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Updated:  September 15, 2005

The Toronto International Film Festival strikes again!  Between juggling special film festival events, day job and presenting this newsletter to you, I'm exhausted!  But still here and happy to bring to you this weeks edition of the newsletter.  Photos to be posted shortly - gotta catch my breath first!  Congratulations to Calgary's Melissa O'Neil - Canada's first female Canadian Idol!

This week there's a lot of Canadian news is all categories so check it out - MUSIC NEWS, FILM NEWS, TV NEWS, and OTHER NEWS!  Have a read and a scroll!  This newsletter is designed to give you some updated entertainment-related news and provide you with our upcoming event listings.   Welcome to those who are new members.  Want your events listed by date?  Check out EVENTS






Legendary Jazz/Funk Artist Roy Ayers Launches Toronto’s Hottest Jazz Series - Jazz By Genre

“Timely,” “progressive” and “cutting-edge” are just a few of the words that have been used to describe Toronto’s latest innovation – a new concept in jazz called Jazz by Genre.  Designed as a concert series, Jazz by Genre epitomizes a new thrust and direction in jazz music, forging a new path and connection with audiences who have been at times left out of the jazz loop. Produced by the Nu Jazz Society, the format of Jazz by Genre is a natural and progressive extension of traditional jazz programming. Its alignment with the various genres (e.g. R ‘n B, Soca, Latin, Brazilian, Classic, Swing), will begin with a focus on the contemporary dance club experience to drive entirelyfresh, engaging and unexpected musical expressions such as ‘breakjazz.’ With that said, Jazz by Genre brings renowned jazz musician and producer, Roy Ayers to Toronto to launch its first in a series of concerts. On September 22nd, at the Guvernment, witness history in the making as DJs Jason Palma and Startin’ from Scratch are fully integrated with the band KUSH as live “musicians” playing a blend of funk, soul, Brazilian, house, hiphop, & R ‘n B breakjazz with their turntables positioned as the live jazz “instruments”. Breakjazz is a newly-defined form of jazz created by combining an acoustic jazz band with one or more DJs and/or turntablists, who add electronic elements to the performance (e.g. scratching, loops, vocals from a CD, vinyl record or other electronic source).

JAZZ BY GENRE featuring Roy Ayers
With Opening Act Kush
The Guvernment
132 Queen’s Quay E.
7:30 p.m.
TICKETS:  $37-MEMBERS*; $45-REGULAR; $55-VIP: Hors D’oeuvres & Drink Ticket

Opener KUSH featuring Etric Lyons, Eddie Bullen, Robert Sibony, and Nick “Brownman” Ali playing Soul/Funk/House/Hip Hop/R&B “Breakjazz” with DJ Jason Palma and DJ Startin from Scratch playing as guest performers in the band.  Spoken-word artists Al St. Louis and Anne-Marie Woods (aka Amani) In addition to our official launch event, Jazz by Genre will host a pre-launch party at club Revival on September 21st. On this night of classic soul jazz we will pay tribute and make an honorary presentation to Salome Bey for her outstanding contribution to Canadian jazz over the last 40 years. Performing will be hard-bop band Kollage and five-octave range singer Liberty Silver.

783 College St. (at Shaw Avenue)
Tickets:  $15
$55 dinner packages are available.

Tickets for both events available at TICKETMASTER.CA or Play De Record




Benefit for Katrina Victims

It's been a difficult few days seeing countless images of death, destruction, and despair in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the resulting flooding in New Orleans and the surrounding areas. There are many questions being raised about what was done before the storm and what was done in the aftermath. Regardless of the political questions concerning the relief effort, the fact remains that there is a tremendous need for help for the residents of this community that now lies in ruins.  On Sunday Sept 18, I invite you to a special Lester McLean Trio performance at Advent Lutheran Church with all proceeds benefiting the victims of this tremendous disaster. We are asking for a $10.00 donation with all proceeds going to Katrina victims. I promise you that you will enjoy an afternoon of great music and fellowship while doing something to help in this time of need.   Please feel free to forward this whomever you like.  The Lester McLean Trio is: Lester McLean - Vocals, Saxes, Guitar; Michael Occhipinti - Acoustic Guitar, Vocals; Louis Simao - Upright Bass, Accordion, Vocals

Benefit for Katrina Victims
Advent Lutheran Church

2800 Don Mills, Don Mills and Sheppard
Noon to 1:30 p.m.
$10.00 (All proceeds to flood victims)







Motivational Note: Let's get down to business.

The Motivation123 Newsletter by Jason M. Gracia

Let's get down to business. To begin, I want to offer an example and then proceed to give you the specific steps to take in order to use your past pain to get motivated to change. Tony had a troubling childhood. His father was abusive and took most of his aggression out on his son. It was a very tragic story, but the pain of his past helped Tony in the future. When Tony and his wife had children of their own, he was motivated to be the best father he could be. Tony worked to maintain strong relationships with each member of his family, never letting short-term obstacles keep him from showing his love and affection. There were many times when it would have been easier to lose his temper, but the pain of his childhood kept him forever on the right path. He knew how terrible it felt to be a child in an abusive home, and vowed never to put his own children through the same experience. While the truth of his childhood was tragic, Tony used it as motivation to ensure his family never lived through the same thing. Now it's your turn. The first stage is to take in mind an important goal that you want to accomplish. You may even want to write out your goal on a sheet of paper to make it more concrete and tangible. Next, think back to a painful experience that you wish to avoid in the future. Examples include the pain of losing a job, struggling to pay bills, disconnecting from your family or friends, and suffering an illness or disease. It's crucial that your goal and painful memory are related. Recalling a time when you had a physical pain would be an effective choice for a health related goal, but trying to connect the memory of a painful relationship to your goal of traveling abroad may fail to move you. Once you have your painful experience chosen, close your eyes and revisit the memory. Remember how much it hurt and how you would do anything to avoid having to live through it again. The final step is to link the two together. Again and again in your mind, tell yourself that not achieving your goal will result in the pain you wish to avoid. You know how much the pain hurt in the past and you don't want to go through it again. Don't just go through the motions. Convince yourself that not acting on your goal will undoubtedly lead to the pain you wish to avoid. If you truly believe it, you will be motivated to act. Human beings will do most anything to avoid intense pain. Use this fact with each one of your goals. Stop fighting against the human instincts and allow them to work for you.

Wrapping It Up

Fear and pain. Two aspects of life that people are taught to avoid and forget. Now you know better. These two states of mind are among the most useful and effective tools you have at your disposal. They are not selective - everyone can use them at any time. And the better you are at using them, the easier it will be for you to get and stay motivated to do the things you have always wanted to do. We've all been there... 'Today is the day I'm going to change!' And the next day comes without a change, and the next, and the next, and on and on. Or perhaps you've experienced the yo-yo effect of motivation. A feeling just comes over you and you're motivated to work toward your goals. But then it fades away without notice. After taking two steps forward you find yourself taking three steps back. That can all change when you use the power of pain to get you started and keep you heading in the right direction. If you use today's principle, along with all of the tools from past issues, you will have no problem getting exactly what you want.







CeCe Winans Releases Purified

Source:  Sony/BMG Music Canada

Six-time Grammy winner CeCe Winans returns with the release of her seventh solo album, Purified. Blessed with a musical gift, CeCe continues to touch the hearts, souls and spirits of listeners utilizing her voice as an instrument of encouragement. With Purified, she combines the transformative power of gospel music with heart-stopping pop, street-smart R&B and infectious dancefloor rhythms to create her most compelling set of songs to date. Truly inspired in every sense of the word, Purified is a celebration of the heart, the soul and the spirit.







Canada’s Dean Ifill Stars in Disney’s Get Ed
You might remember Dean Ifill from the first Degrassi television series.  During his career, Dean has also landed a few national and U.S. national commercials including General Mills, Nike, The Toronto Raptors, the National Basketball Association and Labatt Genuine Draft – for which he was the first Canadian of ethnicity to be chosen for a beer commercial.  
Now Dean takes over as the voice of ‘Burn’ in Disney’s upcoming television series ‘Get Ed.  Get Ed takes place in the futuristic world of Progress City. The main character, Ed, is a genetically created boy, made from an ancient artifact. As Ed tries to uncover his origins, he also works on the Dojo crew as a messenger boy. On top of delivering packages and figuring out his identity, Ed's side job is fighting evil. He solves information crimes and prevents the villain Bedlam from destroying humanity.   Ed and his four best friends are a team of street-smart DoJo couriers in the futuristic world of Progress City.  Racing to deliver a variety of mysterious packages while trying to bring down the evil Dr. Bedlam, could get a kid down, but not this genetically engineered teen - he's having too much fun. 

Tough guy and team leader, Burn, cruises through Progress City on his Moto-BMX.  He pushes the DoJo couriers to be their best, but he's loyal and a solid friend.  Burn can't wait for the day when DoJo brings Bedlam down. 









UMAC Partners With UrbanAids To Reinforce The Power Of Edu-Tainment

TORONTO, September 14, 2005 - The Urban Music Association of Canada (UMAC) has announced a date change for the 2005 Canadian Urban Music Awards, the most significant industry date on Canada's urban music calendar. The 2005 CUMAs will now take place at Toronto's Kool Haus on Monday, November 28 and Tuesday, November 29.

On Monday, November 28 the seventh annual CUMAs will kick-off with an episode of UMAC's popular Music Lab Series followed by the organization's Annual General Meeting and the gala awards dinner at the elegant 53rd Floor of the Toronto-Dominion Bank Tower.

The Canadian Urban Music Awards show takes place on Tuesday, November 29 at 7:30 pm at Toronto's Kool Haus. This highly-anticipated event will be a 'who's who' of the urban world in music, sports, film, and television. UMAC will present once-in-a-lifetime artist collaborations featuring international and Canadian artists.

"The 2005 Canadian Urban Music Awards will be the biggest and best yet," says UMAC Executive Director Aisha Wickham. "We've got some amazing programming planned for this year's event, and we look forward to celebrating the artists and industry professionals who have done so much to showcase and promote our great urban music scene over the past year."


Program for the 2005 Canadian Urban Music Awards

Music Lab Workshop (presented by Ontario Arts Council)
Monday, November 28 from 11:00am-12:30 pm

UMAC Annual General Meeting
Monday, November 28 from 2:00pm-3:00 pm

Gala Awards Dinner (presented by: FLOW 93.5)
Monday, November 28 from 7:00-10:00 pm
TD Bank Tower, 53rd Floor
66 Wellington Street at Bay

Canadian Urban Music Awards Show
Tuesday, November 29 at 7:30 pm
Kool Haus  


On Wednesday, November 30, this jam-packed week of unprecedented urban entertainment will conclude at Kool Haus with the 2nd annual UrbanAIDS fundraising and HIV/AIDS awareness concert; a prelude to the XVI International AIDS Conference taking place in Toronto in August 2006.

"UrbanAIDS is excited to partner with UMAC because they share our goal of using urban music as tool to inform, educate and empower young people," says UMAC Special Events Director and UrbanAIDS founder Towa Beer. "Joining forces with the awards at the end of November creates a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the brightest stars in Canada's urban music industry while also raising awareness of the HIV/AIDS pandemic right before World AIDS Day on December 1."

Some of the 2005 CUMA categories include: Recording of the Year for each urban music genre, New Artist of the Year, Producer of the Year, Songwriter of the Year, Lifetime Achievement Award and many more.

The nominees for the 2005 CUMAs will be announced on Tuesday, September 27, when the voting will commence and tickets will go on sale.

The 2005 Canadian Urban Music Awards are generously supported by FLOW 93.5 (Toronto), FACTOR (through the Canada Music Fund), The Bounce 91.7 (Edmonton), Radio Starmaker Fund, Galaxie and SOCAN Foundation.

For more information and additional updates, please visit the UMAC website at

About UMAC

Established in 1996, the Urban Music Association of Canada (UMAC) is a not-for-profit, member-driven organization dedicated to building the domestic and international profile of Canadian urban music. UMAC offers workshops, seminars and artist showcases to its members and stakeholders, in addition to our nationally televised signature event, the Canadian Urban Music Awards, a celebration of the best in Canada's urban music industry.

About UrbanAIDS (

UrbanAIDS was launched in 2004 to employ urban music to increase youth awareness of how to prevent HIV/AIDS and encourage youth to participate in volunteer activities to promote prevention and assist people affected by HIV/AIDS.




Hip Hop Boosts Its Cred

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Danielle Egan

(Sept. 9, 2005) Hip-hop music has been dominated for the past few years by chart-topping neo-gangsta rappers who brag about their bullet scars while flashing enough diamonds to feed an African village. But this incredibly diverse urban-music genre is everywhere, cropping up in United Nations summits as well as suburban basements. And here in Van City, two events are set to inject bling-free, not-so-mean streets credibility back into the scene. The 604 Hip-Hop Expo, Canada's biggest urban-music celebration, returns this week after a hiatus in 2004. Local promoter Sean Lalla says he's "beyond happy to be overwhelmed with calls and e-mails" from artists and fans. "The Vancouver hip-hop scene is less healthy here than a couple of years ago," Lalla notes. "The Rascalz and Swollen Members showed Vancouver to the world, but that momentum didn't carry." One challenge is the lack of infrastructure. "Toronto has a lot of all-ages venues so hip-hop is exposed to kids. Here, everybody gets a late start and most artists haven't achieved mainstream success." The Expo will highlight the nation's underground scene with Clash: Canada's Biggest Hip-Hop Battle. This all-ages competition at the Vogue Theatre draws rookie DJs, MCs, beatboxers, break-dancing B-boys and graffiti artists together with world-class pros like Fight Club champ MC Jin. Ty-C will be back to defend the title he won in 2003. "I'm expecting politicking from the get-go," the local rapper says about this unscripted "freestyle" event, in which competitors go head-to-head, attacking each others' appearance, rhyming and scene cred with "banging punchlines."

The Expo is also running Learn On, a free workshop with industry panellists like Kemo of The Rascalz and Swollen Members' Rob The Viking. And concerts throughout the week will showcase big names like ?uestlove from The Roots and old-school Canadian rapper Maestro Fresh Wes. "We want to expose hip-hop to people who don't like 50 Cent or Kanye West," Lalla says. "But more importantly, artists need to support each other and create a community. We have a lot to learn." Hip-hoppers can learn about global communities in the second annual Vancouver International Hip Hop Film Festival (from Sept. 15 at Harbour Centre). The festival will showcase artists from Cuba to Israel to Canada, including K'naan, the Toronto-based artist who fled Somalia at the age of 14. Other films explore the impact of Jamaican music, New York graffiti artists, sneakers and world politics on hip-hop. Festival director Karl-André St. Victor acknowledges that "Vancouver is a hard market. It's tough getting sponsors and venues. People need to get it out of their heads that hip-hop is a savage movement." Meanwhile, hip-hop film crews from Vancouver and Montreal are heading to Johannesburg, Mexico and Wales this fall and winter to "break the stereotypes and commercialization and let people see the positive, inclusive force of hip-hop and its social value as a global political movement," St. Victor says. The 604 Hip-Hop Expo takes place Sept. 11 to 18 at various venues; see The Vancouver International Hip Hop Film Festival runs Sept. 15 to 18 at Harbour Centre, 515 W. Hastings St. See




Feds Re-Open 1994 Tupac Shakur Shooting Seeking Clues In Rapper's Murder

Excerpt from - By Nolan Strong

(Sept. 13, 2005) The unsolved shooting at Quad Studios in New York in 1994 involving Tupac Shakur has been reopened, anonymous law enforcement officials revealed to Sources stated the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York has reopened the case to see if the shooting was somehow connected to Shakur's death in 1996 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Shakur was shot 5 times in the lobby of Quad Recording Studios in November of 1994, after being invited to the studio to record. In December of 1994 Shakur was charged with sexually assaulting a woman in a New York hotel room. Shakur denied the charges but was found guilty and sentenced to prison in February of 1995. The rapper recovered from his gunshot wounds and signed with Death Row Records in October 1995 while serving his time. On September 7, 1996, Shakur was gunned down in Las Vegas, Nevada following a Mike Tyson fight. On September 13, Shakur died from his injuries. No one has been arrested for the murder of Shakur. A number of theories exist and according to sources, law enforcement officials are investigating if the shootings were connected. "They are investigating the Quad shooting and other unsolved murders related to the Hip-Hop business," the source told "No one was killed in the Quad incident, so that aspect is dead as an investigation. But what they are investigating is the shooting's connection to Tupac's murder in Las Vegas."

The source stated that a big focus of the investigation is Jimmy "Henchmen" Rosemond. Rosemond currently acts as manager for superstar rapper The Game, R&B singer Sharissa and R&B crooner Mario Winans through his New York based company, Czar Entertainment.  Rosemond and Shakur were known associates. In published interviews before his untimely demise, Shakur said that he met Rosemond while attempting to earn money by doing guest appearances on various rapper's songs when he was strapped for money due to a myriad of legal issues. The relationship immediately soured after Shakur was shot in the lobby of Quad Studios, with a number of Hip-Hop heavyweights present, including Sean "Diddy" Combs, Christopher "Notorious B.I.G." Wallace, Lil' Cease, Andre Harrell and others. Shortly afterwards in published interviews and on commercially released recordings, Shakur accused Sean "Diddy" Combs, Notorious B.I.G., Rosemond and others of directly or indirectly being involved in the robbery and subsequent shooting. On the legendary hit song "Hit 'Em Up," Shakur took many enemies to task and called most out by name. Shakur rapped: "Promised a payback, Jimmy Henchmen in due time/I knew you bi**h ni**az was listening/The World is Mine/Set me up, wet me up, ni**az stuck me up/Heard the guns bust, but you tricks never shut me up/Touch one of mine on everything I own I'll destroy everything you touch/play the game ni**a." Rosemond denied Shakur's allegations and stated that an investigation would yield little, because he is innocent. "It's a shame that after 11 years of the Quad shooting and nine years after Tupac's death people would still circulate my name in the nonsense," Rosemond told "I support any investigation into both incidents, in fact I would finance the investigation so the truth can come out. Tupac was a very good friend of mine and it hurts me deeply that there are people out there (including people in jail) that would like to assassinate my character and make me hip hop's villain." A simple search of Henchmen's name on the internet returns thousands of results, most connecting him or accusing him of being behind the Quad shooting along with Jacques "Haitian Jack" Agnant and Walter "King Tut" Johnson, who is currently serving time in federal prison. "I won't be anyone's scapegoat or anyone's 'get out of jail' free card, Rosemond said. "I stand behind my integrity and veracity that I have built in this business for 12 years. My contribution to Hip-Hop and the music business can't be torn down by rumours nor hearsay. I pray for the Shakur family and for justice at the same time." Representatives for the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York were unavailable to comment due to the pending investigation. 




Harpist Jeff Majors releases 'Sacred Chapter 6'

Excerpt from

(Sept. 9, 2005) Music One/Sony Urban Gospel recording artist Jeff Majors releases his sixth CD from the Sacred  Series Brand Sacred Chapter 6 in stores  September 20.  Sacred Chapter 6 is the  mid-point in his evolving 12-part Sacred Series.   The latest CD features guest performances  by gold and platinum-selling superstar Kelly Price, traditional Gospel great,  Dottie Peoples, and cutting-edge,  hip-hop rappers, Gospel Gangstaz.  The first single, “God’s Gift,” featuring Kelly  Price is a soulful, impassioned performance  testifying to the universally, unchanging value  and worth of every human being in God’s creation.  “That song was just meant for Kelly,” says Jeff,  “and she took it exactly where it needed to go.   When she began to sing it in the studio, you  could almost hear the instrumental tracks breath  a sigh of relief, as if they were saying, `Thank  you, Kelly, for singing this song.’ It was an  anointed gift.”  “God’s Gift” was the most  added song at R&R the week ending August 26, surpassing Kirk Franklin,  Keith “Wonderboy” Johnson, Shekinah  Glory Ministry and Marvin Sapp.

