Home Authors Posts by Staff



Top 5 Christmas Movies of 2022

Top 5 Christmas Movies of 2022, image,
Image courtesy of AppleTV+

Top 5 Christmas Movies of 2022
by Ralph Lucas

(December 14, 2022 – Toronto, ON) If Charles Dickens was still alive today, first of all he’d be 210 years old, but if he were still here he would be very, very, very rich from the all the royalties from all the versions of the movies based on his 1843 novella, A Christmas Carol. The latest version makes our 2022 Top 5 list of Christmas films, although its theatrical release was fairly short.

Titled Spirited, it’s streaming on Apple TV+ and stars Will Farrell and the actor interested in buying the Ottawa Senators, Ryan Reynolds. Quick synopsis: Each Christmas Eve, the Ghost of Christmas Present (Will Farrell) selects one dark soul to be reformed by a visit from three spirits. But this season, he picks the wrong Scrooge, a man named Clint Briggs, played by Reynolds, who manages to flip the well-worn tale so that his ghostly visitor must reexamine his own past, present and future.

Top 5 Christmas Movies 2022, image,
image courtesy of Netflix

Earlier this month (December 2) Netflix began streaming an animated adaptation of Dickens beloved story. Netflix describes Scrooge: A Christmas Carol as a “supernatural, time-travelling, musical adaptation.” Sort of ticks all the boxes. Voice actors include Jessie Buckley, Olivia Colman, Luke Evans and Jonathan Pryce.

Top 5 Christmas Movies 2022, poster, image, One of the most enduring Christmas films is the 1983 classic A Christmas Story. Look carefully and you may find it screening in a theatre near you. We have two versions of the poster and a set of 8 lobby cards for the film in our Northernstars Collection. HBO Max debuted A Christmas Story Christmas (aka A Christmas Story 3) on November 17. Many of the younger cast members from the original film reprise their roles now all grown up and we get to see Ralphie return to his former home in Indiana, where his mother convinces him to rekindle a magical Christmas of old. Look for returning cast members Ian Petrella, Zack Ward, Scott Schwartz, and R.D. Robb. A Christmas Story Christmas plays this coming Saturday on HBO 1, one of the channels served up by CRAVE.

Still want to see the original? Check to see if your cable provider carries TBS. Once again this year, beginning on December 24, Turner Broadcasting will run the movie in a marathon of repeats from Saturday, December 24 at 8:00 p.m. to Sunday, December 25 at 8:00 p.m. EST.

Top 5 Christmas Movies of 2022, image,
Image courtesy of Netflix.

Fifth on the list is something you might miss because of its title. It doesn’t mention Christmas. Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, based on Tim Minchin’s hit stage musical, stars Emma Thompson as an evil headmistress but it is Alisha Weir you’ve got to see. If Christmas calls for a heart-warming tale, then this qualifies as the young girl Alisha plays uses her magical imagination to outwit Thompson’s character. Released theatrically for a limited run on December 9th, it debuts on Netflix on Christmas day.

Not on the list, I thought I should add this 6th title recognizing some of our readers might be looking for something far more edgier. You might want to try Violent Night, an obvious play on Silent Night. It even has a character named Scrooge, played by John Legizamo. David Harbour dons the Santa suit but his mission to deliver toys is interrupted. When mercenaries attack a wealthy family and scare Santa’s reindeer, St. Nick becomes anything but jolly. Its release date was December 2.

I hope you liked my pick of these Christmas movies, but I am sure you have your own favourites too. Have a safe and Merry Christmas from everyone at Northernstars.ca

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

CDN Updates at Sundance

CDN Updates at Sundance, image,
Image courtesy of Travelling.

CDN Updates at Sundance
by Staff Editors

(December 14, 2022 – Toronto, ON) When we first posted about a few Canadian offerings at Sundance 2023, we knew there would be more. Turns out, there is a lot more. Let’s start with the above image. It’s from the Québec short, Pro Pool, from Travelling, a short film distribution company.

Pro Pool runs just 8 minutes and was written and directed by Alec Pronovost. It’s in French with English subtitles and centres on a character named Charles-Olivier. Having just graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history and civilization, he struggles to find a job in his field and is working as a clerk in a pool shop. Feeling down, he navigates his gig, and his life, as best he can. Pronovost crams lots into 8 minutes with a cast that includes Louis Carrière, Alexis Martin, Sylvie de Morais, Sébastien Rajotte, Oussama Fares, Louis Girard-Bock, Zeneb Blanchet, François Ruel-Côté, Maxime Genois and Craig Weiss. Cinematography is by Natan B. Foisy. Art Direction: Sarah Warren, Editing: Louis Chevalier-Dagenais and original music by Alex Lefaire.

The Flying Sailor, image, Sundance,
Image courtesy of The National Film Board.

The National Film Board has announced Calgary-based animators Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis’s short The Flying Sailor will screen at Sundance. Its past performance on the festival circuit has produced 9 awards so far. The story from Oscar-nominated and Palme d’Or-winning Tilby and Forbis was inspired by the incredible true-life story of a man blown two kilometres through the air by the 1917 Halifax Explosion—the largest accidental non-nuclear explosion in history—in an exhilarating meditation on the wonder and fragility of being. Produced and executive produced by David Christensen for the NFB’s North West Studio in Edmonton, Alberta, The Flying Sailor runs 7 minutes and 45 seconds.

Also screening is Baba from co-directors Anya Chirkova and Meran Ismailsoy. This multiple award winning short film is about a middle-aged Iranian man who makes a desperate bid to keep his apartment, as his relationship with his son unravels. And Toronto filmmaker Nicole Bazuin will have her short, Thriving: A Dissociated Reverie, screen at Sundance. It is a surrealist exploration of dissociative identity disorder (DID) based on the lived experience of a Black, nonbinary, disabled artist and former sex worker. Cast includes Kitoko Mai, Dustin Hickey, Myfanwy Charlesworth, Morgan Bargent, Grace McDonald, Andrea Werhun.

Nancy Grant, Xavier Dolan
Photo of Nancy Grant & Xavier Dolan at the 2015 Canadian Screen Awards © 2015 by Ralph Lucas

Xavier Dolan’s TV drama The Night Logan Woke Up has also been selected by the programmers at Sundance. It’s a psychological thriller about a family haunted by a dark secret decades after a traumatic event occurs in a small Quebec town. Adapted from a 2019 stage production from Québec playwright Michel Marc Bouchard, the multi-talented Dolan also stars in the series, which includes Julie Le Breton, Magalie Lépine-Blondeau, and Éric Bruneau. All three appeared in the original play.

As previously reported, Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool and the documentary Twice Colonized are two Canadian films in the Sundance 2023 lineup. The festival runs January 19 to 29.

To Kill a Tiger

To Kill a Tiger, movie, image,

122 minutes – Documentary
Language: Hindi and Nagpuri, with English subtitles
Festival release date: September 10, 2022 – TIFF (World Premiere)
Release date: TBA
Production company: Notice Pictures Inc., National Film Board of Canada
Canadian distributor: National Film Board of Canada

In a small village in Jharkhand, India, Ranjit wakes up to find that his 13-year-old daughter has not returned home from a family wedding. Calls are made, a search ensues, and a few hours later, she’s found stumbling home. After having been dragged into the woods, she was raped by three men, all of whom are known to the family. Ranjit and his wife go to the police, and the men are arrested. But the family’s relief is short-lived when the villagers and their leaders launch a sustained campaign to force Ranjit to drop the charges. They demand the girl marry one of her rapists—a tried and true community solution. This, they feel, is the only way to restore her honour and that of the community. Ranjit defies their edict and embarks on a perilous journey, navigating both the labyrinth of India’s courts and the rising dangers in his village.

