96 minutes – Documentary, Environment, Legal
Festival release date: April 28, 2022 – Hot Docs – World Premiere
Release date: June 3, 2022
Production companies: Mercury Films
Canadian distributor: Mongrel Media
Does the most widely used weed killer in the world cause cancer? Into the Weeds: Dewayne “Lee” Johnson vs. Monsanto Company follows the story of groundskeeper Lee Johnson and his fight for justice against agrichemical giant Monsanto (now Bayer, which bought the company in 2018), the manufacturer of the weed killer, Roundup. In 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate – the active ingredient in Roundup – as “probably carcinogenic to humans.” A year later, Lee Johnson filed a lawsuit claiming that Ranger Pro, a commercial-grade variant of Roundup, was a substantial contributing factor in causing his Non- Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Johnson’s was the first ‘bellwether’ case in a mass tort against Monsanto involving tens of thousands of plaintiffs. Blending interviews, trial footage, news coverage and vérité, the film follows the progression of this groundbreaking trial, while also telescoping out to understand both ubiquity of use and its global repercussions.
Into the Weeds was selected to open the 2022 Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto.
Dewayne “Lee” Johnson
R. Brent Wisner
Michael J. Miller
David J. Dickens
Christopher D. Stevick
Robyndee B. Laumbach
Gregory L. Gordon
Christopher J. Portier
Calgary Black Film Festival – 2022 by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(May 19, 2022 – Toronto, ON) When the 2nd annual Calgary Black Film Festival (CBFF) opens next week, there is an entire schedule of films, features and shorts that deserve our attention. Many, if not most, are international films, but there is one program in particular that features short films made in different parts of the country screening together under the title “Being Black in Canada”. The image above is from one of those shorts, Finding a Way Out by director Jodell Stundon.
Finding a Way Out is a highly personal film because the focus is on the director. It’s a self-portrait of Jodell’s current life. We learn how he dealt with depression and incarceration and his experience within a certain lifestyle that brought him to a place he recognized as a changing point. Through photography and videography, Stundon finds his way out of a lifestyle and a system he felt he was trapped in. This short will screen with Born In Sin, For Black Muslim Girls, Framework, Knowledge Is Power, Scratching The Surface, The Idea of The Black Dollar and Washed Up. However, this selection of shorts is only one of many. The CBFF will present the World Premieres of 28 films from 28 emerging Black Filmmakers from Montreal, Toronto, Halifax, Ottawa and Calgary who participated in the Fabienne Colas Foundation’s Being Black in Canada program.
The opening film is from South Africa. The White Line is from director Desiree Kahikopo-Meiffret and recounts a true story set in 1963, just three years after the “Old Location uprising” that shook South West Africa. A white police officer falls in love with a black maid, their love for each other grows over time through the letters they write each other. Their love endures many obstacles, one being the colour of their skin. The White Line is a riveting untold love story between a man and woman who do not see race and colour, subconsciously going against society’s norms and find solace in love in an era where love was restricted to you only loving your kind.
The CBFF is adopting a hybrid model this year with its first in-person offering in Calgary along with their online programming they introduced last year allowing for accessibility across Canada and the world. The in-person screenings and events will take place at the Globe Cinema, the Dome Theatre at Telus Spark Science Centre, the Calgary Memorial Park Library and the Calgary Central Library.
The CBFF opens Thursday, May 26 and runs until May 29. Click here to see the festival’s full screening program, tickets and festuval passes and learn more about the CBFF.
(May 18, 2022 – Toronto, ON) The verdict is in! Global announced yesterday that Season 3 of hit Canadian legal drama Family Law has been greenlit for an all-new 10-episode season. Produced by SEVEN24 Films and Lark Productions, and created by Canadian award-winning author Susin Nielsen, Season 3 is set to begin filming in Vancouver on May 24. The principal cast including Jewel Staite, Victor Garber, Zach Smadu, Genelle Williams and Lauren Holly all return for the new season. This renewal comes ahead of the show’s Season 2 premiere, which will be announced at a later date.
“As the most-watched new Canadian series this past fall and with the recent acquisition by The CW in the U.S., we are thrilled that Abby and the Svensson family will keep entertaining audiences at home and abroad for seasons to come,” said Lisa Godfrey, Senior Vice President of Original Content and Corus Studios. “With this renewal today, we continue to build Corus’ commitment to creating original Canadian content and compelling storytelling that reflects the lives and interests of Canadians as well as audiences around the world.”
Family Law is a witty, heartfelt look at the trials and tribulations of an imperfect family. The one-hour legal drama follows Abigail ‘Abby’ Bianchi (Jewel Staite) as she navigates her new life with her family including Abby’s father Harry Svensson (Victor Garber), her half- brother Daniel Svensson (Zach Smadu), and half-sister Lucy Svensson (Genelle Williams). Season 3 will follow Abby and her dysfunctional family as they help other dysfunctional families – all while navigating their own personal dramas. Guest stars for the new season will be announced soon.
Family Law is produced by SEVEN24 Films (Heartland, JANN) and Lark Productions (Motive, Fortunate Son). It was created by Susin Nielsen (Robson Arms, Cedar Cove), who also serves as executive producer and showrunner. The series is executive produced by Jordy Randall, Tom Cox, Erin Haskett and Andy Mikita. This season’s writers include Sarah Dodd, Ken Craw, Sonja Bennett, Corey Liu and Jordan Hall, and directors include Andy Mikita, Jordan Canning, David Frazee and Alysse Leite-Rogers. For Corus, Susan Alexander is Production Executive; Rachel Nelson is Vice President, Original Content, Scripted, Factual and Kids; Lisa Godfrey is Senior Vice President of Original Content and Corus Studios.
Global is a Corus Entertainment Network and is available through all major TV distributors. The Global TV App is available on iOS, Android, Chromecast, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TVs, Roku streaming players, Roku TV™ models, and at watch.globaltv.com.