Jeff Majors, a native of Washington, D.C., spent  part of his youth living and studying in a monastery.   His spiritual journey later led him to ordination as  a minister in the Pentecostal Church at age 19,  though by that time his ministry, and ever-evolving  awareness of his own spirituality, had found its  most meaningful expression in music.   He had been first drawn to the harp in his mid-teens,  when he saw and heard himself in a dream, playing  the instrument to “chase away demons.”  He shared  his vision with the owner of a D.C. music store who,  completely unexpectedly, actually custom-built  a small harp for Jeff.  “An inexpressible, divine  communication occurs when I’m playing the  harp.  Music is from and of God,” he says.    In addition top-billed performances in churches,  auditoriums, and concert halls throughout the  United States and around the world, Jeff has  recently partnered with the American Cancer  Society and other charitable organizations to  share his music with the sick and suffering in  hospitals, clinics, half-way houses, and  drug rehabilitation centers. 

Sacred Chapter 6 and “The Sacred Series” have  come to comprise a significant number of musical  forms and genres, but always with that  consciousness of praise and worship  in the mind. 




Cast Of Heavyweights Featured On Sharissa’s New Album

Excerpt from  - Kevin Jackson

(Sept. 8, 2005) Jamaican born rhythm and blues singer Sharissa has recruited a cast of heavy weights for her upcoming album on Virgin Records, Every Beat of My Heart. The album which is due for release later this month, features collaborations with R. Kelly, Wyclef Jean, R&B singer Tank, controversial rapper The Game and 1970’s rhythm and blues singer Millie Jackson.  A lot of heat is going to be on this album.  I tell you, it’s going to be blazing. It’s my second album and I am now signed to Virgin Records. I am so excited but at the same time I am trying to stay focused with my eye on the prize,’ Sharissa said in an interview on the white carpet at the 2005 MTV Video Music Awards held in Miami. Every Beat of My Heart examines the joys and perils of inner city life and love. ‘This album is a diary of my life,' said Sharissa. Her 2002 debut album No Half Steppin' (Motown Records) featured the BET rotated hit single Any Other Night.  I didn't talk about anything that I haven't experienced. I've been through it all and these songs have given me an opportunity to reflect on my life and learn from my mistakes’. Lending their production talent to the album are Wyclef Jean, Mario Winans, Tank, Tim & Rob, R Kelly and Eddie F. The first single from the musical autobiography is a mid-tempo duet In Love with a Thug which features R. Kelly, conflicting confessional by a woman lamenting about the repercussions of falling in love with a drug dealer. I admit that I have always loved tough guys, but I've realized that most of their characteristics and emotions are a facade because it's part of their survival. Now that I've matured, I know better and my priorities are different,’ she revealed. Asked how she got R Kelly involved with the project, Sharissa said ‘My manager Jimmy Henchmen said that R Kelly should be on the track and he made it happen. When Robert heard the song, he said he wanted to be on it.’

The track Take Me as I Am features Wyclef Jean while I’m Heat features rapper The Game. The track I'm Through which samples the Bobby Womack hit I’m Through Trying to Prove My Love to You is a duet with Millie Jackson. Raised in the Bronx in New York, Sharissa's musical tastes were influenced by her mother’s passion for acts such as the Sugar Hill Gang, Stephanie Mills, The Emotions and Denise Williams. At the age of seven, the diminutive songbird's vocals permeated her neighbourhood street corners where she engaged in ciphers with local lyricists belting the Stephanie Mills classic Something in the Way He Makes Me Feel.  'My father called me 'Lil' Stevie’ one day,' recalls Sharissa. 'After receiving his vote of confidence there was no stopping' me.' Despite her youth, the songstress developed a cult following in her Edenwald Projects neighbourhood luring crowds with her soulful timbre. Like most singers, Sharissa once sang in a local church choir. Later on she would join a local R&B band. It was among her peers that she coupled her vocal prowess with the beat of percussions. "I was the Sheila E of the band," she states. "It was the easiest instrument for me to play.' Although those musical experiences prepared her for the musical path that she would follow, it was her stomping grounds, schooling and experiences, that has made her eager to reach out to young women in her songs. 'When I was 13, my boyfriend at the time was killed,' Sharissa recalled. 'I don't want to be preachy, but if someone can learn from my mistakes, then I've done my job. I hope that my songs will help young girls from the ghetto to believe that they have better options than the ones society offers them. It took me a long time to learn that living the fast life, chasing money and men, rarely offers you a second chance. It's about self-love and humanity.' She added, 'I grew up in the projects in Bronx and I am not supposed to even be here right now. That’s the system they try to put us in. I fought really hard to get here. As long as you want it, you will get it. I went from the Bronx to Miami and now I am at the MTV Video Music Awards. Can you believe it? God is good.’

Sharissa says she hopes that women who listen to her music will take heed to the message. 'I believe that when you try to be something that you’re not, people can see that it’s not real. That's how I feel about my music – I can't be anybody else because I'm not telling anyone else’s story but mine. My goal is to share my heart and mind and hope it reaches someone.'




Review: U2 Running On Charity

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Ben Rayner, Pop Music Critic

(Sep. 13, 2005) How to reconcile the U2 question?  They're one of the difficult cases, those earnest, but even earnestly adored Irish lads.  They've proven themselves capable of wonderful things — specifically: War, The Unforgettable Fire, Achtung Baby, Zooropa and about three-quarters of The Joshua Tree — and of being the rare breed of superstar act that can lead the mainstream into brave new directions. But they've produced exactly one great song ("Beautiful Day") in the eight years since the widely unloved Pop forced a sudden circling of the creative wagons and a regression to tried-and-true (and increasingly obvious) U2-isms past on All That You Can't Leave Behind and this year's How To Dismantle an Atomic Bomb.  They draw from a well of stirring anthems seemingly pre-destined to be bellowed en masse in darkened stadiums but their live show can also be surprisingly thin on content and staid of performance when the singalongs and the mass epiphanies subside.  They — specifically: Bono — have brought the world's attention to a succession of unimpeachable humanitarian causes, but their overwhelming need to share, to love and to heal this troubled global village often has the opposite effect of generating a virulent, mainly Bono-directed strain of misanthropy amongst those of us who innately distrust the self-professed Pure of Heart.  That, of course, will be complete sacrilege to the more than 18,000 revellers who took in U2 at the Air Canada Centre last night, with three more Toronto sell-outs to come. Still, while perfectly choreographed, designed (that lighting rig!) and played, about half the show seemed beneath the rock 'n' roll station we accord U2.  The band, I think, knows it's not kicking like it once did. "We're just getting started. This whole band is just getting started," Bono said early in the two-hour-plus set, while the pre-show PA flaunted U2's continued virility by playing hot-stuff Montrealais The Arcade Fire's Funeral in apparent entirety.  U2 began with a volley of fiery guitar cuts designed to remind us of their youthful post-punk credentials. Trouble was, the new opener, "Vertigo," came across as much more calculatedly "raw" than the pair of prematurely stadium-worthy near-punk chestnuts, Boy's "I Will Follow" and October's "The Electric Co.," penned 25 years ago. Next came the recent Tomb Raider soundtrack song, "Elevation," which is only less elevating now the band makes you wait even longer for its "ooh-hoo-woo" explosions and only made the drift more depressing.

The classics are undeniable. "Beautiful Day," "Pride (In the Name of Love)," "Where the Streets Have no Name," "One" and the rest of the canon would ring out like hymns even if Bono didn't make a point of saying "Let's go to church" during "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Yet, apart from some down-and-dirty noise jamming on "Bullet the Blue Sky" — now the unlikely highlight of U2's past three tours — there was surprisingly little electric alchemy evident in the musicianship. And the lack of fire glared brighter when there was much less crowd noise to paper over the diminished songwriting impact of Bomb numbers like "Miracle Drug," "Love and Peace or Else" and "Sometimes You Can't Make it on Your Own" (which squeaks by because Bono wrote it for his recently deceased father).  The politics are right on, at least, from the "Co-Exist" headband Bono wore over his eyes during "Sunday Bloody Sunday" and rightly assessed as "a beautiful, simple thought" to his urgings to the crowd to ring up Paul Martin on their cellphones and remind him of his professed commitment to foreign aid.  "Seven per cent (of the GNP) is a Canadian invention (by Lester) Pearson. It's a great idea. We look to Canada to lead, not to follow."  It would be nice, however, to see the resultant self-importance shored up once again with a musical campaign we could get behind as easily.




George Canyon Dominates Canadian Country Music Awards

Canadian Press  - By Judy Monchuk

(Sept. 13, 2005) Calgary — George Canyon's country dreams became a sparkling reality Monday as he stole the Canadian Country Music Awards show. The Nova Scotia-born singer, who had given himself no chance of winning anything, won four major awards, including the fan's choice as top entertainer. “You have to excuse me -- I have something in my eye,” an emotional Canyon said as he wiped away tears and the crowd of 7,000 roared its approval.  Canyon, named rising star at the CCMAs a year ago, appeared stunned as the awards piled up.  “It was like I was watching someone else's life unfold,” a red-eyed Canyon said backstage. “But I think I'll continue to take it all in.” The lanky 34-year-old catapulted to fame 18 months ago as runner-up on the American country talent show Nashville Star after 14 years of struggling for recognition. “I think George has proven he's not just another talent show winner,” said host Paul Brandt, who won best album and top video honours for Convoy, where Canyon played a state trooper who eventually locks up Brandt and his renegade trucker buddies. The native of New Glasgow, N.S., also won top male artist, single and songwriter for My Name, co-written with Cape Breton's Gordie Sampson.  “This song wasn't supposed to be a single, it was written to help a friend of mine who had suffered a miscarriage,” Canyon said, later adding that the couple now have a healthy baby boy. The emotional ballad struck a chord with parents across North America and as far away as Australia sending thousands of e-mails to the lantern-jawed Canyon at his ranch sough of Calgary.

Prior to the awards, Canyon suggested his chances of picking up anything were zero and added he felt the top entertainer award should be renamed for the exuberant Terri Clark, who has won it the last four years. Clark didn't go home empty-handed -- the native of Medicine Hat, Alta., was named female artist of the year despite releasing only a greatest hits package in 2004. “I want to dedicate this to the memory of my grandmother, who started this whole family singing thing,” said Clark.  The truck driving country rock of Jason McCoy's Road Hammers picked up just one of the six awards they were nominated for: best group. But they didn't have any complaints. “This has been a Cinderella year,” said guitarist Clayton Bellamy, who spent years on the honky tonk circuit before striking musical gold with McCoy in the boisterous, hard-driving Road Hammers. “They're bringing out the inner wacky in me,” said McCoy, who has been better known as a more serious artist. “This whole thing has been about having fun.” The two-hour show, broadcast on CBC, featured a whirlwind of live performances switching through six stages at the Pengrowth Saddledome. It was tape delayed on CMT and also shown to audiences in the U.S. and AustraliaAmanda Wilkinson, who won an armful of CCMAs and other awards while fronting the family trio the Wilkinsons with her father and brother, won the rising star award for her solo work.

“This is freakin' crazy,” said an emotional Wilkinson, holding back tears. “I thank God for blessing me with such an amazing family who have supported me through everything.” The Corb Lund Band, the Edmonton-based roots rockers, won top roots group and independent group of the year. Shania Twain's Greatest Hits was the top selling album in Canada. Aaron Pritchett of Langley, B.C., was named independent male artist, Edmonton's Lisa Hewitt was independent female artist and Johnny Reid's You Still Own Me was best independent song for the native of Glasgow, ScotlandBrandt led a tribute set to Alberta's centennial that included a performance by the province's legendary singing cowboy, Ian Tyson. Singer-songwriter Gary Fjellgaard was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame for a lifetime of songs that celebrated the independent cowboy spirit while capturing images of the windswept prairies.  Singer-songwriter Carolyn Dawn Johnson of Deadwood, Alta., who opened the show with Simple Life and had four nominations, did not win any awards.





Little X Directs Video For R Kelly’s Reggae Track

Excerpt from - By Kevin Jackson

(Sept. 8, 2005) Caught up with music video director Little X backstage at the MTV Video Music Awards last Sunday night and he was in high spirits about the video for R Kelly’s reggae flavoured single “Slow Wine,” which he recently finished.  “It’s a nice video and the song is a big record.  He is singing about being in Jamaica. In the video, it’s like we are in Jamaica, but we are not exactly in Jamaica. R Kelly goes to a party, he is performing and singing to the ladies about the way they move their bodies, the way they wind their waist. It’s a fun video,” Little X explained. Little X also hinted at plans for a movie project that he will be directing. “It’s in the pipeline, but I am taking my time putting it together,” he said. Little X, who is of Caribbean decent resides between New York and Canada. He has worked on a few reggae/dancehall videos including Sean Paul’s “Gimmie the Light” and “I’m Still in Love With You,” Wayne Wonder’s “No Letting Go,” and Shaggy’s “Wild 2 Nite,” featuring Olivia.

Ced to host AMAs

Excerpt from

(Sept. 8, 2005) *Cedric “The Entertainer” has been tapped to host the 33rd annual “American Music Awards,” scheduled to air live on ABC as a three-hour prime-time special on Nov. 22, from 8-11 p.m. ET/PT.   A total of 21 publicly voted awards will be presented in eight categories – Pop/Rock, Country, Soul/Rhythm & Blues, Rap/Hip-Hop, Adult Contemporary, Latin Music, Contemporary Inspirational and Alternative Music. Nominations will be announced Sept. 20.

Destiny’s Child Bids Farewell

Excerpt from

(Sept. 13, 2005) *“We don't want to get too mushy,” Beyonce Knowles told the crowd gathered to see her group Destiny’s Child on Sunday in Vancouver B.C.  “Destiny's Child started when we were nine years old. This isn't something somebody put together. This is love."  The singer and her group mates, Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, announced back in June that they would retire following the final show of their current Destiny Fulfilled…And Lovin’ It world tour.  Sunday’s stop north of the border marked the end of the road, which came with some emotional parting words from the trio. "I love you B. I love you Michelle," Kelly said to her bandmates in tears. *Meanwhile, the ladies are denying recent claims from Beyonce’s man Jay-Z that the group will make a comeback 18 months after their breakup later this month.  A rep said: "For now they're finished - concentrating on their solo careers. They have always said never say never but there are no plans to reform at the moment."  As previously reported, Jay-Z told Billboard last week that the group was planning a return to the limelight in 2006.

Harvey’s Radio Return Official

Excerpt from

(Sept. 9, 2005) *As tipped here last month, Steve Harvey will make his return to the nation’s radio airwaves in a brand new show to be carried by Clear Channel. "I can't wait to get back on the air and back to my fans. I promise a radio show that will be huge," Harvey said of “The Steve Harvey Show,” which will originate from WBLS-FM in New York, and will also be carried on WSRB-FM and WYRB-FM Chicago, during the daily morning-drive.  One of the original Kings of Comedy, Harvey’s resume includes the films "You Got Served" and "Johnson Family Vacation," his own television series "The Steve Harvey Show" and the serving as the host of "It's Showtime at the Apollo." In 2000, Harvey hosted the #1 radio show in the Los Angeles market, "The Steve Harvey Morning Show" on 100.3 FM The Beat. His new daily radio show will showcase Steve's natural comedic talents with compelling features, rotating characters and unfettered celebrity access "Steve Harvey has demonstrated his ability to produce compelling radio time and again," said Tom Owens, executive vice president of new content development for Clear Channel Radio. "We're excited Steve has chosen Clear Channel and Premiere to partner with him in making this outstanding morning-drive product available nationally."  

Seven Jazz Legends To Be Honoured By U.S. Arts Body

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Sept. 13, 2005) Washington -- Seven jazz legends are being recognized by the U.S. government for their achievements. Singer Tony Bennett, keyboardist Chick Corea and trumpeter Freddie Hubbard are among those named Jazz Masters by the National Endowment for the Arts and awarded $25,000 (U.S.) fellowships. The other recipients are percussionist Ray Barretto, composer Bob Brookmeyer, clarinetist Buddy DeFranco and New Orleans-born manager John Levy, honoured as a jazz advocate. "Jazz is one of the great, truly native American art forms," said the endowment's head, Dana Gioia. AP





Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Charlie Wilson, Charlie, Last Name Wilson, Jive
Lil' Kim, Naked Truth, Atlantic
Santana, All That I Am, Arista
Tracy Chapman, Where You Live, Atlantic
Warren G, In the Mid-Nite Hour, Lightyear

Tuesday September 20, 2005

2Pac, Poetry and Music, Vol. 2, Koch
Cissy Houston, Cissy Houston Collection, Compendia
EARTH, WIND & FIRE Illumination (Sanctuary Records)
George Clinton, Best of George Clinton Live, Compendia
Ghostface, Raw Footage, Fastlife
JAMIROQUAI Dynamite (Sony/BMG)
Killer Mike, Ghetto Extraordinary, Sony
Latoya London, Love and Life, Peak
Les Nubians, Nubians Presents Echos, Triloka
Master P, Greatest Hits Re-Mixed, Koch
SHAGGY Clothes Drop (Universal)







K'naan: Working On A Film About His Struggle To Get To Canada

Excerpt from The Toronto Star —  Ben Rayner

performs this afternoon alongside Masia One, Gordie Sampson, Ron Sexsmith and Steven Page as part of the Toronto International Film Festival's Canadian Music Cafe concert series. Sets run from 2-5 p.m. at Sassafraz Cafe's Jitterbug Perfume Lounge  in Yorkville.

K'NAAN, Somali-born, Toronto-based rapper

Q: Name the last movie you saw.

A: A Time for Drunken Horses. I re-rented it.

Q: Do you have a favourite movie?

A: Not one. I've got quite a few. But My Left Foot is great, and Rabbit-Proof Fence is another.

Q: Do you have a favourite film score or soundtrack?

A: The soundtrack for Ali. It was scored by Lisa Gerrard (of Dead Can Dance). She's an Australian woman, but she used a lot of a Somali singer named Salif Keita and her music and his songs are intertwined with a lot of American modern sounds.

Q: Have you had any personal experience working in film?

A: No, but I am working on a project right now. It's actually based on my life, my growing up. The film is called The River of Blood. It's a flashback film about my career here as an artist and my struggle to get here as an artist and a human. It finds a way to tap into my whole society. It's really a film about our whole people rather than just me, but it's my story that kind of brings it about. Right now, it's kind of brand new and we're in development, but there's quite a lot of people who we're meeting with at this festival who are showing interest at this time.

Q: Musicians turned actors. Bad idea?

A: When they're good, I think it's great. But when they're not good, I don't think it makes a statement about musicians who are actors because I do think — especially with people who write their own material — there's a natural way that they develop the art of acting and performing. For me, I know the way I perform onstage every night is I have to relive the experiences that I talk about so there is a level of dramatic acting I have to have to be able to tap into those moments of tragedy without hurting myself.

Q: Actors turned musicians. Worse idea?

A: I think that's a problem.

Q: Finally, name one movie star who'll reduce you to gibbering fanhood if you run into him/her at the festival?

A: That I would become like that around? Honestly, I'd be lying if I said there was. I don't have that personality. It's not arrogance, it's just the way I am as a person. But let me say, there are people I would love to meet just to say "hello."




Camera Rolls As Angels From T.O. Bring Hope, Supplies To Cambodia

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Christian Cotroneo, Staff Reporter

(Sep. 9, 2005) It's not uncommon to find children hiding beneath the rumbling trucks that cross Cambodia's border with Thailand.  As the hulks roll through no man's land — a strip of war-scorched earth between the two Asian countries — the children often slip underneath to sneak a ride.  They hope to smuggle T-shirts and other supplies back to Cambodia.  Sometimes the tires catch up to them. But rarely is a Toronto emergency response team on hand when it happens.  "This little girl got run over by (a truck), it just snapped her leg in half," recalls Rahul Singh. A paramedic, Singh was leading a delegation of Toronto volunteers to Cambodia in January, 2005, bringing much-needed medical supplies, skills and training to the region.  "That was on our first day," the 34-year-old says.  The team members didn't hesitate, jumping a fence under the eye of machine-gun-toting border police and strapping the injured girl to a plank.  "She was 9, but she looked like she was 4," Singh recalls. "That's how malnourished and small she was. And her leg was literally at a 90-degree angle."  They raced her to a children's hospital on the back of a pickup truck, where she was X-rayed and treated.  It would have been one more instance of anonymous heroics — typical of what Singh's charity, the David McAntony Gibson Foundation, has been doing in regions around the world since 1998.