To Kill a Tiger follows Ranjit’s uphill battle to find justice for his child. In India, where a rape is reported every 20 minutes and conviction rates are less than 30 percent, Ranjit’s decision to support his daughter is virtually unheard of, and his journey unprecedented. To Kill a Tiger was named named Best Canadian Film at TIFF 2022.

Also see: Thom Ernst reviews To Kill a Tiger and two other movies.
Also see: Doc Institute Honours Two.

To Kill a Tiger, movie poster,



Cornelia Principe
Nisha Pahuja
David Oppenheim

Executive Producer:

Andy Cohen
Atul Gawande
Andrew Dragoumis
Anita Lee
Nisha Pahuja
Cornelia Principe


Nisha Pahuja


Nisha Pahuja


Mrinal Desai


Mike Munn CCE
Dave Kazala CCE


Jonathan Goldsmith

Doc Institute Honours Two

Doc Institute Honours Two, image,
Anita Lee and Nisha Pahuja. Photos courtesy of the DOC Institute.

Doc Institute Honours Two
by Staff Editors

(December 8, 2022 – Toronto, ON) Earlier this evening, TIFF Chief Programming Officer Anita Lee and acclaimed filmmaker Nisha Pahuja were recognized with the top documentary achievement awards at the 9th Annual DOC Institute’s Honours Awards, at the Hotel Ocho. Renowned Canadian magician and community outreach activist Julie Eng hosted the event and performed for guests at the gala evening ceremony. The DOC Institute’s Honours Awards celebrate pioneers and visionaries in Canadian documentary filmmaking.

A jury of their peers unanimously voted to recognize Lee for the Rogers-DOC Luminary Award and Pahuja for the DOC Vanguard Award.

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.

Stories We Tell, movie, film, poster,Anita Lee (pictured on the left above), epitomizes all the qualities of a Luminary Award winner. A media executive for over 25 years in the industry, she has been an innovative industry leader at every stage of her impressive career, repeatedly recognized for her programmatic and strategic vision. Lee has been lauded for her producing achievements, including one of Canada’s most critically acclaimed films, Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell. Named Chief Programming Officer at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) earlier this year, Lee was previously the Executive Producer and Studio Head of the National Film Board in Ontario, where she was a pioneer in groundbreaking digital media, established NFB Ontario’s equity strategy to centre racially diverse talent, and transformed that body into an international leader in documentary film and creative technology. Lee also founded the Reel Asian Film Festival. She has spearheaded strategic national and international partnerships in production, exhibition and in new distribution models. Accolades and awards have followed her along every step of her career.

“We had a strong group of nominees this year, but the jury felt unanimously that Anita was the frontrunner”, said James Weyman, Co-Chair of the DOC Institute. “Her contribution to the documentary industry and her support for new talent, risk-taking and creatively challenging programming throughout her career makes her a leader who embodies the spirit of the Luminary Award.”

“I have so much love and respect for the Canadian documentary and for the Canadian documentary community,” said Anita Lee. “To be awarded this recognition by industry peers I admire is deeply meaningful and close to my heart. I cannot be more honoured to receive the DOC Luminary award.”

TIFF 2022 - Day Four, image,
Poster courtesy of NFB.

Nisha Pahuja, this year’s winner of the Vanguard Award, becomes, with each new film, more and more of a force in Canadian documentary filmmaking. Her films have consistently tackled challenging subjects and been honoured at film festivals in Canada and internationally. Her credits include the series Diamond Road (2008 Gemini Award for Best Documentary Series), Bollywood Bound (2002 Gemini Award nominee) and the multi-award-winning The World Before Her (2012), which was nominated for an Emmy Award and won awards at the Tribeca Film Festival, Hot Docs, TIFF, the Canadian Screen Awards, The Vancouver Film Critics Association, and Sundance Film Forward Program. Her short film about the Delhi gang rape, made for Global News’ 16×9, was the recipient of an Amnesty International media award for Canadian journalism in 2015. Nisha was invited to be a Resident Fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center in 2014 and was on their arts selection panel from 2016 to 2020. Her latest film, To Kill a Tiger, premiered at TIFF, 2022 where it won the Amplify Voices Award for Best Canadian Feature Film and, soon after, the Inspiring Voices and Perspectives Award at the Sudbury International Film Festival. It was recently selected as one of TIFF Canada’s Top Ten, 2022.

“Nisha Pahuja’s documentaries deal with socio- political issues through the stories of very strong protagonists”, stated Lalita Krishna, Co-Chair of the DOC Institute. “She tackles tough subjects with the tenacity, vigour and vision that is the hallmark of a true Vanguard winner.”

“I feel very honoured to receive the DOC Institute’s Vanguard Award this year,” said Nisha Pahuja. “To be recognized in this way by colleagues and peers is definitely a moment of great pride for me, especially as it follows the completion of To Kill a Tiger–which had me wondering at times if I should just raise chickens…! All of us who make documentaries know what it takes to keep going. I’m proud to belong to this community and I’m so grateful to DOC and the jury for their vote of confidence.”

This year marked a return to a live and in-person gathering, after two years of the event being virtual as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Doc Institute Honours Two, logo, image, An initiative of the Ontario chapter of the Documentary Organization of Canada, The DOC Institute Honours are juried from nominations submitted by peers in the documentary community across Canada. The DOC Institute Honours is an annual event supported by presenting sponsor, CBC, and award sponsors, Rogers Group of Funds and SIM International.

The DOC Institute is a one-stop shop for non-fiction professionals to learn business skills, hone their craft, and make industry connections. Offering creative inspiration and insider advice, they are a hub for the non-fiction community. The DOC Institute is an initiative of DOC Ontario, the largest chapter of the Documentary Organization of Canada.

The Documentary Organization of Canada/l’Association des documentaristes du Canada (DOC) is the voice of Canada’s independent documentary creators, representing over 1,000 members across Canada through six regional chapters>

Click here to learn more about The Doc Institute.

SOURCE: The Doc Institute.

Filming is Good Business

Filming is Good Business, image.
This Northernstars Stock Image is © 2022 by Northernstars™

Filming is Good Business
by Staff Editors

(December 8, 2022 – Toronto, ON) Yesterday, executives from FilmOntario visited Queen’s Park to highlight the economic impact of film and television production all across the province. Industry leaders from the screen-based industries – including representatives from unions, production companies, suppliers, and studios – met with MPPs, ministers, party critics and political staff to highlight the recent successes of this $2.88 billion a year industry.

The focus of the meetings was to reinforce the benefit of government investment in the screen-based industries, to maintain tax credit support, and to encourage provincial investment in workforce development and domestic content creation. FilmOntario also shared the results of a recent study undertaken by PwC, which demonstrates that tax credits are a key element in attracting filming to a jurisdiction and cost-effective for the government. Ontario’s recent expansion of the tax credits, proposed in Budget 2022 and the Fall Economic Statement, will help ensure the province remains the best place in the world for film and television production.

“Over the past twenty-five years, Ontario has grown to be one of the leading jurisdictions for screen-based content creation in North America, thanks to our diverse on- and off-screen talent, fabulous locations, and provincial incentives,” said Jayson Mosek, Business Agent, NABET 700-M UNIFOR and FilmOntario Board Co-Chair.

John Weber, President, Take 5 Productions Inc. and FilmOntario Board Co-Chair added “as an industry, we contribute billions of dollars to the economy and create thousands of jobs all across the province, and we look forward to working with our government partners to ensure that growth continues for many years to come.”

“Ontario’s booming film and television industry continues to be a strong economic driver for the province,” said Neil Lumsden, Minister of Tourism, Culture and Sport. “Our diverse landscapes and deep talent pool make Ontario a top production destination, and our government is committed to building on this record of success.”

Film and television productions spent $2.88 billion in Ontario in 2021, creating over 48,000 jobs all across the province.