Nettie Wild is one of Canada’s leading documentary filmmakers. Her highly charged and critically acclaimed films have brought her audiences behind the frontlines and headlines of revolutions and social change around the world. She has been honoured at film festivals around world and has won the Genie Award twice for Best Feature Documentary in Canada. Among other honours she has won Best Feature Documentary from the International Documentary Association as well as top honours from the Forum of New Cinema at the Berlin International Film Festival. Her 2016 film Koneline: our land beautiful had its World Premiere at the 2016 Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto and won the festival’s Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award. Nettie Wild is pictured in a still from an interview with Northernstars about Koneline.
(May 13, 2022 – Toronto, ON) – Iconic comedian Norm Macdonald, known for his singular style and delivery, shares a final, posthumous stand-up special on Netflix, launching May 30, 2022. Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special, which he named, was self-taped in the comedian’s home.
Macdonald kept his illness a secret for many years. In the summer of 2020, venues were shut down due to the pandemic, but Norm wanted to record the comedy special that he had worked so hard to prepare. He performed it alone in his living room. Being Norm, he did it in one take.
“Norm worked so hard on a new hour of material and wanted it to be seen. While this version of Nothing Special was not originally meant to be the final product, Covid restrictions prevented him from filming in front of an audience. We want to make sure his fans see this very funny hour. He left this gift for all of us,” said Lori Jo Hoekstra, Norm’s long-time producing partner and executive producer of Norm Macdonald: Nothing Special.
Following the special is a bonus featurette with Adam Sandler, Conan O’Brien, Dave Chappelle, David Letterman, David Spade and Molly Shannon, who discuss their friend Norm, a fearless comedian and joyful human being. The conversation was taped earlier this month during a tribute to Norm at Netflix is a Joke: The Festival.
Claude Lalonde began his filmmaking career writing and directing short films and corporate videos. He landed work in Toronto as an assistant director on several American films. After moving to Montreal he worked as a Youth Center educator, but gradually returned to his chosen career by writing the made-for-TV movie Le grand zèle, which was nominated for best-screenplay at the Gemini Awards. Writing became a full-time activity with Les 3 p’tits cochons, which was remade in France in 2013 as Le grand méchant loup from his reworked screenplay. The feature 10 ½ was awarded the Grand Prix at the 2010 Mannheim-Heidelberg Film Festival and Critic’s Prize at the Bratislava Film Festival. Lalonde served as a script-consultant for two TV-series: Mon meilleur ami and L’chum à Chabot. Returning to directing, the 219 feature CODA was marketed his feature film directorial debut. We list his credits as a screenwriter first.
Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release
96 minutes – Drama
Festival release date: November 22, 2019 – International Film Festival of India
Release date: June 3, 2022 – Canada
Production company: Clinamen Films Production
Distributor: Filmoption International
Coda is a film about music. Henry Cole (Sir Patrick Stewart) is an acclaimed pianist who returns to the stage after a prolonged hiatus. During his inaugural concert, he is afflicted with a severe case of stage fright and barely avoids disaster. In the following days, his condition worsens, he becomes more and more unstable and his career is hanging by a thread. Bewildered and ready to pack it in, he meets Helen Morrison, a former pianist turned music critic, who wants to write an article on him. She asks for an interview. A reserved and austere man, Henry declines. Helen persists and eventually gains his trust. A peculiar relationship develops between the two, based on love of music and a shared sensibility. Henry feels fortified and wants to resume his concert tour. Helen worries that this renewed confidence is only superficial. She suggests a trip, to attend a concert in a remote place, Sils-Maria in the Swiss Alps. In a time of personal crisis, she once found her answer there. Perhaps he can now find his.
Don Anderson Victor Andrés Turgeon-Trelles Abdul Ayoola
Beat Marti Cédric Noël
Benoît Sarrasin Frank Schorpion
Paul Van Dyck
Jazz Bar Pianist
Features & TV Movies:
VR indicates Direct-to-Video Release
Betrayal of Silence (TV-1988)
Mark Twain and Me (TV-1991)
Partners ‘n Love (TV-1992)
Tommy Boy (2005)
Terminal Justice (2006)
When the Bullet Hits the Bone (2006)
The Taking of Pelham One Two Three (TV-1998)
Enslavement: The True Story of Fanny Kemble (TV-2000)
Laughter on the 23rd Floor (TV-2001)
Full Disclosure (VR-2001)
Partners in Action (2002)
Twelfth Night (2013)
Unlocking Christmas (TV-2020)
Christmas in the Wilds (TV-2021)
A Christmas Dance Reunion (TV-2021)
Country Roads Christmas (2022)
TV Series – Guest appearances:
War of the Worlds (1988)
Katts and Dog (1989)
E.N.G. (1990, 1992)
Top Cops (1992)
Forever Knight (1992)
Secret Service (1992)
Kung Fu: The Legend Continues (1994, 1996) Due South (1995)
Silver Surfer (voice, 1998)
Earth: Final Conflict (2001)
Street Time (2002)
Degrassi: The Next Generation (2004, 2005, 2006, 2008) Slings and Arrows (2005)
Dakota Ray Hebert is an actor, writer, comedian and host, who is Dene from Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan. Her role in the feature Run Woman Run brought a Best Actress Award at the 2022 AIFF. An accomplished theatre actor, she co starred opposite R.H. Thomson in the Tarragon Theatre production of This Was the World. Dakota Ray Hebert is also known for her longstanding performance in the title role of Salt Baby. A prodigious writer her stage plays include Native Stories 101 and Dreamer and the Turtle.
