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Robin Ruel

Robin Ruel, actress,
Robin Ruel in a publicity photo for the 2019 film Stand!

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

Life Is a Miracle (2001)
Some Lucky Bastard (2003, short)
The Poet (2007)

Jack (TV-2013)
Hyena Road (2015)
Wait Till Helen Comes (2016)
Into Invisible Light (2018)
Breakthrough (2019)
I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story (TV-2019)
Stand! (2019)

The Grudge (2020)

Stand! movie poster,

Aidan Moreno

Aidan Moreno, actor,

Aidan Moreno was born and raised in the United Kingdom and attended university in his native city London, where he graduated with a Degree in English Literature and Dramatic Arts. A permanent resident of Canada, Moreno has also lived in the UK and Spain and has performed in Spanish as well as English.

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

Northern Lights (2015, short)
Punctual Condolence (2015, short)
Mercy (2015, short)
(Short) (2015, short)
Heat (2015, short)
Rondo (2015, short)
Boy Super (2015, short)
I, Pedophile (TV-2016)
The Loyalist (2016, short)
Altercation (2016, short)
The Seedy Garden (2016, short)
The Movie (2016, short)
Dread (2016, short)
Collide (2016, short)
IIII (2016, short)
Dinner for Three (2016, short)
Ergo Sum (2016, short)
True Thought (2016, short)
Justice for MLK: The Hunt for James Earl Ray (TV-2016)
Lie to Layla (2017)
Dead Leaves on Dirty Ground (2017, short)
Crimson Sands (2017)
The Lone Peddler (2017)
Fool Me Once (2018, short)
Before We Fall (2018)
Stand! (2019)

Let Him Go (2020)
The First Encounter (2020)

TV Series – Cast:
21 Division (2016)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
Gran Hotel (2013)
Covert Affairs (2014)
Motives & Murders: Cracking the Case (2014)
Bajo sospecha (2015)
Sin identidad (2015)
Thorns of Tenderness (2016)
The Spectre (2016)
The Strain (2017)
Supernatural (2017)
Jann (2019)
Blood & treasure (2019)
Murdoch Mysteries (2019)

Stand! movie poster,

Hayley Sales

Hayley Sales, actress,
Hayley Sales in a publicity still for the 2019 film Stand!

B: in Washington, D.C.

Hayley Sales was born in Washington, D.C. and grew up in Portland, Oregon before moving with her family to Vancouver, British Columbia when she was a teenager. She began acting and singing professionally at the age of five. Sales played the role of Cable’s Wife in Deadpool 2.

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

It Haunts Me (VR-2005, short)
Sleepover Nightmare (VR-2005)
What You Want (2007, short)

More Than You Know (2010, short)
Unravel Me (2010, short)
Keep Driving (2011, short)
Just Pretend (2012, short)
Muzinema (2013, short)
Love on the Sidelines (TV-2016)
Generation Wolf (2016)
Haley (2016, short)
Like Cats & Dogs (TV-2017)
The Perfect Bride (TV-2017)
Prodigals (2017)
Royal New Year’s Eve (TV-2017)
Deadpool 2 (2018)
The Perfect Bride: Wedding Bells (TV Movie)
Stand! (2019)

Just for the Summer (TV-2020)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
Cedar Cove (2013, 2014, 2015)
Ties That Bind (2015)
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce (2016)
Heartbeat (2016)
Imposters (2017)
Supergirl (2017)
The Good Doctor (2018)
Supernatural (2018)

Deadpool 2, movie, poster,

Stand! movie poster,

Lisa Bell

Lisa Bell, actress,
Lisa Bell in a publicity still for the 2019 film Stand!

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

No Time Like Christmas (TV-2019)
Stand! (2019)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
Falcon Beach (2007)

Paul Essiembre

Paul Essiembre, actor
Paul Essiembre in a publicity still for the 2019 film Stand!

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

The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996)
Good Will Hunting (1997)
Moving Day (1998, short)

A House Divided (TV-2000)
Franklin and the Green Knight: The Movie (voice, VR-2000)
The Loretta Claiborne Story (TV-2000)
Chasing Cain (TV-2001)
Treed Murray (2001)
Danger Beneath the Sea (TV-2001)
Good Fences (TV-2003)
The Piano Man’s Daughter (TV-2003)
Coast to Coast (TV-2003)
Plague City: SARS in Toronto (TV-2005)
The Dark Room (TV-2007)
Chloe (2009)

Jack (TV-2013)
Sea Legs (2013, short)
Bunks (TV-2013)
A Warden’s Ransom (2014)
Strings (2015)
Chopin’s Heart (2016, short)
Hard Way Girl (2016, short)
A Dream of Christmas (TV-2016)
Surfaciung (2017, short)
Stegman is Dead (2017)
Love in Design (TV-2018)
Under the Autumn Moon (TV-2018)
A Christmas in Tennessee (TV-2018)
One Winter Proposal (TV-2019)
Escaping the Madhouse: The Nellie Bly Story (TV-2019)
I Am Somebody’s Child: The Regina Louise Story (TV-2019)
Merry & Bright (TV-2019)
Always and Forever Christmas (TV-2019)
Stand! (2019)
The Christmas Club (TV-2019)

Nobody (2020)
Welcome to Sudden Death (VR-2020)

TV Series – Cast:
Silver Surfer (voice, 1998)
Blaster’s Universe (voice, 1999-2000)
Rescue Heroes (voice, 1999-2013)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal (1996)
Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1996)
Freaky Stories (1997)
Blazing Dragons (voice, 1998)
Little Bear (voice, 1999)
Mythic Warriors: Guardians of the Legend (1999)
Avengers (voice, 1999)
Amazon (1999, 2000)

The What a Cartoon Show (voice, 2000)
Relic Hunter (2000)
Canada: A People’s History (2000)
The Accuser (2000)
The 7th Portal (voice, 2000)
Anne of Green Gables: The Animated Series (voice, 2001)
Screech Owls (2001)
Bob and Margaret (2001)
Blue Murder (2001, 2003)
Cyberchase (voice, 2002)
George Shrinks (voice, 2003)
Veritas: The Quest (2003)
Doc (2003)
My Dad the Rock Star (voice, 2003, 2004)
Jacob Two-Two (voice, 2003, 2006)
Puppets Who Kill (2004)
The Newsroom (2004)
1-800-Missing (2004)
Sue Thomas: F.B.Eye (2004)
Kevin Hill (2005)
Queer as Folk (2005)
Time Warp Trio (voice, 2006)
At the Hotel (2006)
ReGenesis (2006)
Billable Hours (2008)
Degrassi: The Next Generation (2009)
Murdoch Mysteries (2009)

Cobvert Affairs (2010)
Warehouse 13 (2010)
Pirates: Adventures in Art (voice, 2010)
Good Dog (2011)
Suits (2011)
Flashpoint (2011)
Mayday (2011)
Mudpit (voice, 2011)
Republic of Doyle (2012)
Nikita (2012)
Perception (2012)
Less Than Kind (2013)
Burden of Truth (2019)


100 minutes – Musical, Drama
Language: English
Release date: November 29, 2019 (Canada-wide)
Production company: Frantic Films, Boomtalk Musical Productions
Canadian distributor: Filmoption International

It is 1919. Stefan Sokolowski and his father Mike have fled Ukraine for the New World, where they struggle to earn enough to re-unite the family. Stefan is instantly smitten with the Jewish suffragette neighbour, Rebecca – but Rebecca’s brother Moishe and Mike oppose the would-be Romeo and Juliet romance. Meanwhile, soldiers home from the war are increasingly frustrated and angry at the lack of jobs. They violently threaten the city’s immigrants, including Emma, a refugee from racial persecution in Oklahoma. When a movement develops for workers to leave their jobs in protest, AJ Anderson, a wealthy lawyer, pits all against each other in a dramatic and inspirational final stand. Based in part on the famous Winnipeg Strike of 1919, the movie is an adaptation of Juno-award-winning composer Danny Schur & Rick Chafe’s hit musical Strike!