FilmOntario is a privately-funded industry consortium representing organizations from all parts of the film, television and digital media industries, including unions and guilds, production companies, studios, suppliers, and financial and legal services organizations.

Source: FilmOntario

CDN Films at Sundance

Top L–R: Bravo, Burkina!, Girl, Polite Society, Mami Wata. Center L–R: Going Varsity in Mariachi, The Accidental Getaway Driver, Deep Rising, Cassandro. Bottom L–R: The Pod Generation, Pretty Baby: Brooke Shields, Nam June Paik: Moon is the Oldest TV, The Eternal Memory.

CDN Films at Sundance 2023
by Staff Editors

(December 7, 2022 – Toronto, ON) From Park City Utah comes the news of the 2023 lineup of films at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, running from January 19 to 29. The full list is far too long, but a link to the original media release is provided at the bottom of this article.

What’s news for us is the inclusion of 2 Canadian films as well as an American documentary about a Canadian born star. First, a look at Sundance 2023 by the numbers. Of the 4,061 feature film submissions, 1,662 were from the U.S. and 2,399 were international; 1,105 (27%) were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as women; 91 (2%) were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as nonbinary individuals; 1,676 (41%) were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as people of color; 547 (13%) were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as LGBTQ+.

Of the 101 feature films announced so far, 54 (53%) were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as women; 5 (5%) were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as nonbinary individuals; 46 (45%) were directed by one or more filmmakers who identify as people of color; 20 (20%) by one or more filmmakers who identify as LGBTQ+; 3 (3%) by one or more filmmakers who identifies as a person with a disability.

Dramatic: 61% or 8 of the 13 directors in this year’s U.S. Dramatic Competition identify as women; 61% or 8 of the 13 identify as people of color; 23% or 3 of the 13 identify as LGBTQ+.
Documentary: 63% or 10 of the 16 directors in this year’s U.S. Documentary Competition identify as women; 63% or 10 of the 16 identify as people of color; 13% or 2 of the 16 identify as LGBTQ+; 6% or 1 of the 16 identify as a person with a disability.

Dramatic: 58% or 7 of the 12 directors in the World Dramatic Competition identify as women; 50% or 6 of the 12 identify as people of color; 25% or 3 out of 12 directors identify as LGBTQ+.
Documentary: 46% or 6 of the 13 directors in the World Documentary Competition identify as women; 38% or 5 of the 13 as people of color; 23% or 3 of the 13 identify as LGBTQ+; 8% or 1 of the 13 identify as a person with a disability.

The Longest Goodbye, film, image, Sundance,

We could find no Canadian films in the Dramatic section of the World Competition, but in the 12 titles listed so far for Documentary Competition, there was one Canadian doc. The Longest Goodbye is an Israel-Canada coproduction from Producer and Director Ido Mizrahy. Producers are Nir Sa’ar, Paul Cadieux). The short synopsis states: Social isolation affects millions of people, even Mars-bound astronauts. A savvy NASA psychologist is tasked with protecting these daring explorers. This will be a World Premiere and it will be available online.

Infinity Pool, movie, image, Sundance,

Sundance defines the Midnight program as a range of films from horror and comedy to works that defy genre classification. Eight films have been announced so far including Brandon Cronenberg’s Infinity Pool. Producers are: Karen Harnisch, Andrew Cividino, Christian Piovesan, Noah Segal, Rob Cotterill, Anita Juka. Synopsis: James and Em are enjoying an all-inclusive beach vacation when a fatal accident exposes the resort’s perverse subculture of hedonistic tourism, reckless violence, and surreal horrors. Cast: Alexander Skarsgård (pictured above), Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman. This screening will be a World Premiere.

Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie, image, Sundance,

There is a long list of films having their premieres at Sundance and one them, a U.S. production is about a special Canadian actor. It’s a documentary titled Still: A Michael J. Fox Movie from Director and Producer Davis Guggenheim. Producers include: Jonathan King, Annetta Marion, Will Cohen. Synopsis: The improbable tale of a short kid from a Canadian army base who became the darling of 1980s Hollywood — only to find the course of his life altered by a stunning diagnosis. What happens when an incurable optimist confronts an incurable disease? This will be a World Premiere screening.
Click here for more about Michael J. Fox.

“Maintaining an essential place for artists to express themselves, take risks, and for visionary stories to endure and entertain is distinctly Sundance,” said Robert Redford, Sundance Institute Founder and President. “The Festival continues to foster these values and connections through independent storytelling. We are honored to share the compelling selection of work at this year’s Festival from distinct perspectives and unique voices.”

Sundance Film Festival, image, “As a program of the Sundance Institute, the Festival provides a place for artists globally to connect with audiences around a shared and inclusive experience of discovery,” said Joana Vicente, Sundance Institute CEO. “These filmmakers reflect the world around us through bold and thrilling storytelling. It is critical for the arts to foster dialogue, especially during unprecedented times — these stories are needed to provoke discussion, share diverse viewpoints, and challenge us. We are delighted to welcome this group of passionate artists to the Festival and look forward to celebrating the films together with audiences.”

“The program for this year’s Festival reiterates the relevancy of trailblazing work serving as an irreplaceable source for original stories that resonate and fuel creativity and dialogue,” said Kim Yutani, Sundance Film Festival Director of Programming. “In so many ways this year’s slate reflects the voices of communities around the world who are speaking out with urgency and finally being heard. Across our program, impactful storytelling by fearless artists continues to provide space for the community to come together to be entertained, challenged, and inspired.”

The 2023 Sundance Film Festival’s Salt Lake City Opening Night Gala Film is Blueback, premiering at the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center on January 20..

Click here to read the original media release.

All images courtesy of the Sundance Film Festival.

SOURCE: Sundance Film Festival

Notre Dame de Moncton

Notre Dame de Moncton, movie, image,

90 minutes – Drama
Language: French with English subtitles
Festival release date: November 10, 2022 – FICFA (Moncton, NB)
Release date: December 2, 2022
Production company: Bellefeuille Production
Canadian distributor: Bellefeuille Production

Anna (Laurie Gagné), vit un moment particulièrement stressant : elle se prépare à renouer avec Jason (Thomas Lapointe), le fils qu’elle a été obligée de placer en adoption il y a presque 20 ans. N’arrivant pas à aller au bout de cette rencontre, elle se réfugie, clandestinement, dans la maison d’un couple âgé. Un événement dramatique vient tout bousculer et force Anna à tisser une relation impromptue avec Victorine (Louise Turcot). L’étrange cohabitation de ces deux femmes les aidera à retrouver le courage d’affronter leurs épreuves.

Anna (Laurie Gagné), is going through a particularly stressful moment: she prepares to reconnect with Jason (Thomas Lapointe), the son she was forced to put up for adoption almost 20 years ago. Unable to complete this meeting, she takes refuge, clandestinely, in the house of an elderly couple. A dramatic event shakes everything up and forces Anna to forge an impromptu relationship with Victorine (Louise Turcot). The strange cohabitation of these two women will help them regain the courage to face their trials.

Notre Dame de Moncton, movie, poster,



Jean-Claude Bellefeuille


Denise Bouchard


Mélanie Léger


John Ashmore


Yvann Thibaudeau


Pierre-Guy Blanchard

Cast: Roles:

Laurie Gagné
Thomas Lapointe
Louise Turcot
Frédérique Cyr-Deschênes
Gilles Renaud
Mélanie Leblanc
Luc Leblanc
Sylvain Ward
Éric Butler
Jean-Philippe Raîche
Anika Lirette
Katherine Kilfoil



Back to the Movies in Montreal

Back to the Movies in Montreal, The Fabelmans, image,

Back to the Movies in Montreal:

The Fabelmans and the Festivals

By Maurie Alioff

(November 29, 2022 – Montréal, QC) As unseasonably warm fall weather reverted to the harbingers of the deep freeze to come, I ventured from the content on my Firestick and on cable into actual movie theatres for the first time in a couple of years. The Cinema Imperial, flagship of the now beyond resuscitation World Film Festival, seemed spectacularly palatial after missing the many screenings and events I was used to. The AMC Forum, which had been re-designed, felt dream-like. Suddenly, I was again mesmerized by a huge screen in the midst of a crowd. Some viewers like the guy next to me were masked, except when they stuffed in popcorn and nachos. The old days were back.