But this time around, the visitors brought a video camera. And this weekend, the Toronto paramedic, who founded his mission after his best friend Gibson died of liver failure, has a new identity as an indie filmmaker.  Cambodia: Peace by Piece, debuts Sunday night at Rebelfest, a five-day Toronto festival of independent features and shorts in its second year.  The documentary begins with a drop of kindness in a nation long parched for it — and traces the ripples.  In focusing on the team's efforts in Cambodia, the film can't help but capture "the genocide, the poverty, the landmines, the child prostitution, all of it," says Singh. "It's just a movie designed to tell people what really happens."  The history of Cambodia, a nation of more than 12 million, reads like a catalogue of brutality.  The Khmer Rouge, a notoriously violent Communist insurgency, wrested power from the government in 1975. The first order of business? Order all towns and cities to be evacuated.  It seemed more like a liquidation, costing the lives of more than two million people, either by execution or by the rigours of war and displacement.  Neighbouring Vietnam invaded in 1978, forcing the Khmer Rouge into the country's interior — and sparking 13 more years of fighting.  The Khmer's influence began to fade in the early 1990s, thanks in part to U.N.-sponsored elections, and by 1998, a coalition government forced its remaining members to surrender. But Cambodia is still oppressed by the tyranny of its past. The land is sown with an estimated three million mines.  "They put the goddamn landmines in farmers' fields," Singh says. "The people just can't move on."

Last January, his organization sent a team of 13 volunteers from Toronto to northwestern Cambodia: eight paramedics, three police officers, a firefighter and a physiotherapist. All of them paid their own expenses and used vacation time from work.  The mission, their fourth in Cambodia, reads like a catalogue of kindness: They delivered $300,000 in medical supplies, more than 1,000 boxes of consumable medicines, 162,500 nutritional bars to orphanages and schools, 4,500 books and 30 computers.  The team also built a clinic in Roka, a town of 9,700. Previously, the residents in need of medical care "had to spend the equivalent of a week's worth of wages, just in travel," Singh says.  While Singh, along with the film's co-creators Amir Azimi and Karl Kabasele, will be soaking up a cinema high this weekend, his heart will never stray far from the lows of the real world.  Next, he'll lead missions to Angola and Sri Lanka, then Cambodia again in February — and continue his filmmaking. In Sri Lanka, he says, "I'm going to make a movie on the life of a child soldier. I have a feeling it's going to be the last time I'm allowed in the country."

Cambodia: Peace by Piece screens at 6:30 p.m. at Innis College on the University of Toronto campus (corner of St. George and Sussex). For more information on the Gibson foundation, visit




Virgo's Taboos

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Johanna Schneller

(Sept. 9, 2005) On Wednesday, when I found myself asking Canadian writer-director Clement Virgo, "So, were the erections in the sex scenes" -- the many, many sex scenes -- "in your film Lie With Me real or prosthetic?" I knew the Toronto International Film Festival had begun. Already I'd seen Cate Blanchett and Dustin Nguyen necking naked in the shower in Little Fish, Viggo Mortensen and Maria Bello engaged in decidedly ungenteel married sex in The History of Violence, and Colin Firth, Kevin Bacon and Rachel Blanchard having a full-frontal threesome in Where the Truth Lies. This year is shaping up to be, as one colleague put it, the Toronto International Phallus Festival, with as much male flesh on display as in an NFL locker room. Lie With Me, though, has more sex than most -- enough frequent, sweaty, unfaked-looking lovemaking to prompt some critics to call it porn. Virgo disagrees. "Porn doesn't have any Hitchcock in it," he said over lunch in Kensington Market, a Toronto neighbourhood featured in his movie. "Porn is never about suspense. I was trying to create as much emotional suspense as possible." His intention was to chart a couple's falling in love, not through walks or candlelit dinners, but the way it actually happens for attractive, urban twentysomethings, such as the film's Leila and David (Lauren Lee Smith and Eric Balfour) -- through sex. "I didn't make this movie to shock," Virgo said. "But people today don't meet someone, spend four months dating, then have sex. You have sex, then you get to know them." So his film "was about capturing something simple and honest, and not being coy. I made up my mind that if I was going to make this movie, I was going to go all the way. As opposed to making sure the sheets covered the breasts just so." Virgo moved to Toronto from Jamaica and studied at the Canadian Film Centre before making his first feature, Rude, in 1995. (His latest was 2000's Love Come Down.) To him, too many sex scenes in North American movies are either dropped into genre films -- as he put it, "Let's stop the movie and show the girl's breasts" -- or played for laughs ("Guys having sex with pies"), or unpleasant. "In a movie such as [the 2001 British film] Intimacy, it's almost a badge of honour that 'this is not for your pleasure.' They want to show how messed up these people are.

"But lately films out of Europe, South America and Asia are dealing with sex more frankly: Y Tu Mama Tambien, Sex and Lucia, 9 Songs. I thought, 'Let me explore that last taboo.' " Two taboos, really. There's the obvious one of nude male arousal. "An erect penis is still pretty threatening," Virgo admitted. "Maybe it's just about size -- guys don't want to compare. Or maybe there's the sense that, if it's erect, something has to be done about it. Like, if you show a gun in the first reel, it has to go off by the end." He laughed. "Maybe we don't want to see it go off." Then there's the subtler taboo of assertive female sexuality. Leila is out there: She masturbates to porn, has sex with guys whose names she does not know, even screws one man outside a nightclub for the entertainment of another. "I think female desire is endlessly fascinating," Virgo said. "It's a mystery for a lot of men. There's a sense that women have a secret society, that they talk about things amongst themselves, but we don't get access to that secret. A lot of guys are still shocked that a woman wants it just as much as they do. In most films, a woman is punished for that -- she ends up crazy or committing suicide or getting someone killed. But this character is not afraid of her sexuality. I really wanted her story to have a positive ending." He co-wrote the script with his girlfriend, Tamara Faith Berger (they're expecting their first baby soon), based on her novel of the same name. They shot for 20 days in July, 2004, on a $2.3-million budget, and for the love scenes, used the smallest possible crew, only Virgo, a cameraman and a soundman. "I never said, 'This is what I want you to do physically.' I said, 'This is what the character's going through emotionally at this moment,' " Virgo said. "And we all said, 'Whatever happens stays with us.' We're not going to tell people how we got to what's on screen." He hopes casting the L.A.-based Balfour (he played Lauren Ambrose's troubled boyfriend on Six Feet Under) will help sell it in the United States -- preferably this week at TIFF. He knows it will be rated NC-17. (Atom Egoyan's new film Where the Truth Lies earned that for a single, much tamer scene.) Because no one is more scared of an erect penis than the Motion Picture Association of America. "I never worried about whether Eric was going to be there" -- that is, fully erect -- "or not," Virgo said. "If he was, fine; if not, fine." So, not prosthetic, then. Virgo laughed hard. "I can't imagine how anyone would shoot a stunt penis."




Trial by Water

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Susan Walker, Entertainment Reporter

(Sep. 8, 2005) "Did you cry?" Deepa Mehta wants to know.  The director of Water says she still cries, even though she's seen her film many times.  After 10 years, from conception through a cancelled production in India to a successful shoot in Sri Lanka, Water is now outside her, up on the screen.  The movie opens the Toronto International Film Festival tonight with a gala screening at Ryerson Theatre.  Mehta was in the Indian holy city of Varanasi when she saw a Hindu woman "bent like a shrimp, her body wizened with age, white hair shaved close to her scalp" looking for something she'd lost on the steps of the Ganges.  This sight gave her the idea for what was to become the Indian-born director's eighth feature film.  It is an 8-year-old girl, her head shaved to the scalp in one of the opening scenes, that is likely to become the indelible image for viewers of Water.  The child does not even recall the marriage to her much older husband, who has just died.  She has no concept of widowhood before she's placed in an ashram full of white-gowned, cloistered widows, some of them very old.  Originally a girl in India played the part. But after extremist Hindu protestors wrecked the set in Varanasi in 2000, the production was shut down.  Water was finally made in 2004 in Sri Lanka.  In Sri Lanka, Mehta auditioned girls in the south coast village of Galle to find her Chuyia, the child widow. Sarala, now 9, could speak neither English nor Hindi. She had never acted before.  "I had to learn Sinhalese, and I became very good at sign language," says Mehta, relaxed and happy now, and conducting interviews in her midtown back garden.  "But she's such a bright kid that it was a cinch. She's an intelligent, intense child."  Nothing from the aborted two-day shoot in India remained in the film, she says. "The first scene we shot was of the little girl having her head shaved. She's 12 now."  Based in Toronto, but frequently found in India, where her parents live, Mehta may be the only living filmmaker to have had herself burned in effigy.  Such rage has been aroused by two of the three films in her Fire, Earth and Water trilogy, that her name is enough to inflame radical religious factions.

With Water, she says, "They (fundamentalist Hindus) didn't know what it was really about. They felt that in some way Hindu widows really have an opportunity to do something good by becoming segregated. By questioning that, I'm (considered to be) defaming Hindu culture. It's not true at all because this is not what pure Hinduism is all about."  Nor is it what the movie is about, according to the director.  "The nucleus of Water is the conflict between faith and our conscience," she says. That conflict is most played out in the role of Shakuntala, a quiet widow of middle age played by Seema Biswas, an Indian stage actor, who made her film debut in Bandit Queen.  "I've never worked with such a fine actor in my life," says Mehta, praising her performance as the widow who is the most devout Hindu and also Chuyia's protector.  Chuyia befriends Kalyani, the only widow in the ashram who has retained her long hair. She is played by the gorgeous, Toronto-born Lisa Ray, the star of Mehta's 2002 musical film Bollywood/HollywoodJohn Abraham is Narayan, the Gandhi follower who falls in love with Kalyani.  Abraham holds an M.B.A., and has landed immigrant status in Canada.  He was first spotted in India as a model and is now a huge Bollywood star.  His arrival at the Toronto airport on Monday was no secret to the 50 or 60 teenage girls who came out to greet him with screams of delight.  Mehta won't pretend to be anything but thrilled with the position her film has earned in the Toronto festival.  Water is the favourite of her features, she says, "It the least self-conscious of my films. No pun intended — the trial by fire that I went through in 2000 really cleansed a lot of stuff that I didn't need for the film."  Now that Fox Searchlight has picked up U.S. distribution rights for a spring release, a lot of the anxiety over the film's reception is removed.  Mehta can concentrate on her next script: a drama based on the 1914 Komagata Maru incident. A ship carrying Sikhs from India and Sri Lanka was refused entry into Vancouver.  "It is an amazing story," she says, with a look of excitement over a new creative voyage.

Fun Is Watered Down At Fest's Opening Gala

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Alexandra Gill

(Sept. 9, 2005) The Toronto International Film Festival has certainly seen more buoyant opening nights. At yesterday's gala at Roy Thomson Hall, CBC-Radio celebrity anchor Michael Enright worked the red carpet, urging audience members to write and ask Prime Minister Paul Martin to intervene in the lockout at the public broadcaster. The female cast members of Water all wore white (the colour of mourning in India) to symbolize the plight of Hindu widows that was explored in this controversial gala film. Director Deepa Mehta tried not to cry. "I always cry at the ending," she said, sipping a glass of lemon water during the Astral Media reception before the film. The film, which tells the story of an eight-year-old Hindu widow who is sequestered in an austere ashram with other widows after her husband dies, caused rioting before it was even made.  Hindu fundamentalists threw the film sets into the Ganges River and burned the director in effigy when she first tried to shoot it in India in 2000. The director refused to back down and finished making the film in Sri Lanka.  "It feels like a miracle now that it's finally being screened," explained the Indian-born Canadian director, who began receiving death threats again when it was announced that Water, the third in her "elements" trilogy, would open the festival.

"I had a few anonymous calls. They said it would be a good idea for my health if I did not present the film in Toronto. But they were all very polite. What can you do? I didn't try to make a controversial film." Although you'd never guess it from her calm -- almost sombre -- demeanour, Ms. Mehta said she was anxiously looking forward to watching the film with a public audience for the first time.  "I hope they like it. Cross your fingers for me." Outside Roy Thomson Hall, Mr. Enright bumped into the sister of Richard Stursberg, the executive vice-president of CBC English Television. "She wasn't too happy to see me," Mr. Enright said with a laugh, as he handed out postcards and information sheets about the labour dispute at the CBC, which locked out 5,500 workers on Aug. 14.  (Mr. Stursberg, a regular guest of the festival's opening night, was not seen.) "We're appealing to these people in the cultural industry to help us end the lockout," Mr. Enright said. Yesterday afternoon, the Screen Actors Guild urged its U.S. members to support the locked-out workers by not providing interviews to CBC during the festival. Inside, the only person who seemed truly happy was Mumbai heartthrob John Abraham, who plays a sympathetic lawyer in Water.  One of India's biggest stars, Mr. Abraham was greeted by about 100 screaming fans when he arrived at the Toronto airport.  As he left to introduce the film at an earlier screening, he said he was relieved that there were no mobs last night. "It was surprising. I didn't expect that here."

Lisa Ray, his female co-star, agreed that women in India really do go crazy for him. And what about her? "He's my co-star," she said frostily. "I'll leave it at that." Canadian actress Ellen Dubin wasn't afraid to make her feelings known. "Oh, he's so cute," she said, sighing and fanning herself as Mr. Abraham left the building. "She couldn't take her hands off him last night," laughed Jay Switzer, Ms. Dubin's husband and president of Chum Television. Mr. Switzer acknowledged that he himself was smitten with Ms. Ray when they met the night before at a private barbecue for Mongrel Media.  "I did give her an extended hug," he confessed. Later last night, thousands of festivalgoers gathered for a post-gala party at Liberty Grand. Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer, here for the premiere of Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, held their own private soirée at Pur nightclub.  Dan Ackroyd lit up the Ultra Supper Club. And FQ magazine threw its own festival fête.  Tune in tomorrow for an update on all the late-night naughtiness.




Toronto Director's Right To Bear Arms

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Sep. 10, 2005) CANNES, France—David Cronenberg is standing on the beach at Cannes, his back turned to the azure waters of the Mediterranean and the luxury yachts anchored in the harbour.  It's May, in the middle of the Cannes Film Festival, and tout le monde is partying.  Everyone except Cronenberg, that is. He's talking to an interviewer about guns and violence. The Toronto filmmaker is confessing to having been naive about the extent to which people are willing to carry firearms, especially in America.  "I never saw a pistol or touched a pistol until I did The Dead Zone. Or maybe it was Scanners," he says, referring to two films he made in the early 1980s, when he was still known as Canada's king of horror movies.  "Yes, I remember doing a sound mix for The Dead Zone and every mixer had a pistol in his night table at home. They were just casually talking about it. It was totally normal for them and shocking for me.  "And I was thinking, `Yeah, but what about all those stories of the wife coming up the stairs and you shoot her because you think she's already in bed with you so this must be an intruder?'"  That scary thought sounds like the makings of a Cronenberg film, one with a case of mistaken identity and a violent domestic incident. Something not unlike A History of Violence, Cronenberg's new movie, chosen to have its world premiere in competition in Cannes. (It receives its North American premiere tonight at Roy Thomson Hall, a gala presentation of the Toronto International Film Festival.)  A History of Violence stars Viggo Mortensen as Tom Stall, the proprietor of a diner in a small Indiana town, whose meek image suddenly changes when two armed thugs threaten the lives of his employees. Stall becomes a national folk hero, attracting the attention of smirking Philadelphia mobster Carl (Ed Harris), who insists the quiet man has a past life as a hit man named Joey. This comes as shocking news to Stall, and even more so to his wife Edie (Maria Bello) and their two children.

The idea of someone being other than what he appears to be is a long-standing theme of Cronenberg's. But don't call it an "obsession," a word the 62-year-old director dislikes.  Cronenberg has investigated the perception/reality duality many times in the four decades since he began making films, while still an Honours English student at the University of Toronto. His early movies were radically of the body, featuring creatures and parasites that transformed humans.  Films like Shivers (1975), Rabid (1977), Scanners (1981), The Fly (1986) and Dead Ringers (1988) set new standards for grotesque horror images, earning Cronenberg the nickname "The Baron of Blood." He didn't mind the label one bit, often posing for photo-ops with such eye-grabbing props as a bloody rubber eyeball calmly hanging out of one socket.  In the last 15 years or so, Cronenberg's movies have been more in the mind, where really scary things happen. Films like Naked Lunch (1991), M. Butterfly (1993), eXistenZ (1999), Spider (2002) and now A History of Violence have been more cerebral than corporeal. But they're no less shocking for their relative dearth of terrifying imagery.  The thought arises that it's every bit as difficult to know the real Cronenberg as it is to plumb the psychic depths of his film protagonists. In several days observing the filmmaker in action here, he allows glimpses into three aspects of his personality.  First is the modest Canadian at the beach party, dressed in black T-shirt, sports jacket and blue jeans. He's casual, chatty, charmingly self-deprecating, reminiscing about his first visit to Cannes in the early 1970s, when he couldn't afford a hotel and slept on the office couch of obliging Canadian government bureaucrats. He's at ease hobnobbing on the strand with fellow Canuck directors Atom Egoyan and Stuart Samuels, also at Cannes (and now in Toronto) with new films.

The next day, Cronenberg's a showman, delighting junketing journalists with his photo tricks and outspoken views on violence and sex, things he never tires of talking about or exploring cinematically.  On still another occasion, at an official Cannes press conference following a screening of his film, Cronenberg's in his crotchety professor mode, strenuously arguing against what he takes to be incorrect perceptions of his work.  The director is happy to spill the details of the making of The History of Violence, which he shot last summer in the real town of Millbrook, Ont., evocatively standing in for the mythical town of Millbrook, Ind.  He's comfortable letting slip how much his film cost to make ($32 million U.S.) — "which is for me a huge amount" — and how he did his best to prevent his studio, New Line, from interfering in the casting process. (Cronenberg is famous for turning down movies where the interference was too great — Return of the Jedi, Witness and Basic Instinct 2 among them.)  The director knew a star was needed to help sell A History of Violence, but he didn't want to have someone too high profile to play Tom Stall.  Cronenberg chose Viggo Mortensen for the role of Stall and Maria Bello as his wife because he admires their acting and because they looked like a couple who could have lived together in a small American town for 20 years.  During the roundtable interview, a journalist asks Cronenberg if he's trying to confront the audience with their lust for violence.  "Well, I think I was confronting my own fascination for violence. I'm my first audience, you know? So it's my interest ... certainly, thinking of America."

Later, Cronenberg displays his stern professor side at a press conference following a screening of A History of Violence at the Palais des Festivals.  Press conference moderator Henri Behar is a Cannes institution, the genial chain-smoking host of major news events in the press bunker deep in the Palais. Most directors in Cannes appear to appreciate Behar's opinions. But not Cronenberg, not on this day.  He immediately takes exception to Behar's suggestion that A History of Violence is the most "action-oriented" movie he's ever made.  The director starts rhyming off films of his that had lots of action, like Crash and Scanners.  "I don't really feel I was entering completely new territory," he tells Behar.  Undaunted, Behar persists with his praise, which Cronenberg is not taking well. He bristles when Behar refers to the violent shooting and fighting scenes as "poetic."  "I didn't want it to be poetic and balletic," Cronenberg says. "The things that you're saying make me cringe, because I don't want that to be true....  "It's very efficient; it's quick in the movie. It's quite brutal, the aftermath is quite brutal, and, I have to say, it's a subjective thing."  Cronenberg had earlier commented that making a movie is like having a child, one that goes out in the world and has experiences the parent knows nothing about. He's often surprised by reactions — and not just Behar's — to his movie.  "You can think that you're doing something, you put every effort into it and then you know you're going to be surprised by people's reactions to it. That's the magic and the terror of this art form."

