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88 minutes – Documentary
Language: English
Festival release date: April 30, 2023 – Hot Docs (World Premiere)
Release date:
Production company: Frequent Flyer Films
Canadian distributor:

Cynara is a title that has been used many times before. This film, written, directed and produced by Toronto-based Sherien Barsoum, is a crime drama, but the crime is real and the drama, also real, is difficult to believe. In Toronto, on February 19, 2011, Cindy Ali, a Trinidadian-Canadian mother of four, called 911. In a panic, she reported that her family’s townhouse had been attacked by two masked men. When a first responder found her lying on the floor and her 16-year-old daughter Cynara, who has cerebral palsy, lying on the couch and showing no signs of life, she immediately treated Cindy as a suspect rather than a victim. This is also a story of Canada’s justice system on trial.

Thom Ernst reviews Cynara for Northernstars.ca
Images courtesy of Frequent Flyer Films.

Cynara, documentary, movie, poster,



Bryn Hughes
Sherien Barsoum

Executive Producer:

Michelle Shephard
Bryn Hughes


Sherien Barsoum


Sherien Barsoum


Christian Bielz


Rich Williamson


Ben Fox

Cast: Roles:

Cindy Ali
Allan Ali
Sheela Durasami
Jim Rankin
James Lockyer

Cindy’s Husband
Herself – Church of the Rock pastor
Himself – Toronto Star journalist
Himself – Defence lawyer

Sherien Barsoum

Sherien Barsoum, film director,

Sherien Barsoum is a Toronto-based film director and producer. Her films have screened at Hot Docs, NorthWest Fest and many many more. Her film I Hate To Go played at top festivals internationally and was nominated for a Canadian Screen Award. Barsoum was a story consultant on the Oscar-shortlisted Frame 394 and co-produced House of Z, the first feature bought and distributed by Condé Nast. A Producer with the National Film Board of Canada and a founding member of the Racial Equity Media Collective, which uses research to advocate on behalf of racialized creators in Canada, she is also the former Director of Programming for the Reelworld Film Festival and served as a board member of the Documentary Organization of Canada. We list her credits as a Director first.

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

Colour Me (2011)
Player Zero (2018, short)
Ride for Promise (2018, short)
Cynara (2023)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
Colour Me (2011)
House of Z (2017)
Cynara (2023)

Credits as a Producer:
Colour Me (2011)
Mighty Tongue (Co-producer, 2013, short)
House of Z (Co-producer, 2017)
Babe, I Hate to Go (2017, short)
Player Zero (2018, short)
Ride for Promise (2018, short)
Scarborough (Impact producer, 2021)
Don’t Come Searching (2022)
Queen Bee (2022, short)
The Colour of Ink (2022)
Cynara (2023)
7 Beats Per Minute (Co-producer, 2024)

Cynara, movie, documentary, poster,

CSC Calls for Entries

CSC Awards 2022, news, image,

CSC Calls for 2024 Entries
by Staff Editors

November 27, 2023 – Toronto, ON) The Canadian Society of Cinematographers has issued a call for entries for the 2024 Awards Competition. There are 13 categories ranging from Theatrical Feature through Dramatic Short to Camera Assistant Award of Merit.

CSC, logo, image, There are some key rules. For example, a Dramatic Short “should be less than 39 minutes duration” or in the Student category, the submitted work has to be created solely by students while enrolled at an accredited Post-Secondary Canadian Media Program.

It should be noted that all categories are for CSC members worldwide and non-member professionals residing in Canada, and all entries submitted must be an officially released version. In other words the submission should not be a re-edited or altered version.

The Canadian Society of Cinematographers was conceived in the lobby of a film studio at Woodbine and Danforth in east-end Toronto in 1957. It had previously been The Meridian Theatre.

The deadline for entries is January 31, 2024 and there is more information and entry forms online.


Alanis Obomsawin: A Legacy

Alanis Obomsawin: A Legacy, image, news,

Alanis Obomsawin: A Legacy
by Staff Editors

(November 27, Toronto, ON) Earlier this week in Montreal during RIDM’s 2023 festival, there was a special screening of very special DVD collection from the National Film Board (NFB). Fittingly it took place at the NFB’s Alanis Obomsawin Theatre and it was the official release of a boxed set of this remarkable filmmaker’s work. Titled Alanis Obomsawin: A Legacy, pre-orders available now and the 12-disc set will begin shipping in December 2023.

Over a legendary career spanning five decades, Abenaki filmmaker and activist Alanis Obomsawin has chronicled the hopes and struggles of Indigenous Peoples in their historic fight for their rights. She’s been an inspiration for generations of Indigenous creators and a trailblazer in women’s cinema since she began to make films at the NFB in 1967—receiving virtually every major Canadian honour for a lifetime of distinguished filmmaking and social activism that now totals an incredible 65 works.

Curated by Alanis Obomsawin herself, 28 of those new and classic films are together for the first time and includes seven never-before-seen bonuses as well as world premieres of four short films. This collection offers an exclusive look at her beginnings in cinema, her engagement in historic battles that are helping to transform the lives of Indigenous Peoples, and her dedication to Indigenous youth and the well-being of children, as well as her hope for the future. In addition to the 12 DVDs, Alanis Obomsawin: A Legacy features a full-colour 44-page booklet with an introduction by Jason Ryle, International Programmer, Indigenous Cinema, at the Toronto International Film Festival.

This is the largest collection of films by Alanis Obomsawin on DVD and a unique opportunity for cinephiles to own a special part of Canada’s cultural history: a highly personal portrait of sweeping social, political and cultural changes for Indigenous Peoples over the last half century.

Titles in the 12-disc box set include:

Alanis Obomsawin: A Legacy, box set, image, Alanis Obomsawin’s very first film at the NFB, the 1971 classic Christmas at Moose Factory; Her first feature-length documentary, the groundbreaking Mother of Many Children (1977), which created a space for Indigenous women’s stories and perspectives on the screen as a global feminist movement was taking shape; All seven films from her pivotal film cycle on the rights of Indigenous children and Peoples, which began in 2010 when she conducted the first interviews for The People of the Kattawapiskak River (2012) and ended, on an optimistic note, with her award-winning Jordan River Anderson, The Messenger in 2019; Recent works from 2021 inspired by her extensive personal archives, such as the powerful Honour to Senator Murray Sinclair and Bill Reid Remembers; Plus four new works making their world premiere, including Wabano: The Light of the Day and The Spirit of the Tŝilhqot’in People Is Hovering Over the Supreme Court. All titles are available in English and French, with four films featuring Cree version options.

A passionate mentor and educator all her life, Alanis has curated a lifetime of learning in one box set, helping viewers to understand and acknowledge the difficult realities and truths about the history of Indigenous Peoples in Canada. The NFB’s Education team will also be supporting the launch of Alanis Obomsawin: A Legacy with special resources available January 2024.

Click here to learn more and purchase Alanis Obomsawin: A Legacy.
Click here to learn more about Alanis Obomsawin.


Shorts Not Pants Wraps

Tiny, film, image, news,
Cropped and enlarged from the digital poster for Tiny.

Shorts Not Pants Wraps
by Staff Editors

(November 20, 2023 -Toronto, ON) The Shorts Not Pants Film Festival ran this past weekend at Toronto’s Carlton Cinemas, always a friendly venue for festival organizers. Like many (most? all?) festivals, it concluded with an announcement of which film won what.

Shorts Not Pants, logo, image, “Shorts Not Pants continues to be a platform where innovative storytelling thrives, and this year’s selection of films truly exemplified the depth of creativity and diverse perspectives within the short film format,” said Founder, Executive Director, and Programmer James McNally.

Playing a significant role in this year’s festival was HollywoodSuite, a major supporter of Canadian film, which provided a $1,000 cash prize to the filmmaker behind the top Canadian film. Also, the Toronto Animated Image Society (TAIS) showed their support for young local talent by presenting two one-year memberships.