The Fabelmans, movie, poster,The Montreal premiere of Steven Spielberg’s The Fabelmans drew many invitees, from the media and otherwise. But as I write, the opening weekend box office numbers for Spielberg’s intricately layered, mood-shifting memoir of his family, himself, and his first stirrings as a moviemaker were disappointing.

While calling The Fabelmans “a marvel of a movie,” Variety’s Owen Glieberman speculates that the need to stream and fear of the pandemic in older viewers probably kept people away. But on top of that, the film’s title and the marketing campaign are absurdly misleading. The Fabelmans is not some feel good, sitcom-like picture from a director often prone to sentimentality. It’s a no holds barred, epic-scale depiction of an energetic and talented family disintegrating, teenage Spielberg’s brutalization by bullying antisemites, and, of course, his inexorable attraction to moviemaking and the first signs of brilliance.

Spielberg does not sentimentalize or valorize his urge to make movies. Yes, we see his creative spark getting ignited, and his innovative talent shooting out of nowhere, but we also witness him acting out of trauma, fear, and in a subtle, probably unconscious way, a need for revenge.

The Fabelmans has two major Canadian connections. Sammy Fabelman (teenage Spielberg) is played by Gabriel LaBelle (pictured above), who started acting at the age of 8, debuted on-screen in a 2013 episode of the Canadian TV series Motive, and travelling to Montreal, studied in Concordia University’s drama program. In 2017, LaBelle’s producer father got him the lead in the horror film, Dead Shack. In The Fabelmans, Labelle’s incarnation of the young Spielberg is uncanny.

For Glieberman, LaBelle’s acting is “the most subtle and lived-in performance as a teenage protagonist I’ve seen since…maybe Jean-Pierre Léaud’s in The 400 Blows…LaBelle, like Léaud, shows us the quiet whirrings of the hero’s mind, the internal reactions he won’t say out loud. It might be the best performance by an actor I’ve seen this year.”

Back to the Movies in Montreal, Seth Rogen, The Fabelmans, image,

The other Canadian contribution to The Fabelmans is Seth Rogen, who despite his American father, says he identifies more as a far northerner. In Spielberg’s picture, Rogen plays “Uncle” Benny, a family friend who practically lives with the Fabelmans, and it turns out, is infatuated with Sammy’s mother (Michelle Williams). While Uncle Benny likes to joke around and is warmer than Sammy’s techie father (Paul Dano), Rogen’s persona in the movie is light years removed from his characters in Judd Apatow pictures. The bushy hair and beard are replaced by a receding crewcut and an authoritative role that makes him somewhat menacing in Sammy’s eyes.

My other back to a crowded theatre experience was for the launch of the Montreal International Documentary Festival (Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal, RIDM). The Imperial was so packed, for the first time ever I was up in the balcony gazing down at the lengthy introductions, the roll call of prestigious Quebec documentarians, the talk about diverse content, and the record number of docs by women.

RIDM, which ended a successful run as I write, opened with a film that meant as much to me as The Fabelmans: Rewind and Play, by the Senegalese-French filmmaker Akain Gomis. The doc zeroes in on jazz genius Thelonious Monk’s 1969 visit to Paris, where he was supposed to be interviewed on the TV show, Jazz Portrait. Somehow, Gomis got hold of outtakes which show a pompous intellectual jazz “expert” utterly failing to get the kind of stereotyped interview he expects.

Back to the Movies in Montreal, Thelonious Monk, image,

Monk, often in big closeups is gorgeously Pharaonic, calm, and bemused as he shows absolutely no interest in questions like, ‘Thelonious, tell us about your wife Nellie,’ and ‘why as a young man did you keep your piano in the kitchen?’ Answers: My wife is my wife and the mother of my children, the piano was in the kitchen because it was the biggest room in the apartment. Monk smokes and says almost nothing. He is an island in a storm of babbling voices.

Rewind and Play ends with Monk still at the French TV studio piano, playing a few numbers. As if in a trance, he receives messages from somewhere and relays them from his heart to his fingers and beyond. The striding rhythms, the sudden glissandos, the witty dissonance. He constructs an architecture in your mind, an architecture that glows with different colours. I left the Imperial elated, recalling how at age fourteen, I discovered Thelonious Monk’s music. As did Nothernstars publisher Ralph Lucas, who in a poem once wrote,

“my friends daytripping the Beatles in ’65
me carrying Thelonious Monk
under my arm

Thelonious Sphere Monk dig it
I got cool, you know? cool”

The other big fall festival, the Montreal Festival of New Cinema (Festival du Nouveau Cinéma) also jumped the COVID hurdle. Julien Fonfrède, veteran programmer for the fest (the Temps 0 section), told me during an interview that the FNC decided not to put the event online. He sees the resurrection of movie theatres as a mission film festivals must take on.

“We need to bring back people in theatres. in terms of interactions, and defending films in theaters. People need to go out, people need to choose films they want to see. if everybody stays at home, there is no hope for the future. We didn’t want to do anything online, on principle.

Julien Fonfrède, image,
Photo of Julien Fonfrède by Maurie Alioff.

“Everybody’s complaining,” Fonfrède continues. “People are not going back because of the pandemic and all those platforms, it’s a big problem. Festivals should be part of the solution. But some distributors don’t see that. Everybody needs to work together, the creators, the film festivals, the distributors, to induce the audience to want to see films again.”

As for the current state of the Québec film industry, Fonfrède is not overly optimistic. “Regardless of the pandemic,” he says, “there are too many people who want to make films, and there is not enough money. That’s been happening for the past 10 years, and it’s why I got out of production. At that point, everybody was saying ‘Québec cinéma is the best, we go to the best festivals.’ Xavier Dolan was getting started. Everybody wanted to make films. The older directors were looking for financing. And all the new ones. And the amount of money that’s there doesn’t go up. That’s a big, big problem.”

Another problem for Fonfrède is the big chill on the kinds of movies he has programmed since the days when the FNC had an outlaw sensibility. “Because of the politically correct movement and all those other movements, in the past five years, you don’t see many films that tend to provoke. It’s a worldwide tendency.” Users of social media rant and rave about the sinfulness of such and such a picture. “And then what happens is the institutions that finance cinema are scared. They don’t want to finance anything that is problematic, the big distributors, and the studios, and you’re fucked. However, when you bring a movie to an audience, they are OK. They are not as weak and scared as everybody tells us. But it’s the institutions that finance the films, the public funding, they’re scared of people complaining and then the media saying ‘Oo la la.’ Political correctness is on Facebook, it’s on social media networks, but it’s not in real life, everybody – especially young people – are not as weak as they told you they are.”

Fonfrède, who believes movies should shake you up, not put you to sleep, says he “often looks for sexual content. Films that deal with sex usually provoke. It’s a great means to challenge. I don’t find many films in the past five years like this. That’s a sign of the times. I’m still looking for films that disturb, challenge, bother. But it’s hard. Films are supposed to provoke, even give you a fucked-up experience, that’s what cinema is.”

I’d like to see Wakanda Forever on the big screen, whatever its limitations might be. To stream or not to stream?

Also see: Seth Rogen talks about his role in The Fabelmans.

