Jani Lauzon is a Métis multi-disciplinary artist. She is an award-winning screen actress, a Juno-nominated singer-songwriter, a Gemini Award-winning puppeteer, a multi-award-winning stage actress, a director and filmmaker. She grew up in creative environments; both her biological parents were artists and musicians, and her foster father was the high school drama teacher.
Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release
Follow That Bird (Puppeteer, voice, 1985)
Basil Hears a Noise (TV-1990)
Alligator Pie (TV-1991)
The Adventures of Elmo in Grouchland (Puppeteer, 1999)
The Big Comfy Couch: Sticks and Stones (VR-1999, short)
The Big Comfy Couch: My Best Friend (VR-1999, short)
The Big Comfy Couch: Let’s Try Sharing (VR-1999, short)
Bingo Road (2008, short)
A Windigo Tale (2010)
Dirge (2012, short)
The Cycle of Broken Grace (2013, short)
Time (2014, short)
Nobody (2014, short)
See Me Now (2016, short)
Appalachia (2017, short)
The River You Step In (2019)
Ankle Biters (2020)
Six Days to Die (2021)
TV Series – Cast:
Conspiracy of Silence (1991, mini-series)
The Big Comfy Couch (1992-1993)
Grounding Marsh (voice, 1997)
Longhouse Tales (voice, 2000)
TV Series – Guest appearances:
T and T (1990)
Prairie Berry Pie (1999)
Code Name: Eternity (2000)
Hard Rock Medical (2013)
Saving Hope (2013, 2014)
(December 18, 2020 – Toronto, ON) ACTRA Toronto has announced that Jani Lauzon will receive its 2021 Award of Excellence. A Métis multi-disciplinary artist, Lauzon is an award-winning screen actress, a Juno-nominated singer-songwriter, a Gemini Award-winning puppeteer, a multi-award-winning stage actress, a director and filmmaker.
A member of Equity, the Toronto Musicians’ Association, and recently awarded a Life Membership in ACTRA, Lauzon has been an “ACTRAvist” at ACTRA Toronto for 20 years, assisting Sandi Ross in the early years with ACTRA Toronto’s multi-cultural talent book, Into the Mainstream. The ACTRA Toronto Award of Excellence honours an ACTRA Toronto performer with a significant body of work and who has demonstrated a commitment to advocacy on behalf of their fellow performers.
“I am proud to be part of the work our union has done to support the growth of our sector and the incredible talent of our members,” said Jani Lauzon. “I have also been blessed to have a career that spans multiple disciplines, so to be honored with the Award of Excellence, recognizing the many facets of my career including my work as an actor, a puppeteer and an advocate, is a very humbling experience. I am grateful for all those who have helped me get to where I am today, and for my daughter, Tara Sky, who has taught me the importance of uplifting community.”
Both of her biological parents were artists and musicians, and her foster father was the high school drama teacher. She had the pleasure of watching the incredible Brent Carver on stage from the wings, which confirmed her desire to become a performer. Her early training was in visual and physical theatre, clown and mask. She then reignited her passion for Shakespeare, something her foster father Paul Kershaw instilled in her, which opened up the opportunity to play some of the great roles in the canon. Her puppetry résumé includes iconic Canadian children’s shows like Mr. Dress-up (Granny), Big Comfy Couch, The Jim Henson Hour, Groundling Marsh (Maggie), and Alligator Pie. She played Seeka in the Gemini-award-winning cast of Wumpa’s World.
She has enjoyed a distinguished career as a singer and is equally comfortable singing the blues, jazz and traditional Indigenous music. She was twice nominated for the Juno Aboriginal Recording of the Year awards and once for Best Female Traditional award at the Canadian Aboriginal Music Awards. She has released three albums, Mixed Blessings, Thirst, and Blue Voice, New Voice.
She has won Best Actress awards from the American Indian Film Festival Award and Dreamspeakers for her performance as Doris in the film, Windigo Tale. Some of her newest acting projects include Six Ways to Die, Ankle Biters, and The River You Step In. Her stage acting has brought Dora nominations for playing Shylock in Merchant of Venice, Raven in Whale and various roles in The Triple Truth, and for her recent solo show Prophecy Fog.
Her self-created theatre projects, produced by her production company Paper Canoe Projects, include A Side of Dreams, Prophecy Fog and I Call myself Princess. She is in development on a new theatre piece with her daughter, Tara Sky, called Reflection[s}. Paper Canoe also produced her films Just One Word and “eu·tha·na·sia”. She is currently an Associate Director of the Acting Program at National Theatre School and has directed several theatre productions including at Soulpepper and the Shaw Festival.
“It is with great pride and gratitude that we honour one of our own,” said ACTRA Torornto President Theresa Tova. “Jani Lauzon is not only an accomplished actor, singer, writer, puppeteer, director and educator, she is also a trusted voice and inspiration to other ACTRA leaders. Many of our continuing initiatives were born out of Jani’s efforts as Diversity Chair and Advocate, thoughtful councillor and tireless member of ACTRA Toronto’s executive.”
ACTRA Toronto is the largest organization within ACTRA, representing over 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.
(December 17, 2020 – Toronto, ON) CBC flexes its ample muscles with a rich schedule of original Canadian programming for the new year. Over 20 favourite and new shows will fill the small and smaller screens starting Monday January 4th.
