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Sharron Matthews

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

B: September 16, in Hamilton, Ontario

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

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

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

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

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

Ruby and the Well (2022)

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

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

Hudson & Rex (2020)

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


97 minutes – Drama

Language: French

Festival release date:
 December 5, 2020 (Whistler Film Festival, World Premiere)
Release date: April 30, 2021 (Québec)

Production companies: Bravo Charlie, Bord Cadre Films

Canadian distributor:

Maxime, a young man in his mid-20s, works in a mine far from the city. He spends 14 days at the mine and 14 days at home. When he is at home in Val-d’Or, he shares his time with his girlfriend and his childhood friend Julien. Julien is disabled after a car accident caused by Maxime two years earlier. Consumed with guilt, Maxime seeks to redeem himself. But he is hampered by Mario, Julien’s father, who also works at the mine and still blames him. One day, an explosion occurs in the mine. As part of the rescue mission, Maxime goes underground, determined to save his friends and colleagues and bring them out alive.

Souterrain was nominated as Best Picture at both the 2021 Canadian Screen Awards and the Prix Iris in Québec. It was the opening film of the Rendez-vous Québec Cinéma film festival on April 28, 2021.

Souterrain, movie, poster,



Etienne Hansez

Executive Producer:

Andreas Roald
Dan Wechsler


Sophie Dupuis


Sophie Dupuis


Mathieu Laverdière


Michel Grou


Patrice Dubuc
Gaëtan Gravel

Production Designer:

Éric Barbeau

Costume Designer:

Caroline Bodson

Cast: Roles:

Joakim Robillard
Théodore Pellerin
Catherine Trudeau
Charles-Aubey Houde
Jean L’Italien
James Hyndman
Mickaël Gouin
Chantal Fontaine
Bruno Marcil
Jean-François Boudreau
Maxime Genois
Sébastien LeBlanc
Martin Guéin
Brigitte Tremblay
Robin L’Houmeau
Pascal Gélinas
Brad Gros-Louis
Virgil Héroux Laferté
Émile Villeneuve
Katrine Rochon
Isabelle Leyrolles
Daniel Gaulin
Victim 1
Victim 2
Jessy Thelland
Hugo Bergero
James Marcotte
Guillaume Marcotte
Richard Leblanc
Marc Gagnon
Julie Audet
Gabriel-Guy Petit
Jean-Philippe Morin

Cage Operator
Young Man
Young Miner
Martin Brunelle
Marie-Hélène Vaillancourt
Françis’ Wife
Cage Operator
Richard Coderre
Andrea Crepeau

Remembering Norm MacDonald

Remembering Norm MacDonald, image,

Remembering Norm MacDonald
by Staff Editors

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

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

Also see: Norm MacDonald filmography.

Le Club Vinland

125 minutes – Drama
Language: French
Festival release date: August 2020 (Beijing International Film Festival)
Release date: April 2, 2021 (Montréal)
Production company: Productions Avenida
Canadian distributor: Les Films Opale

Set in a boarding school for boys in Charlevoix, Québec, it is Christmas 1948. Frère Jean (Sébastien Ricard) is very popular with his young students but not so much with his superiors. With his students, Frère Jean launches a play that explores the hypothesis that Canada was first visited by Vikings in 1000 AD not discovered by Jacques Cartier in 1534. Warned that his ideas run contrary to the official version approved by the Catholic Church, Frère Jean continues to push his theory, convinced that the mythical Vinland, as described by Icelandic explorer Leif Erikson would be located on the Charlevoix coast. He enlists his students, creating Le Club Vinland (The Vinland Club) in a project to locate archaeological evidence of the ancient Norse settlement.

Originally slated for release on April 17, 2020, it had its world premiere at the Beijing International Film Festival in August 2020, before having its North American premiere at the Abitibi-Témiscamingue International Film Festival on October 31, 2020. Sébastien Ricard was given the Best Actor award at the 22nd Quebec Cinema Awards on June 6, 2021.