96 minutes – Drama, Canadian History,
Release date: December 6, 2019
Production companies: Industry Pictures, Karma Film
Canadian distributor: levelFILM
Brotherhood is the retelling of a true story set in 1926. Eleven teenaged boys arrive at a summer camp on Balsam Lake in the Kawartha Lakes area of Ontario. The movie focuses on the lives of some of the characters before the camping trip. George Waller (Jake Manley) had an abusive father; Arthur Lambden, (Brendan Fletcher) had survived the front lines in World War I only to return home as a carrier of the Spanish flu virus that killed his own wife and child; two brothers, Will (Sam Ashe Arnold) and Jack (Gage Munroe), lost their father during World War One; and Leonard (Matthew Isen) whose father had drowned years before and who now had a fear of open water. Hoping Long Point Camp will be the adventure of their lives, they set off on a canoe trip late in the evening. A squall comes up and their 30-foot war canoe is capsized. Some drown immediately and those that survived spend the night in the frigid, dark lake waters clinging to the overturned canoe that is slowly sinking. The film flashes between scenes of the survivors struggling to ward off the freezing cold and fighting fatigue and their fears, with flashbacks to lively, happy camp scenes from earlier in the evening, the kind of thing camp councillors hope form a bond between the boys creating the brotherhood of the film’s title.
(May 8, 2022 – Toronto,ON) Hot Docs has announced the winning documentaries in this year’s official competition and the recipients of additional awards honouring Canadian filmmakers. The awards were revealed at the Hot Docs 2022 Awards Presentation at TIFF Bell Lightbox, hosted by arts journalist and co-founder of Media Girlfriends Garvia Bailey. Thirteen awards in total were given out, including nine awards for Festival films in competition – of which seven were won by female filmmakers – and $65,000 CDN in cash and prizes were awarded. Playing on screens across Toronto and streaming online across Canada, the 2022 Hot Docs Festival will close today, May 8. The Rogers Audience Award for Best Canadian documentary will be announced today at a special encore screening at 7:00 pm at Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema. The top three Canadian features in the audience poll will share in a $50,000 cash prize, courtesy of Rogers Group of Funds. The overall Audience Award winner will be announced after the Festival.
The Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award was presented to Geographies of Solitude (D: Jacquelyn Mills | P: Rosalie Chicoine Perreault, Jacquelyn Mills | Canada), in which self-taught naturalist and environmentalist Zoe Lucas shares her incredible life’s work. Sponsored by DOC and Telefilm Canada, the award includes a $10,000 cash prize. Jury statement: “For its deft ability to reveal the complex intersections between the natural world and humanity’s excesses on a singular isolated island through strongly crafted and arresting visual and aural storytelling, the Canadian Features Jury presents the Best Canadian Feature Documentary Award to Geographies of Solitude.” Shot on 16mm film, not digital, the production of Geographies of Solitude was supported by the Sundance Documentary Fund and Cannes: Docs in Progress program and had its world premiere at the Berlinale Forum where it won three awards.
The Best International Feature Documentary Award was given to Blue Island (D: Chan Tze Woon | P: Peter Yam | Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan), a hybrid film that takes stock of Hong Kong and the region in the aftermath of pro-documentary protests and the subsequent crackdown. The award includes a $10,000 cash prize. Jury statement: “For its evocative use of re-enactments interwoven with traditional documentary forms to create a rich, socially-grounded cinematic tapestry, the jury is honoured to present the Best International Feature Documentary Award to Blue Island, directed by Chan Tze Woon.”
Hot Docs is an Academy Award qualifying festival for feature documentaries and, as the winner of the Best International Feature Documentary Award, Blue Island will qualify for consideration in the Best Documentary Feature category of the annual Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run, provided they comply with Academy rules.
The DGC Special Jury Prize – Canadian Feature Documentary was presented to Rojek (D: Zaynê Akyol | P: Zaynê Akyol, Sylvain Corbeil, Audrey-Ann Dupuis-Pierre | Canada), a journey into Syrian detention centres that captures revealing conversations with key members of the Islamic State. Sponsored by the Directors Guild of Canada and DGC Ontario, the award includes a $5,000 cash prize. Jury statement: “For its sensitive curiosity about its subjects’ lived experiences and internal lives, self-reflexive interrogation of the documentary filmmaking process, and unique contextualization of the fragile state of peace, the Canadian Features Jury presents the DGC Special Jury Prize for Canadian Feature Documentary to Rojek.”
In the DGC Special Jury Prize – Canadian Feature Documentary category, the jury also acknowledged Batata (D: Noura Kevorkian | P: Paul Scherzer, Noura Kevorkian | Canada, Lebanon, Qatar) with an honourable mention.
The Special Jury Prize – International Feature Documentary was given to The Wind Blows the Border (D: Laura Faerman, Marina Weis | P: Rodrigo Díaz Díaz, Luís Ludmer | Brazil), a film charting an Indigenous woman’s dangerous fight to keep her community’s ancestral land safe from the expansion of agribusiness in her native Brazil. Sponsored by A&E, the award includes a $5,000 cash prize. Jury statement: “The jury was very taken with this film and the ways–both subtle and bold–that it documents an unfolding natural crisis rooted in human social conflict. The jury awards The Wind Blows the Border the Special Jury Prize for International Feature Documentary.”
The Earl A. Glick Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award is given to a Canadian filmmaker whose film in competition is their first or second feature-length film. The award, which includes a $3,000 cash prize courtesy of the Earl A. Glick Family, was presented to director Jacquelyn Mills for Geographies of Solitude (D: Jacquelyn Mills | P: Rosalie Chicoine Perreault, Jacquelyn Mills | Canada). Jury statement: “For her remarkable ability to capture a sense of place, textural approach to cinematography, and unique sound design, the Canadian Features Jury presents the Earl A. Glick Emerging Canadian Filmmaker Award to Jacquelyn Mills for Geographies of Solitude.”