Cronenberg is just as feisty with the journalists. He announces he's tired of being asked about the link between film violence and real violence.  "I find it really kind of a wearying and well-worn subject, not that it's ever been resolved. Do people do violence when they see it on the screen? Do people kill people when they see people kill on the screen? I think if that were true, the world would be depopulated, frankly. So I think evidently it's not true that people just do what they see on screen.  "I think, in fact, that what we did in this movie vis-à-vis violence is ultra responsible, because it's a serious discussion of the nature of violence"  Cronenberg courts controversy by defending sex and violence. There are both in A History of Violence, including one scene that an early test audience wrongly took to be a rape (music and editing have since helped make Cronenberg's rough-but-consensual meaning come through).  "Well, sex and violence have always gone very well together. It's like bacon and eggs ...  "And if you look at the history of cinematic violence, you will see that there's a lot of it. I think there's always a sexual component in violence, and there's a violence component in sexuality.  "To me, that's just a natural thing to explore."




Canadian Films Getting Desperate

Excerpt from The Toronto Star -  Peter Howell, Movie Critic

(Sep. 9, 2005) Ask any Canadian, or astute outsider, to describe our national traits and the answers would invariably be the same.  We Canucks are solid, trustworthy, cheerful (except in winter) and diligent.  We vote Liberal, but we aren't necessarily liberal-minded.  We think Canadian films are worthy, but we rarely go to see them.  We are only slightly dull and just a little smug, especially when talking about Americans.  Until now, there's been one word that couldn't have been used to describe us: desperate.  "Desperate" has always been for other people in other places, where the life is less comfortable and where passions run deeper.  But that's changing, judging by the Canadian films now screening at the 30th edition of the Toronto International Film Festival.  Desperation in all its myriad forms — mental and physical, worldly and spiritual, actual and imagined — is on display in a collection of Canuck offerings by both established and rookie directors that is the strongest in years. There is extreme anxiety in nearly every frame.  It has nothing to do with a certain hit TV series about housewives, though there's a common link with high-stress times. Canadians once felt isolated and insulated from the terrors of the world, but no longer. Especially those living in Toronto, where a summer of gun violence has made our "Toronto the Good" slogan seem like false advertising.  The desperation can be felt most directly in films like Six Figures, the feature debut by Calgary's David Christensen, which marks the steady rise of panic in a man's life.  Warner Lutz (JR Bourne) and his wife Claire (Caroline Cave) are thirtysomething Calgarians with two kids, an old car and a crowded apartment. Warner's new job as a fundraiser isn't going well.  Money was never that important to them, but Claire really wants to buy a house, and so they do — even though they can't afford it, and Warner's probation period has just been extended.

They both want more out of life, but they're thrown a horrifying curve. Claire is viciously attacked and left in a coma. The unhappy Warner becomes a prime suspect, since he once struck Claire. As he professes his innocence and struggles to maintain his sanity, his mother-in-law offers her own damning character assessment: "Nobody knows anybody."  Past crimes being brought home to roost also figure in the main Canuck offering at the fest, David Cronenberg's A History of Violence, one of tomorrow's Gala presentations. Viggo Mortensen plays a man who, like Warner, has put distance between his past and his present. But the past suddenly returns when violent men come to his small town with an old grievance that requires urgent attention.  The past also makes an unhappy return in Atom Egoyan's Where the Truth Lies, in which Kevin Bacon and Colin Firth play 1950s showmen whose comedy duo act is split by the suspicious death of a woman in their hotel room. Come the 1970s, the evaded answers of 15 years earlier become immediate concerns.  Deepa Mehta's Water, last night's Gala festival opener, is set in 1930s India at the momentous juncture between the stifling restrictions of tradition and the liberation offered by Gandhi's social revolution. But for eight-year-old child bride Chuyia (brilliantly rendered by one-named discovery Sarala), existence offers no further horizon than the prison gates of her widow's ashram. Her young life has been declared finished before it had a chance to start; she struggles mightily to prove otherwise.  David Ray's Fetching Cody uses the device of a hobo's whimsical time machine to rewrite history, in the hope of creating a happier ending. Junkies and lovers Art (Jay Baruchel ) and Cody (Sarah Lind) care only about their next handout or hit — until one day when Art find Cody in a coma, nearing death. He repeatedly travels backwards in time, frantically attempting to make the changes needed to prevent catastrophe.  There is slightly less urgency, but no less a feeling of desperation, in Aubrey Nealon's A Simple Curve. Set in B.C.'s magnificent Kootenay region, it examines two visions of the hippie lifestyle, one idyllic and the other hard-nosed. American draft dodger Jim (Michael Hogan) has a talent for making fine furniture, but has not a whit of business sense. His equally talented son Caleb (Kris Lemche) knows a reality check — plus some cheques from customers — is in order if the hippie dream is to survive. Reconciling the whimsical with the practical will require heart-wrenching decisions and choices.  They don't go away even when you run away, as aerobics instructor Michèle (Sylvie Moreau) discovers in Louise Archambault's surprisingly intense debut, Familia, which opens the Canada First! program. Michèle is a chronic gambler and hard-luck mom who figures to escape her debts and her problems by hitting the road with her teenaged daughter. She has plans of mooching off a sister in California, but there will be stops along the way for handouts from other friends and relations.

Michèle is about to learn that she's not alone in her misery, or her frantic desire for a new life.  Desperation is expressed in sexual terms in John Hazlett's These Girls, Clement Virgo's Lie With Me and Dylan Akio Smith's The Cabin Movie, three films guaranteed to have festivalgoers gawking and talking. Women are the aggressors in all three movies.  In These Girls, randy and reckless teens Keira (Caroline Dhavernas), Glory (Amanda Walsh) and Lisa (Holly Lewis) decide to perk up their boring New Brunswick summer by holding married hunk Keith (David Boreanaz) to sexual ransom. They take turns bedding him, threatening to tell his wife and their parents if he doesn't continue his stud service. It seems like a male fantasy come true, but Keith's life is coming undone faster than his zipper.  "A man's got his limits," he tells his seducers. "You've got to understand that."  In Lie With Me, twentysomething Torontonian Leila (Lauren Lee Smith) wants sex and gets plenty of it, but a truly fulfilling relationship exceeds her grasp: "I need to feel myself like I've never felt myself before." (Her self-assessment includes what is sure to be the worst double entendre at the fest: "I think there's something stuck inside of me."  The polar opposite of Leila's problem resides in The Cabin Movie's repressed Katherine (Erin Wells), who has agreed to attend a swinger's weekend at a remote country cabin with her uptight husband Mark (Brad Dryborough). The point of the exercise is to get laid in myriad ways, with two other couples adding the spice, but Mark's libido is locked in neutral. As the situation turns from frustration to farce, Katherine plaintively wails, "Will someone f--k me, please?"  Desperation of a more cerebral kind is explored in Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y., Sean Garritty's Lucid and Denis Côté's Les États nordiques (Drifting States), three movies where all is not quite what it seems.  Montreal suburban kid Zac (Marc-André Grondin) is from a family of five boys, ruled by a macho dad, and he's expected to grow up strong and hetero. But he's not like that at all, being more inclined to swing like David Bowie and the other androgynous rockers of the 1960s and 1970s that captivate him. He prays to God ("Please don't let me be soft") but it doesn't seem to help — and the movie really rocks, incidentally.  Lucid is anything but, at least until the end of this nightmare puzzle. Psycho- therapist Joel Rothman (Jonas Chernick) is be- devilled by a recent marital separation, chronic insomnia and patients who seem to be plotting not only their demise, but also his. He counts sheep but remains wakeful and fretful.

Les États nordiques (Drifting States) depicts a Montreal man named Christian (Christian LeBlanc), who literally goes to the end of civilization to wrestle personal demons. He's had a job caring for his terminally ill mother, but sudden circumstances send him on a 1,500-km trip north to a James Bay community of hydro workers, who warily accept him. Watching him decide what to do next, and knowing just a bit of what he's already done, is as stressful on the viewer as it is on the character.  The desperados of this year's crop of Canadian films are so in tune with the downbeat zeitgeist, they could have their own theme song. It would be penned by Tygh Runyan's depressed folkie in Ann Marie's Fleming's exceedingly black comedy, The French Guy.  The folkie complains about how tough life is ("I just can't seem to get a break") and how his one recent job in advertising was a disaster, due to his bad attitude.  But what if instead his audience had loved him a bit too much?  That's the dilemma facing Matt Murphy's mysterious title character in Michael Mabbott's The Life and Hard Times of Guy Terrifico, a pretty terrific mockumentary that supposes Canadians can be legendary and desperate.  It's a look into the unexplained disappearance — and apparent resurfacing, 30 years later — of a rocker, who in the 1970s raised hell as a combination Gram Parsons and Sid Vicious.  He was a promising tunesmith, remembered well, but not always fondly , by contemporaries Kris Kristofferson, Merle Haggard, Levon Helm and more. Just when it seemed that Guy was about to get his life in order and hit the big-time, he took a powder.  His biggest problem? His music had taken second fiddle to a lewd stage routine that all the audience cared about.  "But Guy Terrifico — who may only be a figment of our fevered imagination — could lay claim to the title of Canada's Most Desperate Man in a very crowded field of contenders at this year's Toronto Film Festival.




Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Gayle Macdonald

(Sept. 10, 2005) In 1988, the director Terry Gilliam took a gamble on anunknown Toronto actress, a then-preteen named Sarah Polley, who played one of his leads, the sprite Sally Salt, in The Adventures of Baron Munchausen. The $40-million film, a bizarre intellectualized fantasy, was largely panned by the critics. But many reviewers took a shine to eight-year-old Polley, who was described glowingly by The Los Angeles Times as “a marvellously feisty, blessedly un-cute Canadian actress who seems to have been raised oblivious to any child-acting clichés.” Fast forward 17 years. And Gilliam's once again turned to Hollywood North for young talent to star in yet another of his quirky films, Tideland, which premiered last night at the Toronto International Film Festival. And this time, the ever-inventive Monty Python alumnus cast a 10-year-old from Vancouver, an up-and-comer Jodelle Ferland. As before, early reviews are mixed on the film, which the director himself readily admits pushes “all the weird buttons.” But Ferland's performance, alongside Jeff Bridges, is raising eyebrows. Last month, The New York Times — which rarely gushes — described the West Coast girl as “almost freakishly talented.” Ferland — who started acting when she was less than 2 — is flying into Toronto with her mother Valerie to attend the festival. But she won't be the only pre-pubescent Canadian starlet waving merrily to fans on the red carpet. At least three other aspiring homegrown child actresses — all 10 years of age — are either headlining, or have major starring roles, in films at this year's festival.

Clearly, as Gilliam put it recently, “there's just something about Canada and little girls.” Besides Ferland, Toronto native Samantha Weinstein is starring in Big Girl, a 14-minute short by Renuka Jeyapalan that explores family politics as nine-year-old Josephine (Weinstein) grapples with a new boyfriend in her single mom's life. Referred to by some as Canada's indie princess, this is Weinstein's second trip to TIFF. Last year, she was one of the stars of the David Weaver's black comedy, Siblings. Richmond, B.C.-born Phoebe Kut has a starring role in Julia Kwan's Eve and the Fire Horse, where she plays an imaginative young chit (Eve) who is intrigued (and confused) by religion and concocts her own brand of spiritualism, a little Buddhism mixed with Catholicism. And from Winnipeg is another budding actress, Brianna Williams, who co-stars in Sean Garrity's Lucid, playing a daughter of a tormented psychotherapist (Jonas Chernick) whose wife left him for another man. Filmmakers like Gilliam keep coming to the Canadian talent trough for child actors because our kids, by all accounts, tend to be easy to direct, manage and mould. Chalk it up to our easygoing, accommodating national character. Gilliam searched for months to find Tideland's Jeliza-Rose, a little girl who creates imaginary companions to escape the drudgery of life with her dope-addict dad (Bridges). Light entertainment, it's not. Tideland, based on the novel by Mitch Cullin, is shades of Alice in Wonderland meets Psycho. He worked with casting directors in every major city in North America — and beyond — auditioning more than 400 candidates. The film, he knew, would fly or flop depending on the child actor he picked. “The dangerous thing about making this film was the fact that a little girl, a very little girl about nine or 10 years old is in every scene,” Gilliam, 64, said in The New York Times interview. “She is the movie.”

He chose Ferland because of her camera presence, savvy and work ethic. “She can even do eye-acting,” he bragged to the Times. “That's something you can't teach.” While Gilliam ( The Fisher King, The Brothers Grimm) exults in Ferland, others in the industry have similar kind words for Weinstein, who was chosen as the lead in the Canadian Film Centre's production of Big Girl after its director saw her bewitch audiences in Siblings, a subversive tale of four kids who kill their evil stepparents, twice. Weinstein's mother, Jojo, figures her daughter — and the others — are in demand by directors here and in Hollywood because they're amenable to direction. “There's a lot of American directors and producers who like to work with Canadian children because many of our kids have no formal training, so they're spontaneous. “In the States, there's a lot of emphasis on train, train, train,” Jojo Weinstein adds. “We seem to prescribe to a different philosophy that suggests if you study extensively in a formal, technical way, you run the risk of training their natural instincts right out of them.” Her daughter, a glossy redhead, is an eloquent, nice kid who says she gets a kick “out of being able to become different characters and have experiences I'd never have in my real life,” says Samantha, whose acting idol is Jon Heder, the nerdy star of Napoleon Dynamite. “ Big Girl's such a great story because it's about a girl named Josephine who comes to accept and really like the new man in her mother's life. It's a story of acceptance and letting people in,” explains this young old soul. “I love the wonderful message of the film,” adds Weinstein, who has just wrapped another short film, Megan Martin's Ninth Street Chronicles (“I'm kind of hoping for a hat trick, and that I'll be back at TIFF next year,” giggles the child). She's also now shooting Ken Finkleman's new six-part TV miniseries, Hotel Metropolitan. Parents of child actors clearly play a pivotal role nurturing the talents of their kids. In Ferland's case, she's home-schooled and rhymes off her favourite subjects: opera, geometry and square roots. Her mother, Valerie, insists Jodelle's life is normal and balanced. And she knows this rising talent can handle the spotlight, and stress. “I think Terry Gilliam has been one of the greatest directors she's ever worked with,” she says. “It was also a fantastic role for showing range and ability. It's the best role she's had to date.”

Did her daughter have trouble with the sexual content or the character's roving mental state? Not a whit, said Valerie Ferland, whose offspring is now only auditioning for feature-film roles. “It might be difficult for a normal child but it didn't faze her at all. It's all very natural to her. She just reads a script and she knows what she wants to do for the movie. So it's only a matter of communicating with the director, and seeing if he likes her ideas too.” Ferland's child chums are also mainly actors, her mom notes, including a young boy- neighbour in Vancouver, Cameron Bright, who is in Thank You for Smoking, also premiering at TIFF. “North Dakota Fanning, they call her,” Valerie Ferland says proudly. “In reference to the amount of work she's done. They [directors and producers] don't consider her to be a child actor when they're working with her. She works like an adult. She has the understanding of an adult where acting is concerned, and she's able to do roles that require very adult thinking.” The younger Ferland agrees the only real challenges on the Tideland shoot were pesky bugs and cold weather. “I got to do a Texan accent, which I liked, and Terry gave me lots of room,” declared the actress, who claims to have more TV/film credits to her name (25 in total) than Gilliam has films. “He's a really good drawer, and he'd some times make me pictures. Strange things, just for fun.” All four girls say their favourite thing about acting — besides the full-on attention they get on set — is craft services. In other words, the great spreads laid out for meals. “I really like being able to become someone else, and work with different actors,” says Kut, who had never acted before landing the part of Eve. “I really love it all. But the best thing is definitely the food. It's so yummy.” Williams says she dreams of ending up in Hollywood, and through her mom/agent, is steadily lining up more work out west. “I like being in front of the camera. I like all the people and how they treat me and stuff. It's really fun for me.” Recently, she auditioned for the new Brad Pitt film, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, now shooting in Alberta. “I haven't heard back from them yet,” this 10-year-old explains. “I'd like to be in a film with Pitt. And my mom really likes him.” Ferland's rosy experience working with Gilliam is in sharp contrast, though, to Polley's, who has referred to her Baron Munchausen time as ‘a nightmare.” “I think Terry Gilliam's a genius,” she said once. “But he shouldn't work with kids. He's a lot more concerned about his film.

“I think being a child actor is a terrible thing,” Polley went on. “When I was doing Baron Munchausen, I had hypothermia from being in a water tank for hours on end, then explosives went off by my head and I couldn't hear for a couple of days.” Last year, Polley again shared those views with Jojo Weinstein whose daughter was on set in Toronto shooting Siblings with the more veteran child star.  “I think Samantha reminded her a lot of herself as a child,” muses mother Weinstein. “And she's very adamant that parents of child actors don't become more involved personally with going on, for their own selfish reasons. Not making it about them as opposed to being about the child. “It's an easy thing to fall into,” admits Weinstein, whose daughter started acting after attending a drama camp when she was 6. “Just because you want the best for your child. But we make sure that Sammy continues to have normal childhood experiences that will help her stay real.” As for Ferland, acting is all she wants to do. And while she has her home studies and her friends, acting is her life. “I don't really even remember when I got into acting,” she says. “My mom put me in because my brother and sister were in it. They were doing monologues and I copied them. One day, it was just me and my mom at home. And she heard me talking [mimicking the monologues] and she thought it was really weird. Then she put me into acting. I was still in diapers.”




At 23, Kirsten Dunst Is Coming Into Full Bloom

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Johanna Schneller

(Sept. 10, 2005) This may be sacrilege, but the whole time I was talking to Kirsten Dunst, I was thinking about Holly Golightly. About how, among her generation of actresses -- she's 23 -- Dunst is the only one I can picture contemporizing that character (especially if the story's locale were changed to the Tiffany's in L.A.). She's light, but she's not frivolous -- she projects a wistfulness even when ditzy. And her thrift-store/ couture combos are as fashion-savvy today as Audrey Hepburn's cocktail dresses were in 1961. Dunst's golightliness is on view tonight in Elizabethtown, writer-director Cameron Crowe's latest paean to the recurring miracle of love. (He also made Jerry Maguire and Almost Famous.) It stars Orlando Bloom as Drew, a Seattle running-shoe designer whose father suddenly drops dead in the titular Kentucky town of his birth. (Kentucky = America at TIFF this year. The horse pic Dreamer is set in Lexington.) Drew, who has just suffered a colossal failure at work, has to interrupt his well-planned suicide to fly to the heartland and tie up his dad's loose ends. It's a comedy. That's where Dunst comes in. She plays Claire, a chatty flight attendant on Drew's near-empty plane. She can see that Drew's soul is flatlining, and makes it her mission to fizz him up again. "Everyone is less mysterious than they think they are," Claire tells him. Eventually, she maps out his road trip home, past some of America's most heart-rending landmarks (the field of empty chairs in Oklahoma City, the Memphis motel where Martin Luther King died), because, she says, "I want you to get into the deep, beautiful melancholy of everything that's happened." Dunst seems to be thriving. She consistently lands good leading roles, archetypes of American young-womanhood: cheerleader (Bring It On), athlete (Wimbledon), dreamy poetess (The Virgin Suicides) and now stew. (Her mom was a stewardess, for Lufthansa. Keith Richards once licked her fingers and begged her to take his luggage off the flight so he could stay with her. Dunst has sewn some of her mom's uniform buttons onto her own jackets.)