Tuesday nights on CBC are devoted to comedies and January 5 sees new episodes of This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Baroness Von Sketch Show The Final Season: Bonus Episodes, which will offer up never-before-seen sketches. That will be followed by an irreverent new series Humour Resources starring Jon Dore and featuring comedians including Sarah Silverman, Aisha Brown, Tom Green, Scott Thompson and Ronny Chieng. Kim’s Convenience returns for Season 5 but you’ll have to wait until January 19th. New seasons of Workin’ Moms (Season 5) and Tallboyz (Season 2) debut on February 16.
Wednesdays brings Season 3 of the procedural crime drama Coroner starring Serinda Swan. It is followed by new buddy-cop drama series Pretty Hard Cases starring Meredith MacNeill (Baroness von Sketch Show) and Adrienne C. Moore (Orange Is The New Black). Originally titled Lady Dicks, this series makes its debut on February 3. Sticking with drama but straying away from our shores, look for the British drama Quiz. It’s based on the true story of a former British army major who was caught cheating on the game show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? and stars Matthew Macfadyen (Succession). It premieres January 13th.
If you’re a fan of Burden of Truth, you’ll have to wait until Thursday, January 28th when Kristin Kreuk returns for Season 4 of the legal drama series. One of the most durable series on the Network is The Fifth Estate. Season 46, consisting of 7 60-minute episodes moves to Thursdays and begins on January 28.
Friday January 8th brings a new season of search of Marketplace featuring an ongoing series, “Face Racism,” hosted by Asha Tomlinson, which follows people in search of justice in their communities, the marketplace and the workplace, often bringing them face-to-face with company executives and government officials.justice in their communities, the marketplace and the workplace, often bringing them face-to-face with company executives and government officials. The Nature of Things hits its landmark 60th season on January 8 with an ambitious archeological dig that peels away myths surrounding the last queen of Egypt in an episode titled Searching for Cleopatra. The following week the series starts a special five-part look into Canada’s most extreme and spectacular weather. titled Wild Canadian Weather. There’s a new docuseries Anyone’s Game (formerly Orangeville Prep), which offers an inside look at the competitive, high-pressure world of basketball’s most successful preparatory program at The Athlete Institute in Orangeville, Ontario. It launches on January 15th with all 6 30-minute episodes available that day also streaming on CBC Gem.
And finally for Fridays, a new family-friendly series Arctic Vets brings an up-close look at the wildlife that inhabits Canada’s north and the veterinarians at the Assiniboine Park Conservancy who work tirelessly to keep them safe. It premieres February 26th.
The long running favourite Heartland returns for Season 14 on Sunday, January 10.
(December 16, 2020 – Toronto, ON) When we write “at Sundance” we don’t necessarily mean actually at the festival in Park City Utah. This year the festival will offer a slate of 70-plus features (usually around 120), 50-plus shorts, four Episodic Series projects, and 14 New Frontier projects and you don’t have to go anywhere to see them. The 2021 Sundance Festival will be available online. It isn’t complicated but if you’re thinking of attending through cyberspace, start your journey here. The festival is also lining up a group of theatres for in-person screenings. AS hey describe it, Sundance will be “bringing the Festival to a collection of mission-driven arthouse cinemas, drive-ins, and pop-ups across the country.” That may not include Canada.
There are a number of Canadians involved this year as there has been over the past many years. Canadian Indigenous actors Michael Greyeyes and Lisa Cromarty are in the cast of the U.S. film Wild Indian (still pictured above). This is a World Premiere screening of the feature, which is playing as part of the festival’s U.S. Dramatic Competition. Wild Indian follows two Anishinabe men, bound together after covering up the savage murder of a schoolmate. After years of separation following wildly divergent paths, they must finally confront how their traumatic secret has irrevocably shaped their lives. It costars Michael Greyeyes and Oklahoma-born Chaske Spencer. Costarring Jesse Eisenberg, Kate Bosworth and Scott Haze, Lisa Cromarty plays the principal role of Cammy, sister to Teddo (Chaske Spencer), one of the two leads. “That character really moved me, and I’m grateful for how she is represented,” said Cromarty. “She’s a strong woman living in her community and provides the only solid foundation for Teddo.”
After winning awards and accolades across Canada in 2020, Michelle Latimer’s Inconvenient Indian (from 90th Parallel Productions/NFB) is kicking off 2021 with a much-anticipated US festival debut in the World Cinema Documentary Competition at Sundance. Latimer was recently recognized with the BMO-DOC Vanguard Award at the 7th annual DOC Institute Honours.
Brett Gaylor was honoured with the prestigious Don Haig Award in 2009 for his 2008 film RiP!: A Remix Manifesto a documentary about the changing concept of copyright. His 4-minute France/Canada copro Fortune! is at Sundance screening in the New Frontier Program. It’s a humorous and incisive augmented-reality animated series designed to provoke conversations about the value society places on money. From bills to coins, money has no intrinsic value beyond what we’ve collectively agreed to grant it. However, there’s no denying that money governs our material and cultural lives. The focus is on Frank Bourassa, the world’s greatest counterfeiter. Fortune! will be available for smartphones, tablets, and social media platforms. Gaylor was born on Galiano Island, British Columbia and was formerly the vice president of Mozilla’s Webmaker program. His 2015 doc Do Not Track won the Peabody Award.
Click here for more information and look for the link for Sundance and other January 2021 film festivals.