The Emerging International Filmmaker Award is given to an international filmmaker whose film in competition is their first or second feature-length film. It was presented to director Bogna Kowalczyc for Boylesque (D: Bogna Kowalczyk | P: Tomasz Morawski, Katarzyna Kuczyńska, Vratislav Šlajer, Hanka Kastelicova | Poland, Czech Republic), the portrait of an openly gay 82-year-old Polish man living out loud in his palpably homophobic country. The award, supported by the Donner Canadian Foundation, includes a $3,000 cash prize. Jury statement: “The jury was struck by the balance between this filmmaker’s aptitude for the craft of filmmaking, and the interest and tenderness they have for their subject, both which came through in this film.”
The award for Best Mid-Length Documentary was presented to Rewind & Play (D: Alain Gomis | P: Anouk Khélifa, Arnaud Dommerc | France, Germany), a revisiting of an agonizing 1969 interview of jazz visionary Thelonious Monk for French television that crackles with ferocity in the face of patronization. Sponsored by British Pathé, the award includes a $3,000 cash prize. Jury statement: “The jury was impressed by the innovative use of archival, the rigorous cutting, and the relentless quest for intimacy with a subject on the brink of alienation.”
The Best International Short Documentary Award was presented to More Than I Remember (D: Amy Bench | P: Amy Bench, Carolyn Merriman | USA), a lushly animated documentary following the journey of 14-year-old Mugeni Ornella as she and her family are separated and displaced by civil strife in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The award includes a $3,000 cash prize. Jury statement: “The Best International Short Documentary Award goes to a film that uses the most vivid and unique animation to tell a story of resilience that is both personal, and increasingly universal. The jury was impressed with the beautiful balance of all the creative elements in this film and the way it takes the documentary form beyond the expected.”
In the Best International Short Documentary Award category, the jury also acknowledged My Disability Roadmap (D: Dan Habib, Samuel Habib | P: Dan Habib | USA) with an honourable mention.
The Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary was presented to Perfecting the Art of Longing (D: Kitra Cahana | P: Kat Baulu, Ariel Nasr | Canada), the portrait of a quadriplegic rabbi in a long-term-care facility cut off from his loved ones during the lockdown, filmed remotely by his daughter. The award includes a $3,000 cash prize courtesy of John and Betty Youson. Jury statement: “For the skillful crafting of a complex and robust film that celebrates the human spirit with lightness during a dark time, the jury awards the Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary Award to Perfecting the Art of Longing, directed by Kitra Cahana.”
In the Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary category, the jury also acknowledged The Benevolents (D: Sarah Baril Gaudet | P: Sarah Baril Gaudet | Canada) with an honourable mention.
Hot Docs is an Academy Award qualifying festival for short documentaries and, as winners of the Best International Short Documentary Award and the Betty Youson Award for Best Canadian Short Documentary Award respectively, More Than I Remember and Perfecting the Art of Longing will qualify for consideration in the Documentary Short Subject category of the annual Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run, provided they comply with Academy rules.
The Scotiabank Docs For Schools Student’s Choice Award went to Navalny (D: Daniel Roher | P: Odessa Rae, Diane Becker, Melanie Miller, Shane Boris | USA), the riveting doc-thriller centred around Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. The award is given to the Festival film in the Docs For Schools education program that receives the highest rating as determined by a student poll and comes with a $5,000 cash prize, courtesy of Scotiabank.
Award-winning Indian filmmaker Anand Patwardhan received the 2022 Outstanding Achievement Award. Patwardhan’s seminal work was featured in the Outstanding Achievement Retrospective Program at this year’s Festival.
The Lindalee Tracey Award, which honours an emerging Canadian filmmaker with a passionate point of view, a strong sense of social justice and a sense of humour, was presented to Iranian Canadian filmmaker Avazeh Shahnavaz. Shahnavaz will receive a $5,000 cash prize courtesy of the Lindalee Tracey Fund, $5,000 in post-production services from SIM, and a hand-blown glass sculpture by Andrew Kuntz, specially commissioned to honour Lindalee.
As previously announced Toronto-based producer Mila Aung-Thwin, producer of Midwives and co-founder of Montreal-based production company EyeSteelFilm, received the Don Haig Award. The award is given to an outstanding independent Canadian producer with a film in the Festival in recognition of their creative vision, entrepreneurship and track record for nurturing emerging talent and comes with a $5,000 cash prize, courtesy of the Don Haig Foundation.
The 2022 awards for films in competition were determined by four juries.
The Canadian Feature Documentary Jury:
Abby Sun (Director of Artist Programs at IDA, graduate researcher at the MIT Open Documentary Lab, and editor of Immerse), Basil Tsiokos (senior programmer for the Sundance Film Festival), Yasmine Mathurin (award-winning writer, director, and podcast producer).
The International Feature Documentary Jury:
Chloé Trayner (Artistic Director of Ragtag Film Society), Alex Rivera (filmmaker), Diana Sanchez (film programmer).
The Mid-Length Documentary Jury:
Connor Jessup (actor and filmmaker), Shameela Seedat (filmmaker), Chase Joynt (director and writer).
The Short Documentary Jury:
Joanne LaFrenière (filmmaker and photographer), Ricardo Acosta (film editor and script consultant), Sarra El Abed (filmmaker).
Jacquelyn Mills’ 2022 feature documentary, was named Best Canaduian Documentary at the 2022 Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto. Born on Cape Breton Island, Jacquelyn Mills now makes her home in Montréal.
(May 7, 2022 – Toronto,ON) Veteran actor Kenneth Welsh has died. His career spanned decades and film, television and the stage. He was 80 when he died. According to Pam Winter, a partner at Toronto’s Gary Goddard Agency, Welsh “passed peacefully last evening surrounded by those closest to him.” ACTRA Toronto called the Edmonton-born Welsh “one of Canada’s all-time great performers, with hundreds of memorable roles spanning decades.”
