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Remembering Doug Lennox

(December 1, 2015 – Toronto, Ontario) – Northernstars.ca has learned of the passing of longtime radio, television and film actor Doug Lennox. Born in Sudbury, he spent his childhood summers on his grandparents farm near Magnetawan, Ontario. He dropped out of school at age 16 after his father died. His first job as a teenager was with a Department of Highways labour gang, manually digging guard-rail post holes along the Trans-Canada Highway. After a stint in the army and then a series of menial jobs, Lennox began his career in radio in 1965.

He spent the 70s at CBC Radio & Television, developing the skills to host and create a number of highly innovative and successful productions, including Touch the Earth with Sylvia Tyson and I’ll be Home: A Maritime Tour with Anne Murray. All during this time, he continued a successful second career both on-camera and as a voice-over actor in the commercial world of advertising. Perhaps his most enduring success was his radio series and the subsequent series of books under the title Now You Know. His 35-year career on television and the big screen amounted to more than 70 credits. Click here to learn more about Doug Lennox.

Doug Lennox

B: 1938 in Sudbury OntarioD: November 28, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario

Doug Lennox was a Canadian actor, writer, and radio personality. He spent his childhood summers on his grandparents farm near Magnetawan, Ontario. He dropped out of school at age 16 after his father died. His first job as a teenager was with a Department of Highways labour gang, manually digging guard-rail post holes along the Trans-Canada Highway. After a stint in the army and then a series of menial jobs, Lennox began his career in radio in 1965. He spent the 70s at CBC Radio & Television, developing the skills to host and create a number of highly innovative and successful productions, including Touch the Earth with Sylvia Tyson and I’ll be Home: A Maritime Tour with Anne Murray. All during this time, he continued a successful second career both on-camera and as a voice-over actor in the commercial world of advertising. Perhaps his most enduring success was his radio series and the subsequent series of books under the title Now You Know, The Big Book of Answers. He had a long career on screen. Note: other co-hosts on Juliette and Friends included Bill Lawrence and Larry Solway, and his appearance on The Newsroom in 2005 should not be confused with the HBO series The Newsroom which ran from 2012 to 2014.

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

Breaking Point (1976)

Kelly (1981)
The Last Chase (1981)
Self Defense (1983)
Police Academy (1984)
He’s Fired, She’s Hired (TV-1984)
The Execution of Raymond Graham (TV-1985)
Perry Mason Returns (TV-1985)
The Boy in Blue (1986)
A Deadly Business (TV-1986)
Police Academy 3: Back in Training (1986)
Many Happy Returns (TV-1986)
Covert Action (TV-1987)

The Return of Eliot Ness (TV-1991)
Teamster Boss: The Jackie Presser Story (TV-1992)
Blood Brothers (1993)
Harrison Bergeron (TV-1995)
At the Midnight Hour (TV-1995)
Moonshine Highway (TV-1996)
Pretty Poison (TV-1996)
What Happened to Bobby Earl? (TV-1997)
Once a Thief: Family Business (TV-1998)
Evidence of Blood (TV-1998)
Thanks of a Grateful Nation (TV-1998)
The Herd (1998)
The White Raven (1998)
Family of Cops III: Under Suspicion (TV-1999)
In the Company of Spies (TV-1999)
Execution of Justice (TV-1999)

Mercy (2000)
Someone is Watching (TV-2000)
Harlan County War (TV-2000)
X-Men (2000)
Sanctuary (TV-2001)
Dual Citizen (2001, short)
Judgement (2001)
Sins of the Father (TV-2002)
Interstate 60: Episodes of the Road (2002)
Whitewash: The Clarence Brandley Story (TV-2002)
Johnson County War (TV-2002)
Master Spy: The Robert Hanssen Story (TV-2002)
DC 9/11: Time of Crisis (TV-2003)
Against the Ropes (2004)
Lars and the Real Girl (2007)
Deadliest Sea (TV-2009)

TV Series – Cast:
Juliette and Friends (co-host, 1973)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
The New Avengers (1977)

Night Heat (1985, 1986)
The Campbells (1986)
Adderly (1986)
Alfred Hitchcock Presents (1987)
My Secret Identity (1988)
E.N.G. (1989)

Top Cops (1990)
The Hitchhiker (1990)
Counterstrike (1990)
The Hidden Room (1993)
Street Legal (1993)
Lonesome Dove: The Outlaw Years (1995)
Due South (1996)
PSI Factor: Chronicles of the Paranormal (1997)
John Woo’s Once a Thief (1998)
Earth: Final Conflict (1998)
Honey, I Shrunk the Kids: The TV Show (1998)
Power Play (1998)
Traders (1999)

The Famous Jett Jackson (2000)
Relic Hunter (2002)
A Nero Wolfe Mystery (2002)
Odyssey 5 (2002)
1-800-Missing (2003)
The Newsroom (2005)
The Jon Dore Television Show (2007, 2009)
The Border (2009)

15 Docs in Oscar® Race

Joint Chiefs. Photo by US Department of Defense. Courtesy of Mongrel Media.

(December 1, 2015 – Los Angeles, California) – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced the titles of the 15 films in the Documentary Feature category that will advance in the voting process for the 88th Academy Awards®. One hundred twenty-four films were originally submitted in the category.