Lisa Cromarty is an Anishinabe and Oji-Cree actress, writer and voice coach and is a member of Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve located on Manitoulin Island. In addition to acting, she trained at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre and Canada’s National Voice Intensive, and as a vocal coach trainee, she was mentored for two seasons by the coaching team at the Stratford Theatre Festival. She was scheduled to serve as a coach for Tomson Highway’s The Rez Sisters at the Stratford Festival for their 2020 season before the COVID-19 epidemic. During lockdown, she has been teaching voice classes online for 1st year theatre students at the Centre for Indigenous Theatre. As of late 2020, Cromarty is developing a First Nations animated series for kids called Wick and Flint with writing partner Jeremy Beal, where she aims to write, produce and contribute as a voice actor.
Born in Pakistan, Ali Kazmi has lived in Toronto for years. He attended both Film School and Drama school and began his career in Canada. He plays one of the lead roles as “Appa” in Deepa Mehta’s 2020 film Funny Boy. He played the role of Sikander in 20 episodes of Jackson Heights between 2014 and 2015.
Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release
Zikr Hai Kai Saal Ka (TV-1995)
The Strip Mall (2010)
Beat the World (2011)
Cold (2013, short)
The Dependables (2014)
Americanistan (2014, short)
Aik Aur Aik Gyarah (TV-2015)
Sardaar Ji (2015) Beeba Boys (2015)
Jawani Phir Nahi Ani (2015)
Coffee at Laundromat (2016, short)
Dobara Phir Se (2016) The Breadwinner (voice, 2017)
Motorcycle Girl (2018)
Na Band Na Baraati (2018)
Altered Skin (2018)
Laal Kabootar (2019)
Heer Maan Ja (2019)
TV Series – Guest appearances:
Manzil Aka Her Lost Destination (2006)
Combat Hospital (2011)
Covert Affairs (2011)
Degrassi: The Next Generation (2013)
Sehra Main Safar (2015)
Falling Water 2018)
Designated Survivor (2018)
(December 11, 2020 – Toronto, ON) The DOC Institute has announced the winner of their Vanguard and Luminary awards at their 7th annual DOC Institute Honours Celebration, supported by presenting sponsor, CBC, and award sponsor, Rogers Group of Funds, Bank of Montreal and SIM International.
The BMO-DOC Vanguard Award was given to award-winning filmmaker Michelle Latimer. The Vanguard Award is reserved for mid-career creatives. Previous winners include Millefiore Clarkes, Amar Wala, Victoria Lean and Alethea Arnaquq-Baril.
“Receiving the Vanguard award is an especially tremendous honour because it comes from my peers — the artists, storytellers and collaborators who inspire me daily and who give me courage to continue on this creative path,” said Latimer, in a ceremony that was hosted on a Zoom session by multi-disciplinary media personality Garvia Bailey, and attended by over 100 people. “Together we’re creating community and hopefully changing the world with our stories. There is nothing to this life if we can’t lift one another up and this award is a beautiful reminder to pay this generosity forward to the next generation of doc-makers with stories to tell.”
The Rogers-DOC Luminary Award was given to Canadian documentary/industry veteran and Indigenous cinema icon, Alanis Obomsawin. One of the most acclaimed Indigenous directors in the world, Alanis Obomsawin directed her first documentary for the NFB, Christmas Moose Factory in 1971. Since then, she has created more than 50 films with the NFB – including landmark documentaries like Incident at Restigouche (1984) and Kanehsatake: 270 Years of Resistance (1993). The Abenaki director was named a Companion of the Order of Canada – its highest distinction in 2019.
“Thank you for this very special honour, and thank you to the DOC Institute for their incredible efforts to ensure that the documentary world keeps on growing, and that the voices of all nations are heard,” said Obomsawin. “In encouraging and supporting documentary filmmakers, they also ensure that the history of our country is front and centre. Once again, I want us to remember that there is freedom in our beautiful country, Canada.”
Past winners of the DOC Institute Honours include Anne Pick, Millifiore Clarkes, Amar Wala, Zoe Dirse, Daniel Cross, Victoria Lean, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, Marc Glassman, Chelsea McMullan, and Hot Docs President Chris MacDonald.
The DOC Institute is a one-stop shop for non-fiction professionals to learn business skills, hone their craft, and make industry connections. Offering creative inspiration and insider advice, we’re a hub for the non-fiction community. The DOC Institute is an initiative of DOC Ontario, the largest chapter of the Documentary Organization of Canada. DOC represents over 800 members across Canada through six regional chapters. Collectively, DOC’s members have produced thousands of documentaries; which have been seen by millions of people; and have been recognized with prestigious awards, including Oscars, Emmys, Peabodys, Geminis, Genies, and Canadian Screen Awards. DOC is proud to be a bilingual, national professional arts organization that functions as a registered charity.
Top 10 Christmas Movies at the Box Office By Staff
(December 10, 2020 – Toronto, ON) Should the topic of Top 10 Christmas Movies erupt in your home this holiday season, you might be able to avoid family disputes over by leaving the film choices to science this year. Crystal Ski has done the research and allowed us to share it with you. The following list is based on research and how these 10 films performed at the all-important U.S. box office.
1. Home Alone
This American comedy follows eight-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) on his mission to protect his home from the burglars nicknamed the “Wet Bandits” after his family accidentally leave him home alone while they travel to Paris. Costars included Canadian actor (and Schitt’s Creek costar) Catherine O’Hara. Home Alone made $285,7611,243 in Box Office sales and has a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 65%, which isn’t the highest of the films that placed in the top 10.
2. Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch (2018)
Based on Dr Seuss’ book How The Grinch Stole Christmas, this 3D adaptation shows the adventures of the Grinch as he plans to spoil Christmas for Whoville. With the help of six-year-old Cindy Lou Who, the Who’s discover the true meaning of Christmas which is far more than receiving presents. The international cast of actors providing voices includes Benedict Cumberbatch as The Grinch, Jennifer Garner as Betty Lou Who, Bill Hader as Whobris and Canadian Michael Cera providing the voice of Drew Lou Who. How The Grinch Stole Christmas is the highest-grossing Dr Suess adaptation with sales that totalled $270,620,950 and a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 59%.
3. How The Grinch Stole Christmas
The second animated screenplay adaptation featuring the Grinch stars Jim Carrey. This film reveals the Grinch’s tragic past after Cindy Lou Who becomes fascinated by him after meeting him in the post office. After stealing Whoville’s presents, the Whos sing Christmas carols around the Christmas tree together. The sight of this grows the Grinch’s heart by three sizes, who later joins them in their festivities. The movie had a total box office gross of $260,044,825 and a Rotten Tomatoes rating of just 51%.
Buddy was brought up in the North Pole as an Elf after crawling into Santa’s sack as a baby. Now an adult Buddy (Will Ferrel) has to learn how to live like a New Yorker while building a relationship with his biological father. He spreads much-needed Christmas cheer to everyone he meets causing some chaos along the way. Elf ticket sales total $173,840,591 and received a Rotten Tomatoes rating of 78%.
5. Polar Express
Based on the 1985 children’s book, this film used live-action motion capture animation that follows the story of a young boy who was beginning to doubt Santa’s existence. On Christmas Eve, he boards a train called The Polar Express towards the North Pole. Through this journey, the boy learns about the spirit of Christmas, friendship and bravery. The Polar Express made $187,224,490 in box office sales and a 56% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
6. The Nightmare Before Christmas
Despite having recently presided over a very successful Halloween, Jack Skellington, aka the Pumpkin King, is bored with his job and feels that life in Halloweenland lacks meaning. Then he stumbles upon Christmastown and promptly decides to make the Yuletide his own. The cast of this 1993 animated feature written by Tim Burton included Catherine O’Hara providing the voices of Sally and Shock. Danny Elfman was the voice behind Jack Skellington. The Nightmare Before Christmas made $75,082,668 in box office sales and a 95% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
7. The Santa Clause
When a down on his luck dad Scott (Tim Allen) accidentally kills a man in a Santa suit, him and his son are magically transported to the North Pole, where an elf explains that Scott must take Santa’s place before the next Christmas arrives. While Scott tries to ignore the whole situation, a rapidly growing belly and white beard show this certainly wasn’t just a dream. Released in 1994, Wendy Crewson played Laura Miller and Jayne Eastwood played a waitress in the movie that starred Tim Allen. The Santa Clause made $144,833,357 at the box office and scored 65% on Rotten Tomatoes.
8. Arthur Christmas
Everyone knows that Father Christmas delivers presents to everyone on Christmas eve but nobody knows how. However, when Father Christmas’ high-tech solution fails and he misses one poor individual out, someone has to come to the rescue. They turn to Arthur (James McAvoy), Father Christmas’ youngest son, to deliver the present to this missed child before they wake up on Christmas morning. Arthur Christmas made $46,462,469 in box office sales and a 92% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
9. The Santa Clause 2
Following on from the success of The Santa Clause, this follow-up see’s Scott (Tim Allen) face the awful news that his own son is on the naughty list! Turning his world upside down and into further chaos, Scott has to find himself a wife before Christmas Eve or he will no longer be Father Christmas. Wendy Crewson returned to play Laura Miller for the second time. The Santa Clause 2 made $139,236,327 at the box office and scored 55% on Rotten Tomatoes.
10. A Christmas Carol (2009)
Some will argue that nothing will ever top the dramatic effect of the black and white 1951 version of this Charles Dickens classic story, which starred Alastair Sim in the role of Scrooge, but in the 2009 animated remake Scrooge is portrayed by Jim Carrey. In a remarkable feat of performance, Carrey is also the voice of Scrooge as a Teenage Boy, Scrooge as a Young Man, Scrooge as a Middle Aged Man, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present and the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come. As in all versions, the story follows the mean Scrooge as he treats those around him miserably. Until, one night he is visited by the ghost of a recently deceased friend and then the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future that endeavour to make him change his bitter “humbug” ways for good. The 2009 version of A Christmas Carol made $137,855,863 at the box office and scored 53% on Rotten Tomatoes. It should be noted that its take worldwide came to a very respectable $325,286,646.
This article was originally published on December 20, 2019. With additional information by Northernstars, we thank Crystalski for providing this information and the images used above. Find the full list on the Winter Movie Index.
Flushing Lacan (2010, short)
Toast (2011, short)
Friends of Brenda (2012, short)
Pawn Sacrifice (2014)
Two Wrongs (TV-2015)
Fear the Walking Dead Survival (2017, short)
Cold (2017, short)
Death Wish (2018)
Game of Tyranny (2019, short)
The Perfect Wedding (TV-2021)
TV Series – Guest appearances:
The Lottery (2014)
19-2 (2014, 2016)
Fatal Vows (2014, 2018)
The Art of More (2015)
Real Detective (2016)
Broken Trust (2018)
Jack Ryan (2018)
Georges Edy Laraque is the oldest of three children and the son of Haitian immigrants. He played 13 seasons for different National Hockey League (NHL) teams and gained a reputation as “The Rock”, primarily playing an enforcer during his career, which made him a natural to be cast in the movie Goon He retired from hockey on August 10, 2010, after the Montreal Canadiens bought out his contract. His best-selling biography, The Story of The NHL’s Unlikeliest Tough Guy, goes well beyond the stereotype of the tough guy. He campaigned for World Vision to help with Haitian relief and the rebuilding of the Grace Children’s Hospital in Port-au-Prince.