Welsh spent 12 years working on stage in the United States. After years playing on and off-Broadway in plays directed by Mike Nichols, Michael Lindsay-Hogg and Jeffrey Sherman to name a few, Welsh returned to Canada to work in film and television. In television, Welsh was honoured with Gemini Awards for his work in Empire Inc., And Then You Die, Journey Into Darkness: The Bruce Curtis Story, and Love And Hate. He also won a Genie for Margaret’s Museum. In 1998 he was given the Earle Grey Award for Lifetime Achievement. Welsh also received a Drama League Award, an ACTRA Award, the Gascon-Thomas Award from the National Theatre School and an honorary doctorate from the University of Alberta. He is also a Member of the Order of Canada.
Kenneth Welsh had agreed to an on-camera feature interview with Northernstars, but with the continuing pandemic and the added risks to seniors, we were unable to firm up a date for the recording.
Small Town CDN Film Festivals – Hudson by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(May 3, 2022 – Toronto, ON) While Canada is host to some of the largest and most important film festivals anywhere, TIFF and Hot Docs immediately come to mind, I thought it might be fun to look at some of the smaller cities and towns that hold festivals, and some of the smaller festivals that are held in large cities. There are too many to cover in one article so consider this piece as the start of a series. Today I want to concentrate on a relative newcomer.
The small town of Hudson lies gently to the west of the island of Montréal. The City of Montreal’s boundaries expanded 20 years ago when all 28 municipalities on the island were merged into a megacity. When I lived in Montreal, Hudson was a regular destination because we had friends living there and it was always a charming place to visit. Hudson is also home to what is thought to be the 2nd biggest small Canadian film festival. Which one is first, I’m not sure. It could be the Kingston Canadian Film Festival, which started in 2001, or the Toronto-based Canadian Film Fest which started in 2004.
Because of what we do at Northernstars, we’re always interested in “all-Canadian” festivals and the 2022 line-up for the Hudson Film Festival (HFF) has some of the best films on offer. That offer being both in cinema and streaming. The cinema itself is a treat, it’s the only live screen in town and it’s at the Hudson Village Theatre, a restored historic train station built in 1890.
No surprise that this year’s festival is dedicated to the memory of Jean-Marc Vallée, who died in December and the opening film is the critically acclaimed award-winning C.R.A.Z.Y. screening at 7:30pm on May 12.
The HFF has a nicely balanced schedule of features, shorts and documentaries. The features are also a nicely balanced offering of films made in Québec and those made in what used to be called TROC. The Rest of Canada.
English language films include Learn to Swim, which isn’t about swimming; the Indigenous features Wildhood and the award-winning Beans, which is set in Oka during the time of the Oka Crisis, and is a short distance from Hudson; the winner of the Best Feature at the 2022 Canadian Screen Awards, Scarborough; and All My Puny Sorrows (you should read our review) which is based on Miriam Toews’ beloved novel and directed by Michael McGowan.
113 minutes – Drama
Release date: April 29, 2022 – Québec
Production company: Productions Leitmotiv inc.
Canadian distributor: K-Films Amérique
When we first encounter Noémie, she is in her 3rd year living in a youth centre. When her mother essentially disowns her and tells her she has no intention of bringing her home, Noémie runs away. She meets up with an old friend, Léa, and confesses she has been an escort. Later, Léa introduces her to the flamboyant and charming Zach, who tries to convince her to become a prostitute, but only during the weekend of the Montreal Grand Prix. At first reluctant, she ends up agreeing to Zach’s plan when he promises that they’ll go on a road trip together with the money she will earn.
Fayolle Jean Jr.
Mila Aung-Thwin Honoured at Hot Docs by Staff Editors
(April 29, 2022 – Toronto, ON) Hot Docs has announced that documentary filmmaker, producer, and activist Mila Aung-Thwin is this year’s recipient of the prestigious Don Haig Award. Aung-Thwin is the producer and editor of Midwives (D: Snow Hnin Ei Hlaing), the story of two courageous midwives working in a makeshift clinic in Western Myanmar, which will have its Canadian premiere at this year’s festival, on now until May 8.
The Don Haig Award is presented to an outstanding Canadian independent producer with a feature-length film at the Festival, with the recipient being selected by a jury of independent filmmakers. The Award recognizes creative vision and entrepreneurship, as reflected in the recipient’s body of work, as well as a track record of mentoring emerging Canadian filmmakers. Aung-Thwin will be presented with a $5,000 cash prize, courtesy of the Don Haig Foundation.
“It’s a great honour to receive this award, and doubly so because it’s linked to our film Midwives,” shared Mila Aung-Thwin, Co-Founder of Montreal-based production company EyeSteelFilm. “I’ve been producing for more than 20 years, and all this time I’ve wanted to make a film in Myanmar. I couldn’t be prouder of the result, and I want to thank my colleagues at EyeSteelFilm for believing in this film and producing with me.”
Mila Aung-Thwin has produced more than 30 feature documentaries including the Emmy-winner Last Train Home (2009), a powerful look at migrant workers in China; Independent Spirit Award nominee and Golden Horse Award Winner Up the Yangtze (2008), an insightful look at the construction of the Three Gorges Dam in central China; International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam’s Audience Choice Prize Winner Rip: A Remix Manifesto (2008), an exploration of copyright and content creation in the digital age; and Canadian Screen Award winner I Am the Blues (2015), a musical journey through the swamps of the Louisiana Bayou.
Most recently, Mila produced and edited Softie (2020), which opened Hot Docs 2020, the story of a political activist running for office in a regional Kenyan election; directed, produced, and edited Let There Be Light (2017), a film about mankind’s quest for fusion energy; and produced the short documentaries Speed of Thought (2020) and The Vote (2016).