The 15 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production companies:

“Amy,” On the Corner Films and Universal Music
“Best of Enemies,” Sandbar
“Cartel Land,” Our Time Projects and The Documentary Group
“Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” Jigsaw Productions
“He Named Me Malala,” Parkes-MacDonald and Little Room
“Heart of a Dog,” Canal Street Communications
“The Hunting Ground,” Chain Camera Pictures
“Listen to Me Marlon,” Passion Pictures
“The Look of Silence,” Final Cut for Real
“Meru,” Little Monster Films
“3 1/2 Minutes, 10 Bullets,” The Filmmaker Fund, Motto Pictures, Lakehouse Films, Actual
Films, JustFilms, MacArthur Foundation and Bertha BRITDOC
“We Come as Friends,” Adelante Films
“What Happened, Miss Simone?,” RadicalMedia and Moxie Firecracker
“Where to Invade Next,” Dog Eat Dog Productions
“Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom,” Pray for Ukraine Productions
The Academy’s Documentary Branch determined the shortlist in a preliminary round of voting. Documentary Branch members will now select the five nominees from among the 15 titles.

The 88th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 14, 2016, at 5:30 a.m. PT at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

The 88th Oscars® will be held on Sunday, February 28, 2016, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

The image above is from Where to Invade Next, directed by Michael Moore and distributed in Canada by Mongrel Media. It is scheduled to open January 22.

Al Purdy Was Here

From the 2015 documentary, Al Purdy Was Here courtesy of Films We Like

92 minutes – documentary
Festival release date: September 15, 2015 (TIFF)
Release date: December 4, 2015
Canadian distributor: Films We Like

What does it take to carve out a career as a poet? Why on earth would anyone attempt it? Al Purdy Was Here is the portrait of an artist driven to become a great Canadian poet at a time when the category barely existed. Al Purdy is a charismatic tower of contradictions: a “sensitive man” who whips out a poem in a bar fight; a factory worker who finds grace in an Arctic flower; a mentor to young writers who remained a stranger to sons. Purdy has been called the last, best and most Canadian poet. “Voice of the Land” is engraved on his tombstone. But before finding fame as the country’s unofficial poet laureate, he endured years of poverty and failure.

Northernstars reviews Al Purdy Was Here

Poster and still courtesy of Films We Like.



Brian D. Johnson

Executive Producer:

Ron Mann


Jake Yanowski


Brian D. Johnson


Brian D. Johnson
Marni Jackson


Nick de Pencier


Nick Taylor

Art Director:

Craig Small (Creative Director)

Cast: Roles:

In alphabetical order:

Margaret Atwood
Jean Baird
George Bowering
Joseph Boyden
Bruce Cockburn
Leonard Cohen
Gord Downie
Sarah Hammer
Michael Ondaatje
Doug Paisley
Gordon Pinsent
Al Purdy
Eurithe Purdy
Tanya Tagaq
Jesse Zubot

Himself (voice)
Himself (voice)
Himself (archival footage

TFCA Honours Deepa Mehta

(November 30, 2015 – Toronto, Ontario) – The Toronto Film Critics Association has announced that director Deepa Mehta is the recipient of this year’s Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award.

The TFCA thanks Technicolor Creative Services for enabling the Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award recipient to give $50,000 in services to a filmmaker of their choosing. “Being chosen by the Toronto Film Critics for the Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award is gratifying, unexpected, and genuinely touching. It’s a great feeling,” said Mehta, who released Beeba Boys earlier this year. Mehta will announce her designate in the days to come.

“The relationship between artists and critics can certainly be fractious, but in a strange way we are inextricably connected – we all have a passion for movies (well not all movies) and value it when they make a contribution to increasing our understanding of each other and reveal the foibles of human existence. I admit that I am sometimes strongly opposed to the views expressed by some critics and perhaps am too vocal at times about my disagreements. This makes this award even more precious to me.

I wanted to add that Technicolor, who sponsors this Award and lets me “give” $50,000 in services to a fellow filmmaker (how great is this!), has worked closely with me on many of my films with a generous, flexible understanding of the inner workings of movie making. I am really delighted to be associated with them as part of this Award.”

“Deepa Mehta has expanded the horizons of Canadian cinema with intrepid vision,” said TFCA President Brian D. Johnson. “In a career spanning 25 years, her films have crossed boundaries between continents and cultures, genres and genders. As a fiercely independent female director, with a canvas that ranges from brutal injustice to Bollywood delirium, she’s shown there’s no limit to where a Canadian movie can go.”

In May 2012, Deepa Mehta received the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award for Lifetime Artistic Achievement, Canada’s highest honour in the performing arts. In 2013, Mehta was appointed as an officer to the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honour, for her work as a “groundbreaking screenwriter, director, and producer.” She is also a recipient of the province of Ontario’s highest honour, the Order of Ontario.

Mehta’s work as an artist, as a progressive voice about social issues, and her generous mentorship have often been recognized. She has received numerous honorary degrees and many awards and honours, among them: The Life of Distinction Award from the Canadian Centre of Diversity, The Excellence in the Arts Award from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and the Woman of Distinction, President’s Award from the YMCA.

The Technicolor Clyde Gilmour Award has been given to Canadian industry figures whose work has in some way enriched the understanding and appreciation of film in this country. Past winners include Elwy Yost, James Quandt, Robin Wood, Kay Armatage, Allan King, John Dunning, and Norman Jewison. The award was last given to Piers Handling in 2014.

The Toronto Film Critics Association will announce the bulk of its 2015 awards on December 13, 2015, including the Stella Artois Jay Scott Prize for an emerging artist and the Manulife Financial Student Film Award. The TFCA will also name the three finalists for the coveted Rogers Best Canadian Film Award, by far Canada’s richest film prize at $100,000 with $5,000 going to each of two runners-up.