Northernstars logo image Maurie Alioff is a film journalist, critic, screenwriter and media columnist. He has written for radio and television and taught screenwriting at Montreal’s Vanier College. A former editor for Cinema Canada and Take One, as well as other magazines, he is affiliated with the Quebec media industry publication, CTVM.Info. His articles have appeared in various publications, including Canadian Cinematographer, POV Magazine, and The New York Times. He is the Québec Correspondent for northernstars.ca.

Gabriel LaBelle

Gabriel LaBelle, actor,
Photo of Gabriel LaBelle as Sam Fabelman in the feature The Fabelmans courtesy of Universal Pictures.

Gabriel LaBelle started his career when he 8 and made his screen debut in a 2013 episode of Motive. He went on to study at Concordia University’s drama program. His father, a producer got him the lead in the horror film, Dead Shack. He is pictured in his role of Sam Fabelman, a role described by Maurie Alioff as an uncanny incarnation of the young Stephen Spielberg.

Click here to watch a trailer for The Fabelmans.

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

Dead Shack (2017)
Max 2: White House Hero (2017)
The Predator (2018)

The Fabelmans (2022)

TV Series
Motive (2013)
iZombie (2015)
Brad New Cherry Flavor (2021, mini-series)
American Gigolo (2022)

The Fabelmans, movie, poster,

Babak Payami

Babak Payami, film director,

B: 1966 in Tehran, Iran

Babak Payami is an award-winning Iranian-Canadian filmmaker. His work has been recognized by leading film festivals including being named best director at the Venice International Film Festival. His awards, beginning in 2000 have been bestowed by the Venice Film Festival, London Film Festival, Jeonju Film Festival, Tokyo International Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, São Paulo International Film Festival, Newport International Film Festival and others. He has been a jury member at a number of major international film festivals, including Moscow, Berlin, Warsaw, Beirut, Hang Zhou etc. He has also taught in leading film schools such as the Ludwigsburg Film Akademie in Germany and conducted workshops and mentorship programs on filmmaking in Europe and Canada. We list his credits as a Director first.

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

Yek rouz bishtar (2000)
Raye makhfi (2001)
Sokoote beinedo fekr (2003)

Iqbal, l’enfant qui n’avait pas peur (2015)
Manhattan Undying (2016)

752 Is Not a Number (2022)

Credits as a Screenwriter:
Yek rouz bishtar (2000)
Raye makhfi (2001)
Sokoote beinedo fekr (2003)

Iqbal, l’enfant qui n’avait pas peur (2015)

752 Is Not a Number (2022)

Credits as a Producer:
Yek rouz bishtar (2000)
Raye makhfi (2001)
Sokoote beinedo fekr (2003)
Factory of Martyrs (2008)
Branding Kosovo (2009)

I Am Jesus (2011)
Manhattan Undying (2016)

752 Is Not a Number (2022)

752 Is Not a Number, movie, poster,

752 Is Not a Number

98 minutes – Documentary
Language: English, Farsi with English subtitles
Festival release date: September 9, 2022 – TIFF (World Premiere)
Release date: December 9, 2022
Production company: Payami Films Inc.
Canadian distributor: Mongrel Media

752 Is Not a Number follows Toronto dentist Hamed Esmaeilion’s 2½-year struggle to uncover the truth behind the missile attacks that downed Ukrainian Flight PS752 shortly after its takeoff from Tehran on January 8, 2020, killing all 176 on board. The victims included Hamed’s wife Parisa and nine-year-old daughter Reera, who were flying back from a quick trip to attend Parisa’s sister’s wedding. Within hours, Hamed is on a plane to Tehran – although trepidatious, given that he’s also a rising star in the contemporary Iranian literary scene with some of his novels banned by the Iranian government. Two weeks later, Hamed returns to Toronto with his family’s remains, determined to get justice for all of the families who are united by a common pain. As he becomes the spokesperson for the Association of Families of Flight PS752 Victims, he holds the microphone. But Hamed finds himself caught in a web of geopolitical intrigue, international politics, legal complexities, detractors and informants.

752 Is Not a Number was second runner up for the People’s Choice Documentary Award at TIFF 2022.

752 Is Not A Number, movie, poster,



Babak Payami
Mike Leandro


Babak Payami


Babak Payami


Amir Ghorbani Nia


Hooman Shams

Cast: Roles:

Hamed Esmaeilion
Ralph Goodale
Kathy Fox
Ewan Tasker
Nima Neyestani
Khosrow Malek
Mina Khodadadi
Abbas Sadeghi
Jamshid Rahmanifar

NFB News

NFB News, image, Suzanne Guèvremont,
Photo of Suzanne Guèvremont by Julie Artacho.

NFB News
by Staff Editors

(November 25, 2022 – Montréal, QC) The Honourable Pablo Rodriguez, Minister of Canadian Heritage, has announced the appointment of Suzanne Guèvremont as the next Government Film Commissioner of the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). This will be a five-year Governor in Council appointment and will begin on Monday, November 28, 2022.

Ms.Guèvremont (pictured above) succeeds Claude Joli-Coeur, who led the NFB for nearly nine years, and whose term came to an end today, November 25.

“The National Film Board of Canada is one of our country’s leading institutions,” Said Guèvremont. “Through the creative works it produces and distributes, the NFB affirms its role as a catalyst—a role that’s essential to the vitality and intelligence of our civil, cultural, scientific and economic society. Our cultures and our Canadian values—whether expressed implicitly or explicitly—influence our thoughts and our behaviours, and form part of our collective heritage. It is with great pride, enthusiasm and humility that I undertake this mandate. The Canadian landscape is changing, the means at our disposal for creating content are constantly evolving, and so are audience behaviours. I’m very much looking forward to meeting all the teams across Canada, and to working with them in pursuit of our goals.”

Suzanne Guèvremont has served as the executive director of major institutions for more than 20 years, with extensive experience in the fields of digital media, culture and education. She has made a significant contribution to the development of the vibrant 3D animation, video game and visual effects industries in Quebéc—and more specifically in Montréal. Well-known in the world of digital creation, she was executive director of SYNTHÈSE – Pôle Image Québec and, most recently, of NAD-UQAC, the college of digital arts, animation and design, where she spent a large part of her career. She has also served on a number of boards, including those of CBC/Radio-Canada, SODEC, the Bell Fund and the Alliance numérique. In addition, Ms. Guèvremont is also a sought-after speaker on both the Canadian and the international stage.

Northernstars joins with others in congratulating Suzanne Guèvremont on her new appointment.


Today at RIDM

Today at RIDM, image,

Today at RIDM
by Staff Editors

(November 23, 2022 – Montréal, QC) The 25th edition of the Montreal International Documentary Festival (RIDM) continues until November 27. The second week of the festival offers new films to discover, many of which will be attended by the filmmakers.

A place for women filmmakers:
RIDM has once again achieved gender parity with 55% of the films in thus year’s program directed by women. The festival is also highlighting feminist artistic history with its program “Vidéo Femmes: Fragments of a Feminist Legacy.” Today, November 23, one screening will include the films On fait toutes du show-business (1984) and Histoire infâme (pictured above, 1988), both directed by Nicole Giguère. Also, the music video Mona Lise (2021) by rapper Calamine, which was directed by Audrey Nantel-Gagnon. A discussion with all three artists will follow.

Tomorrow, November 24, Julia Minne, Marina Gallet, Nicolas Dulac, Nicole Giguère, Helen Doyle and Johanne Fournier will participate in the “Roundtable: Archiving and Remediation” discussion. The goal of this event is to bear witness to a collective experience in the editorialization of the archives and the building of a narrative of the early years of Vidéo Femmes, in addition to addressing the ethical, technical and theoretical issues raised by the remediation of such a body of work. The discussion will be followed by a screening of Chaperons rouges (1979) by Hélène Bourgault and Helen Doyle and the short film La bouilloire (2021) by Héloïse Bargain, in the presence of Helen Doyle and Héloïse Bargain.