Le Club Vinland, movie, poster,



Chantal Lafleur


Benoit Pilon


Benoit Pilon
Normand Bergeron
Marc Robitaille


François Gamache


Richard Comeau


Guido Del Fabbro
Pierre Lapointe

Production Designer:

Patrice Bengle

Art Director:

Louise Tremblay

Costume Designer:

Francesca Chamberland

Cast: Roles:

Sébastien Ricard
Rémy Girard
François Papineau
Fabien Cloutier
Arnaud Vachon
Xavier Huard
Émilie Bibeau
Guy Thauvette
Alexandre Perreault
Alexis Guay
Xavier Rivard-Désy
Guy Sprung
Jacques Allard
Michel Laperrière
Émile Schneider
Léo Bergeron
Émile Tremblay
Edouard Roy-Frenette

Frère Jean
Frère Léon
Frère Cyprien
Frère Lucien
Émile Lacombe
Frère Mathieu
Frère Rosea
Jérôme Dubé
Pr. Thompson
Pr. Dubois
Jeune professeur
Viking 1
Viking 2
Viking 3

imagineNATIVE Announces 2021 Fest

Night Raiders, movie, image,

imagineNATIVE Announces 2021 Fest
by Staff Editors

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

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

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

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

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


Alistair Hepburn Steps Up at ACTRA TO

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

Alistair Hepburn Steps Up at ACTRA TO
by Staff Editors

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

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

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

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

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


Big Stars on Small Screens

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

Big Stars on Small Screens
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Vandervaart

Charles Vandervaart, actor,

B: September 9, 2000 in Toronto, Ontario

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

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

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

The Craft: Legacy (2020)

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

October Faction (2020)

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

Lost in Space (2021)

Zach Smadu

Zach Smadu, actor,

B: in Regina, Saskatchewan

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

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

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

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

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

Family Law (2021-)

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

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

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

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

Family Law

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

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

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

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

No poster available, image,



David Valleau

Executive Producer:

Tom Cox
Erin Haskett
Andy Mikita

Supervising Producer:

Sonja Bennett

Consulting Producer:

Sonja Bennett
Damon Vignale


Jordan Canning
Mathias Herndl
Alysse Leite-Rogers
Andy Mikita


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


Lisa Robison


Adam Lastiwka

Production Designer:

David Clarke
Don Macaulay

Art Director:

David Clarke
Lisa Pouliot
Matthew Versteeg

Costume Designer:

Maria Livingstone

Cast: Roles:

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

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

Anastasia Phillips

Anastasia Phillips, actress,

B: September 8, 1972 in Toronto, Ontario

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Moonshine (2021)

TV Series – Guest appearances:

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

Film Festival Season – 2021

Film Festival Season - 2021
, image,

Film Festival Season – 2021
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lina Roessler

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

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

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

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

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

Tainted (2020)

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

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

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

Murdoch Mysteries (2020)

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

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

Best Sellers (2020)

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

Best Sellers, movie, poster,

Emma Ferreira

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

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

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

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

Thomas Olajide

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

B: in Vancouver, British Columbia

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

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

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

Little Black Caddy (2005, short)

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

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

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

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

Thyrone Tommy

Thyrone Tommy, director,
Photo of Thyrone Tommy courtesy of Mongrel Media.

Thyrone Tommy is a writer-producer-director known for his short films, including Mariner, which screened at the Toronto International Fulm Festival (TIFF) in 2016. He made his feature debut with the 2021 film Learn to Swim, which was co-written with Marni Van Dyk and based on his own experiences with love and loss, and the guilt and grief. His short, Draft Day, is 1 of 5 films produced through and undertaking by The National Basketball Association (NBA), the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation (OLG), and TIFF. A short film programme titled “NBA Films For Fans created with OLG,” features five Canadian filmmakers and basketball fans and was designed to celebrate Canada’s connection to the game in conjunction with the NBA’s 75th Anniversary season. Tommy’s Draft Day should not be confused with the 2014 Ivan Reitman film with the same title but set in the world of the National Football League. We list Thyrone Tommy’s credits as a Director first.