The winner will be announced at the 19th annual TFCA Awards, a gala dinner held in Toronto at The Carlu on Tuesday, January 5, 2016. The event will once again be hosted by Cameron Bailey, artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival.

The TFCA is extremely grateful to founding sponsor Rogers Communications Inc. and welcomes new Jay Scott Prize for an emerging artist sponsor Stella Artois and accessory sponsor Birk’s. Thanks to returning sponsors Manulife Financial, Cineplex Entertainment, Technicolor Creative Services, Maclean’s Magazine, the Globe and Mail, Shangri-La Hotel Toronto, MacLaren Craft and Ontario Media Development Corporation.

Under the TFCA’s guidelines, contenders eligible for the awards include films released in Toronto in 2015 as well as films that qualify for the 2015 Academy Awards and have a Toronto release scheduled by the end of February 2016.

Remembering Gil Cardinal

(November 24, 2015 – Edmonton, Alberta) – Award-winning filmmaker Gil Cardinal has passed away following a lengthy illness. Born in Edmonton in 1950, he was placed in a foster home at the age of two, and only discovered his Métis roots while working on a documentary in the mid-1980s.

Known for exploring raw subject matter such as substance abuse, the foster care system, and his struggles with his own cultural identity, Gil Cardinal directed episodes of hit TV series such as North of 60 and The Rez, as well as the Gemini-nominated mini-series Big Bear. Earlier in his career, Cardinal worked for many years with the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) as a freelance director, researcher, writer and editor. His first film for the NFB was Children of Alcohol (1983), a documentary about a group of teenagers and pre-teens focusing on the effects of parental alcoholism.

The film closest to his heart was the very personal Foster Child (1987), a cinéma-vérité documentary about his search for his family roots. His simple, straightforward approach led him to discover the identity of his Métis mother, who ended her tragic life in a series of boarding houses on Edmonton’s skid row. The film was a success on the festival circuit and broadcast on CBC’s Man Alive series. Cardinal was awarded a Gemini Award for Best Direction for a Documentary Program in 1988, and Foster Child remains one of the most internationally acclaimed films produced by the NFB.

In 1987, Cardinal made Keyanaw Tatuskhatamak, about the struggle for Native self-government among the remote people of Northern Alberta, and in 1988 he directed Bordertown Café, a half-hour drama for the CBC. His other NFB credits include The Spirit Within (1990), on Indigenous cultural/spiritual programs in prisons, and David with F.A.S. (1997), an exploration of fetal alcohol syndrome.

In 1998, he directed the big-budget CBC miniseries Big Bear starring Gordon Tootoosis and Tantoo Cardinal (for which Cardinal was nominated for a second Gemini) and in 2006 the CBC drama Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis, about the 1990 standoff between the federal government and the Mohawks of the Kanesatake Reserve. Cardinal Totem-The-Return-of-the-Gpsgolox-Polealso directed numerous episodes of North of 60 and The Rez, as well as the feature-length documentary Totem: The Return of the G’psgolox Pole, which screened at the 2003 Toronto International Film Festival.

In 1997, Cardinal was recognized with a National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Film and Television. Earlier this month he was presented with the David Billington Award, for outstanding contributions to Alberta’s production community.

Commenting on Cardinal’s passing, Claude Joli-Coeur, the Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the National Film Board of Canada, said, ““Gil Cardinal was a true pioneer and creative spirit, who left an indelible mark on documentary and Indigenous storytelling in this country. It was a privilege to know him and to work with him, and his loss is very keenly felt here at the National Film Board of Canada.”

Bonnie Thompson, Producer, NFB North West Centre, Edmonton also commented on Gil Cardinal’s remarkable career. ““Gil was a dear friend, who put so much of himself into his work, and brought a lovely presence and spirit when he was producing and mentoring emerging filmmakers at the NFB studio in Edmonton. He leaves a huge legacy, with his work with Indigenous communities and his great contributions to the awareness of Indigenous issues in this country.”

With his approval, the Gil Cardinal Legacy Fund has been created by a group of Edmonton filmmakers to assist emerging Indigenous filmmakers wishing to produce a demo for their first film, drama or documentary. As he was a mentor to so many, this fund will continue that legacy. Donations to the fund may be sent to the Gil Cardinal Legacy Fund c/o Suite 201, 5305 Allard Way, Edmonton, Alberta, T6H 5X8.

In Cardinal’s memory, the National Film Board’s online portal, NFB.ca, is also featuring a playlist that he had curated, entitled “The Aboriginal Voice: The National Film Board and Aboriginal Filmmaking through the Years.”

Also see: Gil Cardinal on Northernstars.ca

Gil Cardinal

B: 1950 in Edmonton AlbertaD: November 21, 2015 in Edmonton, Alberta

Gil Cardinal was an award-winning filmmaker known for exploring raw subject matter such as substance abuse, the foster care system, and his struggles with his own cultural identity. Cardinal directed episodes of hit TV series such as North of 60 and The Rez, as well as the Gemini-nominated miniseries Big Bear. In 2009, Cardinal wrote the pilot for the TV series Blackstone, starring Michelle Thrush and produced by Prairie Dog Film + Television, after gathering extensive research on the issues facing many Indigenous communities. Earlier in his career, Cardinal worked for many years with the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) as a freelance director, researcher, writer and editor. His first film for the NFB was Children of Alcohol (1983), a documentary about a group of teenagers and pre-teens focusing on the effects of parental alcoholism.

Gil Cardinal passed away after a lengthy illness.