The festival presented awards in five categories, recognizing the outstanding achievements in narrative, documentary, animation, Canadian films, and the coveted Audience Choice award. The jury members, composed of industry experts and seasoned professionals, deliberated on the exceptional entries to determine the winners and special mentions. And the winners are:

Best Canadian Short: Tiny
Directed by Ritchie Hemphill and Ryan Haché (Canada | 16 minutes)
(Jury members: Jennie Punter, Courntey Small, Steve Gravestock)
HollywoodSuite Sponsorship $1,000.00 cash prize

Tiny, still image above, is a contemplative stop motion film which tells the story of ‘Nakwaxda’xw Elder Colleen Hemphill’s childhood. The film portrays modern day Colleen as she reflects on her past, and re-enacts the stories she tells of her youth, as a young girl growing up on a float-house in the wild and unpredictable Pacific Northwest and its waters. The film aims to celebrate the life and identity of Colleen by sharing the gift of her presence and stories with audiences. It previously won the best Indigenous Short Film award at the Regina International Film Festival and Awards.

Jury Statement: For their use of artfully detailed stop-motion animation and compact, cinematic storytelling to portray the childhood story of Colleen Hemphill, and conveying both wonder and danger by skillfully weaving the Nakwaxda’xw Elder’s contemplative voice and perspective with images of her young self exploring the wild, watery spirit of the Pacific Northwest, the jury awards the Best Canadian Short award to Ritchie Hemphill and Ryan Haché for Tiny.

Jury’s Special Mention – Skin
Directed by Liam Hoban Thrush (Canada | 19 minutes)

Jury Statement: For its powerful and indelible portrait of the devastating impact of obsession, compulsion and mental health challenges, as well as its distinct look and style, the jury awards a special mention to Liam Hoban Thrush’s Skin.

Best Narrative Short: Spiral (Kierre)
Directed by Salla Sorri, Eva-Maria Koskinen (Finland | 18 minutes)
(Jury members: John Trefry, Nicole McControversy, Steve Gravestock)
Shorts Not Pants $US250.00 cash prize

Jury Statement: Spiral was a total stand-out. The performances were brilliant, especially by the lead actor and young cast. The striking cinematography brought us into a perfectly paced story, unafraid to face the repercussions of childhood trauma echoing into adulthood.

Jury’s Special Mention – Baba
Directed by Anya Chirkova, Meran Ismailsoy (Canada | 13 minutes)

Jury Statement: Baba is expertly crafted, diving headlong into intergenerational tension through the lens of the immigrant experience. The acting was brilliant as was the kinetic cinematography, both ratcheting up the stakes and emotional tension.

Best Documentary Short: A History of the World According To Getty Images
Directed by Richard Misek (Norway | 18 minutes)
(Jury members: Gina Dineen, Phyllis Ellis, Julian Carrington)
Shorts Not Pants $US250.00 cash prize

Jury Statement: The jury felt that this was a compelling, intelligent and important film that engages us through a clever narrative and was a pleasure to watch.

Jury’s Special Mention – Could You Be Free Yet Locked In?
Directed by Kazi Arefin Ahmed (Bangladesh | 9 minutes)

Jury Statement: The jury found this to be a beautifully crafted and compassionate film.

Best Animated Short: Ice Merchants
Directed by João Gonzalez (Portugal | 14 minutes)
(Jury Members: Sol Friedman, Max Cox, Celeste Koon)
Shorts Not Pants $US250.00 cash prize

Jury Statement: Ice Merchants impresses with strong visual storytelling and impeccable technical execution. This film catches the eye with its distinctive style and use of simple colors, creating a magical atmosphere. The absence of dialogue doesn’t diminish the story’s beauty, which is carried through the character design, use of narrative restraint, and effective world building. Ice Merchants skillfully captures the heartfelt emotions of parental love.

Jury’s Special Mention – Maurice’s Bar
Directed by Tzor Edery, Tom Prezman (France | 15 minutes)
Jury Statement: Maurice’s Bar, a film whose beauty both in story and animation technique moved us to the point of tears.

Also in the Animated Category
Receiving One Year TAIS Membership: The Pest (Director Jungwoo Choi) – Toronto
Receiving One Year TAIS Memberhsip: End of the Line (Director Marc Salvatore Lajoie) Toronto

Audience Choice Award: Linda
Directed by Joe Lycett (United Kingdom | 8 minutes)
Shorts Not Pants $US250.00 cash prize

The festival also recognized the top 10 Audience Award vote-getters:

1. Linda
2. Ice Merchants
3. Soundscape
4. A Dead Marriage
5. Death to the Bikini! (À mort le bikini!)
6. This Is What The World Looks Like When You’re Gone
7. I & I
8. Tiny
9. Cups
10. EITR

SOURCE: Shorts Not Pants

Prix Iris – Coming Soon

Prix Iris - Coming Soon, news, image,

Prix Iris – Coming Soon
by Staff Editors

(November 21, 2023 – Toronto, ON) The nominees for the Quebec film awards, better known as the Prix Iris, were recently announced and it is our collective opinion, one of the best years for Québec film.

In the all-important Feature Films category, Stéphane Lafleur’s Viking leads the way with a total of 18 nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Larissa Corriveau), Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Steve Laplante), Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Denis Houle) and Breakthrough Actor of the Year (Fabiola Nyrva Aladin).

Monia Chokri’s Babysitter received 14 nominations; These include Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Patrick Hivon), Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Nadia Tereszkiewicz) and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Steve Plante).

Juliette Gariépy, actress,
Promotional still from Les chambres rouges courtesy of Entract Films.

Pascal Plante’s Les chambres rouges follows closely behind with 13 nominations, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Laurie Babin) and Breakthrough Actor of the Year (Juliette Gariépy, pictured above). This was followed by Francis Leclerc’s The Diver, which was nominated 12 times, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor in a Leading Role (Henri Picard), Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Maxime de Cotret and Charles-Aubey Houde) and Breakthrough Actor of the Year (Joan Hart).

Rafaël Ouellet’s Arsenault et fils is in the running for 8 IRIS including Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay and Best Actor in a Leading Role (Guillaume Cyr), while Charlotte Le Bon’s Falcon Lake stands out in 6 categories, including Best Film, Best First Film and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Sara Montpetit). Three feature films are tied with 4 nominations: Confessions by Luc Picard, nominated for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role (Luc Picard) and Best Original Score (Daniel Bélanger); Farador by Edouard Albernhe Tremblay is a finalist in the Best First Film and Best Visual Effects categories; while Geneviève Albert’s Noémie Says Yes was nominated for IRIS for Best Film, Best First Film and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Kelly Depeault).

Dear Audrey, image,
Photo from Dear Audrey by Jeremiah Hayes.

In the documentary section, three films lead the race with 4 nominations: Dear Audrey by Jeremiah Hayes stands out in the categories of Best Documentary Film and Best Editing, while Gabor by Joannie Lafrenière and Geographies of Solitude by Jacquelyn Mills are also both in the running for Best Documentary Film and Best Editing as well as Best Cinematography. Beyond the High Valleys by Maude Plante-Husaruk and Maxime Lacoste-Lebuis as well as Rojek by Zaynê Akyol obtained 3 nominations, while tied with 2 mentions, we find Au-delà du papier by Oana Suteu Khintirian and Humus by Carole Poliquin. Finally, it should be noted that 305 Bellechasse by Maxime-Claude L’Écuyer, This House by Miryam Charles, Je vous salute salope: la misogynie au temps du numérique by Léa Clermont-Dion and Guylaine Maroist and Twice Colonized by Lin Alluna are cited once.