Jann Arden began life as Jann Arden Anne Richards and grew up to become a highly successful singer-songwriter and actress. Her critically acclaimed debut album, Time for Mercy, was released in 1993. She was recognized for her talent and work the following year when she was given six Alberta Recording Industry Awards. More than a dozen albums have been added to her credit, along with almost twenty Top 10 singles. She has won eight Juno Awards, including solo artist of the year in 1994, Songwriter of the Year in 1995 and 2002, and Female Artist of the Year in 1995 and 2001. She has also won awards at the MuchMusic Video Awards, the Prairie Music Awards and the Western Canadian Music Awards. Arden landed a series of guest starring roles on series like Robson Arms, Corner Gas, Hell on Wheels, The Detour, Workin’ Moms and Wynonna Earp. She landed her own series, titled Jann, which premiered on CTV in March, 2019. She was nominated for a 2020 Canadian Screen Award for Best Actress in a Comedy Series for her work on Jann. She is pictured at the 2017 Canadian Screen Awards where she was nominated for Best Host in a Variety or Reality/Competition Program or Series for her work co-hosting The JUNO Awards 2016 with Jon Montgomery.
Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release
White Lies (2001)
The True Meaning of Christmas Specials (TV-2002)
Don’t Cry Now (TV-2007)
TV Series – Cast:
ER Vets (2010-2011)
TV Series – Guest appearances:
Robson Arms (2007)
Hell on Wheels (2014) Workin’ Moms (2017, 2018)
The Detour (2018)
Wynonna Earp (2018) Private Eyes (2019)
Corner Gas Animated (voice, 2019)
Growing Together with Jann Arden (Narrator, 2019)
McGowan Shoots Puny Sorrows by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(December 3, 20920 – Toronto, ON) Production on All My Puny Sorrows, has started in North Bay, Ontario, a dramatic feature film written and directed by Michael McGowan and based on the sixth novel by international award-winning Canadian author Miriam Toews.
All My Puny Sorrows tells the poignant story of two Mennonite sisters (Alison Pill and Sarah Gadon) who have left their strict religious upbringing behind. The film explores a unique sibling relationship where Pill’s character Yoli struggles in love and life, yet it is her sister Elf (Gadon), the world-famous concert pianist, that desperately wants to die. The novel won the 2014 Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, was shortlisted for the 2014 Scotiabank Giller Prize, the 2015 Folio Prize for Literature, and the 2015 Wellcome Book Prize.
Yoli’s defiant daughter Nora, is played by Anne With An E star, Amybeth McNulty and the sisters’ resilient and unflappable Mennonite mother Lottie, is played by Oscar-nominee Mare Winningham. Donal Logue plays Jake, Lottie’s husband, and Aly Mawji plays Nic, Elf’s husband.
All My Puny Sorrows is produced by McGowan’s Mulmur Feed Co., along with Sugar Shack Productions’ Patrice Theroux, and Carousel Pictures’ Tyler Levine and Katelyn Cursio. The project is supported by the Short-Term Compensation Fund, administered by Telefilm Canada on behalf of the Government of Canada. Production financing provided by Telefilm Canada, Ontario Creates, the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund, and SIM Post Sound and Picture. The film is being distributed in Canada by Mongrel Media and sold globally by Voltage Pictures. Development support furnished by Telefilm Canada and the Harold Greenberg Fund.
(December 2, 2020 – Toronto, ON) Deepa Mehta has never been shy about taking risks with her films. As Steve Gravestock wrote in a 2005 Take One Magazine article about her film Water, “Her films have dealt with racism (her first feature, Sam & Me); a love affair between two women of different generations (Fire); the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the most contentious event in modern Indian history (in her epic Earth); and the conflict between old–world traditions and new–world freedoms in Toronto’s contemporary Indo–Canadian community (both Bollywood/Hollywood and Sam & Me).”
This year it is Funny Boy, which is based on the evocative, queer, coming-of-age award-winning novel by Shyam Selvadurai. Chosen to represent Canada at the 2021 Academy Awards in the Best International Feature Film category, the feature was directed by Mehta and co-written by Mehta and Selvadurai. Set in Sri Lanka in the 1970s and ‘80s, Funny Boy explores the awakening of sexual identity by a young boy named Arjie set against the backdrop of the civil war. As political tensions escalate to a boiling point between the minority Tamils and the majority Sinhalese, the boy comes of age in a society and family that refuses to embrace differences outside of societal norms. The film mirrors the oppression of the Tamil people with the marginalization Arjie suffers because of who he is and who he loves. Funny Boy chronicles a country torn apart by fear and abuse of power, while Arjie’s struggles to find balance and self-love despite the absence of empathy and understanding.
The international cast includes Agam Darshi and Brandon Ingram as the older main character Arjie. Funny Boy will have its exclusive world broadcast and streaming premiere this Friday, December 4 at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT) on CBC TV and the free CBC Gem streaming service.