Producer:Jeff Peeler
Danny Schur
Executive Producer:

Robert Adetuyi
Graham Ludlow

Associate Producer:

Greg McKay


Robert Adetuyi


Rick Chafe
Danny Schur


Roy H. Wagner


Ron Wisman


Danny Schur

Production Designer:

Marian Wihak

Art Director:

Svjetlana Jaklenec

Costume Designer:

Maureen Petkau


Marshall Williams
Laura Slade Wiggins
Lisa Bell
Gregg Henry
Paul Essiembre
Pilar Floyd
Hayley Sales
Erik Athavale
Aidan Moreno
Sarah Luby
Boris Gulyarin
Dustin Kuschnereit
Bradley Sawatzky
Bj Verot
Angela Narth
Blake Taylor
Paul Andrich
Robin Ruel
Chelsey Mark
Evan Martin
Monika Thurn und Taxis
Jon Ted Wynne
Ari Hansen
Charlene Tanner
Ryan Ash
Cam Gates
David Swim
Steve Pacaud
Jim Kirby
Scott Cloney
William Whyte

Stefan Sokolowski
Rebecca Almazoff
Mike Sokolowski
A.J. Anderson
Helen Armstrong
Pumphouse Worker
Ticket Agent
Sewing Woman #2
Aleksey Vasiliev
Police officer
Beat Cop
Striker #1
Terrified Woman
Senator Gideon Robertson
Policeman 1
Susan Anderson
Pumphouse Worker
Ukrainian Mother
Ten Year Old Boy
Jailed Striker
Bearded Prisoner
Cook / protester
Special Police

Northernstars Profile: John Walker

Northernstars Profile: John Walker, image,

Northernstars Profile: John Walker

by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

(November 26, 2019 – Toronto, ON) Smart people ascribe to the notion that life is one long learning curve. You can see this in the work of documentary filmmakers who are often driven by curiosity, a “what’s next” approach to life. One such filmmaker is John Walker whose work spans so many interests, so many arenas. With his latest film, Assholes: A Theory, out there in limited distribution, we thought this might be a good time to look back at his career through three previously published works, two interviews, one of them on-camera, and a review of one of his films from almost two decades ago.

In no particular order I thought it would be fun to first look at Maurie Alioff’s review of Walker’s 2000 film, The Fairy Faith. A blurb from the Halifax Herald more or less sums up Walker’s approach: “It takes a big man to admit he believes in fairies. But filmmaker John Walker found not one but several people – including a burly ex-police chief – who fessed up to believing in the mythical little people.”
John Walker - An Interview, image,
Click here to read The Fairy Faith: In the Realm of the Little People, which was originally published in Issue 32 (May 2001) of Take One magazine. Northernstars acquired the digital archives of Take One in 2007 and Maurie Alioff is a regular contributor to Northernstars, regularly reporting on film Inside Quebec.

About a decade later, and a little less than a decade ago, Take One’s Publisher, Wyndham Wise interviewed John Walker for the September 2011 edition of Canadian Cinematographer. With his permission and encouragement, we are able to republish that interview here. Wyndham Wise is also a regular contributor to Northernstars. Click here to read that interview, in which Wyndham draws the conclusion that Walker seems to be “a bit of a workaholic.”

Finally, a few years ago in a project that was close to my heart, I had the chance to tape an on-camera interview with John Walker when he was at Hot Docs in 2016 with his film Quebec My Country Mon Pays. We were both born in Montréal and have certain aspects of its history in our DNA. As I wrote then, “the film documents a critical time in the formation of our modern nation. A time when bombs could and did go off in Montreal. A time when the federal government perceived what they called an ‘apprehended insurrection’ and the Canadian Army patrolled the streets of Montreal.” Click here to watch that interview and see his impressive filmography.

Now well into our 20th year online, one of the founding goals of Northernstars was to build a knowledge base so that Canadians could come to know the people who populate our film and television industries. In these three pieces we see a director at different points in his remarkable career. It is our hope you will, at very least, remember his name and something about the work he has done, which we hope makes you curious enough to see his new documentary and those we’re sure he will go on making for as long as he can.

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.

John Walker – An Interview

John Walker - An Interview, image,

John Walker, Filmmaker
by Wyndham Wise

(from Canadian Cinematographer, September 2011) John Walker got his start in photography and turned to documentary filmmaking as a cinematographer for Crawley Films in the 1970s. He directed his first film, Chambers: Tracks and Gestures (about Canadian artist and filmmaker Jack Chambers) for Atlantis Films in 1982 and was part of the collective that produced and directed A Winter Tan. In 1990, his Strand: Under the Dark Cloth – his deeply personal documentary on pioneering American photographer/filmmaker Paul Strand – won the Genie Award for best feature documentary. Five years later, he received a second Genie for producing George Ungar’s The Champagne Safari. His most recent documentary is A Drummer’s Dream.

One of Canada’s most honoured documentary filmmaker, Walker won the 2004 CSC best cinematography in a documentary for Men of the Deeps, and was given the Gemini Awards for best performing arts program best photography in a documentary program for the same film. Has also been nominated at the Geminis for best history documentary program for Passage and best direction in a documentary program for Men of the Deeps. Addition to his Genie win for Strand, he has received three other nominations: best documentary for The Fairy Faith (2001), best achievement in direction and best motion picture for A Winter Tan (1989).

John Walker’s passionate commitment to the documentary form has led him to work around the world and to co-found the Canadian Independent Film Caucus (now the Documentary Organization of Canada), a lobby group for point-of-view documentaries. One of the best in his generation of independent Canadian documentary filmmakers, he’s a natural successor to the poetic tradition created by Colin Low.

WW When and where were you born?

JW Montreal in 1952. I went to high school there and later I took art classes at the Musée des Beaux-Arts. I got a summer job offer in 1969 in a photography studio when I was 16, and by 1970 I had left high school and went to work full time. I grew up in a household where there were a lot of books on art, and my father had built a darkroom. I have been interested in photography since I got my first Brownie at the age of six. When I was eight, my dad gave me a twin-lens reflex camera. I remember going into the darkroom at eight and seeing an image develop. The magic of that struck me forcefully. In high school I was the president of the camera club and in the darkroom all the time.

WW Was your interest just photography, or where you also interested in the movies?

JW Just photography in high school, then a Super 8 Bolex with a zoom appeared in the house – I can’t remember how; maybe my father bought it – so I began to shoot Super 8 when I was 14 or 15. Later I had friends at Sir George Williams University studying cinema, and I began to shoot their films. Early on I had met Paul Strand, several years before he died [1976]. I had also met Patrick Crawley, the son of Budge Crawley, who was shooting film in Toronto. In 1970, I moved to Toronto to join him. While there, I met Richard Leiterman, who was shooting Hamlet for Crawley Films, directed by René Bonnière. I got a chance to watch Richard work with the actors, with his camera on his shoulder. A short while later, Patrick was involved in a plane accident, where he nearly died. When he left hospital, he was living with me, and Marin Duckworth had decided to make a film about the accident. While Martin was making this film [Accident, 1973, 16 minutes from the NFB], I was assisting him, working with a Nagra tape recorder. I was totally inspired by what Martin was doing. So it was Martin and Richard who inspired me to become a filmmaker.

I was still doing still photography to make a living, but I began to shoot film in the early 1970s, for Crawley Films and for the NFB. Nothing much, just small things. Then one thing led to another, and I began to shoot my first films for Crawley in 1975. A Song for a Miner, which I shoot in 35 mm, was my first credit as a DOP. Another film I remember from that period was Acid Rain: Requiem or Recovery, which was banned from showing in the U.S. by the Reagan administration. That was an important one.

WW Let’s talk about your film on Jack Chambers, one of your early ones that won all sorts of awards, at the Yorkton festival and the CSC gave you an award for that one.

JW The CSC, the editor’s guild, a Canadian Film Award… Jack Chambers was a London-based artist and filmmaker who came to some notoriety when he announced he had leukemia. The prices of his paintings went up, making him the highest paid living artist in Canadian history at that point. Then his cancer went into remission, and he lived another 10 years. People thought he had pulled a publicity stunt. So he became a controversial figure. He had founded the Artist’s Union, he was politically engaged, and he was also an important experimental filmmaker. He had founded the London Filmmakers Co-op long before the Toronto Filmmakers Co-op. He was somebody who used photography as a basis for his paintings. Chris Lowery, also a London-based filmmaker, came to me with the suggestion we make a film about Chambers, which became Tracks and Gestures. I shot that one in 1981. It was a one-hour film that we financed through the tax-shelter provisions of the time. It was totally successful. When we had the first screening in London, I had these investors come up to me and say they had invested in other tax-shelter films and this was the first film they had invested in that they actually liked. We sold 15 units at $10,000 per unit and raised $150,000. We sold it to the CBC for broadcast.