Also see: The Gil Cardinal Legacy Fund.

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

Children of Alcohol (documentary, 1984, short)
Discussions in Bioethics: The Courage of One’s Convictions (1985, short)
Hotwalker (1986, short)
Foster Child (documentary, 1987, short)
Bordertown Café (TV-1988, short)

The Spirit Within (documentary, 1990)
Tikinagan (documentary, 1991)
David with F.A.S. ((documentary, 1997)

Totem: The Return of the G’psgolox Pole (documentary, 2003)

TV Series – at least 1 episode of:
North of 60 (1994-1997)
The Rez (1996)
Big Bear (mini-series, 1998)

Mentors (2000)
Chiefs (documentary mini-series, 2002)
Moccasin Flats (2005)
Indian Summer: The Oka Crisis (mini-series, 2006)


Atom Egoyan, Arsinée Khanjian discuss Armenian Genocide

Atom Egoyan photo while making Chloe, courtesy of Alliance-Atlantis Films

(November 23, 2015 – Winnipeg, Manitoba) – Director Atom Egoyan and award-winning Canadian actor Arsinée Khanjian will visit the Canadian Museum for Human Rights (CMHR) this week for a special event exploring the human rights significance of the Armenian Genocide, 100 years later.

They will participate in a media event on Wednesday (November 25) in the Museum’s “Breaking the Silence” gallery, where the genocide is examined through survivor videos, text and images — including references to Egoyan’s work. As Armenian Canadians, they have both been active in raising awareness about the importance of combatting denial and minimization that still surround the event.

“This is a history that has not yet been resolved – it’s an open wound that continues to bleed,” said Egoyan, whose grandparents were orphaned by the genocide. His 2002 film Ararat focused on this event and starred Khanjian, whose performance garnered a Genie Award for Best Actress, while the movie was awarded Best Film. Egoyan’s latest film Remember – released last month — also examines memory, justice and unresolved history, and again features actor Christopher Plummer.

This is a free public event to mark the centennial of the genocide, organized by the Museum in partnership with members of the Armenian-Canadian community. Officials from the Armenian National Committee of Canada and the Armenian Orthodox Church of Canada will attend, along with members of Winnipeg’s Armenian community. A segment of Egoyan’s film Ararat will also be shown. Seating is limited, visitors are asked to RSVP by email to: visitor.services@humanrights.ca or by phone, 204-289-2000. There is more information online at the CMHR website.

Canadians in Versailles

Photo of Versailles Palace copyright © 2015 by Ralph Lucas. Used with permission.

(November 23, 2015 – Toronto, Ontario) It is one of the most sumptuous series ever to be produced and is certainly the most expensive series ever produced in France. According to production partner Telefilm Canada, the series is budgeted at $40-million. If you haven’t been watching Versailles, then you are missing an absolute treat for the eyes. A Canada-France co-production, there are several Canadian cast members and the last three episodes of the 10-part series were directed by Québec’s Daniel Roby. If you do the math, that’s $4-million dollars per episode.

Versailles, in real life, is the not-to-be believed Palace on the outskirts of Paris. It’s about a 25 minute train ride from downtown to this small village that was transformed by King Louis XIV from an already huge “hunting lodge” he had inherited from his father. It took over 3000 workers to build the palace, often called the Chateau Versailles, as well as reshape the surrounding woodland and fields. It is estimated that in today’s dollars it would cost somewhere around $2-billion to replicate. Our publisher, who visited Versailles in late September of this year, thinks that’s a low estimate.

Versailles by the numbers: The grounds cover some 30,000 acres, there is a mile long canal, 400 sculptures and 1,400 fountains. The buildings hold over 700 rooms, over 60 staircases and over 1,200 fireplaces. The Hall of Mirrors, which appears in the series in several scenes is one of the most spectacular rooms in the palace. It was originally lit with 3,000 candles. The Treaty of Versailles, officially ending World War I, was signed in this room in 1919.

George _Bagden
The series can boost its own set of astounding numbers. For example, the production required costumes for about 100 key cast member as well as about 200 mass-produced extras costumes. Each costume, whether male or female, required about ten meters of fabric. The costume team consisted of about thirty people, including the series’ main designer, Madeline Fontaine, her auxiliary design team, stitchers and fitters.

The series stars London-based film and stage actor George Bagden as Louis XIV. Prior to this he played Athelstan in Vikings. Canadian costars include Tygh Runyan as Fabien Marchal, Evan Williams as Chevalier and Steve Cumyn as Colbert. Series one is set in the year 1667, Series two takes place four years later.

Super Channel is available from most if not all cable and satellite providers. Versailles airs several times during the week across its 4 channels.

Evan Williams

B: in Alberta

Usually remembered for his role as Kelly Ashoona on the series Degrassi, Evan Williams’ first interest was music, singing in a choir and musical theatre productions with his local church. He began to think seriously about an acting career after being cast in the title role in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat in high school. He then joined the Summerstock Conservatory, where he performed a number of musicals in downtown Calgary, and was the recipient of the Phyllis Pope Award for Best Performance for his portrayal of the eccentric Rabbi in Fiddler On the Roof in 2004. A graduate of Ryerson’s Theatre School, Williams’ first on-camera role was as Shane in Save the Last Dance II, where he found being on a bustling movie set exactly what he had been looking for.