She's got a fabulous dimple in her left cheek. Her on-again, off-again relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal, who's also got a film at TIFF -- Brokeback Mountain, Ang Lee's ode to cowboy love -- seems to be on. Later this year, she'll play the title role in Sofia Coppola's Marie-Antoinette, based on Antonia Fraser's acclaimed biography. And soon she'll dye her blond locks red again, to play Mary Jane in Spider-Man 3. Yet Dunst truly seems to understand the meaning of deep, beautiful melancholy. "I project that [as an actor] because I can't help it; I'm that way," she says. "My favourite actors are those who, even if they're playing a comedy, you see there are other things going on. The people I can't connect to, even if they're good, are the ones where you feel a piece of their personality is missing, like they aren't sloppy or make mistakes." "Kirsten is full of life and she likes to have fun, but she's definitely got an old soul," Bloom told me. "She's wise to it all." Wise to the ways of Hollywood, certainly, especially concerning "girlfriend" roles. "A lot of directors, when they cast a woman in their movies, have to have some sexual component, something in them that's attracted to her," Dunst says. "Otherwise why would he cast her as the girl the guy falls in love with? So that sets up a dynamic where they don't want a complicated woman, they just want that girlfriend side of you." Her favourite directors are the ones who ask for a lot more. She credits Coppola, who made The Virgin Suicides, with being the first to see all the shades she can play. She's grateful that Sam Raimi, the director of all three Spider-Mans, always wanted "more than the cliché." And Michel Gondry, who directed her in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, "let me be very relaxed in myself, too. I'm really proud of that movie. Though while I was doing it, I was kind of depressed. I'm a big depression eater, and Michel and I would sit together at lunch and eat all the cake."

About Crowe, she's characteristically frank. "I love Cameron," Dunst says. "But we have a complicated relationship. Sometimes he'd drive me crazy because he had a specific way of seeing things, and he'd talk to me during takes. But he is so perceptive of people. Maybe almost too sensitive. I can see his colours on his face all the time. I think he gets people. He finds the in-between moments. And he's such a great writer. He writes quotes." Though she's mostly happy with her work, Dunst does lament the lack of roles like Cybill Shepherd's in The Heartbreak Kid. "There aren't a lot of movies like that these days," she says. "There aren't the words. But hey, not every character's going to be interesting. It's up to you to find what you can put in or change or make not cliché about it." To play the sunshine and the shadow.




Resurgent Paltrow Debuts 'Proof'

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian, Entertainment Reporter

(Sep. 13, 2005) Gwyneth Paltrow isn't crying any more.  She sits in her hotel room mere hours before last night's gala premiere of her latest film, Proof and smiles, eliminating any need to turn on the lights against the lengthening shadows of late afternoon.  "I feel very happy and very fulfilled. I like my life and I love my family. I'm in a good space."  But it wasn't that long ago she was in completely different terrain — "the dark side of the moon" as she puts it.  During the course of our interview, she traced the history of her struggle against "the nothingness" that she endured, while managing to deliver a performance "that had a lot of similarities with my real-life situation."  It all started shortly after she had performed David Auburn's hit play, Proof, on stage at the Donmar Theatre in London during the spring and summer of 2002. The play deals with a young woman named Catherine whose mentally disturbed father has recently died. He was a mathematical genius and she shares that gift, but she comes to fear she may also have inherited his illness as well.  "My father saw me in the play and absolutely loved it," laughs Paltrow. "He and my mother came over to London and stayed with me before it opened. They were so incredibly supportive and I was so nervous. I remember climbing into bed and getting between them saying, `Protect me!'"  Paltrow's father was TV and film producer/director Bruce Paltrow and her mother the actress Blythe Danner. They had always been an unusually close family. He had been battling throat cancer for years and when Gwyneth won her Oscar for Shakespeare in Love, she thanked him tearfully.  Shortly after Paltrow finished her run in Proof, she invited her father to join her in Italy to celebrate her 30th birthday but while there, he suddenly suffered a heart attack at their villa in Tuscany. She rushed him via helicopter to a hospital in Rome, but he died at the age of 58.

She grows very still recalling it. "I was with him. And I didn't properly sort out that trauma or how I really felt about it, so I became depressed for several years."  Describing what she was like at that time, Paltrow speaks without self-pity. "I had lost my spark, I had lost my sense of humour, I couldn't find the joy in things. It became a crippling burden, a very, very heavy weight."  It was during this period that she married Chris Martin of Coldplay. Paltrow admits "living with someone who is going through grief like that is pretty heavy. But he wrote this amazing song for me ..."  Paltrow is referring to "Fix You," with lyrics such as, "When you lose something you can't replace/When you love someone, but it goes to waste ... I will try to fix you."  And then, with all of this happening, she began to make the movie of Proof. To plunge so deeply into a story about losing a parent and dealing with the depression that follows that loss might have struck some people as foolhardy, but Paltrow knew what she was doing.  "It's amazing when you find a character who's so aligned with you in time and space." she says, "You have to embrace that opportunity"  Earlier in the day, at a press conference, she answered a reporter's query about working on a project so close to her own situation by coolly saying, "I don't transplant my emotions from real life and put them into what I'm doing on screen."  But now, she leans forward, her long blonde hair falling over her shoulders and speaks with a breathless intensity.  "Look, I could say that I built the character from the ground up, but it's still me. I was drawing from my own experience in life and everything I'd been through.  "I understand all about that kind of grief and that kind of closeness between a father and a daughter and the kind of devastation she experiences when he dies. When I was doing the film, I was still enmeshed in all that."

And she was pregnant. The look on her face as she recalls that time gives credence to the theory that it might have been impending maternity that generated Mona Lisa's famous smile.  "It was this amazing mix of emotions. I was really excited about having a baby. But then at times, I was very quiet. And I had to finish my journey through the dark emotions the movie was stirring up in me. Somehow, I held it all together."  Her daughter, Apple, was born on May 14, 2004 and Paltrow says her depression virtually ended on that day,  "She brought so much joy to all of our lives. She's like this beacon of life. She's given us all new hope. Life goes on and you have to keep moving forward.  "When I'm with my daughter, I see the world though her eyes ... how uncomplicated and happy she is. Her beautiful uncomplicated body language. It pulls you right into the moment."  Paltrow willingly concedes that a large family might very well be in her future. "I would dearly love to have a bunch more kids, but we'll see what God's plans are."  She also reveals that she has no immediate career plans. "When it comes to what happens next, your guess is as good as mine. I'm just waiting for everything to align."  And another thought that reassures her is that "my depression wasn't chemical, but situational, because of everything that had gone on. I'd like to think that if something horrible happened in my life again, this time, I would know how to deal with it."  She sighs. "And I've given birth to this person who's a quarter of my father and I love that."  When asked for one final memory of him, she recalls the story of how, when she was 10, he took her to the Ritz in Paris, "because I want you to first see Paris with the one man who'll love you all of your life."  Her eyes mist over remembering it, but she doesn't cry.  If you wonder how well Gwyneth Paltrow's doing, that's the final proof.




Charlize Theron: From Dior To Miner's Overalls

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Gayle Macdonald

(Sept. 13, 2005) One of Charlize Theron's handlers is placing an urgent food order. "We need organic fruit," she tells Four Seasons Hotel room service, which is run off its feet these days. "Apples, bananas, berries and some fresh, organic orange juice." After a day of non-stop interviews to promote her upcoming drama, North Country, it's been made clear that the Academy Award-winning actress is in dire need of some rest and sustenance. Given that, I walk into the hotel room for a chat with the Monster star almost apologetically. But, as is often the case with these things, it turns out the publicist is more of a diva than the celebrity she represents. Sure, Theron is tired. Her blue eyes are red. She's kicked off her shoes. And her Dior-clad, five-foot-10-inch frame is draped over the sofa (feet up). But she's still raring to talk about the new Niki Caro film, a tale of human survival set in Minnesota's hard-knocks Iron Range. Theron dons a hard hat and unflattering overalls in an Erin Brockovich/Norma Rae turn -- only this time the female heroine, the fictional Josey Aimes, is fighting sexual harassment in the workplace, a grimy, stench-filled mine dominated by men who are incensed that women are being allowed to work there -- and steal their jobs. To prepare for the role of Aimes, South African-born Theron, 30, and her cast-mates (fellow Oscar-winners Sissy Spacek and Frances McDormand, along with Woody Harrelson, Richard Jenkins and Sean Bean) travelled to frigid mining towns such as Eveleth, Virginia, Hibbing and Chrisholm. For three weeks, they hung out with the locals, listening to them, drinking in bars with them and learning their stories.

"We were pretty much everywhere, all over town," chuckles Theron. "We did it all. We'd have dinner with them. We'd bowl. We went snowmobiling and ice fishing. We were lucky enough to be invited to a lot of these women's homes. We got to interact with them and their families. And I think that was the most important thing because we all started bonding very quickly," says Theron, who adds that Spacek learned to make a mean strudel. "They started trusting us. And we felt the responsibility. We wanted to tell the story right. They really wanted us to tell it right. So it was a great collaborative thing." The movie re-enacts the working conditions for women in the Iron Range that led to the nation's first class-action sexual-harassment lawsuit. It was an experience, Theron says, she'll never forget. She loved the people, admired their grit. In most of the film, Theron is wheeling around town in a beat-up pickup truck -- a vehicle, she adds, that she has a long history with, having grown up on a farm in Benoni, a community just outside Johannesburg. It was in South Africa that Theron's mother shot her father in self-defence, after he returned drunk and abusive one night, waving a gun and threatening to kill his wife and daughter.  In North Country, Theron is the first to insist that all the men aren't villains. The males in that community, she adds, were threatened by change, and they reacted. "But not all the guys felt this way," Theron says. "Ultimately this is a story about the universal right to work with some kind of dignity." Theron's Aimes is a single mom of two kids who returns to her hometown after a failed marriage and needs a good job. She decides to work at the iron mines after her old friend Glory (McDormand), one of the few female miners in town, tells her the job is tough but pays well. The more Aimes fights the harassment, the more it escalates. Theron's character finally quits, but then decides to fight back.

Unlike Monster, in which Theron transformed herself into an overweight, extremely unattractive Florida serial killer, in North Country, Caro lets Theron's natural beauty shine through (albeit under major layers of dirt). "When people heard about North Country," the actress recounts, "they said, 'Oh, you're doing another ugly movie.' " That kind of simplistic interpretation -- where so much emphasis is put on physical attributes rather than the heart of a film -- clearly rankles. Monster's Aileen Wuornos was unattractive, Theron admits, but not without some virtue. "Aileen took responsibility for her actions. She never tried to blame anyone else for what she had done. She never tried to drag her girlfriend in, who was very much an accomplice," says Theron, who also starred in The Cider House Rules and The Italian Job. "With people like her, we tend to forget they have dignity as well. And I think she really walked away with some dignity. She sabotaged her appeal because she made the decision that she wanted to die, that she wanted to leave this place that wasn't very nice to her. A lot of people would look at Aileen and just see failure. I don't. I think that there was a very uplifting story there of someone who was incredibly hopeful." Aimes is a different kettle of fish. "She is somebody who has never been an individual in her entire life. When she was in high school, she was very popular, and then through certain events, it [life] just broke her down one time after another, one bad relationship after another. I think she became this completely introverted person who lost who she was . . . because she had no other means of surviving. "But she wins in the biggest way," Theron continues, "because she becomes a strong individual, and not because she walked away with a big settlement or anything like that, but because she stood up for what she really, truly believed in."

New Zealand-born Caro (Whale Rider) picked Theron to play Aimes after watching her riveting performance in 2003's Monster. Theron had also recently seen Whale Rider, which Caro wrote as well as directed, based on Maori author Witi Ihimaera's acclaimed novel of the same name. They started a mutual-admiration club. And within five days of having met, they agreed to team up to do this project, inspired by the book Class Action: The Story of Lois Jenson and the Landmark Case That Changed Sexual Harassment Law, by Clara Bingham and Laura Leedy Gansler. "The great thing about the whole process of this film is that it was very organic, nothing felt manipulated," said Theron. "Niki's just a great communicator. She asked me very early on how I felt I functioned best, which is something that very rarely happens. Usually the director kind of says, this is how we're going to do it," adds Theron, who dates Irish actor Stuart Townsend. "I told her I really need to talk constantly. That's what I consider rehearsal. I don't really like putting scenes up [full rehearsals]. I don't really like reading them out loud until the day we shoot them because I think it's like milking a cow. It just kind of gets dry after a while." Having the talent around of McDormand (whose Oscar came from Fargo) and Spacek (whose Oscar was for Coal Miner's Daughter) raised the performance bar, adds Theron. "It really keeps you on your toes," says the actress with a grin. "It's great to be surrounded by people you feel will push you to a level that you might not be able to go by yourself. It forces you to be really aware of what's happening around you." The only thing, however, that Theron says she wishes she wasn't so "aware" of on this film was the rancid smell of the water in the mines, which has to be doctored with chemicals to keep down the poisons (and rodents). "One of the women who lived there saw me struggling with the smell," she says, "and said, 'That's just the smell of money.' From then on, I just tried to focus on that."





Liam Neeson, At Human Size

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Sept. 13, 2005) The Liam Neeson in Toronto this week isn't the Liam Neeson you often read about. Quickly dismissive and growling about the trappings of stardom and moviemaking: That Neeson didn't show. Neither did the one whom director Neil Jordan describes as being so physically massive. He isn't here either. More angular than heavy set, this Neeson, casually sipping iced red wine and chewing on a tooth pick, exudes regular-bloke, save for the consciously tousled hair and possibly a pat of makeup applied for the day's photo shoots. And this Neeson, like most actors, also seems more refined in person than on camera, with his hook nose, clay-moulded face and innocent expression. Really, the only resemblance to the person he is sometimes said to be is his cigarette-and-cognac voice, as Steven Spielberg has apparently called it. With only a hint of brogue, it's the voice of an old storyteller reeling off a spellbinding yarn, which is how many will view his new film directed by Jordan, Breakfast on Pluto. Neeson plays Father Bernard, a priest sympathetic to a young transvestite during the times of the early 1970s Troubles in Northern Ireland. The role of an ethical, orderly man caught in a whirl of disorder is an obvious one for Neeson.

"I love that, yeah, especially now that I'm a father of two boys. I'm really conscious of the ethics of the film and the story. That's not to say I wouldn't do a piece of mindless entertainment. God, I've done a few of those," he says. "Especially since Schindler's List, I was really aware of the power of those images and the responsibility we have as performers, as artists, as moviemakers." He sits back and squints. "We live in such a bloody corporate world. There are certain pillars of ethics and wisdom that we all should share: truth, fidelity, honesty, integrity. It's almost old-fashioned nowadays to mention words like integrity. You know, it's important to always remind yourself that these are the real pillars of humanity." His voice is barely above a whisper, like a priest in a confessional. But unfortunately, it's a characteristic of Neeson's that, despite his Hollywood clout, still gets him typecast as the big, caring, Irish guy. Part of his fondness for Manhattan, where he lives (and roams Central Park regularly in very unmovie-star old clothes), is the fact that in New York he isn't pegged as Irish. "Any successful actor in films will tell you that it's very, very hard to come by good material," he says. "Everybody gets pigeon-holed. Laurence Olivier was pigeon-holed. Marlon Brando was pigeon-holed. But there are times when a script arrives, and I say, okay, I can see myself playing this." That's not to say that Neeson negates his roles in The Phantom Menace and this summer's Batman Begins. "Star Wars and Batman are still very challenging. It's a different genre. Yeah, you kind of do flex different muscles." He adds, in fatherly confidence, "Listen, I don't know if you've heard the old expression. Making movies, it's like sex. When it's good, it's good. And when it's bad, it's still good.

"Even the worst films I've made -- there's always something good I've extracted from them. Or some relationship I've formed from a grip or a DP [director of photography] that's going to inform me for the rest of my professional life. I love that collaboration, I really do." And even though Neeson has at times disparaged being made to feel like a puppet on some film sets, he notes that following a good director can be thrilling. It's clear this was the case with Jordan and Breakfast on Pluto. Unlike many films which are obviously a chore to promote, with actors saying platitudes which don't ring true, that's not the case with Neeson and this film. "This is my third film with Neil, and his cinematic language has just gone through the stratosphere since Michael Collins," in which Neeson played the title role. "He was possessed shooting this movie. He reminded me what an abstract painter would have been like, just applying colour all the time." Neeson's next major role is to play Abraham Lincoln in a new Spielberg film. He has been researching the part since November. It's a challenge, Neeson says, leaning back again. And like his title role in Kinsey, it's a role that'll hopefully move Neeson further away from the pigeon-holing that some still attach to him, simply out of habit.




Hollywood's Not-So-True North

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Jeremy Ferguson

(Sept. 14, 2005) Tinseltown has historically favoured quantity over accuracy when depicting our famous landscapes. Jeremy Ferguson looks at the clichéd plots and preposterous posters -- portraying the soaring peaks of. . .Saskatchewan? -- that have distorted Canada on the silver screen. I love watching the silver screen and feeling that jolt of recognition from my travels. When Harrison Ford and Sean Connery galloped through a towering cleft between ochre cliffs at the climax of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, it hit me: "That's the Siq," I thought to myself, "the entrance to the ancient city of Petra in Jordan." In fact, I've reached the stage where I'll actually go to see a movie because of its setting. I liked City of Ghosts, actor Matt Dillon's directorial debut, because it conjured up so well the grotty, torpid atmosphere of Phnom Penh.  But confusion can arise when watching many of the Canadian-themed pictures that Hollywood cranked out over the first half of the 20th century. For the most part, it was quantity, not accuracy, that reigned supreme. Film buffs may remember a catchy 1954 sequence of a scarlet-coated Alan Ladd leading a troop of Mounties across the seminal Rockies postcard of Moraine Lake. The movie's title: Saskatchewan. Admittedly, Alberta might have proved a less exotic title south of the border, but Hollywood would probably have got it wrong in any event. In his vastly entertaining and scholarly Hollywood's Canada, the late Pierre Berton noted that the Americans had turned out close to 600 features set in Canada from 1907 to 1951. On good days, they got the spelling right.

Moviegoers of the late 1940s and 1950s might have caught Marilyn Monroe and Robert Mitchum up the creek on the River of No Return; Back to God's Country with Rock Hudson; James Stewart far from home in The Far Country; and Randolph Scott slinging his guns in The Cariboo Trail and Canadian Pacific. But the characters -- lean men with fast guns, chesty saloon girls, snarling villains in flowered vests, bloodthirsty Indians, rampaging gold miners -- were familiar American figures played by Americans. In fact, most of our "Northerns" are tellingly included in novelist Brian Garfield's guide Western Films. The classic may be The Wild North, an enjoyable 1951 potboiler set somewhere in the Yukon. Enthralling scenery and manly heroics came festooned with credible Canadian elements: ferocious blizzards and roaring rivers, dogsled team and howling wolf pack, the Mountie and the fur trapper. Although the Mountie played by Wendell Corey in The Wild North was second lead, Mounties have always been Hollywood's favourite Canadians. Nelson Eddy and Howard Keel were singing Mounties in black-and-white and Technicolor versions of Rose Marie. Over the years, Randolph Scott, Robert Preston, Dick Powell, Tyrone Power, Robert Ryan, Donald Sutherland, Lee Marvin and even Peter O'Toole donned the scarlet coat as movie Mounties. The death of the genre was The Canadians in 1961, a flop that consigned Canadians in general to Hollywood's back burners. Since then, Canada, no longer considered a source of box-office appeal, would be left to home-grown filmmakers, from Don Shebib and Claude Jutra to Denys Arcand and Atom Egoyan. The Canada they offer up, is, for the most part, bleak even in its grandeur, its human landscape tempered with doubt, disappointment and melancholy. This year's Toronto International Film Festival is presenting a contingent of Canadian-themed films, from Julia Kwan's Eve & The Fire Horse to Michel Brault's Entré La Mère et l'eau douce.