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

Liar, Cheater, Whore (2012, short)
Seed of a Deadbeat (2012, short)
Avalanche (2014, short)
Mariner (2016, short)

Draft Day (2021, short)
Learn to Swim (2021)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
Liar, Cheater, Whore (2012, short)
Avalanche (2014, short)
Mariner (2016, short)

Draft Day (2021, short)
Learn to Swim (Co-writer, 2021)

Credits as a Producer:
Liar, Cheater, Whore (2012, short)
Avalanche (2014, short)
Mariner (2016, short)
Adorn (2016, short)

Draft Day (2021, short)

Learn to Swim

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

93 minutes – Drama
Language: English, Spanish
Festival release date: September 11, 2021 (Toronto International Film Festival)
Release date: March, 2022
Production company:
Canadian distributor: Mongrel Media

Learn to Swim is a surrealist romantic drama about Dezi Williams (Thomas Antony Olajide), a Toronto jazz musician who refuses to play after a recent tragedy. A shadow of the charismatic saxophonist he once was, Dezi has moved into a new apartment and has cut off contact with all his former bandmates. He tries to find solace with quiet work repairing instruments, but he’s plagued by a pain in his jaw which no amount of alcohol seems to help. A new intrusive neighbour Sal (Andrea Davis) confronts his solitude and haunting memories of his former lover – a fiery singer named Selma (Emma Ferreira).

Learn to Swim was selected to screen at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.

No poster available, image,



Alona Metzer
Thomas Antony Olajide
Emma Ferreira

Executive Producer:

Matt Code
Allison White

Associate Producer:

Lindsay Blair Goeldner
Miriam Levin-Gold
Joshua Barsky
Mark Sirju

Line Producer:

Mark Sirju
Milosz Skowronski


Thyrone Tommy


Marni Van Dyk
Thyrone Tommy


Nick Haight


Baun Mah
Shaun Rykiss


TiKA & Casey MQ

Production Designer:

Dialla Kawar
Joshua Turpin

Art Director:

Lori Atik
Somerville Black

Costume Designer:

Jeannette Linton

Cast: Roles:

Thomas Antony Olajide
Christef Desir
Jolly Amoako
Andrea Pavlovic
Emma Ferreira
Khadijah Salawu
Saida Ali
Siobhan Johnson
Meagan De Lima
Hidetaka Ishii
Shaun Rykiss
Andrea Davis
Ofield Williams
David Ariza

Cleaning Service Customer
Record Producer
Delivery Guy

Anthony Cortese

Anthony Cortese, actor,

Anthony Cortese studied Theatre and Engish Literature at York University, graduating in 1996. An actor and producer, he founded Postopian Pictures in 2014 where he produced the sci-fi web series Haphead. If he looks familiar, his passing resemblance to the late baseball great Joe Dimaggio must have been a bonus for the producers who cast him as Dimaggio in the 2018 made-for-television movie Reliving Marilyn. The 2016 film Trigger, should not be confused with the 2010 film with the same title directed by Bruce McDonald. We list his credits as an Actor first.

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

Insight of Evil (2004)
Infest Wisely (2007)
Dead by Dawn (VR-2009)
Dead by Dawn 2: The Return (VR-2009)
Our Future is Bright (2009, short)

Webdultery (2010)
Suburban Madness (VR-2013)
Satisfaction (2015, short)
Trigger (2016)
Night of the Babysitter 2017)
Reliving Marilyn (TV-2018)

Horrorathon: Volume 1 (2020)
Gutshot (2021)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
Nikita (2010)
Breakout Kings (2011)
Mayday (2013)

Credits as a Producer:
Infest Wisely (2007)

Unlucky (2011)
Ghosts with Shit Jobs (2012)
Low Country Road (Co-producer, 2018, short)