Yesterday saw the Quebec premiere of Ayana O’Shun’s Today at RIDM, poster, The Myth of the Black Woman, , in which several black women tell their stories and share their knowledge in order to dismantle racist and sexist stereotypes that are harmful to their identity. A celebratory evening for the film will take place at the Cinémathèque québécoise. The film’s second screening will take place on November 25, in the presence of the filmmaker.

Look for the Quebec premiere of Big Fight in Little Chinatown tomorrow, November 24. Director Karen Cho examines endangered North American Chinatowns and the communities that struggle to preserve their historical, cultural and familial heritage. A discussion following the premiere will feature Karen Cho (filmmaker), Jonathan Cha (landscape architect and conservation specialist, JIA Foundation), Jessica Chen (urban planner, JIA Foundation), May Chiu (co-coordinator of the Chinatown work group and Chinatown Volunteer Task Force), and Walter Chi-Yan Tom (immigration lawyer, human rights activist and volunteer of the Chinatown working group) and will be moderated by Stéphanie Bourbeau (philosophy professor at Collège Ahuntsic, politically involved cinephile, cultural host, and documentary presenter). A second screening will take place on November 26, with Karen Cho in attendance.

The Canadian premiere of Republic of Silence by Diana El Jeiroudi offers a unique perspective on the Syrian conflict and the daily life of an exile filled with memories. The film will be screened with the filmmaker in attendance on November 24. Several short films will be accompanied by discussions with their directors: Fuku Nashi, in which Julie Sando travels to Japan to meet her grandmother; Tana Gilbert Fernández’s No Star, which deals with mixed feelings about motherhood; OK Pedersen’s Cloud Gate 2, an essay on the workings of real and artificial memory; and Amy Miller’s Muôi, which takes a close look at the daily life of an inspiring woman whose authenticity defies the expectations imposed on women.

Filmmaker Dominique Chaumont will meet with the audience following screenings of Veranada, which will have its world premiere on November 22 and 24. The film is a contemplative portrait of shepherds working in the sweltering heat of Malargüe, Argentina.

Doc-to-Doc presented by Télé-Québec
Today, festivalgoers will have the opportunity to attend a discussion between Dominique Chaumont and Jean-François Caissy about his film La Belle Visite (2009). This screening will be part of “Doc-to-doc: 25 Years of Encounters,” an initiative for the 25th anniversary of the RIDM, allowing a filmmaker to engage in a dialogue with another filmmaker whose work has inspired them. On November 24, Zaynê Akyol and François Jacob will come together after the screening of A Moon of Nickel and Ice (2016), while Simon Plouffe and Robert Morin will discuss the classic Whoever Dies, Dies in Pain (1998) on November 25.

Today at RIDM, J'ai placé ma mère, movie, poster, RIDM’s Quebec film premieres
With this 25th edition, RIDM continues its mission to bring together established filmmakers and emerging talents. Denys Desjardins is back with J’ai placé ma mère, which immerses viewers in his experience as he and his sister try to ensure that their mother, who is losing her autonomy, ends her life with dignity. The film will screen today November 23 with Denys Desjardins in attendance. On November 24 and 25, Germán Gutiérrez will present History Will Judge, a work that captures the uncertainty of Colombia’s future as it tries to emerge from 52 years of civil war.

Among emerging filmmakers, Perihan Incegöz and Jonathan Tremblay’s L’Île de Sukwan will be screened on November 25 and 26, in the presence of the filmmakers. The film follows a child who builds an imaginary island in the middle of the Thai jungle, containing a secret that only she knows. David B. Ricard was inspired by his own experiences to offer in David Against Goliath. Dragging along three unfinished short films, he confronts his anxieties by embarking on an investigation and a playful introspective journey. Screening on November 24 and 26, with the filmmaker in attendance.

Award-winning creative documentaries
Several works with striking cinematography can be discovered on the big screen during this second week of the festival. Pierre-Yves Vandeweerd’s Inner Lines, which premiered at Visions du réel, will have its North American premiere on November 24 and 26. Shot in 16mm between Iraqi Kurdistan, Turkey and Nagorno-Karabakh, the film follows two peoples who have been victims of war and genocide, painting a historical portrait of violence.

RIDM Today, image,

Winner of the Special Jury Award in the Burning Lights competition at Visions du réel, Leandro Listorti will be on hand to accompany Herbaria (pictured above), which will had its Canadian premiere on November 22 and will sreen again on the 24th. Establishing a surprising dialogue between the preservation of cinema and botany, the film is an essay that proposes a freely rigorous reflection on ephemerality and conservation.

Also seen at Visions du réel, Jumana Manna’s Foragers is a contemplative and whimsical film that shows how the simple act of gathering wild herbs can become a form of anti-colonial resistance. It will have its Canadian premiere on November 25 and 27. Theo Montoya’s Anhell69, winner of two awards at the Venice International Critics’ Week, will have its Canadian premiere on November 24 and 26. The film follows young people from queer communities who are unable to envision the future and who share a nihilistic outlook on life. Winner of the New:Vision Award at CPH:DOX, among other honours, Trinh T. Minh-Ha’s What About China? will have its Quebec premiere on November 25 and 27. Continuing her cinematic body of work with intellectual vigour, the multidisciplinary artist and theorist examines China, cinema, the ethnographic approach and the construction of history in a spellbinding essay that is as cerebral as it is tender.

RIDM evenings at the HQ
A live performance by visual artist Philippe Léonard with music by C H R I S T entitled What now? will take place at the Cinémathèque québécoise on Thursday evening, November 24, in collaboration with Suoni Per Il Popolo. By experimenting with various media to create live visuals and to try to develop a new language, the artists criticize the patriarchal and abusive institution that is the Church. Admission is $17 in advance via the RIDM box office or $20 at the door.

On Friday, November 25, the 25th anniversary party of RIDM will take place! Under the banner of the year 1998, festivalgoers will be invited to dance and enjoy video projections taking them back to the days when VHS and MuchMusic reigned supreme.

Closing Ceremony and Awards
This year’s festival will be giving out 13 awards to the selected documentary filmmakers. The Emerging Talent Award was presented to Isabelle Kanapé on Sunday night, for her film Miluk tshi shutshelimunau (Accordez-moi votre confiance). The remaining 12 awards will be presented on closing night, Sunday, November 26, just before the screening of Wochiigii lo: End of the Peace by Haida filmmaker Heather Hatch. The film focuses on BC Hydro’s construction of a third dam on the Peace River, located in the heart of the unceded territory of many Indigenous nations. The film will be shown at 7:00 p.m. at Cinéma Impérial, with the filmmaker in attendance. The closing night will continue with a festive evening at the Cinémathèque québécoise.

A last day for young and old film lovers
To close the festival on a high note, for the eighth consecutive year, the festival is offering a family screening on Sunday, November 27 at 11 a.m. Developed by Le Carrousel international du film de Rimouski, this selection of short films for ages 6 and up is an excellent way to introduce budding cinephiles to documentary-inspired cinema. Featured are colourful films that explore human, plant and animal nature, including Dans la nature by Marcel Barelli, J’aime toute by José Mestenapéo and La peau de l’ours by Valérie Mréjen.

Films for adult audiences will also address youth issues on the last day of the festival. From a child’s perspective, Paz Encina’s visual poem Eami explores oppression and injustice through the expulsion of an indigenous community from its territory; Olha Zhurba’s Outside follows the harrowing adolescence of a young Ukrainian boy over several years, addressing the difficulties of growing up alone and neglected; and Shamira Raphaëla’s Shabu takes viewers to a working-class neighborhood in Rotterdam, where we follow the trials and tribulations of a feisty teen. Antonio Hernández’s They Made Us the Night follows an intergenerational family’s daily life punctuated by dreamlike visions in the middle of San Marquitos, a Mexican city still absent from maps.