In the Best Animated Short Film category, the films in the running are A Night for the Dogs by Max Woodward, Harvey by Janice Nadeau, Madeleine by Rachel Sancinetti, Marie · Eduardo · Sophie by Thomas Corriveau and Triangle noir by Marie-Noëlle Moreau Robidas. The IRIS Best Documentary Short Film includes Belle River by Guillaume Fournier, Samuel Matteau and Yannick Nolin, Fire-Jo-Ball by Audrey Nantel-Gagnon, Notes sur la mémoire et l’oubli by Amélie Hardy, Oasis by Justine Martin and Zug Island by Nicolas Lachapelle. Finally, the films nominated in the Best Short Fiction Film category are Invincible by Vincent René-Lortie, Nanitic by Carol Nguyen, Blonde Night by Gabrielle Demers, No Ghost in the Morgue by Marilyn Cooke and Simo by Aziz Zoromba.

Les hommes de ma mère, movie, inage,

The IRIS Audience Award highlights the five films that recorded the highest number of admissions in commercial theatres in Quebec during the Gala reference period. Moviegoers can head to noovo.ca to choose between 23 décembre by Miryam Bouchard, Confessions by Luc Picard, Katak le brave béluga by Christine Dallaire-Dupont and Nicola Lemay, Le temps d’un été by Louise Archambault and Les hommes de ma mère by Anik Jean (still image above). The winner will be announced during the Gala Québec Cinéma.

Falcon Lake, movie, poster,Les Prix Iris also highlights Québec productions that have had an impact beyond the province’s borders. Films in the running this year include: This House by Myriam Charles, produced by Félix Dufour-Laperrière (Embuscade Films), Dounia and the Princess of Aleppo, by Marya Zarif and André Kadi, produced by Judith Beauregard (Tobo), Falcon Lake by Charlotte Le Bon, produced by Nancy Grant, Sylvain Corbeil (Metafilms), Dany Boon, Jalil Lespert (Onzecinq), Julien Deris, David Gauquié and Jean-Luc Ormières (Cinéfrance Studios). Also nominated in this category are Katak the Brave Beluga by Christine Dallaire-Dupont and Nicola Lemay, produced by Nancy Florence Savard (10th Ave Productions) and Viking by Stéphane Lafleur, produced by Luc Déry and Kim McCraw (micro_scope).

Each year, the Gala Québec Cinéma highlights the work of a personality whose accomplishments have left their mark on the public as well as on the history and evolution of the Québec film industry. This year, the IRIS Hommage will be awarded to Rémy Girard.

Rémy Girard, actor, Testament,One of the most beloved actors by the public, Girard has shone in the Quebec film landscape for 50 years now. He has lent his immense talent to some of Canada’s greatest filmmakers — think Yves Simoneau, Robert Ménard, Charles Binamé, Denis Villeneuve, Jean-François Pouliot, Louise Archambaut, Benoît Pilon, Éric Tessier, and of course Denys Arcand, to name a few — and his impressive cinematographic track record alone reflects the extent of his genius.

The Quebec actor is as brilliant in drama (The Decline of the American Empire, The Barbarian Invasions, Incendies, It Rained Birds, You Will Remember Me, The Vinland Club, Testament) as he is in comedy (The Boys, The Neighbours, La Florida, De père en flic, Votez Bougon) and has a career of nearly 60 films to date. Not to mention some forty television series and numerous plays. This year, the Gala Québec Cinéma celebrates an exceptional actor with a remarkable career.

A total of 47 finalist films from all categories will share the 30 IRIS awards that will be presented during the 25th Gala Québec Cinéma, which will be broadcast on Sunday, December 10 at 8 p.m. on Noovo and Noovo.ca, live from Montreal’s Grandé Studios.

SOURCE: Gala Québec Cinéma

DOC Institute Honours Two

DOC Institute Honours Two, news, image,

DOC Institute Honours Two
by Staff Editors

(November 20, 2023 – Toronto) Industry veteran Janice Dawe and acclaimed filmmaker Noura Kevorkian will be recognized with the top documentary achievement awards at the 10thth Annual DOC Institute’s Honours Awards, to be presented the evening of Tuesday, December 5 at The Great Hall in Toronto. The DOC Institute’s Honours Awards celebrates pioneers and visionaries in Canadian documentary filmmaking.

DOC Institute, logo, image, The announcement was made by Lauren Howes, Managing Director of the Doc Institute. “On this special occasion, the 10th Anniversary of the Honours Awards, we’re delighted to recognize two truly outstanding individuals and welcome them into the esteemed company of our other remarkable winners over the past decade,” adding “This is an exceptional banner year for us, as all the decades have aligned. The Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) is celebrating its 40th anniversary, Hot Docs FilmFestival its 30th, our Breakthrough Mentorship Program marks 20 years and, of course, Doc Honours celebrates its 10th”.

A jury of their peers unanimously voted to recognize Janice Dawe for the Rogers-DOC Luminary Award and Noura Kevorkian for the DOC Vanguard Award. This year’s jury members were Anita Lee, 2022 Luminary recipient, Sylvia Hamilton, 2021 Luminary Recipient, and Tamara Dawit, 2021 Vanguard recipient.

Pictured above on the left, Janice Dawe is this year’s winner of the Luminary Award. She is a founding partner and President of Bizable Media, a Toronto-based consulting firm providing production financing and business affairs services to the film and television community. Over her career, Janice has worked with dozens of documentary filmmakers and has enjoyed the public discourse, audience emotion and industry accolades their films have received. Maya Gallus’s On the Side of the Angels, Tasha Hubbard’s nîpawistamâsowin: We Will Stand Up, Michele Hozer’s Sugar Coated and Chelsea McMullan & Sean O’Neill’s Swan Song are just some of the documentaries Janice is extremely proud to have contributed to in a producing capacity. Before forming Bizable Media, Dawe was Vice-President and Executive Producer for eight years at White Pine Pictures, where she oversaw business development and production of the company’s slate of award-winning documentaries and drama series.

Along with Anne Pick and Susan Fleming, Janice Dawe created and produced a doc-adjacent series Harrowsmith Country Life that ran for four happy seasons and developed a devoted following on the Discovery Channel. Well known to DOC and many of its members, she served as co-chair of the Canadian Independent Film Caucus alongside Paul Jay as the organization transformed into the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) and launched the first edition of the Hot Docs festival. She has been an active mentor throughout her career and over the past 3 years she has led the business of producing workshops for OYA Black Arts Coalition’s “Scale Up” initiative.

“I am moved and honoured to be recognized by my colleagues with this meaningful award,” said Dawe. “Supporting doc filmmakers in their incredibly hard work has been an immensely gratifying part of my career.”

The jury remarked that,”Throughout her career, Janice Dawe has been an invaluable,
principled, and trusted partner for documentary filmmakers, and someone whose
unwavering dedication has enabled numerous creators to bring their projects to fruition.”

The Rogers-DOC Luminary Award is presented to an individual whose leadership and creative spirit has made a significant contribution to the genre and benefitted the Canadian documentary community. The award is supported by the Rogers Group of Funds. Previous honourees are Anita Lee (2022), Sylvia D. Hamilton, Anne Pick, Zoe Dirse, Alanis Obomsawin, Chris McDonald, Daniel Cross, Elizabeth Klinck, and Marc Glassman.

Noura Kevorkian, pictured on the right above, is this year’s winner of the Vanguard Award. A true Renaissance woman, Kevorkian possesses a multifaceted artistic vision that spans across languages and cultures, blending her Lebanese, Syrian, and Armenian roots. Her extensive creative journey includes roles as a writer, director, producer, editor, and even composer for her films. With profound lived experience, Kevorkian’s projects offer a unique perspective that captivates, provokes thought, and fosters empathy for marginalized communities. Born in Aleppo, Syria, and raised in Lebanon before making her way to Canada at age 17 to complete her high school education, she then attended university and ended up staying in Canada, and now lives in Toronto.