Deepa Mehta Completes Her Celebrated
Elements Trilogy with Water by Steve Gravestock
(2005 – Toronto, ON) Deepa Mehta has long been one of the more controversial figures in both the Canadian and Indian film industries. One of the first women to carve out a significant career in Canadian film, and certainly the first Indo–Canadian woman to do so, Mehta has also drawn fire in both Canada and India for her choice of subject matter. Her films have dealt with racism (her first feature, Sam & Me); a love affair between two women of different generations (Fire); the partition of India and Pakistan in 1947, the most contentious event in modern Indian history (in her epic Earth); and the conflict between old–world traditions and new–world freedoms in Toronto’s contemporary Indo–Canadian community (both Bollywood/Hollywood and Sam & Me).
That said, it’s almost always been impossible to separate controversy from preconception and/or prejudice in Mehta’s case. Hearing the furor around some of her films isn’t the same as actually seeing it. Upon viewing the films, it becomes painfully obvious that it’s not Mehta’s usually even–handed, thoughtful treatment of the issues she addresses that’s the problem, but the fact that she’s dared to address them at all.
Her most controversial work remains Water, however. The film was originally set to be shot in Benares, India, but the production was shut down in 2000 when Hindu fundamentalists rioted and trashed the set. Reportedly, they were incensed by the film’s subject matter—the treatment of widows in India—although there were also allegations that local politicians were demanding a share in the film’s revenue and had stirred up the fundamentalists when their requests were denied. In 2004, under a shroud of secrecy, Mehta finally shot the film just outside of Colombo, Sri Lanka. The third and final instalment in her trilogy of the elements (following Fire and Earth), it’s also her most assured, powerful and possibly best work to date—a beautiful and moving conclusion to one of the most ambitious projects in Canadian cinema.
Set in 1939 on the Bengali/Behar border, Water focuses on three widows who, according to tradition, have been separated from the rest of society and placed in a house exclusively dedicated to their “kind.” As the film opens, we see precocious, eight–year–old Chulia (Sarala, pictured above) dangling her legs off the back of a wagon, blissfully unaware of the fact that her husband is dying and she’s about to be taken from her home and family because of ancient Hindu religious beliefs. Upon her arrival at the ashram where she’s probably going to spend the rest of her life (widows aren’t permitted to remarry or socialize with the outside world), she meets the retiring Kalyani (Lisa Ray, one of the luminescent leads of Bollywood/Hollywood), the devout Shakuntala (Seema Biswas) and Madhumati (Manorma), the nasty, dictatorial woman who runs the house.
As the film proceeds, it becomes clear that Madhumati is even more suspect than she seems, and is operating a prostitution ring that effectively keeps the house afloat. Kalyani is one of the girls who’s requested most often. Things become complicated when Narayan (John Abraham), a young progressive follower of Mahatma Gandhi, and Kalyani meet. Narayan offers a new life for Kalyani, and—aided by Chulia—she begins to entertain the possibilities of escaping the ashram. Despite the very specific setting, Water deals with decidedly universal issues. It’s as much about the place where religion, cultural mores and politics intersect as conflict.
The time in between the shoots helped make Mehta’s return to the material less difficult. She made her most buoyant film, the wildly successful romantic–comedy Bollywood/Hollywood, upon her return to Canada, and then a visually stunning, but less successful, adaptation of Carol Shield’s novel Republic of Love. “It took five years [to make Water] because it took five years to get over it,” she confides as we sit down to talk in her home in downtown Toronto. “To get over the pain and the association of being shut down and feeling like a victim, all those things I went through—feeling abject despair for many years. But Bollywood/Hollywood released me from a lot of pain. To do Water again was as if I was seeing the script for the first time.”
Narratively daring, with several rather unexpected turns (which, in some ways, play off the controlling image), Water begins by focusing on Chulia, and our first interactions with the denizens of the ashram are presented largely through her eyes. Midway through the film, Mehta shifts the focus to Kalyani and her affair with Narayan, but by the end, it’s Shakuntala who commands her attention—particularly because of her realization that her culture and her religion are not as seamlessly intertwined as she thinks.
Mehta also takes risks with the psychology of her characters. At certain points, most, if not all of them are capable of sinister acts, even young Chulia. In response to a particularly shocking act of cruelty by Madhumati, Chulia kills her parrot, the only thing in the world she truly cares for. “It’s totally instinctive,” says Mehta about Chulia’s actions. “One of the people who read the script said perhaps I shouldn’t have killed the parrot, but I was adamant about it because this is not a nice place. What happened in that house is not nice. It’s not pleasant. It calls for a gesture that might not be palatable for many, but it’s important for Chulia, and to show how horrific the situation really is, and to show that kids aren’t beyond anger.”
Even altruistic acts are suspect. After Chulia steals some sweets for an aging woman whose health is failing, the woman dies shortly afterward, and Chulia assumes it’s because of her actions. “Chulia believes that she’s responsible because it’s forbidden,” says Mehta. “Widows aren’t allowed to have sweets, and because she gave her a sweet that means God, or whatever it is, punished her. Which is another one of the things I was playing with in the film—the sort of obtuse things that contribute to the darkness. An act of kindness, in her head, also contributes to the darkness.”
Because of the delay, Mehta had to recast. Originally, Shabana Azmi and Nandita Das, the female leads from Fire, were going to play Shakuntala and Kalyani. It worked out surprisingly well, however. Ray is effective as Kalynai and Biswas essays Shakuntala with assurance, capturing the crises of conscience her character experiences beautifully. The major find, though, is Sarala, the young Sri Lankan who plays Chulia. although she had to learn Hindi phonetically.