WW I notice that you also produced the film yourself, which was a bit unusual for a documentary filmmaker at the time. Why did you choose to go that route?

JW The reason I started into producing was that I wanted to make a film about Paul Strand, and I had the idea to make a film about Strand since the early 1970s when I first met him. At that point I had not made a film, but I wanted to make a film about his life and work.

WW So the notion of producing a film about Chambers was a step in the direction of making a film about Strand, is that what you are saying?

JW Exactly. When Chris came to me with the idea of making the film on Chambers, I was already in the process of researching and raising money for the Strand film.

WW Which actually didn’t come to fruition for another half-a-dozen years.

JW That’s right, but I had actually shot footage of Georgia O’Keefe in 1981. I was shooting the Strand film while I was making the Chambers film. In a way, the Chambers film was a way to test the waters and learn how to make a film about an artist and filmmaker.

WW In the meantime you were shooting a lot of film for other people.

JW At that time I was doing a lot of work for Rhombus Media. I shot Making Overtures, which was nominated for an Oscar. It was Larry Weinstein’s first film. Rhombus basically had me shoot all their films. Every film they were doing, they used me as their DOP.

WW Tell me how that relationship came about.

JW They were making a film called Sense of Music, which was about the music program at Oakwood Collegiate [in Toronto]. In a way, that one was a precursor to a later film I made about Oakwood called Tough Assignment. Rhombus had hired me on a recommendation from a producer at TVO who liked my work. I shot it all handheld, and I was down on the floor with the kids, techniques I had learned from Martin Duckworth and Richard Leiterman. [Producer] Niv [Fichman] and Larry liked my style, so I ended up working for them on a lot of films.

WW Also around this time, in the mid-1980s, you became involved with the Canadian Independent Film Caucus, a lobby group for documentary filmmakers. Tell me how that came about. I understand it was you, Peter Raymont and Rudy Buttignol who were the driving force behind the formation of that organization.

JW Jack Chambers was apolitical; he fought for the rights of artists. In a sense Chambers inspired the formation of the Caucus. Artists do have to fight for their rights. 1984 was the first year of Telefilm Canada, which had been created out of the ashes of the Canadian Film Development Corporation. They announced their funding guidelines, and documentaries were not included. I thought this was outrageous, especially in Canada with our documentary tradition. And it was not just me. There were several others who felt the same way. We had been talking about creating an organization for point-of-view documentary filmmakers, and this was the issue that crystalized us. I was designated by the group to attend a meeting arranged by Telefilm. Don Haig [from Film Arts] was there. Michael MacMillan [from Atlantis Films] was there. André Lamy [representing Telefilm] was there, as was Peter Pearson, who was second-in-command to Lamy. There were representatives from other producer organizations and distributors. And I was there, representing this new, upstart organization.

I looked around the table, and said there is not a filmmaker sitting at this table who is not drawn from the Canadian documentary tradition. It’s central to who we are, and if you [Telefilm] do not fund documentaries you are cutting off the umbilical cord of Canadian film culture. I was looking at Peter Pearson right in the eye when I said that, because he was the guy who was against the idea. He felt that it was the NFB’s job to fund documentaries, and I was representing the private sector. I was backed my MacMillan. Atlantis at the time was making documentaries, and he agreed with my point of view. If Michael and Don had not backed me, I would not have succeeded. The feature filmmaking guys didn’t give a fuck. Lamy came back with some bullshit, and I’ll always remember, ‘We’ll get back to you on this. We’ll be making the decision. You may not like the decision, but we’ll be making it.’ Two months later, it was announced that Telefilm would include documentaries in its funding guidelines.

WW Let’s move on to A Winter Tan, which came in the late 1980s.

A Winter Tan, movie, poster,
This poster for A Winter Tan was scanned from an original in the Northernstars Collection.

JW We started work on that film in 1985, and it was released in 1987. Initially it was agreed that the credits would read: ‘A Film by…’. There would be no directing or producing credits. We were making this film as a collective, and we wanted to break the hierarchical rules of filmmaking. It’s when we submitted the film for festival screenings, and the forms wanted the director and producer listed, that’s when we said so-and-so did this or that. Of course, the notion of having five directors was a bit silly. It was collectively made, but I was the only one looking through the camera. And Jackie [Burroughs] was the one working on the screenplay, with the help of John Frizzell. But she was the one pulling the material from the book Give Sorrow Words by Maryse Holder. The five of us [John Walker, Louise Clark, Jackie Burroughs, John Frizzell and Aerlyn Weissman] would meet every couple of weeks for nearly a year to discuss the film and shape it. Initially we thought it would be a half-hour film.

The reason it worked was because we did have separate responsibilities. We all had our thing to do, and do one was telling the other what to do. The nice thing about A Winter Tan, and probably the reason it worked so well, is that we had the freedom of a low budget and we were all friends. But I couldn’t do another because at that time the Strand film was coming together, and I was spending a lot of time making that happen. So I put all my effort into making Strand: Under the Dark Cloth after Winter Tan.

WW Well, let’s talk about Strand then. Tell me about that film.

JW I called Paul Strand my mentor. I met him when I was a young photographer, showed him my work and had the chance to talk to him about it. He was an artist I was studying and very much admired, so making the film was like doing my Ph.D. I didn’t have broadcasters telling me what to do. I had total freedom in the making of that film, and I made it the way I wanted to. That was critical. Strand was a great artist who had a lot of influence on modern photography, People studied the way he composed his shots, and he was also influential in politics and filmmaking. Making the film reinforced my interest in filmmaking. I called it Strand: Under the Dark Cloth, and in a way the film is autobiographical. I was studying Strand, but also the parallels with my own life and I came to the conclusion that photography is a very lonely occupation. You are an observer; you’re not engaging, you’re observing. And I really like the social part of filmmaking, so making that film reinforced my desire to be a filmmaker instead of a photographer. So that’s what it really was about: Where do I sit in relation to this artist?
John Walker, Filmmaker, image,
Strand’s photographs are in black and white but I shot the film in 35-mm colour because although they were shot in black and white, they have colour. Some are blue-black; some are warmer. They have the subtlety of colour, so I shot the film in colour so you could see his colour of his black and whites. I shot my own scenes in the film in colour, but on 16 mm, which I later blew up.

WW And you won the Genie Award for best documentary for the film. Was that your first Genie?

JW That’s right. In those days they had two awards, for feature documentary and short documentary. I won for feature documentary. In a way it was a drag, because the film was invited to a lot of film festivals around the world – Berlin, London, Hong Kong – and I couldn’t attend because I was in London shooting the Hand of Stalin series for the BBC. Actually, I did make it to London and Berlin, because they were close by and I was doing the edit for the series. The executive producer on that series was a Canadian, Bill Neptune and he had a company called October Films. He was in England raising money for this three-part series on Stalin, and he had recommended me as the director. And at the same time I was working on Distress Signals, which had just been green-lighted by the CBC. It was a very busy time for me. The Strand film was showing all over the world, I was shooting and editing the Stalin films in Russia and at the same time developing Distress Signals. I was off to MIP, Cannes and Africa to shoot that film.

WW And you started to work on Orphans of Manchuria.

JW Actually, that came a little bit later. October Films also produced that one. A British journalist had discovered the story that the Japanese were trying to repatriate Japanese orphans that had been left in China after the war. He took it to Channel 4 in England who turned again to October Films. The Hand of Stalin films had really put October Films on the map. The British Press Guild nominated it as the best television series of the year and it was being called a ‘masterpiece.’

WW You directed two of the three films in the series, is that correct?

JW I was supposed to direct all three but the third one was delayed for financial reasons. I had given October Films a deadline because of Distress Signals, and it didn’t happen in time, so I went on to direct Distress Signals instead. Then the people at October Films came back to me a couple of years later to direct Orphans of Manchuria and Hidden Children.