He has worked with broadcasters around the world, including National Geographic, BBC, ZDF/ARTE, NHK Japan, PBS, and more. He served for five years as President of RIDM – Montreal International Documentary Festival and has served on the juries of the Sundance Film Festival, the International Emmy Awards, and the New Zealand Screen Awards. He frequently mentors and gives documentary storytelling seminars to upcoming filmmakers, with recent workshops taking place in Guangzhou, China; Durban, South Africa; and Yangon, Myanmar.
The award will be presented at the Hot Docs Awards presentation on Saturday, May 7, at TIFF Bell Lightbox at 10:30 am.
Past winners of the Don Haig Award include filmmakers Lalita Krishna (2021), Bob Moore (2020), Peter Raymont (2019), Ina Fichman (2018), Daniel Cross (2017), Ed Barreveld (2016), Anne Pick (2015), Michael McNamara (2014), Merit Jensen Carr (2013), Mia Donovan (2012), Rama Rau (2011), Philip Lyall and Nimisha Mukerji (2010), Brett Gaylor (2009), Yung Chang (2008), Hubert Davis (2007), and Guylaine Dionne (2006).
More CDN Films at Hot Docs by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(April 26, 2022 – Toronto, ON) We’ve already covered all the Canadian films screening in the Special Presentations and Canadian Spectrum at Hot Docs 2022, but Canadian documentaries can be found elsewhere in the festival’s schedule. With this year’s edition about to begin in two days, today I’ll look at 3 more features and then I’ll highlight other films during the run of the festival.
First up is an old doc screening as part of the Redux program. Remastered in digital 4K format, technology has not altered its impact. Directed by Janis Cole and Holly Dale and released in 1984, Hookers on Davie is exactly what the title describes. Davie Street, for those who don’t know, is located in Vancouver, which was known at the time as “the prostitution capital of Canada.” This wasn’t some quick decision to grab a Bolex and film the so-called “working girls” in Vancouver’s residential West End, just minutes from Stanley Park. It is based on eight months of research by the filmmakers concerning prostitution in major cities throughout Canada and the United States. After spending two months on Davie Street talking with the hookers, the filmmakers were able to gain their trust and confidence. The subjects agreed to wear radio microphones while being filmed by a hidden camera. Shot like a documentary and put together like dramatic fiction, the subjects were filmed negotiating with tricks, and spoke candidly for the cameras about their experiences during breaks at a local restaurant. The Digital remaster was made possible by financial support from Telefilm Canada, in partnership with Hot Docs.
Hookers on Davie screens:
Wednesday, May 4, 2:45pm at Varsity 7
Unloved: Huronia’s Forgotten Children is a deeply moving highly personal film By Barri Cohen. It is another troubling chapter defined by the words “residential schools,” but this broadens the topic beyond a strictly indigenous story. I believe everyone would agree the underlying story is both painful and enlightening as we all learn more and more of our nation’s shameful past. What makes this film personal is that Cohen went looking for the truth about her half-brothers, Alfred and Louis, who were kept a secret from the rest of the family by her father. The 90-minute doc takes its audience inside the now-empty Huronia Regional Centre, one of three institutions created in Ontario in the 20th century to house the intellectually disabled child. It’s part of a network of institutions that made claims to care, train, and make lives better for children, youth, and adults who aged in place. It was where children were once kept in cage-like cribs or punished for minor misdeeds by being locked alone for hours in a lightless boiler room dubbed “the pipe room.” Hard to watch, difficult to come to terms with, yet important to our collective knowledge. Produced by award-winning White Pine Pictures in association with CBC’s documentary Channel, it was made with the participation of the Canada Media Fund, Rogers Documentary Fund, Ontario Creates, with the assistance of The National Film Board of Canada and The Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit.
Unloved: Huronia’s Forgotten Children screens:
Tuesday, May 3, at 5:30pm at the Isabel Bader Theatre
Friday, May 6 at 2:15pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
It can also be screened online.
Produced, written and directed by Phyllis Ellis, Category: Woman is part of the Persister program and it’s first screening is a World Premiere. Running 80 minutes, Category: Woman focuses on four athletes, two from from Kenya, one from Germany and one from India. The foundation for the story behind this film begins in 2009 when 18-year old South African runner Caster Semenya faced a barrage of media attention and her achievements on the field of sport were subject to nothing short of an assault. Her personal medical records were leaked to the international media and ultimately The International Amateur Athletics Federation (now World Athletics) ruled that ‘identified’ female athletes must medically alter their healthy bodies in order to compete; their naturally high androgen levels were deemed a performance advantage.
The film explores what happens when a fundamental right to decide who you are can be taken away and, if you want to play in the world of competition, someone else gets to make that decision. In a media kit the award-winning director states, “I was inspired and deeply affected by this story far beyond that of a filmmaker. I had experienced many challenges as an Olympian, and as a woman in high performance sport, but I may have collapsed under the pressure these phenomenal athletes have endured. How could this have happened?”
Category: Woman screens:
Sunday, May 1 at 5:30pm at the Isabel Bader Theatre
Wednesday, May 4 at 11:00am at TIFF Bell Lightbox 1
It can also be screened online.
Hot Dos runs from April 28 to May 8. There is more information online about these films and others and about streaming these films in Canada.
Canadian Spectrum at Hot Docs – Take 4 by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(April 22, 2022) In the last three articles we covered 9 of the 12 feature films screening at Hot Docs in the Canadian Spectrum program. Today we look at the last three. Today being Earth Day you might think we saved this film for this day because of its title, Eternal Spring. Not so.
Eternal Spring from director Jason Loftus is a serious exposé that begins 20 years ago in China. In March 2002, a state run TV station in China was hijacked by members of the outlawed spiritual group Falun Gong. Their goal was to counter the government narrative about their practice. In the aftermath, police raids sweep Changchun City, and comic book illustrator Daxiong (Justice League, Star Wars), a Falun Gong practitioner, was forced to flee. After he is safely in North America, he blames the hijacking as being the cause for worsening the violent repression in his home country. However, his views are challenged when he meets someone believed to be the lone surviving hijacking participant to have made it out of China and living in Seoul, South Korea. Eternal Spring combines new footage with 3D animation inspired by Daxiong’s art, as it retraces the event on its 20th anniversary, and brings to life an unprecedented story of defiance, harrowing eyewitness accounts of persecution, and an exhilarating tale of determination to speak up for political and religious freedoms, no matter the cost.