The 25th edition of RIDM runs until November 27

Dominic James

Dominic James

B: November 23, 1976 in Montréal, Québec

Dominic James is an actor and director. He appeared in 10 episodes of Lance et compte Nouvelle génération in 2002. We list his credits as a director first.

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

Lotto 6/66 (2006, short)

Die (2010)
Angle mort (2011)
Wait Till Helen Comes (2016)

Credits as an Actor:
I’m Not There (2007)

TV Series – Cast:
Lance et compte – Nouvelle génération (2002)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
Naked Josh (2005)

Wait Till Helen Comes, movie, poster,
Poster for Wait Till Helen Comes courtesy of Entertainment One.

WIDC Names Whistler Eight

WIDC Names Eight, image,
Image supplied by WIDC.

WIDC Names Whistler Eight
by Staff Editors

(November 18, 2022 – Vancouver, BC) Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) organizers have announced the eight Canadian directors selected to attend the Women In the Director’s Chair Story & Leadership program, presented in collaboration with the Whistler Film Festival.

Five of this year’s Story & Leadership cohort of directors are award-winning ACTRA members, including Toronto-based Liz Whitmere (Designated Survivor, The Changeling) who is developing the feature drama Loved By You, Supinder Wraich (Sort Of, Private Eyes) developing the feature 4th of July, and Sam Coyle director of award-winning web series, (Avocado Toast the series, Dating Unlocked) who is developing the sci-fi thriller, Audrey 2.0 about an aging actress navigating life with her AI double.

UBCP/ACTRA members, CSA-winner Sarah Strange known for her roles in Loudermilk, Snowpiercer and DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, is developing the Queer rom-com series, Funambulist Falling, while Luvia Petersen (Van Helsing, Riverdale) is developing the feature-length psychological thriller Human Nature, which also earned Petersen WIDC’s 2022 Advantage Award for a first-time low-budget feature, and a spot in the WIFTV Genre Lab.

Also developing their debut feature films are documentary and short filmmakers including Nigerian-born Nova Scotia-based Osas Eweka-Smith, who is developing the drama The Road To Back Home; Yukon Territory-based Naomi Mark (How to Bee), developing the dark comedy Lucky Baby; and based in Toronto, multi-award-winner Nika Belianina is developing her comedy feature, Doing Time In Paradise.

“Telefilm Canada is proud to continue its support of the Women In the Director’s Chair (WIDC) program for mid-career and non-binary directors and writer-directors,” said Francesca Accinelli, Interim Executive Director and CEO of Telefilm Canada. “We want to thank and congratulate WIDC for its continued support of diverse voices in film.”

“Over 330 women and non-binary individuals have benefited from the WIDC program,” said Eleanor Noble, President ACTRA National. “Over 25% of alumnae directors [overall] are ACTRA members who have taken their performing skills to the next level and are creating and directing original work that engages other members!”

“This is the 9th year of our collaboration with WIDC that continues to deliver significant results. It’s gratifying to see previous participants returning with projects they’ve developed through the program, as mentors, and guest speakers,” says Angela Heck, Executive Director, Whistler Film Festival.

Mentors for this session of WIDC include multi-award-winning writer/director Mina Shum (Mediation Park, the Wire), and screenwriter/story consultant Karen Walton (Orphan Black, Ginger Snaps). Instructors also include actor and filmmaker, Lori Triolo (Blackstone, Lost Solace), actor/instructor, Veena Sood (Children Ruin Everything), and Digital Media & Marketing Mentor, Annelise Larson, who will lead sessions on leadership, story development, working with actors and marketing. An ensemble of ACTRA actors from across Canada along with ICG cinematographers, Kim Derko csc (Save Me; The Next Step), and Daytime Emmy winner, Gayle Ye (Odd Squad, Mobile Unit), will also join the program, workshopping excerpts from the directors’ original scripts. WIDC co-creator and producer, Dr. Carol Whiteman facilitates, and leads follow up mentorships for the program.

During the WFF Industry Immersion part of the program, the eight director participants partake in a first-class industry environment (virtual and in-person) that includes an array of master classes, artist-talks, one-to-ones, and notably, WFF’s Women In Focus series. WIDC-hosted sessions also include industry guests from Telefilm Canada, Bell Media, CBC Films, the Independent Production Fund, and Creative BC, among others who will participate in roundtables and individual meetings with participants.

The 2022 Whistler Film Festival, which takes place November 30 through December 4 and online until January 2, 2023, will also showcase WIDC alumnae feature films by Jules Koostachin (Broken Angel), KC Carthew (Polaris) and Madison Thomas’ doc, Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On! Gloria Mercer’s short Smoke Eater also plays the festival, while alumnae Marie Clements, Rebecca Gibson, KC Carthew, Jules Koostachin will be featured speakers. Story & Leadership culminates with intensive follow up development of story and marketing materials, and career coaching modules that run through to spring 2023.

WIDC receives major financial support from Telefilm Canada. Story & Leadership is also supported by ACTRA National, AFBS, the Independent Production Fund, and Creative BC.


Love, Love, Love

The Swearing Jar, movie, image,

Love, Love, Love –
The Swearing Jar Reviewed.

by Thom Ernest – Film Correspondent

November 17, 2022 – Toronto, ON) There is an impressive roster of RomCan to choose from. For me, Away from Her, Take this Waltz, Still Mine, Below Her Mouth, Barney’s Version (sort of), and And the Birds Rained Down stand out. I approach romantic dramas with an it’s-not you, it’s me cynicism. I’m open to the possibility of being swept away—after all, I’ve been adequately surprised by more than a few. Dramatic romance can do that.

But, I wasn’t convinced that director Lindsay MacKay’s film, The Swearing Jar, would be able to jar me out of my cynicism. It worried me because I’m a fan of MacKay’s first feature, Wet Bum. I wanted to be a fan of The Swearing Jar too.

I was concerned because where Wet Bum’s characters have a relatable awkwardness to them, the characters in The Swearing Jar seem consciously designed to sell the characters as being incidentally irresistible. The casual direction, the playful montages, and the off-the-cuff delivery of lines all create a glimpse into the lives of its lead characters, albeit it’s a Facebook version of a glance.

The Swearing Jar, movie, poster,The film’s three leads, Adelaide Clemens, Patrick J. Adams, and Douglas Smith, put in great performances. For the first while—perhaps the first third of the film—there is a fear those performances have no place to go.

Anyone familiar with Kate Hewlitt’s play, The Swearing Jar (Hewlitt is also the film’s screenwriter) knows that the story, which must have played so wonderfully live, is an essential set-up for the final two-thirds of the film. It is a film worth the time it takes to tell the whole story. 

The story opens with a young couple, Carey (Clemens) and Simon (Adams), celebrating the news that they are to become parents. The thing is, Simon has information too, and it’s written on a little strip of paper, but when Carey announces her pregnancy, Simon secretly returns the note to his pocket. And here’s where it stays until the final act.

Watching Kathleen Turner in the secondary role of Bev, Simon’s problematic mother, is a pleasure. Bev is remarkable because she is precisely what the other characters aspire to be and perhaps what they might become given enough time. Bev is broken but healed, outspoken but reserved, and sorry but without regrets. Turner embodies each of those contradictions, creating some of the film’s best moments.

While Bev is confronted with being a grandmother and the painful memory of her failed marriage and maternal responsibilities, Carey and Simon happily prepare for the baby’s arrival, including implementing a swear jar to help curb their colourful language. It’s all for the baby.