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

Save the Last Dance 2 (VR-2006)
The House Next Door (2006)
Grey Gardens (TV-2009)
Degrassi Goes Hollywood (TV-2009)
The National Tree (TV-2009)

A Flesh Offering (2010)
On Strike for Christmas (TV-2010)
Lloyd the Conqueror (2011)
Trust Me (VR-2011, short)
The Fortune Theory (2013)
First Sight (2013, short)
Ride (2014)
Fishing Naked (2015)
Farhope Tower (2015)
Visitors Parking (2015,short)
Gutter Shot (2015, short)
Paradise Club (2016)
Cannonball (2015, short)
Cherry (2016, short)

TV Series – Cast:
Degrassi (2008-2009)

Baxter (2010-2011)
Awkward (2014-1015)
Versailles (2015)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
Instant Star (2007)
New Urban Legends (2007)
The Border (2008)
Being Erica (2009)

Murdoch Mysteries (2010)
Victorious (2011)

Curse of Clara in time for the Holidays

(November 21, 2015 – Toronto, Ontario) – Inspired by the autobiographical short story “The Curse of Clara or My Big Fat Disappointment” by Vickie Fagan (pictured below), Smiley Guy Studios has announced that their new, original animated special The Curse of Clara: A Holiday Tale will be broadcast on CBC-TV as part of their 2015 holiday programming lineup.

In the story, a young dancer’s dreams come true when ballet, hockey and the holidays converge. Vickie, a small-town girl, is accepted into the prestigious National Ballet School in Toronto, and lands the

Vickie Fagan image supplied
Vickie Fagan image supplied
coveted role of Clara in the Company’s annual production of The Nutcracker. Things look like they couldn’t get any better. And they can’t, because that’s when Vickie finds out about the mysterious “Curse of Clara”. According to local legend, the young girls that star in the production almost never go on to become professional ballet dancers. Thankfully, she has a good friend, the 1972 Canada-USSR Summit Series, and imaginary mentor Phil Esposito to keep her “on pointe”.

The Curse of Clara: A Holiday Tale features the voices of Hockey Hall of Fame inductees Phil Esposito and Bob Cole (Hockey Night in Canada) and National Ballet of Canada Prima Ballerina Karen Kain as themselves with Sheila McCarthy (Little Mosque on the Prairie, Emily of New Moon) as the narrator, Sara Botsford (E.N.G., Legal Eagles, Still of the Night) as the ballet mistress and Saara Chaudry (Max and Shred, Degrassi) in the roles of Vickie and Clara.

The Curse of Clara: A Holiday Tale premieres December 14 at 7 p.m. ET/PT (7:30 p.m. NT) and rebroadcasts on Christmas Day, December 25 at 5:30 p.m. ET/PT (6 p.m. NT) on CBC-TV.

Two NFB Films in Oscar® Race

(November 19, 2015 – Los Angeles, California) – The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has announced that 10 animated short films will advance in the voting process for the 88th Academy Awards®. Sixty pictures had originally qualified in the category and out of the 10 semi-finalists, two are National Film Board of Canada (NFB) productions. Those films are Carface (Autos Portraits), directed by Claude Cloutier and If I Was God…, directed by Cordell Barker.

In CarFace, a 1957 Chevy Bel Air performs an ironic take on the American ballad “Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be).” The radiator grille morphs into a cajoling pair of lips, crooning the reassuring rhymes, while a spectacularly choreographed choir of cars sings backup. A scathing satire of the power of Big Oil, Carface is musical comedy on a grand scale, with filmmaker and cartoonist Claude Cloutier skewering carefree contemporary attitudes toward the threats to our planet. The image we have used is of a Triumph TR3.

Cordell Barker’s film asks the question, What would you do if you were 12 and suddenly found yourself charged with God-like powers? Would you use them for good? For bad? Perhaps a little of both? For one Grade 7 boy whose mind starts to wander while dissecting a frog in Biology class, the possibilities seem endless: having the power to toy with life and death, to create monsters who can punish those who torment him daily (in particular, Augie, who sits in the back row), and, more importantly, to create that one perfect day with Lily, the love of his 12-year-old life.

Following is the complete list of all 10 films in alphabetical order by title, with their production companies:

“Bear Story” (Historia De Un Oso),” Gabriel Osorio, director, and Pato Escala, producer (Punkrobot Animation Studio)
“Carface (Autos Portraits),” Claude Cloutier, director (National Film Board of Canada)
“If I Was God…,” Cordell Barker, director (National Film Board of Canada)
“Love in the Time of March Madness,” Melissa Johnson and Robertino Zambrano, directors (High Hip Productions and KAPWA Studioworks)
“My Home,” Phuong Mai Nguyen, director (Papy3D Productions)
“An Object at Rest,” Seth Boyden, director (California Institute of the Arts)
“Prologue,” Richard Williams, director, and Imogen Sutton, producer (Animation Masterclass)
“Sanjay’s Super Team,” Sanjay Patel, director, and Nicole Grindle, producer (Pixar Animation Studios)
“We Can’t Live without Cosmos,” Konstantin Bronzit, director (Melnitsa Animation Studio)
“World of Tomorrow,” Don Hertzfeldt, director (Bitter Films)

Short Films and Feature Animation Branch members will now select five nominees from among the 10 titles on the shortlist, with Branch screenings to be held in Los Angeles, London, New York and San Francisco in December. The 88th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 14, 2016, at 5:30 a.m. PT at the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills.

Deepa Mehta at the World India Summit

(November 18, 2015 – Toronto, Ontario) – India-born Canadian filmmaker Deepa Mehta will be attending the Women in the World India Summit on Friday, November 20, in New Delhi.  Mehta is the only Canadian speaking at the event, whose stellar lineup includes such diverse participants as Oscar-winning actress/humanitarian Cate Blanchett, Iranian race car driver Laleh Seddigh, Nigeria’s Dr. Obiageli Ezekwesili who co-founded the global #BringBackOurGirls campaign, and many more.