Despite the inaccuracies, Hollywood's Canada was undeniably fun -- the movie posters especially so. Usually more entertaining than the movies themselves, the posters conjure up a certain nostalgia for simpler times. If all things are cyclical, Hollywood is due to revisit Canada soon, only the Mounties will probably be doing the Musical Ride in the nude. Suggested title: The Full Mountie. Here, then, are some of Hollywood's greatest achievements from the golden era of Canadian misrepresentation:

Saskatchewan (1954)

"The saga of the conquest of the Saskatchewan Territory!" howls the poster copy, ". . .where the Royal Northwest Mounted Police stood alone against the fury of the Custer-massacring Sioux and the savage Cree Nation!" In reality, following the annihilation of Custer's cavalry at the Little Big Horn, Sitting Bull and the Sioux crossed into Canada without incident and settled down peacefully for several years. Not so in this lamely directed -- by Raoul Walsh, who should have known better -- western, in which more than the title is ludicrous: Mountie Alan Ladd prevents a bloodbath and rescues Shelley Winters, who was as at home on the trail as a moose on a mountain of poutine. American audiences flocked to it in great numbers, then got a real shock when they vacationed in Saskatchewan.

The Wild North (1952)

The Wild North boils over with action and scenery, and so what if it was shot in Idaho? The stew includes (a) a French-Canadian fur trapper falsely accused of murder; (b) a relentless Mountie in pursuit; (c) a gorgeous aboriginal maiden played by leggy Cyd Charisse; (d) a convincingly vicious pack of wolves; and (e) enough snow to give you a migraine. Swashbuckler Stewart Granger, trading his sword for buckskins and a toque, plays the trapper with flamboyance and a French-Canadian accent -- "eh, babeeee!" -- that might cause a riot in Quebec City today. The story was based on the real-life "Mad Trapper" case, which would be twisted out of shape again in 1981's Death Hunt, with tough guys Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin chewing up the Great White North.

Canadian Pacific (1949)

A predictable wheeze, this time with Randolph Scott as the railway surveyor blasting the Rockies, baddies and bloodthirsty Indians. Railway giant William Van Horne turns up as a minor character and any similarity to the nation-building epic of the Canadian Pacific Railway is purely coincidental. In this case, the truth would have been far more exciting than fiction, and to make matters worse, this nonsense was ballyhooed and accepted as history south of the border.

Back to God's Country (1953)

"Roaring out of the gale-lashed north. . .the saga of a mighty conquest!" Rock Hudson climbs into the dogsled for a snowbound stinkaroo in which the hero, fleeing frozen wastes and villains, is returning to God's Country, namely the United States. One of the co-stars is billed as Wapi, "that sensational wonder dog star!"

Quebec (1950)

History goes through Hollywood's meat grinder again as Quebec's 1837 Papineau rebellion is turned to pap. Gallic siren Corrine Calvet is the unlikely heroine "whose fire inflamed an army of frontiersmen to storm the continent's mightiest fortress." The male lead was John Drew Barrymore, also known as John Barrymore Jr., whose sole contribution to the movies may be Drew Barrymore.

River of No Return (1954)

"Monroe meets Mitchum in the most savage wilderness of all the Americas!" Robert Mitchum and Marilyn Monroe bring charisma to a tale of a widower and saloon singer on the run from outlaws and murderous redskins in the only western ever shot by director Otto Preminger. The script is cheesy, but the scenery, filmed on location in Alberta, holds its own against the curves and swells of Monroe. At one point, the star stayed at Jasper Park Lodge and was escorted from its restaurant for "inappropriate attire" -- that is, cleavage to rival the Great Divide.

The Cariboo Trail (1950)

Randy Scott is again the fiery American who blasts his way through lawless British Columbia amid the gold fever of the 1860s. As Pierre Berton rightly insisted, this hogwash couldn't have happened in Canada because Gold Rush B.C. was, in reality, a surprisingly peaceable sort of place where a gun was rarely drawn. On the other hand, it's hard to dislike any movie where the venerable Gabby Hayes gets to say: "This is the Cariboo Trail, mister: a broken heart for every rock, a dead man for every tree." Now that's dialogue.

Niagara (1953)

"Marilyn Monroe. . .a raging torrent of emotion that even nature can't control!" Adultery and murder in the honeymoon capital, shot on location by veteran director Henry Hathaway. Monroe is a scheming bimbo done in by deranged husband Joseph Cotten, who pays the price by going over the falls minus the barrel. The poster, with Monroe draped curvaceously around the Horseshoe Falls, almost succeeds in transforming Niagara into Viagra.

Pierre of the Plains (1942)

Forget the "plains." Complete with the song Saskatchewan, a toque, an inebriated Indian sidekick named Crying Loon and an atrocious accent, French-Canadian guide Pierre, played by John Carroll, rides into the Rockey Mountain town of Moose Hill, Sask., to win the love of a saloon keeper named Daisy. Oddly enough, it was adapted from a stage play by Edgar Selywyn, who earlier on had fused his surname with that of his partner, Samuel Goldfish, to create Goldwyn Pictures, with Goldfish emerging as Samuel Goldwyn, all of which is more interesting than anything in this cheval opera.

Mrs. Mike (1940)

Loosely based on a true story of a Boston woman who married a Mountie and became "Mrs. Mike," this likeable movie avoids the clichés and focuses on the hard life in the Great White North. A solid performance is turned in by pretty-boy-crooner-turned-tough-guy Dick Powel, who went on to distinguish himself as a director, producer and TV mogul. His credibility as a compassionate redcoat is anything but a snow job.





Haggis's Crash Wins Top Prize At Deauville Fest

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Sept. 13, 2005) Deauville, France -- The Deauville Film Festival awarded its top prize to Crash, a tale of disconnected Los Angeles residents whose paths cross over a 36-hour period. The movie, the feature-film debut by Canadian TV veteran Paul Haggis, has a star-laden ensemble cast including Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle, Brendan Fraser, Matt Dillon, Thandie Newton, Ryan Phillippe and Jennifer Esposito. Two films shared the jury prize at the French festival: Keane by Lodge Kerrigan and On the Outs by Lori Silverbush and Michael Skolnik. AP

Altman To Direct Miller Play For London's Old Vic

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail

(Sept. 9, 2005) London -- Hollywood filmmaker Robert Altman plans to direct late American playwright Arthur Miller's Resurrection Blues in London, the theatre said yesterday. Altman, 80, five times Oscar-nominated, has teamed up with actor and Old Vic artistic director Kevin Spacey for the British premiere of Miller's play. "It is a remarkable play, very funny and provocative and challenging," said Spacey, who is in his second season at the Old Vic. Miller was working on it right up to his death in February and had expressed a desire to see it performed at the Old Vic. The black comedy, first staged in the United States in 2002, is set in a South American banana republic. AFP

‘Destination Fame’

Excerpt from

(Sept. 8, 2005) *The film “Destination Fame,” starring Mario, Jordan Knight, A.J. Gil (“American Idol”) and Cuba Gooding, will have its red carpet premiere Sept. 15 in Temecula, CA.  The film centers on six high school graduates who learn about the value of friendship, the inconsistencies of life and what it takes to make it in the music industry. The premiere will be held at the Movie Experience at Tower Plaza, at the corner of Rancho California and Ynez Road in Tower Plaza. For more information about the cast, the music and a chance to view the trailer, visit







Boy To Man, Man To Hero, Hero To Legend

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Vinay Menon

(Sep. 10, 2005) A beige van is parked at the edge of St. John's Harbour.  Inside, two young friends glance at the rippling water, discussing an audacious plan to raise money for cancer research. It's April 12, 1980; Terry Fox and Doug Alward are 21 years old.  This is the first scene in Terry (CTV, tomorrow, 7 p.m.), an elegant, stirring film about a great icon in Canadian history. (CTV will air a companion documentary, Running on a Dream: The Legacy of Terry Fox, tonight at 7 p.m.Terry Fox was just 18 when he was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma. His right leg was amputated, 15 centimetres above the knee.  Three years later, on that cool April morning, Fox dipped his artificial leg in the Atlantic and vowed to do the seemingly impossible: he would run across Canada, 42 kilometres a day, a daily marathon — A Marathon of Hope.  It remains an inspirational journey, one that comes along once in a lifetime, if that. Fox propelled his tired body across endless expanses of meandering asphalt, his gritty resolve and rhythmic gait — one pronounced step, two short hops — forever scorched into the collective consciousness.  Even now, 25 years later, it's impossible to look at those grainy images of Fox running through wind and rain and sleet and sun without being moved by his selfless determination.  Shawn Ashmore, just six months old when the Marathon of Hope started, knew this would be a monumental project, like no other, when he accepted the title role.  "I've never been a part of something where I just needed to know that it was going to be okay and be right," he says. "This is a part that I didn't want to mess up."  We're inside the Four Seasons, sitting in a suite on the 25th floor, which somehow seems appropriate given this anniversary year. Garbed in jeans, striped jersey and white running shoes, Ashmore says he tried to see beyond the legend. He tried to get inside the heart and mind of Terry Fox.

"I didn't approach it like I had to play somebody who was heroic," he says. "I think the really amazing thing about Terry — and why people connected with him — was that he was a really normal guy. He was a regular young guy who happened to be more driven than most people can ever imagine."  Before Fox's run ended outside Thunder Bay on Sept. 1, 1980 — by then cancer had spread to his lungs — he had covered 5,373 km in 143 days. What started on the east coast, with almost no fanfare, had exploded into a phenomenon.  But history has a way of erasing the small, whimsical details from acts of greatness. And as the film shows, there was more to the Marathon of Hope than just the running. There would be memorable encounters with anonymous supporters; quiet dinners in small towns; sleepless nights in ramshackle motels. Laughs and tears, joy and grief, transcendental lightness and crushing darkness.  "They had food fights, water fights, they joked around," says Ashmore. "These aren't things you necessarily think of when you think of Terry Fox."  So we watch Alward (Ryan McDonald) — one of the great unsung heroes in this tale — and Terry's younger brother Darrell (Noah Reid) drive, stopping regularly to give the runner water and orange slices. They collected donations, organized schedules, protected Fox from the steamrolling public interest that crept closer with every passing hour.  Their youthful camaraderie and preternatural mettle captivated a nation. And, along the way, the Marathon of Hope would become a road trip of discovery.  Despite the underlying, sombre material, Terry — directed by Don McBrearty, written by Dennis Foon and produced by Shaftesbury Films — is at times a simple buddy film, a poignant exploration of human relationships forged in trying circumstances.

To prepare for the role, Ashmore watched countless hours of news and documentary footage. He studied Fox's journals, written during the run. He worked out with a personal trainer, gaining more than 15 pounds.  The special effects, including computer graphics used to create the illusion of an artificial leg, are extraordinary and, most important, seamless.  "I'm so happy with the job that they did," Ashmore says. "I know we're successful because it doesn't stand out. Most of the time special effects and CGI are used it's for something you are supposed to be wowed by. But this was supposed to be subtle. You shouldn't think about it."  The film was shot this summer in Toronto, Hamilton, North Bay, Thunder Bay and Newfoundland. It was, says Ashmore, a glorious experience. Throughout the shoot, bystanders would watch with rapt attention, entranced by the unfolding spectacle.  Memories were unleashed.  "Everybody has a story about Terry Fox," says Ashmore. "People would come up to me and talk about Terry Fox as if I was Terry Fox. I mean, they knew I was Shawn. But they would tell stories and get so excited, as if I was him. There was just so much passion about this."  Terry Fox went from boy to man, man to hero, hero to legend, all before he was 23. His goal — to raise $1 for every Canadian — was realized in February, 1981. Today, more than $360 million has been raised in his name and the annual Terry Fox Run is in 50 countries.  Who could have predicted any of this?  "The most amazing thing that I realized is nobody supported him in the beginning," says Ashmore. "There were weeks when he wouldn't see anybody. He was just running down the road with his buddy.  "But he never gave up."

An Emotional, Wrenching Run

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Gayle Macdonald

(Sept. 10, 2005) By the time Terry Fox, his van, and growing entourage arrived just outside of Thunder Bay at summer's end in 1980, he had two tumours in his lungs — each the size of a tennis ball. The pain, as he pushed his cancer-riddled body for 143 days over 5,373 kilometres of Canada's rugged heartland, must have been excruciating. But friends and family said he rarely complained. He was so determined to finish his Marathon of Hope. Unfortunately, sheer will was no longer cutting it. On Sept. 1, Fox's Trans-Canada journey was sidelined by the disease doctors had diagnosed three years earlier. Until that point, the native of Port Coquitlam, B.C., was convinced he'd outmuscle and outwit the cancer. Almost 10 months later, on June 28, 1981, Fox died. But the determined young man left behind a legacy of hope that has spawned Terry Fox Runs in 60 countries, so far raising more than $360-million for cancer research. This Sunday at 7 p.m. — a week before the 25th Terry Fox Run to raise money for cancer research — CTV will air Terry, a movie produced by Toronto's Shaftesbury Films that tries to retrace Fox's spiritual and physical quest. Its director, Emmy winner Don McBrearty, says the experience of trying to chronicle Fox's journey left him humbled.  McBrearty, who shot the $4-million TV movie over 21 days this summer, says he and his crew quickly learned Fox's odyssey was often a nightmare: freezing cold, then blistering heat; lonely and treacherous — but in the end, it was also intensely gratifying because it proved a single person can do so much, one small step at a time.

“It's the toughest project, emotionally, that I've ever worked on,” McBrearty says. “We filmed in intense heat and we were exhausted just trying to retrace his steps. And we didn't run the daily marathon that Terry did. He started most mornings at 5 and went to bed by 8 o'clock. But as events progressed and he got into Ontario, when he became more popular, he had to go to receptions, sometimes two or three in a night. “None of us can figure out how he did it, running 26 miles every day. It's hard to fathom.” This particular day, McBrearty has assembled his cast and crew in Hamilton, which is standing in for Thunder Bay. Fox, played convincingly by Shawn Ashmore, has just shot the scene where the 22-year-old runner — with father Rolly, mother Betty, brother Darrell, best friend Doug Alward and publicist Bill Vigars by his side — tells a crowd of well-wishers and media that his cancer has returned. Among the crew, there's nary a dry eye. Ashmore, from Richmond, B.C., is also struggling to maintain his composure. “It's a pretty tough story to tell emotionally,” says the 26-year-old actor, whose right leg is digitally removed in the film. “But there hasn't been a scene I haven't been able to handle. The roughest part is the physicality, learning the skip-hop to make it real, and remembering and knowing the movement. There are only two scenes in the whole movie when Terry has both his legs. And I'm sitting in a hospital bed for both of them.” For months, Ashmore, perhaps best known to film buffs as Iceman in the X-Men movies, worked with high-school teacher Grant Darby, who lost his leg at the age of 12 to the same cancer that felled Fox. “I wanted to make sure I was in shape,” Ashmore says. “The run is such a distinctive movement — and there are so many images Canadians have seen of Terry — that I wanted to make sure that it was done correctly.

“This is the most important project I'll ever do,” he adds. “Not only as a Canadian, but just as a story in itself.” To prepare for his role, Ashmore read Terry's journals, which started out detailed in the early days of his run, but petered out to a few lines in the final stretch of the Marathon of Hope. “I obviously was aware of who Terry Fox was, but I wanted to get inside,” says Ashmore, who also has two independent films premiering at the Toronto International Film Festival this week, 3 Needles and The Quiet.Christina Jennings, executive producer of the movie, says the film tries to portray what it was like for Fox, Alward (Ryan McDonald) and brother Darrell (Noah Reid) as they travelled across the country. When the road trip kicked off on April 12, 1980, the runner was largely ignored. The first month, Jennings says, was incredibly difficult, as Fox grappled public indifference, snow, heavy winds and freezing rain. Skeptics bet he'd never make it past New Brunswick. In Quebec, a transport trailer almost took Fox out. It wasn't until the athlete reached Ontario that the crowds started to appreciate the unlikely hero, who has since become a symbol of hope around the world. Jennings says one of the most wrenching scenes for her was a re-enactment that occurs at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children, when Fox is told his right leg will be amputated six inches above the knee. “He's in the children's ward, and in a way it's that time that inspired him to do this run,” Jennings says. “He thought he was going to survive. But there were children dying all around him, and it made him angry because very little seemed to be done about it.” For the hospital scenes, Jennings went to Sick Kids administrators and asked if any children going through chemotherapy would be interested in being in the movie. More than a dozen signed up, and she says the parents have told her the experience was a “remarkable boost” for these kids. Like the others, Jennings says, after 20 years in the film and TV business, this is the toughest assignment she's taken on. “I feel this responsibility not only to the Fox family who were unhappy with the first movie made,” she says, referring to 1983 HBO film The Terry Fox Story, which often showed Fox in fits of pique and temper.

“But I also feel a responsibility to Canada. Not to be too grand about it, but he's a hero who was also an average guy, who got angry about something and decided to do something, with no corporate help.” Besides Terry, several documentaries will also air in the coming week to commemorate the run's 25th anniversary, including CTV's Running on a Dream: The Legacy of Terry Fox (tonight), CBC's 25 Years of Hope: The Legacy of Terry Fox (Sept. 16), and CHUM's Terry Fox Remembered (on various channels through next week). “Our film is about Terry,” Jennings says, “but more important, it's about the human spirit. Terry's message to kids was, ‘Anything's possible. Look at me. They told me I couldn't be an athlete any more and I'm running on one leg.' “His message was remarkable in its simplicity: ‘Don't give up. Don't give up fighting cancer. Dream to be whatever you want to be.'”




New CBC Chairman Lifts Hopes In Worker Lock-Out

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Sean Gordon, Ottawa Bureau

(Sep. 9, 2005) OTTAWA—The federal government has appointed screenwriter and journalist Guy Fournier as new chairman of the CBC's board of directors, prompting hope among the broadcaster's locked-out employees that the board will move to resolve the four-week-old dispute.  Fournier, who was also instrumental in founding Quebec's Télévision Quatre-Saisons network, was named to the board for a four-year term in February and takes over a top job that has been vacant throughout the build-up to the labour showdown.  Heritage Minister Liza Frulla extolled Fournier's virtues as a veteran of both the English- and French-language services of the CBC. She said he will be the right person to lead the broadcaster's board once the labour standoff with 5,500 employees in the creative and news divisions across Canada is resolved.  Frulla also said there's a silver lining to the dispute.  "I think there is going to be something positive out of this conflict," Frulla said. "Why? Because then again, you know, we have to re-launch and when you re-launch, you ask yourself questions on the content," Frulla added, insisting in the same breath the government remains a strong booster of public broadcasting.  Those comments provoked the ire of NDP culture critic Charlie Angus, who said the dispute threatens to cripple the broadcaster's ratings at the workers' expense.  "It seems to me what she's saying is ... CBC management has taken money out of employees' pockets for four weeks and now can use it toward new programming," said Angus, who called Frulla's position "insane."  The Canadian Media Guild, which represents CBC workers in every province except Quebec, welcomed Fournier's appointment in hopes it will give the board "more of a backbone" in helping settle the conflict.

"None of us really know too much about Mr. Fournier, but I'm happy there's finally a chair, or at least a proposed chair. I think the fact there hasn't been a chair has led to some of this tumult," said Lise Lareau, the union's president.  Lareau said the Guild hopes Fournier will curb the influence of CBC President Robert Rabinovitch, who the union contends has had a free hand since former chairperson Carole Taylor stepped down in the spring.  "There has effectively been no checks and balances in the system, the man who has managed this lockout has also effectively been chair of the board," she said, adding "what we're hoping is the whole board of directors seizes more control over this whole situation."  But Friends of Canadian Broadcasting, an independent watchdog group, poured cold water on the hope that Fournier's appointment — which is expected to easily pass muster at the Commons' Heritage Committee — will help break the labour impasse.  "Guy Fournier is a very talented person, but Canadians would be misled if they thought this will affect the current situation. The president is not accountable to the board ... until that issue is dealt with nothing can really change," said Ian Morrison, a spokesperson for the group.  Frulla's comments also came in answer to Conservative MP Bev Oda, a former CTV executive and CRTC commissioner, who was quoted in news reports yesterday questioning the value Canadians are currently getting from the CBC's English-language television network.  Frulla shot back that she expects nothing less from the Conservatives, and insisted the Liberal minority government remains committed to public broadcasting.  According to Fournier's official biography, he began his career as a columnist, documentary-maker and scriptwriter, who worked on some of Radio-Canada's most celebrated dramatic series before moving into a management role.  He replaces Taylor, who left the board in April and is now provincial finance minister in British Columbia.