WW You were involved with another Genie-winning documentary, The Champagne Safari, on which you served as executive producer. How did that one come about?

JW I also did some additional photography on that one. Around that time a lot of filmmakers who were trying to get their projects off the ground were coming to talk to me. Bruce McDonald came to me after A Winter Tan, asking me how we did it, wanting help. With The Champagne Safari I formalized that relationship and spoke to Don Haig. He gave me advice on what to do as an executive producer, and he became my mentor. This took place over a period of years. In a way it was George Ungar’s Strand film. He had been working on it for years before he came to me. Basically my role on that film was to satisfy Telefilm Canada and the OFDC that they were going to get a film at the end of the process, because at that time George was a first-time director who had been an animator for the NFB. The funding agencies were putting the responsibility on me to deliver, and I said I would. It got the Genie and the New York Film Festival Gold and some other awards. It was a long and arduous editing process, but it was a fascinating film.

WW I would like to move on to Place of the Boss: Utshimassits, which you made in 1996. This appears to be a film closer to your heart. Tell me about that one.

JW You’re right, that story was closer to home. Up to that point I had been directing a lot of tragedy. The Hand of Stalin was tragedy, as were the Manchuria and Hidden Children films. The through line for me was how we survive tragedy, and in the sense I was making films about survivors, it can be uplifting. ‘Place of the Boss’ is a literal translation of the Inuu word utshimassits, which is where they were living. This is the Davis Inlet story and since they had been put there by the government the Innu called it the ‘Place of the Boss.’ It wasn’t their home and I thought it a very poignant notion, so I called the film Place of the Boss.

This was very tragic story and it came to national attention when several children died in a fire while sniffing gasoline. I think it was six children. I got a call from Louise Lorre of the CBC series Man Alive and asked me if the story interested me. But Man Alive is only a half-hour show, so I went to Davis Inlet to do some research and when I came back I told Louise I don’t think I can do it in half-an-hour. Concurrent to this, the Caucus was lobbying the CBC for a new documentary strand, which became Witness, and Place of the Boss was shown during the first year of that new series and it won a number of awards, including the Donald Brittain Award, which I am very proud off.

It was a tough shoot. I was very fortunate to be working with Nigel Markham, who was the cinematographer on that film. I choose not to shoot it myself. He had worked with the Innu before, so he brought experience and it was a good collaboration. But it was very tough to shoot such a tragic story. The whole village had decided collectively that they had to start on a path of healing. So we were dealing with this transitional process to healing, and in a way it was similar to my experience working on the Stalin films, when people were just beginning to open up and talk about their experiences under Stalin. So the timing is critical when telling these type of stories. People were at a point when they wanted to talk and get their stories out. We shot Place of the Boss over a period of a year, and I made three or four trips up to Davis Inlet. Concurrent to shooting that film, I was making Tough Assignment at Oakwood Collegiate in Toronto.
John Walker - An Interview, image,
WW Which brings us The Fairy Faith, which I understand you, also worked on for a while.

JW The Fairy Faith came about because I was quite drained from a lot of tragedy. I had made tough films, and in a way Tough Assignment was a break from that pattern because it had some humour in it. I was really questioning the type of films I wanted to make, and I thought I should go into drama and maybe make some fictional films. Frankly, I wanted to get away from documentary reality and documentary truth, because it was becoming painful and difficult as a filmmaker. I wanted to start to use my imagination, and several forces converged that lead me to make a film about mythology and the ‘little people.’ It ended up being a documentary about the imagination: What is imagination? Where does it come from? Why do we lose the imagination we have as children? That was my inquiry. The fairy lore became the vehicle to explore this. What tweaked me, what got the whole thing started, was when I was in London and I went to an exhibition at the Royal Academy on Victorian fairy paintings. I saw all these incredible illustrations and paintings from that period. In later Victorian times there was quite a revival of belief in fairies and ‘little people.’

WW It must have been quite a challenge to make a film about something that isn’t there.

JW You’re quite right. I was laughing to myself about setting out to make a film about something presumably you can’t see. What am I going to shoot? That was quite interesting to me, and that’s what clicked when I saw all these paintings. At least I would have some visuals to illustrate my point. If I had not seen the exhibition, I probably would have passed on the subject.

We did release it theatrically, and it did well. It played the TIFF theatrical circuit, and it got a Genie Award nomination. Surprisingly people did love the film. It did very well in the Maritimes and Newfoundland, but I didn’t have the time or money to promote it properly in the rest of Canada.

WW Wasn’t your next film, Men of the Deeps, a more traditional documentary?

JW What’s interesting about that film is that the shape of the story is be formed by the lyrics of the songs. The authorship of the film is in a way the words of the songs the coal miners have written. Coal is in the very veins of Cape Breton culture; there is an oral tradition that dates back generations, so I rooted the film in that tradition. Coal miners are great storytellers. I was familiar with the choir, but this is a film I wanted to do since the mid-1970s. This was a story that had been living inside me since I shot A Song of a Miner. What precipitated the film was the announcement that the last coal mine in Cape Breton was being shut down. It was the end of a 300-year tradition of coal mining in Cape Breton. I was speaking to Kent Martin, my NFB producer on The Fairy Faith, about this, and he was the one who suggested making a film on Men of the Deeps. It struck me like a thunderbolt. I would combine a film about the choir and the closing of the last mine. I was on the phone and on my way to Cape Breton two days after that conversation. At first my plan was to make it feature length, but when I started the editing process I liked the hour, although we did blow it up to 35 mm for some theatrical screenings in Cape Breton. But essentially we made it an hour for television.

John Walk - An Interview, image,

WW Your next film, the docudrama Passage, is about Sir John Franklin’s failed Northwest Passage expedition and subsequent attempts to discover what happened to him by the Scotsman John Rae.

JW I had travelled to the Arctic when I was 16 on a ship from Montreal for two months. That trip completely transformed my consciousness, and the Arctic is very close to my heart. We shot Passage in Rankin Inlet and Repulse Bay in the Arctic and the Okney Islands in northern Scotland.

WW You produced, wrote and directed Passage, but you didn’t shoot it, is that correct?

JW I shot a lot of the landscapes. When I did my research, I look my Aaton Super 16-mm camera with me.

WW Your most recent film is A Drummer’s Dream, which you have been travelling the country with. Tell me about that film. Again you produced and directed it, and where you behind the camera as well?

JW I shot some third camera. My DOPs were Kent Mason and Nigel Markham, both of whom I worked with before. The film had been developed in conjunction with the Canadian Film Centre and the NFB. It’s about a wide range of drummers, from rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, Latin, soul, you name it, it was some of the best drummers on the planet, a real diversity of characters. It was my nephew, Jamal, in Montreal, who had told me what his other uncle was up to. I was in Montreal for my father’s wake, and Jamal told me about this drum camp his uncle was putting together with this amazing line up of talent. I was immediately interested. So I got in touch with the people organizing the camp, got the permission I needed, and went about raising the money. It was the first film I had shot on digital, and I used the Sony 900R.

We were going to shoot long performance takes, and I thought the digital format was ideally suited for that. As for the result, I would say there’s about 10 per cent of A Drummer’s Dream that I wish I shot on film, mainly the exteriors. When you are shooting high-contrast summer light, film handles that beautifully. But I was really happy with the interiors and the projection looks great. I really like digital projection. I still really love film but I don’t like the cost of 35mm prints. When you are an independent filmmaker and your films don’t have a wide release, you can only afford a couple of prints and they get scratched and all that. Will I shoot on film? It depends on the project. I have not thrown my Aton in the garbage yet.

WW You were one of the filmmakers on the National Parks Project, a collection of short films celebrating 100 years of the creation of the first National Park in Canada, which had a brief theatrical release earlier this year.

JW The idea was to pick a park of your own choosing, and along with the three musicians, create a film about the park with total freedom to do what you wanted. It was very cool. I like making shorts, and after making long, complicated films like Passage, it was fun to do. I can’t say that I’m an expert at it, but I would really like to make some more shorts. My film was called The Stars and the Waves, about the Prince Edward Island National Park.

WW Looking back, which film, or films, gave you the greatest pleasure?