The biggest logistical change involved the location. Mehta made inquiries about returning to Benares, but the apparent readiness on the part of people there made her uneasy. Instead, she opted to shoot in Sri Lanka, a spot that had unexpected benefits. “We didn’t have the sweep of Benares, so it became a smaller town on the Bengali/Behar border in my head,” Mehta says, “and we had to make everything smaller because of that. It was interesting because I felt that I was going more from the specific to the universal with [the new] location. Benares is so large and overpowering, it had almost become a character by itself. I think this time, because it was more contained, the characters breathed more. I cut a lot of the dialogue out. I pared it down. Perhaps I just felt more confident in my ability that I could actually tell a story visually than I could five years ago. I felt if it were a gesture or a look, I had no problem holding on to it as opposed to having them [the characters] talk about what they were feeling. But the essence of the dialogue didn’t change at all. The story didn’t change at all.”
This confidence in her ability to tell the story in visual terms is evident in the layered manner in which Mehta develops the central image. From the opening shot of lily pads to the funerals of some of the principals, and even with seemingly innocuous lines of dialogue, the film stresses the notion of fluidity and change, a concept that contrasts harshly with the rigid and immobile principles behind the ashram. The holy river where the house is located to some degree taunts the characters, representing, in spiritual terms, liberation—a liberation that’s effectively denied them.
The pared–down, deceptively simple feel of the narrative recalls the lyricism of one of Mehta’s greatest influences, Bengali master Satyajit Ray. In fact, when Mehta asked composer Mychael Danna what he heard when he saw the film, he replied Pather Panchali, Ray’s masterpiece from 1955; however, the historical sweep and its emphasis on a culture going through seismic shifts is very much in line with Mehta’s other work, most notably Earth.
Mehta stresses the seismic political and cultural shifts occurring outside the walls of the ashram through Narayan’s progressive beliefs and the figure of Gandhi. On a socio–historical level, Gandhi comes to represent the widows’ desire for a better life in the here and now. He’s also seen in historical terms and presented, at least initially, through the eyes of her less salutary characters. “That period of history—the 1930s—is very interesting,” says Mehta. “The awareness of Gandhi was permeating not only the intellectuals but also the untouchables, the working class and the middle class. Everybody had their own take on who he was. When I was writing it, I set up Gandhi in a very negative light. Madhumati and her eunuch keep on talking about Gandhi: ‘What is he doing? He’s ruining this wonderful culture, which is so great and everything is running so well. Now there are shootouts. Don’t you know he’s terrible—he cleans his own latrines.’ And in the end you realize what he stands for. He’s a kind of liberation, too.”
For the record, her experience with Water hasn’t soured Mehta on tough subjects. Currently, she’s completing a documentary on domestic abuse called Let’s Talk about It, shot from the perspective of children who have lived through it, and her next feature may just be an adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s celebrated and notorious Midnight’s Children. The release of Water will be accompanied by a book by Devyani Saltzman, Mehta’s eldest daughter, who recounts the film’s troubled history. Distributed by Mongrel Media, Water is set to open in Canada this fall.
This article originally appeared in Issue 51 of Take One magazine in 2005. Northernstars.ca acquired the digital archive of Take One in 2007. When this was published Steve Gravestock was the programmer/associate director, Canadian Special Projects, at the Toronto International Film Festival Group. As of 2020 he was still with the Toronto International Film Festival Group.
109 minutes – Drama
Language: English, Sinhala, Tamil
Festival release date: November 16, 2020 (Available Light Film Festival, Whitehorse, Yukon)
Release date: November 27, 2020 (Canada)
World broadcast premiere: (December 4, 2020 – CBC Canada)
Production company: Hamilton Mehta Productions
U.S. distributor: Array
Set in Sri Lanka in the 1970s and ‘80s, Funny Boy follows the story of Arjie, as a boy of eight and as a teenager living in an upper middle-class family, who struggles with his sexual orientation in a deeply conservative society. As political tensions escalate to a boiling point between the minority Tamils and the majority Sinhalese, Arjie comes of age in a society and family that refuses to embrace differences outside of societal norms. The film mirrors the oppression of the Tamil people with the marginalization Arjie suffers because of who he is and who he loves. Funny Boy chronicles a country torn apart by fear and abuse of power, while Arjie’s struggles to find balance and self-love despite the absence of empathy and understanding.
Funny Boy was selected as the Canadian entry for the Best International Feature Film at the 93rd Academy Awards.
Also see: Funny Boy on CBC.
Brandon Ingram Ali Kazmi
Seema Biswas Agam Darshi
Ruvin De Silva
The Workshop Players
Appa, Arjie’s father
Amma, Arjie’s mother
Man with Hockey Bag
Male Club Member
Female Club Member
Male Cousin 1
The King & I Troupe
Into the Light from NFB by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(November 27, 2020 – Toronto, ON) It’s not an excuse but sometimes things get a little too busy and we miss important stories. We missed one earlier this week. On November 25 the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) launched a documentary online that we all need to pay attention to. All documentaries are, by their very nature, created to help us learn more about the world we live in. Sometimes the world in focus is a vast and barren snowscape from northern Canada, sometimes it is so close to home it is painful to watch because it can touch in ways and stir our emotions in ways that remind us we are human and there are those around us who use their power or strength or anger to hurt others.