Jason Loftus is a Peabody Award-winning film producer and four-time Canadian Screen Award nominee. His work spans documentary, docuseries, virtual reality, narrative games, and animation. He is CEO of the Toronto-based Lofty Sky Entertainment and Lofty Sky Pictures. He made his documentary feature directorial debut in 2020 with another film set in China titled Ask No Questions. Loftus and co-producer Leon Lee picked up a Leo Award in 2017 for Best Feature Length Documentary for their film Avenues Of Escape.
Eternal Spring screens:
Tuesday, May 3, 8:30pm at the Varsity Cinemas
Friday, May 6, 5:30pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
My Two Voices, the 3rd feature from Colombian-Canadian director Lina Rodríguez, runs 68 minutes and made its World Premiere at this year’s Berlinale. The film centres on Marinela, who was born in Canada but was sent back to Colombia at age four. Many years later she returns to Canada as an adult and goes through the process of having to learn anew about a place she once knew. Marinela and two other immigrant Latina women share memories and feelings that have shaped their lives in the diaspora. Slowly, common themes and shared experiences emerge: a struggle with language (a sensual Spanish, a limiting English); a fraught relationship with memory (holding on to there while here); questions of belonging (in birth families and chosen ones). Shot in textured 16mm film, the women’s identities remain concealed as their voices guide the film’s carefully constructed vignettes.
Produced by Canada’s Rayon Verde, the same production company behind her previous film This Time Tomorrow.
My Two Voices screens:
Friday, April 29, 5:00pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tuesday, May 3, 11:30am at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Mark Bone’s documentary, Okay! (The ASD Band Film) will have its World Premiere at Hot Docs. It’s a special film with a focus on special subjects. The band includes piano prodigy Ron, with an impeccable memory for reciting the correct day of the week for any date in history; lead singer Rawan, who uses makeup to express herself and can hit an impressively high pitch; Spenser, an energetic drummer with an affinity for punk rock music; and guitarist Jackson, who loves all things 1950s. Music has brought them together to form one kick-ass garage band. Like most, if not all such bands, they begin by covering and recording existing songs, but now it’s time for a breakout effort. This 75 minute feature covers them as they set out to write their first album of original music. Garage sessions move into the recording studio, where for the first time each member shares their own compositions.
Okay! (The ASD Band Film) screens:
Friday, April 29, 5:30pm at the Hot Docs Cinema
Tuesday, May 3, 1:30pm at the Hot Docs Cinema
There is more information online about these films and others and about streaming these films from anywhere in Canada.
CDN Spectrum at Hot Docs – Take 3 by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(April 21, 2022 – Toronto, ON) I thought we would pick up today where we left off yesterday, checking the shorts screening within the Canadian Spectrum program. As I mentioned yesterday, short documentaries are a great way to introduce yourself to this particular art form. Yesterday’s shorts program, Artistic Journeys, was made up of only 4 films totalling a little more than 90 minutes. The second shorts program is titled Stronger Together and is made up of 6 films with a total running time of just under 85 minutes. The shortest, Not My Day, is only 3 minutes long.
The Stronger Together program is defined by Hot Docs as films that forge ahead “…into the unknown…” They go on to state, “Resistance and resilience are signs of strength evident in these stories, as is the bravery of asking for help when you can’t conquer it all on your own.” The titles in this group are The Benevolents from director Sarah Baril Gaudet; Fatima in Kabul by Brishkay Ahmed; Not My Day from director Emily Nixon, Out There by Sebastian Hills-Esbrand; Patty vs. Patty from Chris Strikes and Perfecting the Art of Longing from director Kitra Cahana.
Stronger Together shorts screens just once:
Sunday, May 1, 10:45am at the Isabel Bader Theatre
The third set of 3 features we’re highlighting today includes slightly offbeat, highly intriguing, highly personal stories. First up is the World Premiere of Mike Hoolboom’sFreedom From Everything. This is a very personal essay about both the COVID and AIDS pandemics. By personal, here’s a quote lifted from an interview the director gave to Alena Koroleva, “My mother died at the beginning of the pandemic, suddenly and unexpectedly. My sister found her lying unresponsive, and we rushed to the hospital where she spent her last hours in a coma, undoing her knots, her ties to the world.”
On his website, Hoolbloom describes his film with these words: “Body memorials, survivor stories, remembrances. Both plagues are reframed by neoliberalism and its central mythology of personal freedom, brilliantly laid out in Hito Steyerl’s essay gem “Freedom from Everything” which is adapted and shapeshifted here. Pronouncing on the new precarity of the freelancer, Hito wryly observes that they have “freedom from everything,” from a good job, health care, affordable housing…”
Freedom From Everything screens:
Friday, April 29, 8:15pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tuesday, May 3, 2:15pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Jackie Torrens is a writer, journalist, playwright, radio documentary maker and actor in TV, film, theatre and radio. In 2017 she made the short, Bernie Langille Wants to Know Who Killed Bernie Langille. The title has been changed to Bernie Langille Wants to Know What Happened to Bernie Langille and now runs 78 minutes and will have its World Premiere at Hot Docs. It’s a story of a grandson trying to find out what happened to his grandfather & namesake, a military corporal who died more than 50 years ago under mysterious circumstances. Through the use of miniature sets, Bernie use fragments of the bizarre tale almost as jigsaw pieces, to hopefully solve a family mystery and release that family which seems to be emotionally frozen in 1968, the year Bernie Langille died.