JW That is a tough question. It terms of the challenge, the most challenging, was Passage. Before that film, I would have said Strand was my most challenging. It was my first big film, but Passage was the biggest challenge on all levels because of the story structure and mixing fiction with drama. In terms of pure pleasure and joy to make, A Drummer’s Dream. When I was looking at the rushes with Jeff Warren, my editor, we were smiling and laughing the entire time. This continued through the whole edit, and it continues with every screening of the film. It just won the FIPA gold prize in France, which is a big award. That’s like the European Emmy Awards. The film got a standing ovation. It’s a very positive, uplifting film, and just the whole process of making it was a joy. The truth is, as a teenager I played the drums, which I gave up when I was 17.

WW What is the best piece of professional advice you received?

JW The best piece of professional advice? Probably from my father, who said don’t worry about the money, focus on your craft. Do your craft as best as possible and the money will follow. It was good advice, and it has worked out that way. I always try to make the best film possible, whatever the subject matter.

WW You mentioned earlier the influence of Richard Leiterman and Martin Duckworth on your work. What about Colin Low?

JW Yes, I should have mentioned him. Seeing his early films, especially Corral, was thrilling. His emotional commitment to subject; Corral is just a beautiful and inspiring film. Donald Brittain was another big influence. I remember when I first meet Paul Strand and said I wanted to do a film on his life and influence, he asked me if I had seen Bethune? At that point I was not aware of Brittain, so I went and got the film from the NFB and watched it. So it was my mentor, Strand, who introduced me to the films of Brittain. He was a huge influence.

WW I mentioned Low because he represents the lyrical side of the documentary filmmaker.

JW You’re right, but I should mention one of my favourite films, which is Pierre Perrault and Michel Brault’s Pour la suite du monde. It was a big inspiration early on. Michel Brault was important to me, because he was not only a cinematographer but also a director. His work really opened my eyes to the possibility of filmmaking. He came from a classical tradition of filmmaking and his work has a very strong sense of place.

WW One final question. You seem to be a bit of a workaholic, what’s next for John Walker?

JW I’m really spending a lot of time with A Drummer’s Dream, promoting it. Right now we’re working on a strategy for a U.S. release. People are really responding to this film. There’s a lot of potential with the film, and I’m spending more time with its distribution. We played the Havana Jazz Festival. We’re getting interest from Korea and all over. I promised myself I would spend at least another year promoting it. I also have another Arctic film I am developing, and I want to do another music film, because they’re a lot of fun to make. I do have a feature script I am writing, so I hope to do a drama sometime in the future.

Also see: John Walker’s filmography.

Northernstars logo image This article was originally published in the September 2011 issue of Canadian Cinematographer and is reproduced here with permission of its author, Wyndham Wise. Wyndham Wise is the editor of Take One’s Essential Guide to Canadian Film and publisher of Take One: Film & Television in Canada (1992–2006).

The Fairy Faith

The Fairy Faith, image,
Promotional photo of John Walker from The Fairy Faith courtesy of the National Film Board.

The Fairy Faith: In the Realm of the Little People
By Maurie Alioff

“The old fable–existences are no more
The fascinating race has emigrated
The fair humanities of old religions
That had their haunt in dale or piny mountain
Or chasms and watery depths – all these have vanished
They live no longer in the age of reason “

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s translation of lines by Friedrich Schiller

There’s a moment of fairy faith that millions of people have succumbed to: the showbiz moment when Peter Pan, revealing fear for the first time, asks us if we believe in fairies.

Tinker Bell has been badly hurt, and like a dying firefly, her light is ebbing away. Desperate to save her, Peter grabs at a long shot. He tells us that if we believe in fairies, we should clap our hands. And the long shot pays off when everyone claps so hard, Tinker Bell shines brighter than ever, strength and fairy glamour restored by the miracle of belief in her impossible existence.

Of course, there’s a lot more to magic creatures and parallel worlds than their theatrical value, as John Walker makes clear in The Fairy Faith, the feature–length documentary he co–produced with the NFB. Walker’s picture delves into subtle, ambiguous and thought–provoking manifestations of the uncanny. It stirs up feelings and expectations as when something strange quivers past a tree and disappears into the summer air.

This fascination with the supernatural might seem unlikely for those familiar with Walker’s documentaries about Stalinist horrors (The Hand of Stalin 1990, two films for BBC–TV), war victims (Orphans of Manchuria 1993) and the traumas of native people (Utshimassis: Place of the Boss 1997). He also co–directed and photographed the collective, aciduous A Winter Tan (1988), which unflinchingly portrayed a sexual adventurer’s exhalations and humiliations, charting experiences Sex and the City’s neurotic cuties wouldn’t want to know about. As for Walker’s approaches and aesthetics, his Genie–winning Strand: Under the Dark Cloth (1990), says a lot about who he is. The movie offers a reverent appreciation of Paul Strand, the 20th–century master photographer whose meticulously formal city images and landscape shots convey, along with their social consciousness and humanistic values, a hint of mystery.

Walker uses The Fairy Faith’s airy subject matter to dig into substantial issues. One of the points the film makes is that otherworldly creatures, whether real or not, fire up the imagination, arousing a sense of wonder and beauty in a world driven by the gadget marketplace and passionless rationalism. Writing at the beginning of the Industrial Age, Charles Dickens insisted, “It is a matter of great importance that fairy tales should be respected. A nation without fancy, without some romance, never did, never can, never will, hold a great place under the sun.” For Walker, who chose to zero in on the rich Celtic traditions of Shein, and other varieties of little people, his film “is a digging into the ground of my indigenous roots of Ireland and Scotland. In that culture, there’s also another language, Gaelic, which my ancestors spoke. And within that language resides a different world view, a less materialistic view than the English language, which has been influenced by the Enlightenment over the last few hundred years.”

As for the fairies themselves, in addition to an outpouring of books, art, and some movies (Peter Jackson’s three–part Lord of the Rings adaptation will be a major movie event in 2001), there are at least 3,000 websites devoted to the little creatures. “The Otherkin” (www.otherwonders.com/otherkin) is a growing movement of people who believe that they are really different types of fairies or other fantastical being. They claim they heal faster than regular people, had wings in previous incarnations, and so on. You might wonder about the true nature of The Fairy Faith’s cast of characters as the film moves rapidly and without signposts from Cape Breton to England, Scotland and Ireland, eventually circling back to where it started. The picture is almost always meeting people in nature, which gives off vibes that are alluring, secretive and sometimes forbidding. Watching the movie, you tend to forget which country you’re in. They all blend into a transnational realm where those we encounter either believe that humans co–exist with supernatural beings or refuse to see them as pure fantasy.

Walker’s documentary quietly sidles up and cajoles you into believing the little people are checking you out when you trundle past their secret bushes. But The Fairy Faith never insists. Its only special effect is Walker’s impeccable cinematography enhanced by supple editing rhythms that either toss fairy dust in your eyes, or hold an image just long enough to give you time to pick up on the magic. “Documenting a subject you can’t see,” says Walker, “was a challenge.” At the outset, he decided that he would “use no tricks. It was so tempting. I could have added digital effects, but I took a very straight approach. It’s a counterpoint; it’s like a foil. Documentary is playing straight man to a subject that is not straight at all. I didn’t want to superficially enhance it.”

Shot in Super 16, blown up to luminous 35mm, the feature–length documentary’s widescreen aspect ratio gives full coverage to many striking panoramas. Once a large–format landscape photographer, Walker has a gift for capturing enigmatic junctures of terrain, light and shadow. Throughout the film, he follows true believers to fairy rings or the sites of close encounters between human and spirit. In its best moments, The Fairy Faith gives the impression you’re about to see something maddeningly elusive, as in The Innocents and Picnic at Hanging Rock. Gnome profiles materialize in rippling pools; tiny figures seem to be standing in dense greenery. Near the end of the picture, a distant, vaguely mysterious silhouette makes its way along the crest of a hill. There’s no reason to cut to the shot, other than to make you wonder if you would see fairies in such a landscape. Likewise, suggestive intercuts to paintings of nude sylphs and grinning goblins arouse your not–so–buried longing to believe in a wild, free world that never heard of the Nasdaq.

