In fact, talented Swedish moviemakers are shooting in other countries (Midsommar in Hungary for example), because Sweden offers zero tax credits, or other benefits.

Grazer thinks maybe Canadians take government support of culture for granted. “You’re good people,” he said. “Humility as an element to a team is really important in Canada. Making a movie is teams of hundreds of people, you have to evangelize your reason for existence with a worthy subject.” It’s essential “to have a team that’s humble, and has the same level of work ethic, the desire to win.”

Near the end of the press conference, the focus returned to the music at the core of the film. Responding to a question about changes in music since The Band’s heyday, Robertson said, ”We were in a generation when music was the voice of that generation. And so you felt a responsibility to talk about something, tell a story about something that had deeper meaning to it. But nowadays, they don’t have that kind of pressure. Our leaders were being assassinated. There was this terrible war going on. The unification of that generation had a lot to do with the soundtrack.”The culture now is about “have a good time. And it’s also called, ‘Tell us about your last relationship and the break up.’ (Robertson seems to have forgotten Bob Dylan’s numerous break up songs, especially the entire Blood on the Tracks album.) That’s what so many records are made about today. Me, I don’t care about your last relationship. But go ahead and vent. It’s okay.”

Also see: The cast and crew of Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and the Band.

Northernstars logo image Maurie Alioff is a film journalist, critic, screenwriter and media columnist. He has written for radio and television and taught screenwriting at Montreal’s Vanier College. A former editor for Cinema Canada and Take One, as well as other magazines, he is affiliated with the Quebec media industry publication, CTVM.Info and is a regular contributor to Northernstars.ca: The Canadian Movie Database. His articles have appeared in various publications, including Canadian Cinematographer, POV Magazine, and The New York Times.