She made her filmmaking debut with the award-winning 2002 documentary Veils Uncovered, about the veiled women of Damascus. It won prizes at the ReelWorld, Yorkton, and New York International Film and Video festivals and was in Official Competition at the IDFA. Her debut feature, the Canada-Lebanon historical documentary Anjar: Flowers, Goats & Heroes, showcased at the MED Festival in Rome, is a complex and emotional POV documentary about a young girl growing up during the Lebanese Civil War and discovering that the elders of her village are genocide survivors from a previous war. Her follow-up film, the Canada-Lebanon drama-doc hybrid feature 23 Kilometres, premiered to acclaim in Official Competition at Karlovy Vary, followed by screenings at the Dubai and Munich festivals. This one-of-a-kind experiential film is a cinematic portrayal of one man’s experiences with Parkinson’s disease.

CDN Spectrum at Hot Docs, BatataNoura’s latest film, the Canada-Lebanon co-production Batata, is an unprecedented documentary that follows 10 years in the life of a singularly determined, unmarried Syrian woman as she turns from migrant farmhand to refugee, stuck in a camp in Lebanon and unable to return to her hometown of Raqqa. It won a Peabody Award, was named both Best Feature Documentary and Best Human Rights film at the Carthage Festival, won the Amnesty Award at Durban, was one of the Audience Top Ten at Hot Docs, and was an Official Entry in the 2024 Academy Awards.

“I am thrilled and honoured to receive the 2023 DOC Institute’s Vanguard Award,” said Kevorkian. “This year marks DOC’s 40th anniversary and my 22nd year in documentary filmmaking. The challenging journey of a documentarian, exemplified by my recent film Batata, that captures 10 years in the life of a Syrian refugee woman, underscores that documentary filmmaking demands resilience, skill, and humanity to tell stories that matter. I am grateful for this recognition and aspire to support fellow filmmakers’ journeys. I’m proud to belong to the DOC community and very grateful for this acknowledgement and vote of confidence.”

“Noura Kevorkian is an exciting documentary maker to watch”, noted the jury. “She is on
a path to create work that can stand with the best documentaries being produced in
Canada. This makes her an ideal recipient of the Vanguard Award.”

The Vanguard Award is presented to an emerging or mid-career professional whose keen artistic sensibility and visionary approach has made them a talent to watch. Previous recipients are Nisha Pahuja (2022), Tamara Mariam Dawit, Chelsea McMullan, Millifiore Clarkes, Lisa Jackson, Amar Wala, Victoria Lean, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, and Brett Story.

The DOC Institute Honours is a juried event, selected from nominations submitted by the membership of the Documentary Organization of Canada, an association of more than 1,000 members, representing six chapters from coast to coast to coast and from across the documentary film sector. The annual event is supported by presenting sponsor, CBC, and award sponsors Rogers Group of Funds and Urban Post Production.

The 10thth Annual DOC Institute’s Honours Awards, to be presented the evening of Tuesday, December 5 at The Great Hall in Toronto. Located at 1087 Queen Street West (at Dovercourt Road) in Toronto, tickets for the Gala Honours Awards should be reserved.

Noura Kevorkian

Noura Kevorkian, film director,
Photo of Noura Kevorkian at the 2023 Canadian Screen Awards © 2023 by Ralph Lucas.

B: in Aleppo, Syria

Noura Kevorkian was born in Aleppo, Syria, and raised in Lebanon before making her way to Canada at age 17 to complete her high school education and then attend university. She ended up staying, and now lives in Toronto. Noura made her filmmaking debut with the award-winning 2002 documentary short Veils Uncovered, about the veiled women of Damascus. It won prizes at the ReelWorld, Yorkton, and New York International Film and Video festivals and was in Official Competition at the IDFA. WE list her credits as a Director first.

Also see: DOC Institute Honours Janice Dawe and Noura Kevorkian.
Also see: Hot Docs Wraps with Awards.

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

Veils Uncovered (2002, short)
Anjar: The Heros of Musa Dagh (TV-2007)
Anjar: Flowers, Goats and Heroes (2009)

23 Kilometres (2015)
Batata (2022)
Bottles (2023, short)

TV Series:
Code Green Canada (2006)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
Veils Uncovered (2002, short)
Anjar: The Heros of Musa Dagh (TV-2007)
Anjar: Flowers, Goats and Heroes (2009)

23 Kilometres (2015)
Batata (2022)
Bottles (2023, short)

Credits as a Producer:
Veils Uncovered (2002, short)
Anjar: The Heros of Musa Dagh (TV-2007)
Anjar: Flowers, Goats and Heroes (2009)

23 Kilometres (2015)
Batata (2022)
Bottles (2023, short)

CDN Spectrum at Hot Docs, Batata

Denis Côté at RIDM

Mademoiselle Kenopsia, movie, image, review,

Denis Côté at RIDM
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

(November 16, 2023 – Toronto, ON) When Denis Côté’s feature Mademoiselle Kenopsia screened at TIFF, our Québec correspondent, Maurie Alioff, was in town and opened his review of the film by mentioning Coté didn’t make the festival, where he had been a regular, because he was recovering from a kidney transplant. Introducing the movie via video, he said this film is more about atmosphere than narrative, but Maurie thought that wasn’t entirely true.

Mademoiselle Kenopsia tells the story of a woman who becomes obsessed with watching over anonymous interior spaces and occupying them. Maurie concluded his review with “Whatever is real or unreal in Denis Côté’s movie, it embeds itself in your consciousness, a mind-altering meditation. You close your eyes for a second, and you see your own spaces and phantoms.”

Now fully recovered, Côté will be in attendance when Mademoiselle Kenopsia will be presented to Quebec audiences for the first time during the 26th edition of the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) next Tuesday, November 21 at the Cinémathèque québécoise.

Denis Côté, director,
Denis Côté photo courtesy of Gaile Marion-Gauvin.

Screening as a special presentation, the film will be accompanied by a masterclass by Côté, who will share his outlook on cinema. This is almost guarateed to spark a genuine reflection on the possibilities of a cinematic form that disregards boundaries and labels. Hosted by Nadine Gomez, this masterclass will be free of charge. And, there’s more. 

Côté, who is celebrating a birthday today, will be honoured by the Association des réalisateurs et réalisatrices du Québec (ARRQ), and will be given a lifetime achievement award as part of this year’s Prix RÉALS.

Produced by Voyelles Films and distributed by h264, Mademoiselle Kenopsia is set for theatrical release in Québec on December 8.

Click here for a link to RIDM.

Northernstars logo imageRalph Lucas is a former broadcast executive and award-winning director in high-end corporate video production. The founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca, online since 1998, he began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.

The Boy in the Woods

Boy in the Woods, movie, image,

96 minutes – Drama
Language: English
Festival release date: September 22, 2023 (Cinéfest Sudbury, Gala Presentation)
Release date: TBA
Production companies: Lumanity Productions, JoBro Productions, Undisputed Pictures
Canadian distributor: Photon Films

Based on the memoir “The Boy in the Woods: A True Story of Survival During the Second World War” by Maxwell Smart, who serves as one of the Executive Producers, Rebecca Snow’s first narrative film is a remarkable, true-life Holocaust survival story set during the Polish deportation of 1943. Shot in North Bay, Ontario on the fall of 2022, the feature tells the story of Max (Jett Klyne), a Jewish boy hiding in the forests of Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe. Max is an aspiring artist who escapes death when his selfless mother tells him to run away from the Nazi trucks which they are about to board. He befriends a farmer, Jasko (Richard Armitage), and his family, who take him in. But with mounting pressure from the police and fear for his own family’s life, Jasko is forced to turn Max away.