Bernie Langille Wants to Know What Happened to Bernie Langille screens:
Saturday, April 30, 8:30pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Thursday, May 5, 1:00pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
The 9th of 12 features in the Canadian Spectrum we’re looking at this time is titled Shelter. Tess Girard’s films often mix documentary and experimental and her work has been recognized with nominations and awards. This time out she finds herself in the midst of a major life transition and visits a local doomsday shelter, which forces her to reckon with impermanence and the extreme measures we take to avoid the inevitable. As Alexander Rogalski writes for Hot Docs, Girard has “Conversations with a youthful gravedigger who provides locals with their final resting place,” and that contrasts with…”an eccentric elderly couple who plan to save humanity with a bunker of buried school buses known as Ark Two.” I never said documentaries can’t be quirky.
Tuesday, May 3, 5:45pm at the Varsity Cinemas
Friday, May 6 at 12:30pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Tomorrow the last of 12 features screening in the 2022 Canadian Spectrum.
There is more information online about these films and others and about streaming these films from anywhere in Canada.
CDN Spectrum at Hot Docs – Take 2 by Ralph Lucas – Publisher
(April 20, 2022 – Toronto, ON) There’s a lot to cover as we look at another 3 of the 12 feature documentaries screening in the Canadian Spectrum this year at Hot Docs. What these three films have in common is serious work by relatively new filmmakers.
No stranger to Hot Docs, filmmaker Andrew Moir brought his 2017 short Babe, I Hate to Go to the festival that year and picked up a nomination for Best Short Documentary at the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards. He builds on that short with a new feature doc titled Don’t Come Searching, which will have its World Premiere at Hot Docs. The film centres on two people and their lives together and apart. Every spring for the last 13 years, Delroy leaves his partner Sophia and their kids behind in the small Jamaican hamlet of Top Hill so that he can earn money working on a farm in Canada. But the year this documentary was made, Delroy cuts short his stay in Canada and returns home. He has brought an engagement ring for Sophia and the news of an unexpected diagnosis of terminal cancer. Moir gently chronicles the last days of Sophia and Delroy’s relationship as she cares for her new spouse.
Don’t Come Searching screens:
Monday, May 2, 5:45pm at the Isabel Bader Theatre
Friday, May 6 at 3:30pm at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Rojek runs a little over 2 hours and will have its North American Premiere on Saturday, April 30. Screening in competition, Rojek is just the 2nd feature documentary written and directed by Zaynê Akyol, who was born in Turkey and is a Université du Québec à Montréal graduate with Bachelor and Master Degrees in Communication, with a specialization in film. Her first documentary was the 2010 short Under Two Skies. Her first feature documentary, Gulîstan, Land of Roses (2016) was selected by 80 international film festivals, earning 50 nominations and winning 12 awards, including the prestigious Doc Alliance Award given at the Locarno Film Festival. This new film features interviews with some of the most important members of the Islamic State (ISIS), who are currently being detained in Syrian Kurdistan, an area of the world trying to stay vigilant as it struggles to recover from years of war.
Saturday, April 30, 3 p.m. at the Isabel Bader Theatre
Thursday, May 5, 4:15 p.m. at the TIFF Bell Lightbox 3
Secwépemc director Sean Stiller’s Returning Home is still on the festival circuit and will make a stop at Hot Docs. It profiles Orange Shirt Day founder Phyllis Jack-Webstad and her family’s struggle to heal from the multigenerational impact of attending the notorious St. Joseph’s Mission Residential School in Secwépemc territory. In an interweaving storyline, amid a global pandemic and the lowest salmon run in Canadian history, the film also explores how a multi-year federal fishing moratorium tears at the very fabric of Secwépemc communities and centuries-old traditions. This is Stiller’s first feature and its award history is impressive. It was named Best Canadian Documentary at last year’s Calgary International Film Festival, the Edmonton International Film Festival and the Vancouver International Film Festival.
Returning Home screens:
Monday, May 2 at 8:30pm at the Isabel Bader Theatre
Friday, May 6 at 1:30am at the TIFF Bell Lightbox
Returning Home screens with the 11 minute short, The Road Back to Cowessess.
Speaking of shorts, if you’re a stranger to documentary films, have always been curious about this particular kind of filmmaking but no ready to commit to a couple of hours of something you’re not sure of, I suggest you start your journey into reality film with a program or shorts. The great thing about short films is, they are short. Not particularly fond of the first one, the second one will be along in a few minutes. Hot Docs has two shorts programs within in the Canadian Spectrum. The first series is titled “Artistic Journeys” and features four films ranging from 19 minutes to 29 minutes. One of them, Bill Reid Remembers is a National Film Board (NFB) production, directed by renowned Indigenous filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin.
The NFB synopsis states: ”Bill Reid Remembers is a beautiful tribute from Alanis Obomsawin to her friend’s remarkable life and rich legacy. Despite spending his early life away from his nation’s culture, renowned Haida artist Bill Reid always kept Haida Gwaii close to his heart. While working for CBC Radio, he started learning how to make jewelry, then later sculpture, using Haida techniques and images, a move that would forever change his life and the Canadian artistic landscape. Reid’s powerful narration in the film—interspersed with Obomsawin’s own—recounts his complex childhood, his emergence as an accomplished artist, and his profound connection to his homeland. Decades after his passing, Bill Reid remains an enduring force and one of Canada’s greatest artists.
The other films in the series are Dad Can Dance by Jamie Ross; the Netherlands-Canada copro The Museum Visits a Therapist from directors Mirjam Linschooten and Sameer Farooq; and Violet Gave Willingly by Claire Sanford.
Artistic Journeys shorts screens:
Saturday, April 30, 11:30am at the Isabel Bader Theatre.
More Hot Docs Canadian Spectrum features and shorts tomorrow. There is more information online about these films and others and about streaming these films from anywhere in Canada.