Walker met the fairy faithful who appear in his movie through a network of researchers and “people in the field, who would lead me to other people.” An ex–police chief with the appropriate name, Alex Goldie, has no doubt that fairies once braided the tail of a neighbour’s new mare. A fairy sighter called Peter Aziz tells Walker there’s one over there, right near that tree, and the camera pauses to see what he does. Steve Oldale, a construction worker who almost got his shadow stolen by an elf couple, is dying to have another close encounter.

Eighteenth–century playwright Friedrich Schiller might have worried that the “old fable–existences are no more,” but for many 21st–century rural people, they’re a daily fact of life. One of Walker’s subjects talks about a man who got himself acquitted of killing his wife by claiming the so–called person he murdered was really a changeling left in his house by fairies who abducted the real woman. Some little people wish humans well, but others brutally punish them for the tiniest violations. Storyteller Dolina Wallace, who reminds Walker of his believing maternal grandmother, tells the story of a guy who annoyed some naked sprites frolicking in a pool and ended up blind. Brian Froud, a fairy artist who thinks his intricately rendered subjects are real, seems haunted by the “dark and difficult ones.” Fairies spark fantasy, and as Walker points out “the imagination comes from the dark side of consciousness.” Maybe that’s why the creatures should “always be a playful thing.” If you get too earnest about them, you could suffer the fate of Victorian painter Richard Dadd, whose obsessively detailed paintings of fairy scenes may have been his ticket to the madhouse.

One of the oddities of The Fairy Faith is that many of its on–camera witnesses and specialists display the kind of wide–eyed, elfin physiognomies you associate with the magical beings they’re talking about. Are they “otherkin” or what? “That’s very true,” laughs Walker. “It’s like going into Stalin’s Russia and you think you’re making an independent documentary, but really you’re talking exclusively to the KGB.” Walker adds, “There is a belief that the fairies can jump in and inhabit people’s spirits.” When this possession takes hold, certain idiosyncratic characteristics emerge, features he observed in some of the people he encountered. One day during post–production, Walker was talking to a phenomenally knowledgeable professional and suddenly he noticed exactly the telltale signs: a wandering eye. “That was,” he says, “the eeriest experience I ever had.”
The Fairy Faith, image,
Although Walker says he never expected to make a movie about the little people, and he hopes it will kick off “a new chapter” for him, the project has been brewing in his unconscious for years. Walker’s grandmother, a perfectly rational history teacher, had such a “strong belief in the fairy realm” she made a point of immersing her grandson in its lore and literary traditions, which, for her, “included Chaucer, Shakespeare and Blake.” Walker recalls his grandmother’s attempts to instil the fairy faith in him “at the very cynical age of 13. It’s easy to believe in fairies when you’re eight or nine or 10. You have a child’s imagination. But something destroys it.

“Eventually,” Walker continues, “she was able to convince me in a very profound way by taking me into the landscape of Scotland, and by giving me not only a sense of the mythology, but a sense of history connected to the land, to place and the landscape. And that was a very potent experience for me because it provided me with a world view that gave me a respect for land, a sense that our spirits, our ancestors, whatever you want to call them, reside in the landscape. And that has influenced my work ever since. I get great strength from it.”

For the moviemaker, locales “that have a really strong sense of spirit are the places where the fairies dwell. In Ireland, you find them in ancient, pre–Christian places.” On one level, the little people are a point of contact with indigenous cultures, which always have, and continue to be, threatened by whoever holds the reins of power. Walker’s grandmother made a point of introducing him to the poetry of W.B. Yeats, who “used the fairies to revive Irish nationalism.”

Through the journey he took into the little’s people domain, Walker came to realize that “all indigenous people have a belief in the other realm, and we’re all indigenous to some place.” One key sequence portrays Irish storyteller Eddie Lenihan trying to save a fairy tree from being demolished by highway engineers who don’t give a damn about “desecrating sacred ground.” Lenihan’s quixotic, ultimately successful battle echoes the fights North American native’s have had with developers out to turn their sacred sites into golf courses. To underline the universality of the fairy realm, Walker closes his pilgrimage in Eskasoni, a Cape Breton Mi’kmaq reserve. The fairy sightings there, both charming and scary, sound like the stories we heard in England, Scotland and Ireland. “They have the same belief system,” says Walker, recalling a meeting he once had with a native kid in British Columbia. He told the boy, “The imperialism that destroyed your culture did the same to mine. The Gaelic language was outlawed in Canada” as part of the British attempt to dismantle Celtic civilization.

Now that John Walker has unearthed his roots, and considered the beliefs they nourish, is he someone who half–believes, wants to believe or believes in the realm of the little people? “I’ll answer with an anecdote,” says Walker. “When Yeats was doing his research on the fairies at the end of the 19th century, he asked an elderly woman, ‘Do you believe in fairies?’ And the response was, ‘Of course I don’t believe in fairies, but they’re there.’ I would say it comes close to my sentiment.”

Also see: John Walker’s filmography.

Northernstars logo imagePublished on Northernstars November 26, 2019, this article was originally published in Issue 32 (May 2001) of Take One magazine. Northernstars acquired the digital archives of Take One in 2007. 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. His articles have appeared in various publications, including Canadian Cinematographer, POV Magazine, and The New York Times.

This Winter on CBC

This Winter on CBC, image,
Promotional still from Fortunate Son courtesy of CBC.

This Winter on CBC

by Staff

(November 25, 2019 – Toronto, ON) CBC has announced the premiere dates for its winter 2020 lineup of new and returning Canadian series. The schedule launches on Sunday, January 5, with one major exception. Having picked up the Canadian rights to produce their own version of the long-running US hit game show, Family Feud, Gerry Dee takes on hosting duties for the show, which will air across the country four nights a week, starting Monday, December 16 at a special time of 8PM (8:30 NT). It will move to its regular time slot of 7:30PM (8 NT) on Monday, December 23. Now, to 2020:

There’s a new original factual series titled High Arctic Haulers. It’s about shipping in one often becomes one of the most dangerous bodies of water anywhere. As CBC describes it, High Arctic Haulers is “a high-stakes journey” which helps focus attention on life in a part of the country few of us will ever get to visit. It’s a look at Canada’s resilient, vibrant northern communities. High Arctic Haulers premieres Sunday, January 5 at 8PM (8:30 NT) 

Fortunate Son stars Kari Matchett, Darren Mann and Stephen Moyer. Set in the social and political chaos of 1968, Fortunate Son is a new spy drama that premieres Wednesday January 8 at 9PM (9:30 NT)

In a new take on the popular factual entertainment format, Back in Time for Winter follows one modern Canadian family on a winter time-travelling adventure beginning Thursday, January 9 at 8PM (8:30NT)

There’s also an epic sci-fi adventure series produced in partnership with the U.S. streaming service Hulu. Endlings follows four foster kids who make a startling discovery that affects the entire universe. Endlings premieres on Sunday, January 5 at 6PM (6:30 NT) with weekly back-to-back episodes 

There’s a new culinary competition series and original Canadian format called Fridge Wars, which premieres Thursday, February 27 at 8PM (8:30 NT) And there’s a new CBC Docs original series. It’s one of those “ripped from the headlines” productions and if you’ve been paying attention you should recognize the name. The Oland Murder will make its debut on Thursday, March 5 at 9PM (9:30 NT)

Now that we’re looking at March, CBC will carry a number of award shows that month beginning with The Juno Awards. Broadcast live from Saskatoon on CBC and CBC Gem, the annual Canadian music gala will also be live-streamed globally at cbcmusic.ca/junos at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) March 15. 

Canada Reads is a bit of a mini-series and will be be carried on CBC, CBC Radio One and cbcbooks.ca between March 25–28. Finally, the Canadian Screen Awards broadcast gala event will be on CBC and live-streamed on CBC Gem and cbc.ca/arts at 8 p.m. (9 p.m. AT/9:30 NT) March 29.

This Winter on CBC, image,
Publicity still for Workin’ Moms courtesy of CBC.

A quick look at some returning shows:

Coroner, starring Serinda Swan, returns for Season 2 on Monday, January 6 at 9PM (9:30 NT).