Maxwell Smart survived the Holocaust and eventually immigrated to Montreal in 1948. He lost his only sibling and 62 members of his extended family.

No Poster Available, Northernstars, image,



Jonathan Bronfman
Robert Budreau

Executive Producer:

Kirk D’Amico
Patrick Patterson
Joel Reilly
Mark Slone
Maxwell Smart


Andrew Bronfman

Line Producer:

Craig Fleming
Carla Marti


Rebecca Snow


Rebecca Snow


Adam Madrzyk


Robert Swartz

Production Designer:

Helcio Pugliese

Art Director:

Josette Joseph

Costume Designer:

Florence Barrett

Cast: Roles:

Richard Armitage
Jett Klyne
Christopher Heyerdahl
Masa Lizdek
Ari Millen
Katherine Fogler
Berkley Silverman
Joshua Peace
David Kohlsmith
Tara Nicodemo
Shuna Snow
Richard Patrick Tolton II
Matt Lishman
Emersyn O’Neill

Chief Bagan
Police Sergeant
Aunt Erna
Young Partisan

The Burning Season

The Burning Season, Jonas Chernick, movie, image,

89 minutes – Drama
Language: English
Festival release date: November 30, 2023 – Whistler Film Festival
Release date: TBA
Production companies:
Canadian distributor:

Alena (Sara Canning) and Tom arrive at Luna Lake for JB (Jonas Chernick) and Poppy’s wedding. But the wedding night ends in a drug-fuelled haze, both couples destroyed, as JB’s long-secret affair with Alena is finally exposed. Lives are changed forever. The Burning Season begins at the end, and then moves backwards through time, each previous summer revealing deeper insight into a mysteriously intense connection. The story unfolds like a conundrum, challenging our preconceived ideas about the characters, tracking the affair over seven tumultuously sexy summers, and culminating in a surprising revelation that recontextualizes everything we thought we knew. In short, it is a sexy and tragic love story—told backwards.

No Poster Available, Northernstars, image,



Andrew Bronfman
Jonas Chernick

Executive Producer:

Jonathan Bronfman
Bruno Dubé
Fab Filippo
James Fler
Peter Harvey
Andrew Thomas Hunt
David Kines
Michael Paszt
Anick Poirier
Sam Posner
Lorne Price

Line Producer:

Geoff Ewart


Sean Garrity


Jonas Chernick
Diana Frances




John Gurdebeke


Kevon Cronin

Production Designer:

Allie Thompson

Costume Designer:

Kate Adams

Cast: Roles:

Sara Canning
Jonas Chernick
Joe Pingue
Tanisha Thammavongsa
Christian Meer
Natalie Jane
Michelle Giroux
Geoffrey Pounsett
Sarah Cleveland
Duane Keogh
Carmen Grant
Erik Salmon

Young Alena
Wedding Officiant
Drug Dealer

Canadian Filmmakers at Whistler

Boy in the Woods, movie, image,

Canadian Filmmakers at Whistler
by Staff Editors

(November 14, 2023 – Toronto, ON) The 23rd annual Whistler Film Festival (WFF) has announced its full lineup. Founded in 2001 and renowned as “Canada’s coolest film festival,” WFF has become one of the Canadian film industry’s liveliest gatherings and one of Whistler’s signature cultural events. The festival will be taking place in-person from November 29 to December 3, 2023 in Whistler, BC, with online screenings available from December 4 to 17.

Among some of the festival’s biggest highlights—which includes 35 features and 62 shorts from 14 countries, from Oscar contenders to new breakthrough features—is a strong emphasis on Canadian voices. There is also a notable cohort of 53% majority female directors showing at WFF this year, an all-time high for the festival.

Rebecca Snow’s first narrative film, starring Christopher Heyerdahl and British actor Richard Armitage, The Boy in the Woods (still image above), is a remarkable, true-life Holocaust survival story set during the Polish deportation of 1943. Based on the wartime novel “The Boy in the Woods: A True Story of Survival During the Second World War” by Maxwell Smart, the feature was shot in North Bay, Ontario and tells the story of Max (Jett Klyne), a Jewish boy hiding in the forests of Nazi-occupied Eastern Europe during WWII. Max is an aspiring artist who escapes death when his selfless mother tells him to run away from the Nazi trucks which they are about to board. He befriends a farmer, Jasko (Armitage), and his family, who take him in. But with mounting pressure from the police and fear for his own family’s life, Jasko is forced to turn Max away.

An interest bit of family news, Rebecca Snow’s husband, Robert Budreau, is also showing a sneak peek of his film Queen of the Bones at the festival, marking the first time a husband and wife pair will both be screening films at WFF.

Whistler, The Burning Season, Jonas Chernick, news, image,

Actor Jonas Chernick and director Sean Garrity return to WFF with their World Premiere of The Burning Season (still image above), a sort of spiritual successor to WFF22 selected The End of Sex, and My Awkward Sexual Adventure, which won the Audience Award at WFF12. The film follows a dangerous and passionate secret affair that takes place over multiple summers. It is a sexy and tragic love story—told backwards.

This Time, directed by Robert Vaughn, is a film about the power of connection. When a teen inherits her deceased father’s journal, she discovers cryptic clues uncovering his secret life. Now, to fulfill his dying wish, she must blackmail an alcoholic hearse driver to race her cross-country to attempt a long-shot rendezvous with her father’s friend: Liza Minnelli.

Take a trip to 2045 where global environmental devastation has left humans scattered in a world where oxygen is scarce and trust is uncommon. Finality of Dusk is co-written and directed by Madison Thomas. Katarina Ziervogel, who is Deaf, co-wrote the intersectional script which features Indigenous and Deaf performers. Both are WFF Indigenous Filmmaker Fellowship Program alumni.

Whistler, Artie Shaw: Time is All You've Got, news, image,

Jazz-lovers take note! The new 4K restoration of the 1985 Canadian Oscar winner for Best Documentary, Artie Shaw: Time is All You’ve Got, will be screening at WFF this year. Directed by Brigitte Berman, the film is a classic biography, cataloging the life and music of the band leader and clarinetist, Artie Shaw.

Queen of My Dreams, movie, poster,Queen of My Dreams makes its British Columbia premiere at WFF23. In the directorial debut of Fawzia Mirza, the film traces the emotional journey that follows after a Pakistani-Canadian woman comes out as a lesbian to her family.

In She Talks to Strangers, director Bruce Sweeney ticks all of the boxes of dark comedy, finding humour in the pain of conjugal separation in telling the story of a divorce that ends in murder and a mother who is hellbent on covering for the real killer. The film makes its World Premiere at WFF23 and is a contender for the Borsos Competition, named for the late, renowned director Phillip Borsos.

WFF has a longstanding commitment to amplifying Canadian voices and talent, including with its Borsos Competition for Best Canadian Feature and highly competitive talent programs such as the Indigenous Filmmaker Fellowship.

Click here for a link to the Whistler Film Festival on our December Film Festivals page.

November Film Fest Quickies

November Film Fest Quickies, news, image,

November Film Fest Quickies
by Ralph Lucas

(November 13, 2023 – Toronto) We’ve made some changes and updates, to our November Film Festivals page that we thought you should know about. 

Up first, starting today, the Pomegranate Film Festival (POM) will be screening 68 films with proceeds to be donated to provide food & shelter for refugees from Artsakh through the All for Armenia Charity Fund. This year more than half of the films on the schedule are directed by filmmakers who have successfully screened previously at POM. While the festival kicks off today, the film portion begins Wednesday with a screening of Atom Egoyan’s Seven Veils. One of the Canada’s most celebrated storytellers, Egoyan has captured 25 Canada Screen Awards (formerly the Genies), 5 prizes at the Cannes Film Festival and 2 Oscar nominations. Seven Veils is his 10th presentation at POM. He will be in attendance for an exclusive Question & Answer session and will also be signing autographs to raise additional funds for refugees from Artsakh.

The Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) also kicks off on the 15th. As previously mentioned, the opening feature is Bye Bye Tiberias. It’s Lina Soualem’s intimate second feature that moves seamlessly through archives, poems and voice-over to build an inspiring new narrative for the Palestinian side of her family. By shedding light on the lives of four generations of women, Lina puts into perspective the story of her own mother, actress Hiam Abbass, who left her village of Deir Hanna, close to Lake Tiberias, at a young age to follow her dreams.

Les Films du 3 Mars is screening some of their films at the 26th edition of RIDM, with the premieres of four films. Presented as a world premiere, the 19-minute short film Here and There by Chadi Bennani will screen before Bye Bye Tiberias.

Mother Saigon - A Review, image,

On Thursday, November 16, to mark the Quebec premiere of Má Sài Gòn (Mother Saigon) by Khoa Lê, the Má Sài Gòn website will be launched on the same evening. It’s designed to provide a space for empathetic exchange to nourish reflection around the film and continue to make members of the LGBTQ+ community shine. Click here to read our review of Má Sài Gòn (Mother Saigon).

Screening schedule – in the presence of the filmmaker:
Thursday, November 16 at 8:00 p.m. at Cinéma du Musée (in its original version with French subtitles)
Sunday, November 19 at 5:30 p.m. at the Cinémathèque québécoise (in its original version with English subtitles)
Má Sài Gòn (Mother Saigon) will be released in Quebec in February 2024.

Also look for In Praise of Shadows, a new feature film by filmmaker Catherine Martin, being presented in the Panorama section – Against the grain. It runs 86 minutes and reveals the origins of photography and cinema as strands interwoven in this “cinematic meditation” in three chapters. Fleeting shadows ebb and flow in a glistening half-light, an enchanted dreamlike state that reflects on our place in the world, the passage of time, and the very essence of life and its fragility.
Screening schedule, in the presence of the filmmaker:
Tuesday, November 21 at 5:45 p.m. at Cinéma du Musée (in its original version with French subtitles)
Friday, November 24 at 3:30 p.m. at the Cinémathèque québécoise (in its original version with English subtitles)
In Praise of Shadows will be released in Quebec in 2024.

Cait Blues, film, photo,
Photo courtesy of Hot Docs.

The Quebec premiere of Caiti Blues by Justine Harbonnier will be marked by the presence of the film’s protagonist, American artist Caiti Lord. All screenings will be accompanied by a discussion with the filmmakers. Caiti Lord has a beautiful voice that she plans to use to do more than sell cherry cocktails. As madness surges in the United States, in a most disturbing absurd manner, Caiti is overtaken by a growing sense of suffocation. So Caiti sings. The blues. The feature documentary picked up The Directors’ Guild of Canada Special Jury Prize for Canadian Feature Documentary at Hot Docs earlier this year and you can read our review of the film here.
Screening schedule – in the presence of the filmmaker and the protagonist Caiti Lord:
Wednesday, November 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Cinémathèque québécoise (in its original version with French subtitles)
Friday November 24 at 6:30 p.m. at Cinéma du Parc (in its original version with French subtitles)
Caiti Blues will be released in Quebec on December 1, 2023.

Two feature film projects currently being finalized and will be distributed by Les Films du 3 Mars have been selected for the Rough Cut Pitch of the Forum RIDM, namely Nolandia by Kinga Michalska (produced by Ashley Duong, Danae Elon and Paul Cadieux – Productions Megafun), and Lhasa by Sophie Leblond (produced by Audrey-Ann Dupuis-Pierre – Metafilms). This activity gives teams the opportunity to present a 15-minute excerpt from their film in front of an audience of industry professionals.

Journal d’un père, movie, poster, Also at RIDM is the Maison 4:3 release, (Diary of a Father) from director Paul-Claude Demers. It will have its premiere at RIDM on November 17th. The official poster will be unveiled for the occasion, but we have a small version of it now. Self-taught, Paul-Claude Demers directed his first feature film L’invention de l’amour (The Invention of Love), in 2000. Several films followed and now comes his new feature. The synopsis: To make up for the absence of his seven-year-old daughter who lives in Berlin, a Montreal filmmaker keeps a film diary that conjures up his relationship with his adoptive father and his biological father, whom he never knew. His film diary also becomes a reflection on filmmaking by revisiting the work of directors who have influenced him, such as Ingmar Bergman and Wim Wenders. Journal d’un père (Diary of a Father) is a poetic response to help make the separation between a father and his daughter bearable. It is scheduled for theatrical release on June 14, 2024.

There’s a one day festival on Thursday November 16. The International Vegan Film Festival offers up a program of shorts at Toronto’s Innis Town Hall. It’s a tight schedule beginning at 6:30PM and ending before 10PM. The films, ranging in length between 2 and 20 minutes are: A DYING SEA – The Disaster Of The Sea Of Marmara, Transfarming Switzerland, Emergence, Wonder Pigs, One in a Billion, Pig, Climbing Further, Not a Nugget, Kittengate: Outrage After Climate Scientist Feeds Kittens to Diners, Spirit of the Great Heart, Will strangers drink human breast milk?, The Animal Climate Controversy, Imogen’s Story, Death by a Salesman, and Udder Singeing: One of the Horrors Behind Your Favorite Dairy Products. Tickets are on sale now.

On Saturday, November 18, the St. John’s International Women’s Film Festival has partnered with Grind Minds’ FOGFEST for a special screening of Girls With Guts. It’s a documentary on horror and feminism through the eyes of female filmmakers in the Vancouver independent scene.The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with director Becca Kozak, filmmaker Lisa Ovies and Rue Morgue’s Andrea Subissati. The screening is a 2:30PM NST at the Majestic Theatre on Duckworth Street.

Click here for links to our November Film Festivals.

Northernstars logo imageRalph Lucas is a former broadcast executive and award-winning director in high-end corporate video production. The founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca, online since 1998, he began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.

Liz Marshall

Liz Marshall
Photo of Liz Marshall © by Ralph Lucas. Used with permission.

B: 1969 in Toronto, Ontario

Beginning in the 1990s Liz Marshall has created broadcast, theatrical, grassroots and cross-platform documentaries that she shot around the world, which focus on a range of subjects including: animal rights; the right to water movement; HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa; sweatshop labour; corporate-globalization; gender; censorship affecting writers and journalists, and war-affected children. Marshall is well versed in the craft of conceptual point-of-view storytelling as a means of exploring complex world issues. Her 2014 short, Weight of Memory captured a performance by Dancer/Choreographer Peggy Baker in memory of the fourteen women slain on December 6, 1989 at Montreal’s École Polytechnique. Her 2019 film Meat the Future, which is not a typo, was selected to screen at the 2020 Hot Docs Film Festival and when the festival was postponed it was one of the films to be programmed on Hot Docs at Home on CBC.

Also see: Liz Marshall’s Meat The Future.