Mehta, along with Indian actresses Nandita Das and Shabana Azmi, 
will engage in a conversation – moderated by writer/historian William 
Dalrymple and entitled “Fanning the Fire” – about Fire, Mehta’s 1996 
feature that tells of the love affair between two unhappily married 
women (Das and Azmi).  As one of the first films to address 
homosexuality in the Indian community, Fire defied conventions 
and challenged social norms, so much so that Hindu fundamentalists 
trashed theatres when the film screened in India.  Indian censors 
subsequently pulled the film from theatres for a second look, but, after 
protests from Mehta and others in the cultural community, released it five weeks later (without a single cut) back into theatres. The film was the first in Mehta’s trilogy, which also includes Earth and the Oscar-nominated Water.
“Cinema involves a search for a narrative that is both visible and 
invisible – in which truths can be grounded through storytelling.  The 
theme of Fire is still searching for articulation. Thematically, Fire is 
about choices or the lack of them.  Twenty years after the film was made, this struggle continues,” said Mehta, who added “I am honoured to be part of the Women in the World Summit, which provides an invaluable platform for voices with disparate concerns to be heard and absorbed.”
Through her films, Deepa Mehta has always brought tough subjects to 
the world’s attention, whether it be the treatment of Hindu widows in 
India (Water) or the reality of Indo-Sikh gangs in Vancouver (Beeba Boys).
Founded by journalist Tina Brown, this is the 6th year for the Women in the World Summit which gives women a showcase to share news-making stories and offer insights on how women and girls are changing the world.

Al Purdy Was Here – Review

From the 2015 documentary, Al Purdy Was Here courtesy of Films We Like

Al Purdy Was Here
Review by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

(November 17, 2015 – Toronto, Ontario) – This is a biased look at a new documentary. It’s titled Al Purdy Was Here and it’s about the Canadian poet the film’s director Brian D. Johnson calls “one of CanLit’s early coureurs de bois.” Why is this biased? By way of explanation, I too am a writer, recently accepted into the League of Canadian Poets and fresh from a reading at a small LCP event this past weekend. I am not comparing myself, but like Purdy, I consider myself a champion of a distinct Canadian culture and this website is just one example of a commitment to support that dates back almost 50 years. Like Purdy, I too began writing poetry in my teens and neither of us grew out of it.

Al Purdy was born in Ontario in 1918, survived the Great Depression, enlisted in the Air Force in 1939 and being unfit for a role in combat ended up posted to various bases in British Columbia. After the war he had all kinds of menial jobs. He was also constantly writing. I learned from the documentary he had more than 1000 unpublished poems he thought were not worth the paper they were written on. It was after he and his wife, Eurithe built an A-frame cabin on Robin Lake in Ameliasberg, Ontario that he finally began producing poetry worth paying attention to. His breakthrough came in 1962 with the publication of Poems for the Annettes. He would go on to write 39 books of poetry, a novel, two volumes of memoirs and be recognized with two Governor General’s Awards and an Order of Canada.

Brian D. Johnson, Al Purdy Was here, photo,
Writer-Director Brian D. Johnson
Johnson, whose name you should recognize, is one of Canada’s leading film critics. He is president of the Toronto Film Critics Association and was, from 1985 to 2014, a Senior Writer at Maclean’s magazine where he remains a Contributing Editor. He is also an author, musician, broadcaster and filmmaker. As he admits in press notes from film distributor, Films We Like, the Al Purdy story came to him thanks to his wife, Marni Jackson. She had started writing a play about Purdy and became involved in an effort to preserve and restore the A-frame that had become a Mecca for generations of Canadian writers. Johnson became curious. As he says, “Purdy was new to me.”

I ran into Brian D. Johnson at a preview screening of his film before it had its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year, where it received 2nd Runner-up for the Grolsch People’s Choice Documentary award. Like the output from the subject of his film, Al Purdy Was Here is a visual piece of poetry. It unfolds in carefully crafted stanzas, intercut with archival footage of the often rowdy writer to the relaxed, formal on-camera contributions from a long list of writers who all owe their success in no small way to the foundation Purdy built for Canadian writers in general and poets in particular.

With apologies to those not mentioned, writers Margaret Atwood, Dennis Lee, Steve Heighton and George Bowering add their voices and their words to a script cowritten by Johnson and his wife Marni Jackson. Leonard Cohen adds his voice with a reading of Purdy’s poem The Necropsy of Love.

If you’re thinking this is all talking heads and old, shaky 8mm film, there is so much more. Gordon Pinsent, who portrayed Purdy in a 2006 CBC production, appears when he read Purdy’s The Country North of Belleville at a fundraising event in Toronto in 2013. Singer-composer Bruce Cockburn performs a ballad he composed for the film. Gord Downie makes an appearance and there are throat-singers.

As I said, the production is a well-crafted work of visual poetry. It is a celebration of Purdy’s life and long contribution to Canadian writing, but it is also an introduction to someone you wished you had known, wished you had visited at the fabled A-Framw.

I never met Al Purdy. In my earlier career in radio I interviewed 50 or 60 writers over the years, but never Purdy. That said, Al Purdy Lived Here made me feel as if I not only knew the man, but could have called him friend.

Al Purdy Was Here opens in Toronto at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema on Friday, December 4, 2015 with special guests at a number of post-screening Q & A’s. It will also have its B.C. Premiere at the Whistler Film Festival on the same day.