Web Series:
Haphead (2015)

Webdultery, movie, poster,

Christine Tizzard

Christine Tizzard, actress,

B: in Newfoundland

Christine Tizzard was born in Newfoundland and was spotted by a model scout when she was 15. She went on to model in beauty campaigns around the world. As often happens, modelling led to various opportunities in film and television. One example was appearing in three Jesse Stone made-for-television movies, the last in 2015 also her last as an actor. Tizzard attended Toronto’s George Brown College and started a career in cuisine, which led her back to being both in front of and behind the cameras in a number of food/cooking shows. She has also written cookbooks titled “Honest to Goodness” and “Cook More Waste Less.”

Also see: The Zero-Waste Kitchen

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

The Last Sect (2006)

Webdultery (2010)
Jesse Stone: Innocents Lost (TV-2011)
Jesse Stone: Benefit of the Doubt (TV-2012)
Jesse Stone: Lost in Paradise (TV-2015)

TV Series – Cast:
Best Recipes Ever (Host, 2013-2014, 35 episodes)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
Tracker (2001)
Beautiful People (2006)
Naturally, Sadie (2006)
The Dresden Files (2007)

Flashpoint (2011)
Good Dog (2011)
Transporter: The Series (2012)

Web Series:
Zero Waste Kitchen

Webdultery, movie, poster,

Vicious Fun / Anything for Jackson

Vicious Fun / Anything for Jackson, image,
Posters for Anything for Jackson and Vicious Fun.

Vicious Fun / Anything for Jackson
by Thom Ernst

(August 26, 2021 – Toronto, ON) In a career that bends unmistakably towards horror, Toronto actor Julian Richings stays the course in director Cody Calahan’s Vicious Fun but breaks new ground (somewhat) in director Justin G. Dyck’s Anything for Jackson.

And though both films purposefully mine genre filmmaking traditions—Vicious stalks slasher films of the 80s while Jackson is somewhat of a mirror image of The Exorcist—there is in the familiar something unique.

Anything For Jackson, movie, image,
Sheila McCarthy & Julian Richings in a publicity still for Anything for Jackson.

Anything for Jackson is a radical change for its director Justin G. Dyck. Dyck’s career has been in making cookie-cutter made-for-television Christmas movies. Jackson is a move that seems to surface out of nowhere, like discovering the local school crossing-guard is an accomplished free-style gymnast. A more direct (although reversed) analogy would be that time Wes Craven made Music of the Heart, that feel-good story starring Meryl Streep as a tough teacher who changes the lives of inner-city students through music. 

Make no mistake, Anything For Jackson is a horror film, but one cushioned in chamber room respectability even when rotating snowblower blades and other such schemes of malice come into play. The difference here for Richings is that he is the leading man, as much as the film has one. And he is the perfect choice to play the good Dr. Henry who, with his wife Audrey (the equally effective Shelia McCarthy), don black hoods and drone through Satanic incantations at their local community center.

Audrey and Henry are the most unlikely of worshipers among their local Satanic order members: elderly, prominent, and kindly (to a point). But their dedication is stronger than even Talia (Claire Cavalheiro), whose posturing as a high priestess seems to be just a way of passing the time. And the couple stands far and well above the erratic basement-dwelling Ian (Josh Cruddas).

It’s easy to understand Audrey and Henry’s rationale for dipping into the black arts. They only wish to reanimate their dead grandson, Jackson, although audiences versed in genre films knows conjuring up demons is risky business.

Sacrifices must be made. And so, Audrey and Henry abduct Becker (Konstantina Mantelos), a young pregnant woman, to use as a vessel for the spirit of Jackson to enter and be reborn.

But amateur Satanists, like amateur sleuths, tend to invite more trouble than resolutions. Soon Audrey and Henry’s quiet middle-class suburban home becomes a flophouse for the murdered, and the confused spirits who squeezed through the tear made between hell and their guest bedroom.