All Grown Up

Excerpt from The Toronto Star - Richard Ouzounian

(Sep. 10, 2005) LONDON—They've been storming those barricades for two decades now and there's still no end in sight.  On Wednesday night, Les Misérables returns to Toronto for the fifth time, and the performance given at the Princess of Wales Theatre on Oct.8 will mark the 20th anniversary of the show's opening night in London back in 1985.  By now, the epic musical story of the struggle between the impoverished Jean Valjean and the unforgiving Inspector Javert, set in strife-torn 19th-century Paris, has made its power felt around the world.  Despite a chaotic rehearsal period and mixed reviews that had some people wondering if it would prove to be a gigantic flop, the musicalization of Victor Hugo's classic 1862 novel has gone on to a level of success that no one had ever dreamed of.  Some 51 million people in 38 countries have been inspired by the sweeping melodies of Claude-Michel Schönberg and the heartfelt lyrics of Alain Boublil. The picture of young Cosette that adorns the show's poster is now one of the most easily recognized icons in modern advertising.  The show not only revolutionized the international market for theatre (in 2002, it became the first Western musical to be seen in China), but it also changed the lives of everyone connected with it (see story on page H8).  Perhaps the individual whose destiny was most transformed was Cameron Mackintosh, the 58-year-old impresario universally acknowledged to be the most financially successful theatrical producer in the world.  On a bright summer afternoon, Mackintosh sits back in his London office and reflects on the 20-year trajectory of the Boublil/Schönberg show.

"It's amazing, isn't it?" he chuckles, shaking his head at the way things have gone. I never tire of remembering how we put it all together, because it was, is and always will be very important to me."  Back in the early 1980s, Mackintosh was already a success, with the megahit Cats under his belt, but his fortunes were linked with those of Andrew Lloyd Webber.  Mackintosh wanted to create a blockbuster of his own, little realizing that there were two men on the other side of the English Channel with the same dream.  Interestingly enough, the same 1960 British musical inspired all of them. Mackintosh has always readily admitted that Lionel Bart's Oliver! was the show that started his lifelong infatuation with the theatre when he was 14 years old.  But it was while watching a French production of the same show a decade later that the seeds of Les Misérables were planted.  "As soon as the Artful Dodger came on stage," Boublil has said, "Gavroche came to mind. It was like a blow to the solar plexus. I started seeing all the characters of Victor Hugo's Les Misérables in my mind's eye, laughing, crying and singing on stage."  It took Boublil and his long-time collaborator, Schönberg, many years to create the initial version of the project, which was released as a concept recording in 1980 and sold 260,000 copies.  This in turn led to a staging at the Palais des Sports in Paris, which drew an audience of more than 500,000.  Still, it might have all ended there had someone not given Mackintosh a copy of the French recording in 1982.  More than 20 years later, his eyes still light up at the memory. "The effect on me was electric. I loved the passion of the piece and was grabbed by what has to be the strongest source material of any musical, ever."

In selecting the artists to work on the project, Mackintosh made one of his most brilliant decisions. Realizing the pitfalls of bringing an epic novel to the stage, he turned to a group that had just triumphed magnificently on that front.  "On purpose, I enlisted virtually the entire production team who had just done Nicholas Nickleby. I reasoned, correctly, that they wouldn't be intimidated by the project."  Still, even the experienced likes of co-directors Trevor Nunn and John Caird were to have their problems during a 12-week rehearsal period that Mackintosh wryly characterizes as "fraught."  First the show had to be cast. Two of the leading performers, Colm Wilkinson and Rebecca Caine, would later make a major impression on Toronto when they co-starred in The Phantom of the Opera in 1989. But even they had no idea what they were in for when they signed up for Les MisérablesWilkinson had appeared in London and Dublin as Judas Iscariot in Jesus Christ Superstar and was the voice of Che on the concept album of Evita, but he was still best known as a rock 'n' roll singer when the casting call for Jean Valjean went out.  "I heard they were looking for a guy who was built like a longshoreman but who had the voice of an angel," Wilkinson told me in a 2002 interview. "I showed up and got the part."  One of the show's most enduring legacies is the haunting ballad "Bring Him Home," which Boublil and Schönberg wrote at Trevor Nunn's request to showcase Wilkinson's voice.  "Every time I sing that song," recalls Wilkinson, "I can picture the time they first played it for me, all of us clustered together in a corner of the rehearsal hall. I cried when they finished, because I knew I had been truly blessed to be given such a piece of material."  Rebecca Caine came to the part of Cosette in an equally off-centre way.  "I was an opera singer at the time," she remembers, sitting out back in the garden of her London home. "I was in the chorus at Glyndebourne, and Trevor was reviving his production of Idomeneo. He kept looking at me a lot during rehearsals and then one day, he suddenly put his arm around me and said he wanted me to play Cosette in Les Misérables."  Those rehearsals were soon to prove legendary for their chaotic nature.

"I showed up late because of my opera contract," says Caine, "and someone I knew in the cast came up to me on the first day and said, `Darling, it's crap; we'll be off by Easter.' "  Mackintosh admits that some of the show's finest songs ("Stars," "Bring Him Home," "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables") were all added during rehearsals "as we realized what the show needed."  And then there was the technical complexity. "We had to rent a separate theatre, the Astoria, just to figure out how to make the barricades work," recollects Mackintosh, "and that took several weeks."  "I remember going to Trevor," says Caine, "and saying, `Can I go home for a few days? They'll be dying on this barricade for months before you get back to me.' "  And when they finally began previews at the Barbican Theatre, they found they were running over four hours.  "Trevor does like his shows long," grins Mackintosh, "but we kept chipping away and finally got it down to a nifty three hours."  "The sad thing," says Caine, "is that a lot of great stuff was cut. There was a chase over the rooftops with the double turntables (spinning set mechanisms) going around, which was simply spectacular."  And Wilkinson remembers "having people suddenly appear to pull me off the turntable because we made so many changes I'd forget what we cut and what stayed in."  They finally opened on Oct.8, 1985 and the reviews ran the gamut from "grippingly brilliant" in The Sunday Times, through "middlebrow entertainment, not great art" in The Guardian all the way down to "like trying to pour the English Channel through a china teapot" in The Daily Mail.  "The reviews from the daily papers were mostly appalling,'' Mackintosh recalls, ``and I took Alain and Claude-Michel out to lunch to console them. I called the theatre to find out how they were doing, and was told that the phones had not stopped ringing and there was a positively serpentine line of people inside the Barbican Centre waiting to buy tickets."

It hasn't stopped for 20 years. The production opening in Toronto this week marks the recommencement of the North American touring company after a two-month hiatus, featuring a full 36-member cast and a complete orchestra.  Over the years, the show has changed hardly at all, although there is now a "Schools' Version" available for student companies, which is not only shorter, but eliminates some of the racier bits.  There are currently five professional productions running in the world. The flagship is the original London version, still going strong and set to become the longest-running musical in history in October, 2006.  In addition to the North American tour, there are also versions on stage in Prague, Berlin and Mexico City. Mackintosh is also working with the Chinese government to open a fully Asian version of the show in Shanghai in 2007.  After all this time, Les Misérables truly remains a worldwide phenomenon and everyone has their own theory why.  "It's a bloody good story," says Wilkinson. Mackintosh adds, "It's beautifully staged, the characters are timeless and it has a real emotional connection with the audience."  But Caine sums it up best. "It endures because it's about big themes, things that matter. `To love another person is to see the face of God.' Well, it doesn't get any bigger than that."





Depression And The Superwoman

Excerpt from Essence June 2005

Celebrity superagent by day, she cried herself to sleep many nights. She wore her game face for years, until finally the pain of pretending became too much. Then the real healing began.

The year I launched my public-relations company, I had no clue how to run a business. So when I asked God to bless me with my first client, I didn't expect Him to send me the biggest box-office draw in the world at the time--Eddie Murphy. That was in 1987, after a stint as a full-time social worker had left me broke, emotionally depleted and yearning for another profession. Leaving behind job security and benefits was scary, but I knew I had to step out and take a risk. With no agency experience in public relations on my resume, I had gathered my nerve and set my sights on winning Eddie Murphy as a client. I sent letters to his home and office. I called. I followed up with more notes and conversations. Then in December I experienced one of the most powerful moments of my career: Eddie agreed to have me represent him. As nervous as I was about starting my business with such a high-profile celebrity, I knew this was God's confirmation that He would show me the way. But there was enormous pressure. Whispers flew around the industry: Who was this unknown Black woman who'd landed Eddie Murphy? Until be signed with me, Eddie had never had a personal publicist, so for him to put his faith in me validated my agent. Although I was scared, I did whatever I had to do to get the business up and running. I put in long hours at the office, was constantly on the phone, sat in endless meetings. Months after Eddie hired me, clients such as Anita Baker, Jackie Joyner-Kersee and Miles Davis also signed on. In the following years, my business grew to include celebrities like Sean "P. Diddy" Combs, Janet Jackson and best-selling author Stephen King. But as my client list expanded, so did my level of exhaustion. During the glamorous whirl of my days, I put on my game face for power lunches, film openings, press events and parties. But most nights I crawled home, overcome by fatigue. When I wasn't working, I was sleeping. Many days I was so overwhelmed by the length of my to-do list that I could barely get out of bed. I didn't know it then, but I'd already begun a downward spiral that, years later, would culminate in a crippling depression.

Depression isn't an easy subject for Black folks to talk about. It can be even harder if we've achieved a measure of visibility and success. We live in a society that is already inclined to think less of us, so once we make it into the big league, the last thing we want is to show a chink in the armor. The myth of the Invincible Sister leaves us little room to show weakness. As a result, I hid my battle with depression for years. But when we fail to acknowledge and deal with deep-seated feelings of sadness and inertia, they can show up in destructive ways: in the form of anger, self-hatred, heart disease, substance abuse, overeating and irresponsible sexual behavior.

The Emptiness Inside

Few people knew that I struggled with depression. I had become so good at pretending everything was okay. By day I was the quintessential superwoman, the sister others called on to handle the details. In people's eyes, I had "made it." But when I drooped home after 14-hour workdays filled with meeting everyone else's needs but my own, my soul and spirit whispered otherwise. The elder of two daughters of North Carolina sharecroppers, I was painfully shy as a child. Still I forced myself to step out of my comfort zone, like the time I ran for and served as class president in eighth grade. And as shy as I was, I remember being fairly happy growing up. I didn't experience anything like the pervasive sadness and bone-deep exhaustion of clinical depression until I was 24. [See sidebar for symptoms of clinical depression.] At the time, I was completing a master's in social work at Columbia University in New York. I wasn't unproductive--I completed each of my training shifts and classroom assignments, but the minute my work was finished, I escaped to my room and slid into a cocoon of sleep. I noticed that whenever I wasn't working, I was sleeping, sometimes for two or three hours in the middle of an afternoon. What was I running from? I had no idea. I just knew that something was deeply wrong. It wasn't as if I walked around in a constant state of despondency. My 51 years have been filled with more mountaintop moments than I can recount. Many of my days have been punctuated with the love and enjoyment of family and friends. And in the two decades since I began my business, I've been blessed with a financial harvest that our foremothers could only dream of. Yet beneath the victories, the celebrations, the joyous refrains, there lived an emptiness, a painful sense of aloneness that became more acute during my late thirties. I wasn't in a serious relationship, and my biological clock was about to sound the final alarm. The reality that I might never find the love of my life or have children, coupled with the breakneck pace of my work, left me feeling drained and hopeless.

My mood-altering drug of choice was food. I ate when I felt empty, and that was most of the time. It's crazy how something so soothing can be so destructive. As I piled on weight, a few friends raised eyebrows. But whenever someone asked me, 'Are you okay?" I gave my game-face answer: "Everything's fine." During the day, as I raced between voice mails and E mails, meetings and press engagements, I rarely sat down for a meal. Instead I grabbed junk food on the go. When I finally arrived home from work, I'd reach for the first hit of comfort I could find--microwaved pound cake covered in strawberries, with Haagen-Dazs on the side. Not surprisingly, I did most of my overeating at night when I was alone with my thoughts. I did everything I could to silence those thoughts. I didn't want to face how much pain I was in. Then in October 2003 I went through a series of major transitions. First I sold my business, though I remain involved as a partner. Then, after seven years of subleasing space in an office building, the agency was forced to move to another location. That big move coincided with another: My parents sold the home I grew up in, and following that sale they separated. Because the transaction happened very quickly, there was no time for me to take one last trip to the house and mourn the loss. That year I also lost two aunts whose constancy and love had provided a foundation for me during my entire life. Even the restaurant I'd frequented for years closed down its Saturday brunch! All at once I felt the ground shifting beneath my feet. So I did what I'd always done during a crisis: I slept. Outwardly I still wore my game face. I wrote books, spoke at corporations, signed on new clients. But I woke up every morning with an almost overwhelming anxiety. I was in so much pain that for nine months I could barely get myself out of bed. Even when I did make it out of the house, I couldn't concentrate. There were times when I'd be flying across the country, and I'd say to myself. If this plane went down, I'd be okay with that. The anxiety was just too much. Some mornings I would put the covers over my head as the phone rang. It took all the strength I had just to get up and listen to another voice mail. Even when I managed to climb out of bed and return a few calls, there were many days when I'd get right back into bed. Two friends, frightened by the depression I'd fallen into, recommended that I call a psychiatrist. I realized that if I had been in physical pain, I would have seen a doctor. Why should emotional pain be any different? I finally picked up the phone.

A Spirit Out of Sync

This wasn't the first time I had reached out for help. To pull myself from my emotional slump in my twenties, I'd sought therapy. I'd realized then how unaware I was of all the feelings I'd experienced in my work as a publicist and as a certified social worker. Even after I began my PR agency, I had continued doing social work on the side, adopting a group home and counseling adults and at-risk youths. You name it, I heard it: physical and sexual abuse, abandonment, addiction. There was such deep pathology that sometimes I couldn't take it all in. Until my therapist asked me a question and the tears started flowing, I often had no idea how much I had been affected. I was always moving too fast to notice.  Now I began to see that it wasn't just as a social worker that I needed an outlet. As a celebrity publicist, I had absorbed people's problems for years. And spiritually and emotionally, it had taken its toll. I recalled an evening, shortly after my friends had convinced me to call a psychiatrist, when I went to receive an award. On the way there, I couldn't stop crying because I felt so low. God has always given me the strength to keep myself together in public, so by the time I walked onstage, I appeared fine. There I stood, smiling and wearing my mask--and inside I was dying. At that moment, I knew that this time I needed more than talk therapy. I needed medication.

Still it was jolting to hear my psychiatrist say the words: "You are clinically depressed." She prescribed Zoloft and Wellbutrin before settling on Lexapro to help rebalance the chemicals in my brain. Since then I've come to understand that my struggle with depression isn't just biochemical, it's also spiritual. In the years leading up to my breakdown, I was spiritually lacking. I was giving to everyone else and not honoring or replenishing myself. What do they say in airline videos? Put the oxygen mask over your own mouth first. My sister once told me I was almost robotlike. I realize now she was really saying that I was being inauthentic. When I'd speak around the country at corporations and colleges, I would tell others how to live powerfully, yet I wasn't following my own advice. So often, what the teacher teaches is exactly what the teacher needs to hear. But I wasn't hearing it. No wonder my confidence plummeted, and I sank deeper into despair. My words and actions were completely out of sync. It's only when we speak from a place of truth and integrity that we can project with full power.

Accepting God's Challenge

I first mentioned my depression in 2002 in my third book, A Plentiful Harvest: Creating Balance and Harmony Through the Seven Living Virtues. But even then, I was afraid to speak candidly about my struggle. Then God said to me, "You have to tell others about your depression, Terrie." I can't begin to express how incredibly liberating it was to accept God's challenge. Today I don't have to hide. I don't have to pretend or lie. When we're courageous enough to tell the truth about our heartache, it's as if we're saying to others, "You're not in this by yourself." All we have to do is step outside our fear and pull off a layer of the mask. When I dared to do that, numerous friends and colleagues, both famous and not, began to pour out their stories to me. Help others while you're hurting; that has been the lesson for me, When you reach out to someone else while you're in pain, you take the emphasis off you. Once when I was having a bad day, my friend Shellie, who can always sense when I'm hurting, took me to the group home that I'd adopted. It's amazing how stepping outside yourself to bless somebody else transforms you. Just spending an hour with kids who desperately need love and guidance lifted my spirit. Before that, I'd hardly been able to pick up my shoes off the floor.

A dear friend who also struggles with depression once told me, "Black people expect to be in pain every day." But the truth is, everybody on the planet is walking around with wounds. Think you know a person who doesn't have a problem? Think again. These days when I'm invited to speak at corporations about business and life principles, I'll often throw in a few words about depression, I'll say, "The reason I have the courage to stand up here and talk to you about this is because I know that half of you are probably on Prozac or Paxil. Raise your hand if you're sure!" As people laugh, hands go up. But afterward, several of these businesspeople, women and men whom others may never guess have experienced depression, will come up to me and share their struggle. I get the same reaction from college students and teens. I've learned that dealing with depression isn't about escaping the feelings. It's about managing them--through talk therapy, medication, exercise, a closer relationship with God. We each have to find our own path to wholeness. Above all, we have to share where we are on the journey, because revelation leads to recovery. I now know that it is only through sharing our stories that we will find healing. When we open our lives, we find out that we're not standing on the ledge alone--we're surrounded by hundreds of others. That ledge is so crowded, the concrete is breaking! That's exactly why I want to use my voice and God's grace to create a sanctuary for people to tell their truths, understand their calling, and reach their full potential. As we unburden ourselves, one truth-telling session at a time, we move closer to the divine plan that the Creator has for each of us. There's a reason God allows us to walk through difficult circumstances; it's so that we can use our pain for the purpose of transformation--so we can lift each other up. If I hadn't survived the hell I found myself in two years ago, I wouldn't be able to tell you there's a miracle on the other side of the storm. We all have a testimony. This is mine. Terrie Williams founded the Stay Strong Foundation to help youths and adults around the country share their experiences and break the chain of silent suffering. She told her story to Michelle Burford, a writer in New York.

RELATED ARTICLE: Recognizing Depression.

Depression or just a mild case of the doldrums? The American Psychological Association explains the difference this way: "Everyone feels sad or blue on occasion. But depressed people tend to feel helpless and hopeless, and to blame themselves for having these feelings. They may become overwhelmed and exhausted and stop participating in routine activities. They may withdraw from family and friends. Some may even have thoughts of death or suicide." If these symptoms persist for two or more weeks, the diagnosis is likely clinical depression. Unfortunately, clinical depression is often misdiagnosed in Black women. "Our symptoms may not be unique, but they can manifest in culturally specific ways," explains Kennise Herring, Ph.D., coauthor of What the Blues Is All About. The myth of the Strong Black Woman only complicates things. "Black women often take great pride in persevering through adversity, so crying isn't a luxury we allow ourselves," Herring observes. Indeed, some Black women find it easier to express anger than sadness. "That's why depression is often manifested in irritability in Black women," says Herring. If you suffer from persistent feelings of pessimism, lethargy, irritability or sadness, it's important to get help.


"We need to lift the veil of shame on getting professional help," says Tabi Upton, cofounder of LifeSource Empowerment Center in Chattanooga. "Just a onetime session with a therapist can begin a turnaround. If you can capture unhealthy thoughts soon enough, you can begin to redirect your emotions." Ask for referrals from relatives or friends or speak to your physician or minister. These organizations may also be able to help: National Mental Health Association, (800) 969-NMHA,; American Psychiatric Association, (888) 357-7924,


A Duke University study compares the antidepressant effect of jogging with that of Zoloft. After four months, patients treated with each approach were doing equally well. But a year later, a third of those treated successfully with Zoloft had relapsed, while more than 90 percent of the joggers were no longer depressed. And you don't have to be a triathlete to banish the blues. In the same Duke study, depressed patients between the ages of 50 and 77 derived just as much benefit from three 30-minute sessions of brisk walking each week as they did from medication.