Northernstars logo imageRalph Lucas is the Founder and Publisher of Northernstars.ca. He began reviewing movies in the mid-1970s when he worked in radio in Montreal.

Six Special CSAs from the Academy

(November 10, 2016 – Toronto, ON) – The Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television has announced six Academy Special Award winners for the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards. They are: Ivan Fecan, Ana Serrano, Mark Starowicz, Karen Walton, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, and the Performing Arts Lodges (PAL Canada).

“Each of these outstanding Academy Special Award winners has made innovative and stellar contributions to our Canadian screen-based industries,” said Academy Chair Martin Katz. “We are extremely proud to celebrate them and their ongoing achievements at the 2016 Canadian Screen Awards.”

Following is more detail on the award and on each of the winners as supplied by the Academy:

Academy Board of Directors’ Tribute
Ivan Fecan

Ivan Fecan has been in the media industry over 40 years. Beginning at CBC Radio, he produced Quirks and Quarks, then went to Citytv, co-creating CityPulse News. In the 80’s, legendary NBC programmer Brandon Tartikoff recruited Ivan as VP Creative Affairs where he was the executive on such shows as SNL. Returning to Canada as Director of CBC TV Programming, then VP of English Television, he greenlit such programs as Kids in the Hall, Degrassi Junior High, Codco, This Hour has 22 Minutes, Air Farce, Road to Avonlea, Love and Hate, The Boys of St Vincent . In the 90’s, he became CEO of Baton Broadcasting (renamed CTVglobemedia). He acquired CTV, launched Sportsnet and the Comedy Network among others, bought TSN/RDS, Discovery, CP24, MuchMusic, Bravo, E!, and Space, won the rights for the Vancouver Olympics, overseeing the broadcasts. He greenlit Corner Gas, Flashpoint, Canadian Idol. Under his watch, CTV dominated the top 20. Currently Ivan is Executive Chair of Thunderbird Films, which is comprised of multiple production and distribution companies. Ivan, with his wife Sandra, are philanthropists who believe in giving back to the arts, making major gifts to York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts, the National Ballet, the AGO, the National Ballet School, and the Soulpepper Theatre Company, among others.

Digital Media Trailblazing Award
Sponsored by the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC)
Ana Serrano

Ana Serrano is the Chief Digital Officer of the Canadian Film Centre and Founder of CFC Media Lab, the world-renowned and award-winning institute for interactive storytelling created in 1997. Serrano is driving the digital transformation of the CFC into a unique blend of talent, product and company accelerator and creative production house. Most recently, she launched Canada’s first digital entertainment accelerator IDEABOOST with founding partners Shaw Media and Corus Entertainment. To date, Ana has directed the development of over 130 digital media projects, mentored over 50 start-ups, and has received numerous awards from the digital media, film, and theatre industries in both Canada and the U.S., including a DigiAward for Visionary of the Year, a Best Canadian Feature Film Award from the International Reel Asian Film Festival for her own transmedia production Prison Dancer: the Musical, and a Jim Blackaby Ingenuity Award for Body/Mind/Change.

Gordon Sinclair Award for Broadcast Journalism
Mark Starowicz

“There’s a persistent idea that Canadians aren’t interested in their own stories,” Mark Starowicz once said. “I’ve made a living proving that isn’t true.” The ultimate expression of Starowicz’s passion for Canadian history and culture is the 30 hour CBC documentary series Canada: A People’s History (2000-01), which he created and executive produced. It attracted over 14 million viewers and won three Gemini Awards. Mark Starowicz was raised in Montreal and graduated from McGill University with a Bachelor of Arts in History. He began his career in newspaper journalism, then joined CBC Radio in 1970, where he received particular acclaim for his reworking of As It Happens and his creation of Sunday Morning , a three-hour weekend review. In 1979, he joined CBC Television, where he was the architect and executive producer of the hugely successful current affairs and documentary program The Journal (1982-92). As Executive Producer of CBC’s Documentary Production Unit and later executive director of documentary programming, he oversaw The Greatest Canadian (2004), Hockey: A People’s History (2006), 8th Fire (2012), and a decade of acclaimed independent productions. Starowicz is an Officer of the Order of Canada, and has won the Canadian Journalism Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, a Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, nine Gemini Awards and one Prix Gémeaux.

Margaret Collier Award (for Writing)
Karen Walton

Karen Walton is an award-winning screenwriter and creative producer whose credits span an eclectic array of popular, critically-acclaimed and/or ground-breaking film and television works. To film lovers, she’s the sardonic scribe behind the international cult horror classic, Ginger Snaps. In television, she’s been in the earliest writing rooms for game-changing series such as gay culture classic Queer As Folk, and science fiction sensation Orphan Black. A graduate of the Canadian Film Centre’s Film and TV Writing programs, her other credits include the Gemini awarding-winning Mow script for the true rape-culture saga, The Many Trials Of One Jane Doe, biopic Heart: The Marilyn Bell Story and six other original drama series, Flashpoint, The Eleventh Hour, and The Listener among them. Her unique voice and dedication to social change through innovative content has won Karen a Canadian Comedy Award, a special jury citation from the Toronto International Film Festival, Canadian Screen Awards for Best Dramatic Series, and the Writers Guild of Canada’s Writers Block Award for outstanding contribution to the national screenwriting community. Born in Nova Scotia, 2016 marks Karen’s 22nd year living and writing in Toronto.