Shades of dark comedy hide in the crevices of the character’s unshakeable determination and in the grisly games the demons toss in to amuse themselves. Dyck, in turn, employs a liberal reversal of The Exorcist with a goal to cast in a demon rather than expel one. And Becker, bound to bedposts, in turns pleading and tormenting her captors, channeling enough of Linda Blair’s possessed Reagan to make your head spin.

Through it, all Richings and McCarthy play it deadpan. The results of their misadventure induces an occasional moderate shock, but soon they ride out the mayhem like two people reluctantly accepting of the antics of a very strange house guest.

Vicious Fun, movie, image,
Evan Marsh in a publicity still for the film Vicious Fun.

Richings also appears in Vicious Fun.

A night of murderous collaboration is sparked when a film critic (Evan Marsh) stumbles upon a support group for serial killers.

Think about that: A support group for serial killers. That’s premise enough to get eyes on the screen. But add a genre-specific film critic to Abbott & Costello things up a bit, and that’s high-concept comedy coming to life.

The aptly titled Vicious Fun serves dual purposes; one to fuel audiences’ expectations that this will be vicious, and it will be fun. The other references the pleasure this band of group-sharing serial killers gets from inflicting harm upon others.

Richings is one of several people who takes part in a support group for serial killers. This time, Richings takes a secondary role as Fritz, an accountant who dresses up as a clown to pursue his murderous habit. The support group is not meant to curtail anyone’s penchant for killing but rather offer ways to improve their skills, groom their victims, and garner the personal glory and hype they require without detection.

Marsh stars as Joel, a horror film critic with an unpublished killer script that no one seems too interested in. He harbours an unspoken love for his roommate, whose current boyfriend, someone Joel has only seen from a distance, is a certified creep.

Joel follows the creep to a bar, sits down to have drinks, and, under the guise of a fellow womanizer, discovers just how lecherous and unfaithful of a scumbag the boyfriend is. So, Joel does what every scorned lover does when learning that the bad boy wins; he drinks himself to oblivion and passes out in a broom closet.

Hours later, he wakes and stumbles upon the Support Group. After a few comical stints of confusion, scattered assumptions, and mistaken identity, Joel recognizes the dire situation he’s in and begins to play along, pretending to be just another serial killer in need of a thoughtful ear. Thankfully he has the details of his unproduced script to fall back on.

But when his game is exposed, Joel becomes the target of an all-out hunt. Things get messy.

Richings’s role is limited, and one does wish there were more of him in the film. But his presence is quickly noted. His nebbish accountant look is the perfect for the role and hardly needs the extra boost of dressing in a clown outfit. Yes, clowns can be terrifying but let’s give accountants their due.

Richings makes it work.

Vicious Fun and Anything for Jackson are currently available to stream.

Vicious Fun is directed by Cody Calahan and stars Evan Marsh, Amber Goldfarb, and Julian Richings. It is currently streaming on Shudder.

Anything for Jackson is directed by Justin G. Dyck and stars Sheila McCarthy, Konstantina Mantelos, Josh Cruddas, and Julian Richings. It is currently available on Prime channels.

Poster and image for Anything For Jackson courtesy of Vortex Words + Pictures.
Poster and image for Vicious Fun courtesy of Black Fawn Films.

Northernstars logo imageThom Ernst is a Toronto based film critic and writer and an active member of the (TFCA) Toronto Film Critics’ Association. His work has appeared in various publications including Playback Magazine, The Toronto Star, and The National Post. He is known to CBC Radio listeners for his lively contributions to Fresh Air, Metro Morning, and CBC Syndication as well as appearing on-air for CTV News Channel and The Agenda with Steve Paikin. He was host, interviewer and producer of televisions’ longest running movie program Saturday Night at the Movies. Currently he can be heard interviewing Canadian filmmakers on the Kingston Canadian Film Festival podcast, Rewind, Fast-Forward.