CBC’s popular Tuesday night comedy lineup returns with the fourth season of Kim’s Convenience at 8 p.m. (8:30 NT) and the sixth and final season of Schitt’s Creek at 9 p.m. (9:30 NT) beginning Tuesday, January 7. Workin’ Moms returns for a fourth season Tuesday, February 18 at 9:30PM (10 NT).

From comedy to the serious business of law and some of the best legal shows on television today. Kristin Kreuk stars in the legal drama series Burden of Truth. It returns for Season 3 on Wednesday, January 8 at 8PM (8:30 NT). The true-crime series The Detectives returns for Season 3 on Thursday, January 9 at 9PM (9:30 NT), and the Halifax-set legal aid drama Diggstown, which stars Vinessa Antoine and Natasha Henstridge returns for Season 2 on Wednesday, March 4 at 8PM (8:30 NT).

There’s a lot of new programming coming to CBC’s GEM streaming service, but that’s for another day.

Darren Mann

B: in Vancouver, B.C.

Darren Mann started acting in Vancouver at the age of 8. He quickly landed roles on stage and in film. However, it was his passion for hockey that made Mann take a break from acting. From playing as a 4-year-old, Mann quickly climbed the ranks becoming a junior-level star, before turning professional. Eventually injuries would force him to retire which would lead him to return to acting. All of this led Mann to land a starring role in Stanley’s Game Seven 3D from Network Entertainment where he combined his two passions of acting and hockey. In 2016, Mann co-starred in the hockey drama Hello Destroyer which premiered at TIFF. His 2018 film, Giant Little Ones had its World Premiere at TIFF 2018.

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

Stanley’s Game Seven 3D (2012, short)
Even Lambs Have Teeth (2015)
Windfall (2016, short)
Hello Destroyer (2016)
The Samaritan (2017, short)
House of the Witch (TV-2017)
Twisted Blues (2017)
Giant Little Ones (2018)

TV Series – Cast:
Fortunate Son (2020-)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
The Tomorrow People (2013)
Motive (2014)
Package Deal (2014)
The 100 (2014, 2015)
Some Assembly Required (2015)
Zombie (2015)
Supernatural (2015)
Girlfriends’ Guide to Divorce (2016)
Wayward Pines (2016)
Ice (2016)
Imposters (2017)
Van Helsing (2017)
Let the Right One In (2017)
Chilling Adventures of Sabrina (2018)
Project Blue Book (2019)

Giant Little Ones, movie, poster,

Remembering John Kastner

Remembering John Kastner, image,

Remembering John Kastner
by Staff

(November 23, 2019 – Toronto, ON) One of Canada’s most successful filmmakers, John Kastner has died at his home in Toronto on Thursday, November 21. He was 73. Kastner began his career as a professional child actor and appeared in many TV and radio programs, including the CBC drama The Offshore Island. He also produced, directed and wrote for a variety of television programs, including game shows, variety shows, and a children’s comedy. He is best known, however, as an award-winning writer, producer and director of television documentaries for the CBC and CTV. These documentary projects predominantly pertain to prisoners, Canada’s prison and parole systems as well as the personal struggles of people with life-threatening illnesses and particularly with his recent series of films about mental health.

His five-decade career brought international recognition and more than 75 international awards, including four Emmys for his films, which is thought to be more than any other Canadian documentary filmmaker. He was honoured by the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television with the Academy Achievement Award in 2007.

John Kastner was part of a filmmaking family. His brother, actor Peter Kastner died in 2008. His nephew Jamie Kastner is a successful filmmaker in his own right.

A remembrance and celebration of John Kastner’s exceptional life will be announced at a later date.

She Never Died

90 minutes – Drama, Supernatural, Thriller
Language: English
Festival release date: September 12, 2019 – Cinefest (Sudbury, ON)
Release date: December 2019
Production company: V71
Canadian distributor: A71 Entertainment
U.S. distributor: XYZ Films

Lacey (Olunike Adeliyi), is a socially detached loner who is cursed with immortality, which also brings a never-ending tedium of existence. To help keep her compulsions in check, she seeks out the darkest souls humanity has to offer. Meanwhile a middle-age detective uncovers her path, learns of her ‘powers’ and seeks her out. But Lacey, who must face her own inner demons, simultaneously needs to find her next meal.

She Never DiedShe Never Died
Producer:Zach Hagen
Bill Marks
Jennifer Mesich
Executive Producer:

Audrey Cummings
Larry Howard
Jason Krawczyk
Paul McGowan
David Miller


Dan Peel

Line Producer:

Lieann Koivukosk


Audrey Cummings


Jason Krawczyk


Ian Macmillan


Michael P. Mason


Jim McGrath

Production Designer:

Jim Peacock

Art Director:

Balint Kertesz


Olunike Adeliyi
Michelle Nolden
Noah Danby
Peter MacNeill
Lawrence Gowan
Kiana Madeira
Edsson Morales
Katie Messina
Murray Furrow
Daina Barbeau
Rowan Hildebrand
Steve Kasan
Dax Ravina
Chloe Rose
Nicholas Stead
Bradley Trudeau
Nick Stojanovic
Kevin Louis
Douglas Miller
Bill MacDonald

Man in the Hat
Trafficked Girl
Paul Hoover
Driver Dan
Homeless Joe

Audrey Cummings

Audrey Cummings. director,

B: in Québec

Audrey Cummings directed the low-budget psycho-thriller Berkshire County with the help of two fellow Canadian Film Centre grads, writer Chris Gamble and editor Mike Mason. She made horror history as the first female director to win the best feature award at L.A.’s fabled Shriekfest. Berkshire County went on to win major awards at other red-letter genre events, including the Chicago Horror Film Festival, Atlanta’s HorrorQuest fest, Phoenix’s FearCon and the Blood In The Snow Canadian Film Festival.

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

A Stolen Moment (2004, short)
A Battle for Arthur (2005, short)
Burgeon and Fade (2007, short)
Les jeux d’enfants (2008, short)

Danielle (2013, short)
Berkshire County (2014)
She Never Died (2019)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
A Stolen Moment (2004, short)
A Battle for Arthur (2005, short)
Les jeux d’enfants (2008, short)

Credits as a Producer:
A Stolen Moment (2004, short)
A Battle for Arthur (2005, short)
Burgeon and Fade (2007, short)
Les jeux d’enfants (2008, short)

Danielle (2013, short)
Berkshire County (2014)
She Never Died (2019)

She Never Died, movie, poster,

That Never Happened on CBC documentary

That Never Happened, movie, image,
Borys Sydoruk (Ukrainian Canadian Civil Liberties Association) at Internment Plaque Unveiling. Drumheller, Alberta. Photo by: Helen Wilson.

That Never Happened on CBC documentary

by Staff

(November 19, 2019 – Toronto, ON) While we hope most Canadians are aware of the shameful past and continuing injustices between our government and the many Indigenous nations that are held within our borders, there are other histories that many if not most people do not know or maybe never heard of. While the internment of Japanese Canadians during World War Two has been fairly well documented, it may come as a total surprise to learn the same fate was foisted on Ukrainians and other Europeans from the start of World War One until long after that war ended.
That Never Happened, movie, poster,
Winnipeg-born writer-producer-director Ryan Boyko’s award-winning documentary That Never Happened is a stunning examination of a truly shameful chapter of Canadian history. An era when people who had escaped the death and destruction of the Russian Revolution and had sought refuge and started new lives in Canada were forced first to register and then watch as thousands of them were rounded up. How many? Some 8,500 people were wrongfully imprisoned in internment camps across Canada between 1914 and 1920 because of the counties they came from.

Released theatrically across Canada last year, and an Official Selection of the Permanent Mission of Canada to the United Nations in September 2018, That Never Happened screened for the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as part of celebrations marking the 70th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. That Never Happened: Canada’s First National Internment Operations, will air on CBC’s documentary Channel tomorrow, Wednesday, November 20th at 9pm ET/PT. It should not be missed.

Click here to watch the trailer and learn more about That Never Happened.