November 25th was an important day. It was International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. As few other documentary producers can, the NFB has the resources to reach out beyond the big screen or, in this case the small screen, and extend the message of their films into the community. The film that is the impetus behind this effort is titled Into the Light from the highly talented director Gentille M. Assih.
The 79 minute documentary features the liberating life stories and powerful words of inspiring Québec women of African origin who’ve regained control over their lives after suffering from domestic violence. As the NFB describes it, the film “transcends prejudice and breaks the silence, pulling back the curtain on a poorly understood, hidden world, while testifying to the tremendous power that comes from overcoming isolation and accepting one’s self.” Into the Light follows Christiane (pictured above), a high school French teacher, and her friend Aïssata, who works in finance. They had no clue that the process of immigrating to Canada and integrating into a new culture would contribute to the breakup of their families, which fractured as a result of domestic violence. Along the way, we meet Chouchou and her husband, a younger couple who’ve recently arrived in Canada; an imam; a pastor; an African motivational speaker; friends who had no idea what they were going through; a doctor during a medical appointment; and even Christiane’s father in her country of origin, Togo. As we meet the people around them, we come to understand the depths and complexity of their experience and the courage it takes to reclaim control of their lives. They make a powerful and positive impact.
As mentioned, the impact of this film extends beyond its mere screening. The documentary’s release marked two annual campaigns for the prevention of violence against women, with two virtual discussion panels available Canada-wide in early December. Both will provide opportunities for discussions with members of the film’s production team and experts on the subjects of women’s shelters for victims of domestic violence and welcoming immigrants.
The French-language panel, organized by the NFB, will take place on December 1 during Quebec’s 12 days of action to end violence against women, which conclude on December 6, in commemoration of the Polytechnique massacre.
The English-language panel will be presented by Women’s Shelters Canada on Thursday December 3, beginning at 7 p.m. EST, as part of the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-Based Violence, and will feature:
– Patricia Vargas, Director, Children, Family and Community Service at Catholic Community Services of Alberta;
– Margarita Pintin-Perez, Senior Coordinator, Initiative to End Gender-Based Violence at OCASI – Ontario Council of Agencies Serving Immigrants;
– Nathalie Cloutier, NFB Producer and Executive Producer.
The panel will also include video messages by director Gentille M. Assih, Christiane Zanou, Aïssata Cisse and Chouchou Assih. It will be moderated by Leah Stuart-Sheppard, Knowledge Exchange Coordinator at Women’s Shelters Canada.
(November 27, 2020 – Toronto, ON) I’m fairly certain I first heard the words Wall Flower in high school. In an effort to meld a student body with some cohesiveness beyond the classroom the school would host dances. I have a very vague memory of some gym classes being devoted to dance lessons but that could have been in grade school. At the dances the school would bring in some local aspiring rock band to provide the music and teachers would chaperone the event by patrolling the crowd and urging those lining the walls to get out on the dance floor. I was a pretty good dancer back then but I thought the Twist was silly. But this isn’t about me.
Turns out there are some people who have a real fear of dancing. There’s even a term for the affliction: chorophobia, and that’s the basis for a documentary that is available today on CBC’s streaming service, Gem.
We learn early on that director Michael Allcock loved to dance when he was a child but as he grew up his fear of dancing set in. Born in Montreal, Fear of Dancing is his 4th documentary but he knew what he was doing right from the start. The first documentary he wrote, Cass, showcased at Hot Docs 2000 and it was given both the Best Short Documentary and Best of the Festival award at the Yorkton Film Festival. As part of the film’s description states, “Hilarious and heartbreaking, the search for answers reveals a rarely seen world rife with sex, spirituality, robots, virtual reality, and a deadly medieval epidemic. Along the way, Allcock meets celebrities, scientists and others who have taken extreme steps to overcome their chorophobia.” Click here to learn more and watch the trailer for Fear of Dancing.
Look for Fear of Dancing on CBC’s Gem, starting today.
92 minutes – Thriller
Release date: May 3, 2013
DVD release date: August 27, 2013
Canadian Distributor: Filmoption International
Framed within a series of strange campfire tales, The Good Lie tells the story of Cullen, a young college student. Upon the sudden death of his mother, he discovers that he is the product of a violent rape, which put his young mother in critical condition, and her attacker – a lifelong criminal named Rose – in prison. Cullen goes to the prison to confront the man, and is shocked to hear that Rose was released the previous year. Cullen resolves to track down his sinister biological father, and learns that the truth can be far more bizarre than anything told around a campfire.
This film should not be confused with the 2014 US film, The Good Lie, directed by Philippe Falardeau.
Oil Drinking Lumberjack #2
Decapitating Lumberjack #4
80 minutes – Documentary
Language: French, English subtitles
Release date: November 25, 2020 (World Premiere)
Production company: NFB
Canadian distributor: NFB
Into the Light features the liberating life stories and powerful words of inspiring Quebec women of African origin who’ve regained control over their lives after suffering from domestic violence. The film transcends prejudice and breaks the silence, pulling back the curtain on a poorly understood, hidden world, while testifying to the tremendous power that comes from overcoming isolation and accepting one’s self. It’s a luminous dive into the quest for personal healing and universal humanity. The film follows Christiane (pictured above), a high school French teacher, and her friend Aïssata, who works in finance. They had no clue that the process of immigrating to Canada and integrating into a new culture would contribute to the breakup of their families, which fractured as a result of domestic violence.
NOTE: Into the Light was released on November 25, 2020 to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
Also see: Into the Light from NFB.
Also watch: A Trailer for Into the Light.