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

Musicians in the WarZone (2001)
Inside Your Threads (2004)
Girls of Latitude (TV-2008)
Water on the Table (2010)
The Ghosts in Our Machine (2013)
Weight of Memory (2014, short)
Meat the Future (2019)
s-yéwyáw / Awaken (2023)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
Water on the Table (2010)
The Ghosts in Our Machine (2013
Meat the Future (2019)
s-yéwyáw / Awaken (2023)

Credits as a Producer:
Water on the Table (2010)
The Ghosts in Our Machine (2013)s-yéwyáw / Awaken (2023)

The Ghosts in Our Machine, movie, documentary, poster,

Meat The Future, image,

s-yéwyáw / Awaken, movie, documentary, poster,

s-yéwyáw / Awaken

92 minutes – Documentary
Language: English
Festival Release date: October 13, 2023 – Planet In Focus (World Premiere)
Release date: November 25, 2023 – Vancouver
Production company: Elder’s Film Inc.
Canadian distributor:

Directed by award-winning filmmaker Liz Marshall, s-yéwyáw / Awaken features stories of hope and homecoming as Indigenous multimedia changemakers learn and document the teachings of their Elders. This character-driven documentary connects the transformative stories of artist, musician and medicine woman Ecko Aleck of the Nlaka’pamux Nation (Lytton, BC), filmmaker and Traditional Wellness Coordinator Alfonso Salinas of the shíshálh Nation (Sunshine Coast, BC) and storyteller and impact producer Charlene SanJenko of Splatsin of the Secwépemc Nation (Shuswap, BC) as they learn and document the traditional cultural teachings and legacies of their Elders, including the impacts of Canada’s Residential School system. Infused with Indigenous ceremony, s-yéwyáw / Awaken walks alongside the process of intergenerational healing and calls the audience’s attention to the filmmaking process of narrative collaboration between an Indigenous and settler team.

s-yéwyáw / Awaken was filmed respectfully on the unceded homelands of the shíshálh and sḵwx̱wú7mesh Peoples, xʷməθkʷəy̓əm and səlilwətaɬ Territories, Splatsin te Secwepemcul’ecw, Qualicum First Nation, Nlaka’pamux Territory. It was produced with the support of Telus, Developed with the participation of Creative BC, Produced in Association with Hollywood Suite and Knowledge Network, Funded in part by the province of BC Film Incentive BC and the Canadian Film and Video Production Tax Credit.

s-yéwyáw / Awaken, movie, documentary, poster,



Ecko Aleck
Liz Marshall
Alfonso Salinas
Charlene SanJenko

Executive Producer:

Liz Marshall

Associate Producer:

Özgün Gündüz

Line Producer:

Patti Poskitt


Liz Marshall


Ecko Aleck
Liz Marshall
Alfonso Salinas
Charlene SanJenko


Eva Anandi Brownstein
Liz Marshall
Inder Nirwan
Diana Parry
Michael Bourquin (Additional Cinematography)
Tamar Kozlov (Additional Cinematography)


Eddie O.


Ecko Aleck

Production Designer:

Paul Shoebridge

Cast: Roles:

Sen7kiyap, Terry Coyote Aleck
Wenecwtsin, Wayne Christian
hiwus, Calvin Craigan
x wu’ p’ a’ lich, Barbara Higgins
Alfonso Salinas
Charlene SanJenko


115 minutes – Dramedy, Social satire
Language: French, English, English subtitles
Release dates: October 5, 2023 – Québec / November 10, 2023 – Elsewhere in Canada
Production company: CinéMaginaire
Canadian distributor: TVA Films

Dans une ère d’évolution identitaire, Jean-Michel, un célibataire de 70 ans, a perdu tous ses repères dans cette société. Il habite dans une maison de retraite située dans un édifice patrimonial, dirigée avec soin et précision par Suzanne. Leur quiétude est bousculée par l’arrivée de jeunes activistes qui exigent la destruction d’une fresque historique. Dépassé par une époque dominée par la rectitude politique, Jean-Michel retrouvera foi en l’humanité avec la naissance d’un amour inattendu.

In an era of changing identity, Jean-Michel (Rémy Girard), a 70-year-old bachelor, has lost all his bearings in this society. He lives in a retirement home located in a heritage building, managed with care and precision by Suzanne (Sophie Lorain). Their tranquillity is shaken by the arrival of young activists who demand the destruction of a historical fresco. Overwhelmed by an era dominated by political correctness, Jean-Michel will regain faith in humanity with the birth of an unexpected love.

Northernstars™ reviews Testament.

Testament, movie, poster,



Denise Robert

Associate Producer:

Dominique Besnehard
Victor Loewy
Martin Desroches

Line Producer:

Sylvie Trudelle


Denys Arcand


Denys Arcand


Claudine Sauvé CSC


Arthur Tarnowski, ACE CCE


Mathieu Lussier
Louis Dufort

Art Director:

François Séguin

Costume Designer:

Anne-Karine Gauthier

Cast: Roles:

Rémy Girard
Sophie Lorain
Guylaine Tremblay
Caroline Néron
Alexandra Mcdonald
Katia Gorshkova
Alex Rice
Charlotte Aubin
Robert Lepage
Yves Jacques
Edgar Bori
Denis Bouchard
René Richard Cyr
Clémence Desrochers
Marcel Sabourin
Guillaume Lambert
Danièle Lorain
Geneviève Schmidt
Louis-josé Houde
Gaston Lepage
Marie-soleil Dion
Brigitte Paquette
Victoria Hall
Pierre Curzi
Johanne Marie Tremblay
Sophie Faucher
Marie Michaud
Louise Turcot
Naïla Louidort
Marie-lyne Joncas
Victoria Diamond
Simone Latour Bellavance
Émilie Lajoie
Léa-marie Cantin
Danielle Fichaud
Luc Senay

Jean-Michel Bouchard
Suzanne Francoeur
Nancy Fournelle
Minister of Health
Kathy Ford
Vera Ivanovic
Kanien Montour
Rosalie Lecavalier
Raphael Saint-Aubin
Emmanuel D’Argenson
Rodger Fournelle
Minister of Culture
Mrs. Sylvestre
Mr. Sylvestre
Lucas Labelle-Hamel
Chimène Bigras-Biron
Drapeau, painter
Doré, painter
Sophie-Lune Auger Duguay
Lynda Ryan
Allison Brown
Mr. Duranleau
Mrs. Duranleau
Ms. Faucher
Ms. Sénécal
Ms. Demers
Cassiopée Bourbonnais
Gwenaelle Baril-Baribeau
Lynn White
Anne-Félixe Cuthbert-Croteau
MNA for La Peltrie
MNA for Marguerite-Bourgeois
Mr. Senay

Testament Reviewed

Testament, movie, image, Denys Arcand,

Testament Reviewed
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

(November 7, 2023 – Toronto, ON) I have often used the phrase “of a certain age” when writing for Northernstars. I use it to forewarn the first wave of baby boomers about things they should look for in movies they might like, or sometimes what they should be wary of. The opening several minutes of Denys Arcand’s latest feature, Testament, might be something a little too honest, a little too dark and brooding, but it sets the foundation for the star of this film, Rémy Girard.

Arcand was 81 when he shot Testament in Montreal. He also wrote the screenplay so in a very real way he was putting his words in Girard’s mouth to the point he could be the famed director’s alter ego. I was convinced I was hearing Arcand’s voice as he typed those words into his screenplay. Viewers like me, of a certain age, will be reminded that time is fleeting and we are, like the Doomsday Clock, within the last few minutes of our long and happy lives. Girard, a fixture in Arcand films beginning with Le crime d’Ovide Plouffe in 1984, is brilliant in his role as the quiet, gentle, subdued and semi-retired Jean-Michel Bouchard.

Rémy Girard, actor, Testament,  Following his opening soliloquy, we see him attending an awards ceremony for Québec writers and we are immediately reminded this drama is also a social satire. Jean-Michel Bouchard is there to pick up an award for a book he didn’t write. The real author was Jean-Marc Bouchard and when Bouchard tries to bring the error to the attention of one of the cultural event’s organizers, he is treated like an inconvenience, firmly told it doesn’t matter and that he should leave, possibly because he is the only male recipient and a white man at that. It is the first of many times Arcand’s finger is tapped against the chest of Québec’s often over-zealous politicos or overbearing overseers.

His mistrust of “the powers that be” is legitimate. Part of his early career was spent at the National Film Board where at one point they refused to release his film, On est au coton, a gritty, angry exposé of Québec’s textile industry. The ban on that film lasted six years. Also, it should be remembered that the man who would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film with Les invasions barbares in 2004, started out poor and possibly unsure of his future. He wrote his 1986 film, Le Déclin de l’empire américain (The Decline of the American Empire) in a room at a Salvation Army Hostel.