That Never Happened

78 minutes – Documentary
Language: English
Festival release date: 2017 – Bay Street Film Festival
Release date:
Production company: Armistice Films Inc.
Canadian distributor: Indiecan Entertainment

The documentary, That Never Happened, subtitled Canada’s First National Internment Operation, is about the more than 8500 Ukrainian and European people who were wrongfully imprisoned in Canada between 1914 and 1920. Sent to camps across Canada, not for anything they had done but because of where they came from, the public records about this stain own Canadian history were destroyed in 1954. More than 25 years later a few brave men and women began working to reclaim this chapter in history and ensure future generations would know about it. That Never Happened was the winner of the People’s Choice Award at the 2017 Bay Street Film Festival and winner of the Best Investigative Documentary at the 2017 Regina International Film Festival. It is the first feature-length film from producer-director Ryan Boyko.

Also see: That Never Happened on CBC documentary Channel.

That Never HappenedThat Never Happened
Producer:Ryan Boyko
Diana Cofini

Ryan Boyko


Ryan Boyko
Diana Cofini


Oleksandr Kryshtalovych


Peter Chrapka


Evan MacDonald


Andrea Malysh
Sarah Beaulieu
Inky Mark
John Garaliuk
Andrew Hladyshevsky
Peter Melnycky
Borys Sydoruk
Michelle Loughery
Ivan Grbesic
Marsha Skrypuch
John Gregorovich
Roman Zakaluzny
Paulette MacQuarrie
Walter Gerdts
Prof. Lubomyr Luciuk
Jerry Bayrak
Charolette Myers Hanaghan
Lawrna Myers
Cathy Beaudette
Chief Dean Sayers
Capt. Julie Brouillette
Dr. Bohdan Kordan
Bradley Bischoff
Olana Thomson
Paul Grod,
Pierre Pawliw
Kim Pawliw
Peter Mansbridge
Walter Doskoch
Glenda Kohse
John Boxtel
Natalia Dovgyy









Voice of Katie

Ryan Boyko

Ryan Boyko, director,

B: February 25, 1980 in Winnipeg, Manitoba

Ryan Boyko is a multi award winning Visual Artist and an accomplished Actor who has performed on many of Canada’s finest stages including The National Arts Centre in Ottawa, two seasons with the Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan Festival and two seasons at The Stratford Festival of Canada, where he won the Tyrone Guthrie Award. He is the Founder and CEO of Armistice Films Inc. He wrote-produced-directed 33 episodes of the documentary TV series The Camps. That Never Happened marks his feature directorial debut. We list his credits as a Director first.

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

That Never Happened (2017, documentary)
Enemy Aliens (announced)

TV Series – at least 1 episode of:
The Camps (2016-2017)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
That Never Happened (2017, documentary)
Enemy Aliens (announced)

TV Series – at least 1 episode of:
The Camps (2016-2017)

Credits as a Producer:
Tickets (2009, short)
No Room for a Scarecrow (2009, short)

Soldier First (2010, short)
That Never Happened (2017, documentary)
Enemy Aliens (announced)

That Never Happened, movie, poster,

Tamara Podemski to Run

Tamara Podemski to Run, image,

Tamara Podemski to Run
by Staff

(November 18, 2019 – Toronto, ON) Indigenous Canadian actor Tamara Podemski just might have a gig in a new series from the creator of the hit Sandra Oh series Killing Eve. Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s new series, titled Run, is a bit of everything but being roughly specific it’s a comedic-thriller, similar to Killing Eve which dealt with a hired assassin with a strange approach to her profession.

 When we write “just might” that means Podemski has joined the cast to shoot a pilot episode.

The pilot usually ends up as the first episode in a series if the network picks up the project. In this case the network is HBO. Merritt Wever will play the central character who takes a journey with an old romantic interest. Domhnall Gleeson co-stars. Tamara Podemski has been cast to play a character named Babe, who is a lonely police detective with a soft-spoken style and a dry sense of humour who lands her first big case.

As with all pilots, the hope is it produces a contract for the first season. Since this is always an iffy proposition, no production date or release date have been announced for Run. Podemski has a role in the 2019 Atom Egoyan feature Guest of Honour.

Also see: Tamara Podemski on northernstars.ca

Assholes: A Theory

99 minutes – Documentary
Language: English
Festival release date: CPH:DOX, Copenhagen, Denmark (World Premiere)
Release date:
Production company: John Walker Productions, NFB, CBC documentary Channel
Canadian distributor: National Film Board of Canada

We live in a time of venomous social media, resurgent authoritarianism and rampant narcissism threatening to trash civilization as we know it. Producer-Director John Walker holds a cinematic mirror up to all that nonsense and with some terrific on-screen help he explains why A-holes thrive in certain environments and how they keep getting elected. Inspired by Aaron James’ New York Times bestseller of the same name, Assholes: A Theory investigates the breeding grounds of contemporary “asshole culture” and locates signs of civility in an otherwise rude-‘n-nasty universe.  With the global acceleration of asshole behaviour, spurred on by social media, the film’s participants seek to understand and push back against this rising tide of assholery.

Also see: Assholes: A Theory Begins.

Assholes: A TheoryAssholes: A Theory
Producer:John Walker
Ann Bernier
Annette Clarke

John Walker


John Walker


Paul McCurdy


Jeff Warren


Sandy Moore


John Cleese
Sherry Lee Benson-Podolchuk
Rebecca Johnson
Vladimir Luxuria
Edoardo Albinati
Piercamillo Davigo
Sherry Lee Benson-Podolchuk
Bethanye McKinney Blount
Caleb Chechota
Alejandro Chupina
Sherry F. Colb
Julienne Cordy
Rob Delano
Kevin Michael Dunford
Bill Emmott
Leslie Dixon
Dakota Gamble
Suji Gelerman
Johnathan Gilmore
Austin Hare
Robert Hockett
Aaron James
Mary Sarnataro
Lorella Zanardo
Martin Marrow
Leslie Miley
Aimée Morrison
Geoffrey Nunberg
Saule Omarova
Tim Parks
Paul Purcell
Peggy Fields Richardson
Christian Rivera






Assholes: A Theory Begins

Assholes: A Theory Begins, image,
John Cleese photo courtesy of John Walker Productions.

Assholes: A Theory Begins

by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

(November 14, 2019 – Toronto, ON) Proof that it’s impossible to be in two places at the same time can be proven by any journalist trying to cover a film festival and working with a complicated schedule of what’s screening where and when including pre-festival media screenings. In short, I missed this film when it played at Hot Docs earlier this year. 

I wanted to see it for a bunch of reasons but primarily it features two of my favourite people. The wise and often ribald Monty Python comedy legend John Cleese (pictured above), and documentary filmmaker John Walker. I’ve never met John Cleese but I have met and interviewed John Walker so I really wanted to see his new film. If you, like me, missed it, or never had a chance to see it in the first place, Assholes: A Theory is about to open in a sort of helter-skelter hop, skip and jump schedule across part of the country.
Assholes, a Theory, movie, poster,
What’s it all about? A line in the media release says it all. We live in a time of “venomous social media, resurgent authoritarianism and rampant narcissism threatening to trash civilization as we know it.” John Walker holds a cinematic mirror up to all that nonsense and with some terrific on-screen help he explains why A-holes thrive in certain environments and how they keep getting elected.

Inspired by Aaron James’ New York Times bestseller of the same name, Assholes: A Theory (a John Walker Productions/NFB production in association with CBC documentary Channel) investigates the breeding grounds of contemporary “asshole culture” and locates signs of civility in an otherwise rude-‘n-nasty universe.  In addition to John Cleese, the documentary also features former RCMP officer Sherry Lee Benson-Podolchuk, and Italian LGBTQ activist Vladimir  Luxuria, who famously locked horns with Silvio Berlusconi.


Cinematheque, Winnipeg  (Nov 13-20); Plaza Theatre, Calgary  (Nov.15-19); Metro Cinema, Edmonton (Nov 15 & 17 at 9:30); Rainbow Cinemas Golden Mile,  Regina (Nov 15- ); Magic Lantern Roxy Theatre, Saskatoon  (Nov 15 – ); Cinéma du Parc, Montreal (Nov 25-30); Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema,  Toronto (Nov 29-Dec 5, check for screening times); Imagine Cinemas, Ottawa & Imagine Cinemas Carlton Cinema, Toronto (Dec 6 – )
NOTE: John Walker will attend the November 30 screening at 2:30pm at Cinéma du Parc, Montréal and will participate in a Q&A on Sunday, December 1 at 9pm at the Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema in Toronto.

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.