But Carey meets Owen (Adams), a charming bookstore clerk. Owen’s charm can seem cloying if you haven’t shaken off the cynicism by this point. You might also wonder why Owen looks a lot like the guy playing guitar with Carey on stage. The similarities can be confusing until you recognize that The Swearing Jar does not pay much attention to timelines. This is not a romance told in chronological order. The effect is a payoff that invites you to reconsider scenes you’ve seen before.

Watch the trailer and learn more about the cast and crew of The Swearing Jar.

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

Awards Season Arrives

Award Season, image,

Awards Season Arrives
by Ralph Lucas – Publisher

(November 16, 2022 – Toronto, ON) As we have done the last many years around this time, as the film calendar begins to shift from festivals, we look at the upcoming award shows. There are still plenty of film festivals to pay attention to. For example, one of the biggest documentary festivals, RIDM (The Montreal Documentary Festival) celebrates its 25th anniversary when it opens tomorrow, the Blood in the Snow festival opens in Toronto on the 21st and the Whistler Film Festival begins on November 30. But it is the glitz and glamour of award shows that attracts everyone’s attention from diehard film buffs to occasional filmgoers.

Crimes of the Future, movie, poster,In local news, one of the last awards of the year are given out by the Directors Guild of Canada. With some 450 submissions the guild handed out 21 awards covering everything from direction to editing, production design and sound editing. Some of the award recipients included David Cronenberg for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Feature Film for Crimes of the Future; Madison Thomas was given the Allan King Award for Excellence in Documentary for Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On. The recently announced DGC Jean-Marc Vallée Discovery Award went to Anthony Shim for Riceboy Sleeps. You can read about all of the DGC award-winners online.

Quite a different story in Québec. Radio-Canada, as CBC is known in the province, announced it would not carry the annual Gala Québec Cinéma. The Prix Iris broadcast has been losing audience since 2018 and that was, apparently, reason enough for the national broadcaster’s regional division to drop the show. It seems to me to be a bit of a bizarre decision given the fact most, if not all cinemas in the province were shuttered during the worst of the COVID pandemic so it is reasonable to assume the decline in interest in an award show mirrored the decline in in-theatre attendees, which means few, if anyone had a chance to see the best productions on a big screen, which logically translates into less interest in an award show.

Coming up in a few days, the Oscars Governors Awards will be held on November 19, the nominations for the Film Independent Spirit Awards will be announced on November 22 and the annual Gotham Awards will be handed out on the 28th.

A few interesting dates next month. The New York Film Critics Circle will hold their awards night on December 2. The nominations for the Critics Choice Awards will be announced on December 6 and preliminary voting for the Oscars begins on the 12th and ends on the 15th.

The new year sees the Golden Globes ceremony on January 10th. After taking a break from the awards, NBC will once again carry the show. There are a flurry of award nomination announcements in January. The Directors Guild of America (DGA) and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) will make their announcements on the 11th, the Producers Guild of America (PGA) will do the same on the 12th. The biggie is learning about the Oscars nominations on January 24th. We don’t have a firm date yet, but the Toronto Film Critics Associations (TFCA) usually announce their winners, runners-up, and nominees for Rogers Best Canadian Film Award in early January.

Canadian Screen Awards trophy, image, February brings the awards ceremonies for many of those organizations I just mentioned. The DGA Awards are on the 18th, The PGA Awards on the 25th and the SAG Awards on the 26th. Also of note, the British Academy BAFTA Awards will be held on February 19th and the Annie Awards for animation on February 25. The 2023 Canadian Screen Awards nominations will be announced on February 22.

March is usually the month when the Vancouver Film Critics Circle (VFCC) announce their awards, but like the TFCA, we don’t have a firm date for that ceremony. Here’s what they recognized earlier this year. March also brings the 95th Academy Awards on the 12th.

Earlier today the Canadian Academy of Cinema and Television announced the dates for Canadian Screen Week. It will run from Tuesday April 11 to Sunday April 16, which is when the broadcast gala will be held. As mentioned, the nominees for the 2023 Canadian Screen Awards will be announced on February 22.

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

Rosie: An Ambitious Tale

Rosie, movie, image,
Keris Hope Hill and Melanie Bray in a publicity still for the 2022 film Rosie.

Rosie: An Ambitious Tale
by Thom Ernst – Film Correspoindent

(November 14, 2022 – Toronto, ON) A precocious six-year-old named Rosie (Keris Hope Hill) lands in the care of an estranged aunt she has never met. Rosie is sweet. The aunt is too, except the aunt’s sweetness is sheltered behind a guarded exterior that protects her from the randomness of life on the street—a randomness that includes low-income jobs and the threat of eviction.

Rosie is the title character, but like so many stories of this ilk, the actual narrative belongs to the characters surrounding Rosie. In Rosie, the person primarily affected by the sudden arrival of Rosie is the aunt, Frédérique (Melanie Bray). She goes by Fred. Fred has a job. She works at an adult bookstore, which is not a career choice appearing on too many resumes and, I imagine, on even fewer adoption applications. But Fred doesn’t want to adopt. She is the first person to admit she’s barely qualified to be her own guardian, let alone someone else’s.

And though Rosie’s caseworker Barb (Josee Young) might agree, everything is done to make this guardianship work.

Rosie, movie, poster,Director Gail Maurice wraps the film—based on her short film of the same name—in a warm blanket that bares a ghost-like resemblance to the kind-hearted characters that once populated a few Frank Capra movies. But Capra dealt with gangsters, gamblers, bookies, and gum-smacking molls. Most of their nefarious deeds seem harmless, aside from occasionally exposing their charge to a culture of racetracks and speakeasies. Even cursing—which when Capra was making films could only be implied—is quickly reprimanded.

It’s a bit of the same with Rosie, whose tribe of street-level cohorts are social outcasts who are merely perceived as outlaws. Fred’s best friends, a cross-dressing couple named Flo (Constant Bernard) and Mo (Alex Trahan), might be disenfranchised and struggle in the seedier district of Montreal in the 80s, but they are not outlaws. This difference between outlaw and outcast leaves room for Maurice to create a more palpable and realistic empathy for her characters while presenting a more natural look at life on the parameter.

Rosie seems content for a child recently orphaned. She appears to have processed her mother’s (Fred’s sister’s) death, as well as the cultural leap from rural life on a reservation to urban life in the city. (Rosie is indigenous).

Still, it’s a head-scratcher as to how a single, low-income pornography peddler becomes an unexpected guardian. It might seem odd—and it does—that Rosie should land in the care of the person least equipped to raise a child. The rationale might be that this is the 80s. A policy, perhaps a policy that still exists today, is to place orphaned children with family members. It sounds good, but it’s hard to imagine that the pencil pushers didn’t assume any red flags.

Maurice’s script juggles reason and logic to force plausibility on the story of an ill-advised child placement—a standard screenwriting practice in the ‘unlikely parent scenario. And there is a tendency for the script to overplay the rise-up tenacity of its spirited characters.

Maurice tells an ambitious tale that, despite occasions of oversentimentality, hits many of the right notes. But it’s Keris Hope Hill’s heartfelt performance that is the most impressive and compelling reason to see the film.

Click here to watch a clip from Rosie and learn more about the cast and crew.

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.

Alex Trahan

Alex Trahan, actor,

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

Inner Jellyfishes (2015)
Rosie (2022)
Mistral Spatial (2022)

TV Series – Guest appearances:
Une thérapie avec ça (2012)

Mistral Spatial, movie, poster,

Keris Hope Hill

Rosie, movie, image,
Keris Hope Hill and Melanie Bray in a publicity still for the 2022 film Rosie.

Keris Hope Hill played the title role of Rosie in the 2022 feature from director Gail Maurice. She did not appear in the 2018 short on which the feature was based.

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

Rosie (2022)

TV Series – Cast:
Little Bird (2023, mini-series)

Rosie, movie, poster,