René Richard Cyr, actor, Testament,
René Richard Cyr plays the role of the Minister of Culture in Denys Arcand’s Testament.

The longest series of sequences punching at and knocking down the stuffed shirts and blouses of the political class surrounds a sit-in by a bunch of English kids who, having appropriated Indigenous headbands and chanting “Respect First Nations,” demand the removal of a work of art in one of the large rooms in the magnificent building where Bouchard lives with other retirees. The mural spans a large wall and depicts the meeting of Jacques Cartier with some of the continent’s original inhabitants. How the sit-in is handled and how the buck is passed back and forth between the manager of the retirement facility and the elected and appointed officials is instructive, illustrative and telling. There is no doubt where Arcand’s sympathies lie and it is satire using a pointed stick instead of a blunt instrument.

Testament, Denys Arcand, movie, poster,Towards the end of the film, one of many outright funny scenes takes place during another protest. One of the people in the crowd is none other than the actor Pierre Curzi who was elected to Québec’s National Assembly and served as the Parti Québecois critic in culture, communications and language but quit to sit as an independent in 2011. Yes it’s an in-joke that I’m sure played better in Québec, but it is a small reminder that Arcand’s genius is in every frame of this movie.

There are some very touching moments and in the end Girard’s character embraces his time on this spinning ball of madness and we are happy to have made the transition with him. As it fades to black and as I expected the credits roll to begin, there’s yet one more scene where Arcand pulls out all the stops against a fervent and feverish Québec regime. It’s a flash forward in time and I won’t ruin it by revealing the end.

Testament is Arcand using his power and position to let it be known he remains a sly master of his craft and his job, through many of his films, has been to hold a mirror up to society in general and our temporary leaders in particular. Bravo. Well done. Really worth seeing.

Testament, from TVA Films, opened in Québec in early October. It opens in English Canada this Friday, November 10. Click here to watch the trailer and learn more about the cast and crew of Testament.

Images courtesy of TVA Films.

Northernstars logo imageRalph Lucas is a former broadcast executive and award-winning director in high-end corporate video production. The founder and publisher of Northernstars.ca, online since 1998, he began writing about film and reviewing movies while in radio in Montreal in the mid-1970s.

Remembering Don Shebib

Don Shebib, film director,
Photo of Don Shebib by Caitlin Cronenberg © Union Pictures

Remembering Don Shebib
by Staff Editors

(November 7, 2023 – Toronto, ON) Don Shebib’s name will be forever linked to his first feature film, Goin’ Down the Road. But before moving into features, he had made some 17 shorts and documentaries including several that won awards for the NFB and CBC-TV. Don Shebib was 85 when he died in hospital in Toronto on November 5, 2023. Read more about the life and career of Don Shebib.

Hands that Bind – A Review

Hands that Bind - A Review, movie, image,

Hands that Bind – A Review
by Thom Ernst – Film Correspondent

(November 1, 2023 – Toronto, ON) A scene near the opening of director Kyle Armstrong’s haunting drama Hands that Bind shows a tractor stopped in a field, black smoke rising out of the engine like a demon escaping the machinery. Soon after the farmstead is plagued with strange sounds, flickering lights, bursting lightbulbs, the mutation of livestock, and the frequent appearance of a car no one in the small Alberta farm community recognizes. These are the strange twists and turns Armstrong takes along the Alberta backroads. But these events, whether they indicate the nefarious tampering by aliens or another malicious source, take a back seat to the story of a farmhand whose life is becoming increasingly unrecognizable.

Hands that Bind, movie, image, Nicholas Campbell,
Paul Sparks and Nicholas Campbell in Hands that Bind, courtesy of Mongrel Media.

Armstrong’s foothold is in the story of Andy (Paul Sparks) a farmhand faced with an unexpected upheaval. Andy has been a godsend to Mac (Nicholas Campbell continuing a long list of reasons he’s one of Canada’s most cherished actors) whose own sons left to pursue other careers. Andy is devoted to his employer and to the livestock and the land he works with. He’s a family man, holding true to traditional family values—though some of his values, particularly around gender roles, are seriously archaic. Even so, life is good. Adam’s family is cared for. His children are loved. His wife, Susan (Susan Kent), although longing to get on with her own career, is warm and supportive.

Hands that Bind, movie, image,
Susan Kent as Susan Hollis in Hands that Bind. Courtesy of Mongrel Media.

But when Mac’s wayward son, Dirk (played by Landon Liboiron with the unlikable instability of a devoted narcissist) returns to stake claim on the homestead, Andy is forced to step aside. Not only is Andy and his family to move out of the farmhouse and into a trailer but now Andy is left without a job.

Armstrong’s choice to wrap an ethereal unknown presence around the drama of a man in crisis is decidedly curious but not unwanted. Understanding the nature of the bizarre unexplained nighttime ‘raids’ become less important than how these events simulate a changing landscape, internally as much as externally. They can be passed off as allegorical, a reflection of a shifting of ideas however unwelcomed the community may find them.

The film is set in the 80s, and a shift is coming.

Armstrong puts us in the lap of a community wary of change, where Indigenous land rights are scoffed at, women are expected to maintain the household, and homosexuals are forced to leave if they wish to live the life they deserve. And yet, regardless of the community’s fortitude to keep the status quo, new ideas and the people who hold true to them find their way in.

Except for Dirk, few of these men and women come across as malicious even when exposing their prejudices: Mac is a good man and yet never talks about his gay son, and casually dismisses a visit from the local veterinarian saying, “He’ll come out wearing his pink cowboy boots.”

Hands That Bind, movie, poster,In another incident, an overtly friendly neighbour visits the trailer with some garden-fresh tomatoes. Susan graciously accepts them suggesting she might make a tomato sauce for dinner that night. The neighbour replies that the tomatoes would be better in a stew, as she doesn’t much care for ethnic food. It’s almost comical in its ignorance.

But one of the film’s gems is in Bruce Dern’s portrayal of a neighbour living a near desolate life on his own farm. As would be expected, Dern’s performance is great, an effortless portrayal performed mostly from the driver’s side of his pick-up truck.

Even alongside Dern the entire cast, including engaging turns from the young actors playing Andy and Susan’s children, excel. Armstrong’s dialogue is authentic and flows naturally from the actors.

Armstrong has made a strange film, indeed. But it’s a film that deserves to be seen, from the beginning to its troubling end. Hands that Bind opens Friday, November 3, 2023.

Watch the trailer, learn more about the cast and crew of Hands that Bind.

Images courtesy of Mongrel Media.

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.

Kyle Armstrong

Kyle Armstrong, film director,
Photo courtesy of Mongrel Media.

Early in his career Kyle Armstrong focused on creating short, non-narrative films, which screened at various galleries, during live performances and in traditional cinemas around the globe. His 2012 short film Magnetic Reconnection received its world premiere at AFI Fest, and was selected for dozens of festivals including SxSW 2013, Ann Arbor Film Festival, Raindance, RIDM and many, many more. In 2012 he was a recipient of the Lieutenant Governor of Alberta Emerging Artist Award. His first feature, Until First Light, an unscripted narrative feature shot with available light and non-actors won Best Narrative Feature at the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival.

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

Magnetic Reconnection (2012, short)
Abandoned (2014, short)
Until First Light (2018)
Hands that Bind (2022)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
Abandoned (2014, short)
Until First Light (2018)
Hands that Bind (2022)

Credits as a Producer:
Magnetic Reconnection (2012, short)
Abandoned (2014, short)
Figurine (2015)
Hands that Bind (2022)

Hands That Bind, movie, poster,