When you feel yourself falling into a funk, the instinct is to retreat. But consistent bonding with our girlfriends is like Wellbutrin for the soul. "Humans are creatures of community," says Upton. "We are healthiest when we're surrounded by loving people and in loving relationships."--M.B.

For information, write to Terrie Williams, Columbus Circle Station, P.O. Box 20227, New York NY 10023 or E-mail




Man Booker Shortlist Announced

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail –By Catherine McAloon

(Sept. 8, 2005) London — Zadie Smith's “On Beauty,” a tribute to “Howards End” set on a college campus, and Julian Barnes' “Arthur & George,” a historical novel about Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle, were among the finalists announced Thursday for Britain's Man Booker Prize. Others on the shortlist for the $91,800 award were John Banville's “The Sea,” Sebastian Barry's “A Long Long Way,” Kazuo Ishiguro's “Never Let Me Go” and Ali Smith's “The Accidental.” Former Booker winners J.M. Coetzee, Salman Rushdie and Ian McEwan were among those who didn't make the final list. The winner of the prize, open to writers from Britain, Ireland and the Commonwealth of former British colonies, will be announced at a ceremony in London on Oct. 10. Chair of the judges John Sutherland said the quality of the 17 books in this year's long list had been particularly strong and judges faced a difficult decision in culling 11 entries for the shortlist.  “The strength of the year's competition can be measured by the fact that three good books by previous Man Booker winners were finally not selected,” he said Thursday. Barnes' novel is considered the favourite to win the Booker, Britain's most prestigious literary award. “Arthur & George” is based on the true story of Doyle's championing of a half-Indian solicitor, George Edalji, who was jailed in 1903 for mutilating horses in the English village of Great Wyrley. Doyle became convinced that Edalji was innocent of the crime and set out to clear his name. Banville's “The Sea” follows a man who returns to the Irish seaside town of his youth to face traumatic memories of the past. “A Long Long Way,” also set in Ireland, is about an 18-year-old Catholic who decides to leave home in 1914 to fight for the Allied Forces as political and religious unrest escalate in his country. Ishiguro, Japanese-born author and 1989 Booker Prize winner for “The Remains of the Day,” focuses “Never Let Me Go” on the lives of three seemingly happy children at an idyllic institution in the English countryside. Smith's “The Accidental” explores a mysterious visitor who bewitches a troubled family and turns their lives upside down.




You Can't Hold An Event Without Collecting For The Hurricane Victims

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Leanne Delap

(Sept. 10, 2005) Even as Oprah, Julia and Sean rushed to the edge of New Orleans's fetid waters to lend a hand and raise funds, Toronto's publicists and events co-ordinators faced a critical question of taste: How openly enthusiastic can we (and more to the point, American celebrities) be about our 10 film-fest days of red-carpet bombshells, gift-bag swag and truckloads of champers when a whole U.S. city has disappeared? The answer is in linking the good times with a platform of doing good. Toronto publicist Danielle Iversen, for example, switched the focus of her annual festival party, at Ultra Supper Club on Monday, to become a fundraiser for the New Orleans Disaster Relief Fund. Basically, Iversen says, it is a safe way of ameliorating guilt for being out on the party circuit. "It's simple, we're charging $5 at the door!" The Katrina effect has necessitated last-minute mood adjustments to celebrations that have, in some cases, been in the works for a year. "There was a point last week where I was having conversations with film and celebrity management people in Los Angeles," says Deborah Lewis, vice-president of events for the Kontent Group, which publishes FQ and Inside Entertainment magazines, both of which are throwing parties this week to piggyback on the festival.  Kontent decided this week to direct proceeds from an on-line auction of celeb photos taken at their WireImage festival photo studio to Katrina's victims. "We had to make a call early on about what the mood would be like, how the VIP guests, the ones the sponsors want to be affiliated with, would respond to this disaster," Lewis says.

Charity is the new yoga -- and everyone is doing it. Angelina Jolie circles the globe for Unicef, adopting children along the way. George Clooney worked the phones for tsunami victims. Paris Hilton sold a New Year's date to the highest bidder for $200,000 for Katrina's homeless; Colin Farrell took in $20,000 for the same cause. The latest poster girl of celestial fundraising is Kate Hudson, who hosts tomorrow's One X One gala in Toronto. Celebrities are in a tricky position, image-wise. They have to do more than a perfect downward dog pose these days: They need to be affiliated with the right charity at the right time. No one wants pictures of themselves getting trashed and stumbling down a red carpet next to images of bloated bodies in New Orleans.  It's all about positioning, and this year, the best accessory will be a big cheque for hurricane victims. Celebs get attention and ink, and attention brings in money. But is all that star wattage creating fatigue amongst a public wearied by waves of disasters? The recent round of Live 8 concerts left some celebrities criticized for jumping on a cause bandwagon to kick-start their careers.  Let's not forget that both "brands" benefit: "They get a lot of press for the charity," Iversen says, "but of course they also get press for themselves. Not that there is anything wrong with that!"  Billed as "the party to make a safer world for us all," the One X One ("one by one") gala and after-party are slated to raise a million bucks, half of which is earmarked for Canadian charities, half for DATA (Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa).

The "One" tagline is about the association with the One movement, spearheaded by Bono and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation, the organization that brought us the Live 8 shows this year. The party already had great buzz: gorgeous young Hollywood royal with a rocker husband (Chris Robinson of the Black Crowes) plus connection to the "chic" cause of the moment (to take a cynical view, you can't be young and famous right now without getting involved in African charities), and a strong Canadian connection (the Lou Adler Foundation, which supports cancer charities). But when the One X One organizers decided to peel off some of the take to victims of Katrina, the event -- which is not part of the film festival but like many parties is cleverly timed to make hay of the visiting posse of personalities -- hit the mood of this moment perfectly. As was the case with Sept. 11, which coincided with the film festival four years ago, and last year's Asian tsunami, you can't hold an event right now without collecting for the hurricane victims. "It has been an ongoing thought," says Debra Goldblatt of Rock-it Promotions, a Toronto PR firm that launched Tastemakers Lounge, a festival "gifting boutique" where top names can come scoop top Canadian product (Cake makeup, Smythe jackets) and international brands such as Escada.  "It is weird to be planning parties and giving swag to celebrities right now. We've all been working on how to tie the events of the past week in." She says that she can't hang out a hat in the suite, but will work with her sponsors on a way to make a contribution.

Hudson is a good fit with One X One, says Toronto entertainment industry publicist Samantha Brickman, a long-time friend of the actor.  The actor has been actively involved with DATA for some time; Brickman introduced her to Joelle Adler, who runs Diesel Canada, one of the title sponsors of One X One. When Adler lost her husband to cancer two years ago, she set up the Lou Adler Foundation, which contributes to numerous Canadian charities.  The idea of raising funds both for Africa and for local causes fulfilled the objectives of all parties concerned.  "Kate is so well liked and respected that she makes it much easier for us to approach people. Our sponsors and everyone else involved are so happy to be associated with her," Brickman says.  "Kate's commitment resonates with the volunteers, the organizers, the sponsors and patrons and results in an event that is far greater because she is involved." That involvement made selling the $150,000 and $250,000 tables that much easier. It made the 500 after-party tickets (at $100 a pop) sell out in record time.  And it got them a Black Crowes guitar (among many celeb items, including guitar lessons with Rush's Geddy Lee) for the silent auction. Hook a celeb and you also hook their fellow famous folk.  This is also baby week at the festival, as Hudson is travelling with her son, Ryder, Gwyneth Paltrow is bringing baby Apple, and Courtney Cox will be toting her daughter Coco.  All this happy families activity will lend a further positive (and properly subdued) air to festivities, Lewis points out. In the end, we can be as cynical as we want about celebrities' motivations in being marketing tools for good. But there are more than enough of us willing to pay $2,500 a ticket to sit at a table closer to Kate Hudson.




Not Just A Perky Publicist: Samantha Brickman

Excerpt from The Globe and Mail - By Leah Mclaren

(Sept. 10, 2005) Samantha Brickman bounces onto the Spoke Club patio on a Thursday afternoon and orders a glass of pinot grigio. She waves hello to several people she knows and then focuses in on me, the reporter she is here to meet. "Can you believe what a beautiful day it is?" she says, "This summer . . . seriously. It's insane." In a lace lingerie top, jeans and gold designer bangles, Brickman, the party planner and organizer behind tomorrow night's massive One X One charity event in Toronto, is undeniably adorable. But don't mistake her for being just another perky, blond publicist. "That's not who I am," she says, lighting a pre-lunch American Spirit. "On my deathbed, I don't want to look back at my life and say, 'Wow, I had all these Hollywood friends and went to a bunch of crazy parties.' I want to actually do something meaningful." As the driving force behind One X One, Brickman is doing something meaningful indeed. The event, to be held in the city's Distillery Historic District, is aiming to raise an incredible $1-million for African debt relief and cancer-patient care in Canada. Eight hundred people are set to attend the sold-out event, which has become the hot ticket of the Toronto International Film Festival -- even though it has no official connection to TIFF. The guest list, says Brickman, is a mixture of Torontonians and people visiting from Los Angeles and New York.

The event will be hosted by the actress Kate Hudson, who also happens to be an old friend of Brickman's. The two young women met in Muskoka over a decade ago. "My family rented a place on Lake Rosseau beside her family cottage," Brickman, age 30, recounts. "We were basically kids hanging out on the dock." Brickman's friendship with Hudson persisted through the years. She has been chased through the streets of New York by paparazzi with her pal and even ended up in the pages of People magazine by accident. She was there the night Hudson met her husband, rocker Chris Robinson. "We were in New York and I dragged her to a Kids in the Hall performance," laughs the Oakville, Ont., native. Robinson, who was attending the show, invited the girls to an after-party. "I left early 'cause I had a headache and Kate came home at 6 in the morning saying, 'I think I'm in love.' I always say to her, 'If I hadn't dragged you out, who knows?' " A true girl's girl, Brickman is confused by people who ask her if she's jealous of her movie-star pal's success. "Why would I be jealous? I think it's great. It's like an added bonus. If anything I'm grateful." Still, while she may have Hollywood friends, Brickman is no California party girl herself. After two years in-house at Roots Canada in Toronto, Brickman was shipped out to L.A. to head up the company's entertainment-relations department. She came home less than a year later, and started her own business, Brickman Entertainment Group, which specializes in fashion and show business.

"L.A. just wasn't my thing," she admits. "I'm really family-oriented. I travel all the time, but I'm most attached to Toronto." In just over a year, Brickman Entertainment has built an impressive client list that includes Holt Renfrew, the clothing label Diesel and the jewellery-design company Ippolita. In years past, she was the organizer behind Holt's huge Vanity Fair festival bash, which (to the dismay of the city's socialites) isn't happening this year. Instead, Brickman is working on an intimate TIFF dinner party hosted by the Westons, owners of Holts, in honour of the designer Michael Kors. But in spite of all the glitz and glamour surrounding her, Brickman says she's a traditionalist at heart. She was raised to give to charity and it's a principle she has held to firmly ever since. "I hate it when people say 'I give,' " she says, "But I really do believe it's your duty to do so if you're blessed." I tell her that, for a perky blond publicist, she sounds a bit religious and she smiles. "My Dad's Jewish and my Mom's Christian, so I guess I'm a Jew for Jesus," she jokes. "I can't help it, I'm god-fearing."







10 Great Ways To Burn More Fat

By Raphael Calzadilla, BA, CPT, ACE, eDiets Chief Fitness Pro

(September 13, 2005) You're so busy you have absolutely no time to work out, right? Wrong. It's important that you make the time and I'm here to help you do it. In this busy world filled with work pressure, family and stress we sometimes have to use a lot of creativity to sneak in workout time.  I've constructed some quick tips to keep you moving, your muscles stimulated and your blood flowing in minimal time. Now you have no excuse.

Here are my 10 fat burning tips for people on the go:

1. When you first wake up commit to 10 minutes of continuous exercise. Choose only three movements and perform each in succession without stopping for 10 minutes. For example, Monday you can perform modified push-ups, followed by crunches for your abs followed by stationary lunges. On Tuesday you can perform free-standing squats with hands on hips, double crunch for abs, and close grip modified push-ups (hands 3 inches apart) for your triceps. Just 10 minutes! Just take a quick breather when you need it.

2. Perform timed interval walking in your neighbourhood or at lunch. If it takes 10 minutes to walk to a certain destination near your office or in your neighbourhood, try to make it in eight minutes. You can also do this first thing in the morning before work as well as on your lunch break.

3. If you have stairs in your home or in your work place, commit to taking the stairs a specific number of times. Tell yourself that you'll take the stairs six or eight times (no matter what).

4. While seated, perform some isometric exercise to help strengthen and tighten your muscles. For example, while in a seated position, simply contract the abdominals for 30 seconds while breathing naturally. You can also tighten and contract your legs for 60 seconds. Perform about three sets per area. You'll feel your muscles get tighter in just three weeks if you perform this a few times per week.

5. For about $15 you can invest in a pedometer. It's a small device you can carry that records the amount of miles you walk per day. Each week simply try to add just a bit more to the mileage. For example, let’s say you walk one mile total during the day in the normal course of activities. Simply try to make it two miles total the following week. Just make a game of it. You'll burn more calories.

6. Tired at night and just want to sit in front of the TV? Try this technique: take periodic five-minute exercise breaks and perform some muscle stimulating and calorie burning exercise. For example, take five minutes and perform only ab crunches. Then, when it's time for another five-minute exercise break, perform modified push-ups for five minutes. Then for a final five-minute break, perform stationary lunges. Try to do as many as possible in five minutes and try to beat your amount of reps during each subsequent break. It won’t seem daunting because it’s only five minutes at a time, split over a 30- or 60-minute timeframe. Instead of rest breaks, you’ll take exercise breaks. You don’t really need to watch that new commercial do you?

7. How about performing one exercise movement per day for seven to 10 minutes? Need some examples? Monday: free-standing squats for seven minutes. Tuesday: chair dips for seven minutes. Wednesday: crunches and hip lifts off the floor for seven minutes. Thursday: modified push-up for seven minutes. Friday: stationary lunges for seven minutes. It’s quick, simple and teaches consistency.

8. Want things even simpler? Take the longest route every time you have to walk somewhere -- even if it’s to a co-workers office.

9. Double-up the stairs. Every time you take the stairs, simply take a double step or every other stair. It will be just like lunges and the Stairmaster combined. Great for the legs and butt.

10. Perform any of the above with your spouse or a friend. I’m sure you can find someone who is in the same situation. The support will give you more motivation and you just may find that you can create even more workout time for yourself.

Hey, I know this won't make you a world-class athlete or give you six-pack abs, but that's not the goal. I just want to see you making an effort to improve. If you take two to three of your favourite tips above, that will be the beginning of something great.




EVENTS –SEPTEMBER 15 - 25, 2005




The Orbit Room
College Street
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Wade O. Brown, Shamakah Ali, Rich Brown, Adrian Eccleston, David Williams.




College Street Bar  
574 College Street (at Manning)  
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Dione Taylor, Sandy Mamane, Davide Direnzo, Justin Abedin, Dafydd Hughes and David French.




Benefit for Katrina Victims
Advent Lutheran Church
2800 Don Mills, Don Mills and Sheppard
Noon to 1:30 p.m.
$10.00 (All proceeds to flood victims)

EVENT PROFILE: Featuring It's been a difficult few days seeing countless images of death, destruction, and despair in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and the resulting flooding in New Orleans and the surrounding areas. There are many questions being raised about what was done before the storm and what was done in the aftermath. Regardless of the political questions concerning the relief effort, the fact remains that there is a tremendous need for help for the residents of this community that now lies in ruins.  On Sunday Sept 18, I invite you to a special Lester McLean Trio performance at Advent Lutheran Church with all proceeds benefiting the victims of this tremendous disaster. We are asking for a $10.00 donation with all proceeds going to Katrina victims. I promise you that you will enjoy an afternoon of great music and fellowship while doing something to help in this time of need.   Please feel free to forward this whomever you like.  The Lester McLean Trio is: Lester McLean - Vocals, Saxes, Guitar; Michael Occhipinti - Acoustic Guitar, Vocals; Louis Simao - Upright Bass, Accordion, Vocals




Irie Food Joint
745 Queen Street W.
10:00 pm
EVENT PROFILE:  Welcome to Negril Ontario, that is!  Yes, Carl’s been at it again and has completely revamped his back patio for his faithful Irie patrons.  And now that the weather is warmer, you just HAVE to come out party on the new and hip patio.  Rain or shine as the patio is covered for our convenience.  A real celebration of summer at the hippest patio in Toronto!  DJ Carl Allen will be spinning the tunes while Kayte Burgess and Adrian Eccleston bring the live music. 




Indian Motorcycle
  King Street (at Peter)  
10:00 pm  
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring host Chris Rouse, Calvin Beale, Joel Joseph and Shamakah Ali with various local artists. 




Legendary Jazz/Funk Artist Roy Ayers Launches Toronto’s Hottest Jazz Series - Jazz By Genre

“Timely,” “progressive” and “cutting-edge” are just a few of the words that have been used to describe Toronto’s latest innovation – a new concept in jazz called Jazz by Genre.  Designed as a concert series, Jazz by Genre epitomizes a new thrust and direction in jazz music, forging a new path and connection with audiences who have been at times left out of the jazz loop. Produced by the Nu Jazz Society, the format of Jazz by Genre is a natural and progressive extension of traditional jazz programming. Its alignment with the various genres (e.g. R ‘n B, Soca, Latin, Brazilian, Classic, Swing), will begin with a focus on the contemporary dance club experience to drive entirely fresh, engaging and unexpected musical expressions such as ‘breakjazz.’ With that said, Jazz by Genre brings renowned jazz musician and producer, Roy Ayers to Toronto to launch its first in a series of concerts. On September 22nd, at the Guvernment, witness history in the making as DJs Jason Palma and Startin’ from Scratch are fully integrated with the band KUSH as live “musicians” playing a blend of funk, soul, Brazilian, house, hiphop, & R ‘n B breakjazz with their turntables positioned as the live jazz “instruments”. Breakjazz is a newly-defined form of jazz created by combining an acoustic jazz band with one or more DJs and/or turntablists, who add electronic elements to the performance (e.g. scratching, loops, vocals from a CD, vinyl record or other electronic source).

JAZZ BY GENRE featuring Roy Ayers
With Opening Act Kush
The Guvernment
132 Queen’s Quay E.
7:30 p.m.
TICKETS:  $37-MEMBERS*; $45-REGULAR; $55-VIP: Hors D’oeuvres & Drink Ticket

Opener KUSH featuring Etric Lyons, Eddie Bullen, Robert Sibony, and Nick “Brownman” Ali playing Soul/Funk/House/Hip Hop/R&B “Breakjazz” with DJ Jason Palma and DJ Startin from Scratch playing as guest performers in the band.  Spoken-word artists Al St. Louis and Anne-Marie Woods (aka Amani)
In addition to our official launch event, Jazz by Genre will host a pre-launch party at club Revival on September 21st. On this night of classic soul jazz we will pay tribute and make an honorary presentation to Salome Bey for her outstanding contribution to Canadian jazz over the last 40 years. Performing will be hard-bop band Kollage and five-octave range singer Liberty Silver.

783 College St. (at Shaw Avenue)
Tickets:  $15
$55 dinner packages are available.

Tickets for both events available at TICKETMASTER.CA or Play De Record




The Orbit Room
College Street
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Wade O. Brown, Shamakah Ali, Rich Brown, Adrian Eccleston, David Williams.




College Street Bar
574 College Street (at Manning)
10:30 pm 
EVENT PROFILE: Featuring Dione Taylor, Sandy Mamane, Davide Direnzo, Justin Abedin, Dafydd Hughes and David French




Have a great week!  

Dawn Langfield   
Langfield Entertainment