Academy Icon Award
This Hour Has 22 Minutes

This Hour Has 22 Minutes is an acclaimed, provocative Canadian satirical sketch/variety show that skewers politics, culture and world events. No story is off limits, and no personality too big for dynamic cast members Mark Critch, Cathy Jones, Shaun Majumder and Susan Kent to tackle. Politicians and celebrities frequently make guest appearances, some willingly … some not. Produced by DHX Media, 22 Minutes is currently in its 23rd season on CBC, and continues to be one of Canada’s best-known and top-rated comedy shows.

Humanitarian Award
Performing Arts Lodges (PAL Canada)

PAL Canada Foundation is a national charitable organization whose mandate is to create and encourage programs and services for senior and disadvantaged members and associates of Canada’s professional artists’ community, in the areas of affordable accommodation and overall well-being.

PAL Canada Foundation supports 8 individual PAL chapters across the country, including: Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto, Stratford, Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver. Each PAL chapter has its own unique requirements, which are defined by the needs of their local community. Depending on the chapter, the focus may be to provide and sustain quality affordable housing for seniors and/or challenged individuals within their professional and performing arts community. Alternatively, some chapters may not require accommodations, but do need support for their members. This support typically takes the form of a volunteer-driven team known as “Supporting Cast”, a group of volunteers who offer personal assistance to PAL members so that they can continue to lead independent lives in their own homes. These services may include assistance in dealing with community agencies and health care providers, rides to medical appointments or running errands. Supporting Cast also offers companionship and checks in with members who are on their own. Some chapters also organize group activities.

These Academy Special Awards, as well as additional ones to be announced in the coming weeks, will be presented during 2016 Canadian Screen Week (March 7 – March 13, 2016).

ACTRA T.O. Honours Sarah Gadon

(November 9, 2015 – Toronto, ON) – ACTRA Toronto has announced that Sarah Gadon will be the recipient of their 2016 Award of Excellence.

Sarah Gadon has been a working actor since the age of 10. She is best known for appearing in three of David Cronenberg’s films, breaking out with A Dangerous Method, winning a Vancouver Film Critics Award for Cosmopolis and appearing in Map to the Stars. She won a Canadian Screen Award for her performance in Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy. She has appeared on several Canadian TV series, as well as appearing in Hollywood blockbusters such as Dracula Untold and The Amazing Spiderman 2. Gadon also works frequently as a voice performer, notably playing the title role in Ruby Gloom. Earlier this year she co-starred alongside Logan Lerman in James Schamus’ highly anticipated directorial debut, Indignation. She is currently in production on a Stephen King mini-series called 11/22/63.

Gadon is a student of cinema studies (Dean’s List) at University of Toronto. She directed an episode of the documentary series Reelside for TMN about the construction of female identity, featuring friend and long-time collaborator, Caitlin Cronenberg.

“Sarah Gadon is amazing,” said ACTRA Toronto President David Sparrow. “She has built up a significant body of film, TV and animation work in her multi-faceted performing career. As an advocate, she has demonstrated her keen grasp of the larger issues facing our industry speaking at the Heritage Committee hearings on feature film and as a member of the ACTRA bargaining team during Independent Production Agreement negotiations. She personifies the leadership qualities many young performers are displaying in our union.”

“I’m a proud Canadian actor and passionate about film and television in this country,” said Sarah Gadon. “I’m honoured and humbled to be acknowledged by my peers at ACTRA.”

The ACTRA Awards in Toronto celebrate accomplishment and excellence in our industry. Three juried awards for outstanding male, female and voice performance will be presented in addition to the Award of Excellence and the ACTRA Toronto Stunt Award. The 14th Annual ACTRA Awards in Toronto gala takes place on Saturday, February 20, 2016, at The Carlu.

ACTRA Toronto is the largest organization within ACTRA, representing more than 15,000 of Canada’s 22,000 professional performers working in the English-language recorded media in Canada. As an advocate for Canadian culture since 1943, ACTRA is a member-driven union that continues to secure rights and respect for the work of professional performers.

Muse Pot Doc on CBC

(November 9, 2015 – Montréal, Québec) Muse Entertainment’s feature-length documentary Grass Fed about marijuana edibles will air on CBC’s documentary Channel, Tuesday, November 24 at 9 pm ET.

Grass Fed is a film with a human experiment at its center. It features actor-comedian Mike Paterson who treats his debilitating back pain by completely changing his health and lifestyle with a marijuana and hemp-infused diet.

Director Ezra Soiferman (Man of Grease) says that the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision in June this year, which stated that medical marijuana patients must be given access to products other than dried pot, such as cannabis-infused cookies, brownies, oils and tea, will have “a profound effect on our society. The legalization of edibles for the 40,000-plus medical marijuana patients across Canada is a momentous step in providing safe and smoke-free alternatives for patients like Mike Paterson… As Grass Fed documents, if used carefully and with a doctor’s supervision, edibles can be an effective – and often delicious – part of a patient’s lifestyle. I was truly amazed by the transformation I saw in Mike during the course of shooting.”

As Mike Paterson exclaims, after biting into one of his wife Monika Schmidt’s homemade cannabis-infused delicacies in the film, “Medicine has never tasted so good!”

Grass Fed is produced by Muse Entertainment Enterprises, a leading film and television production house behind Emmy Award-winning event mini-series such as The Kennedys and Pillars of the Earth and premium factual projects including JFK: The Smoking Gun, Sky Jumpers, and March to the Pole. Muse’s latest highly-rated mini-series, Tut aired on the Spike channel in the U.S. and Canada and on numerous networks around the world.