♦ Canadian artists, musicians and filmmakers are mourning the official death of MuchFACT, a once-thriving music video fund that has played a major role in launching the careers of Canadians on both sides of the camera since 1984. The announcement last week came as no surprise to anyone — MuchFACT had been endangered since earlier this year, when the CRTC ruled that Much’s parent company, Bell Media, would no longer be required to contribute to the fund — but many had still clung to the hope that the federal government would step up and offer an alternative. An open letter to Canadian Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly made the rounds in the wake of the announcement of MuchFACT’s closure, signed by more than 100 established members of Canada’s arts scene.
♦ Prince Harry made a surprise appearance at WE Day Toronto last Thursday, taking a quick break from spectating the Invictus Games to drop in on the youth empowerment assembly. Applause erupted throughout the Air Canada Centre as the popular prince took center stage to speak about the importance of youth activism, with emphasis on environmental concerns and remaining united in the face of today’s divisive “clickbait culture”. The next day, Harry made headlines again thanks to another surprise visitor: Barack Obama, who joined his pal in the stands to catch up over a wheelchair basketball match. The former U.S. President was already in town to make a speech at Canada 2020, a progressive think-tank, but apparently carved out a bit of time from his busy schedule to spend some quality time with his friend, Harry (and support the cause he has championed since 2014).
♦ The stage adaptation of Alfred Hitchcock’s 1959 thriller North by Northwest has arrived in Toronto for its North American premiere. Directed by Simon Phillips and written by Carolyn Burns, North by Northwest was picked up from Australia’s theatrical circuit by David Mirvish and selected to open the current season. While some critics wondered whether the classic film was a wise choice to bring to life on stage, others have so far given favourable reviews, noting the clever (and sometimes hilarious) ways in which the trickier physical elements of the film are represented on stage and praising the performance of leading man Jonathan Watton. North by Northwest is playing now at the Royal Alexandra Theatre until Sunday, October 29.
♦ Have we mentioned how tight Toronto is with Guillermo del Toro lately? The Mexican-American master of horror lingered in the city for a couple of weeks after TIFF ended to oversee the opening of his own special exhibit at The Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO), called Guillermo del Toro: At Home with Monsters. The exhibit showcases 500 pieces from del Toro’s personal collection of memorabilia, ranging from books and visual concepts that have inspired him over the years to actual trinkets and props used in his films. Arranged thematically, as if inviting viewers to experience a first-person perspective of the director’s creative process, the pieces were all pulled from Bleak House (del Toro’s own house-of-horrors gallery, located near his home in Los Angeles). The exhibit opened on Saturday, September 30 at the AGO and will run until the second week of January.
♦ Toronto-raised actress Ellen Wong was one of eight young actors selected for this year’s TIFF Rising Stars, a program that offers promising Canadian talent opportunities to network with industry professionals from all over the world and receive special training during four days of the festival. As the Canadian daughter of Chinese-Cambodian immigrants, Wong has high hopes that her blossoming fame will also give her a voice to push for more diverse roles for ethnic women in film. She is perhaps best known for portraying Knives Chau in the beloved Toronto-fanfare flick Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and has more recently turned heads with roles on Dark Matter and the Netflix Original series GLOW. She will appear next in Condor, the highly anticipated television reboot of Three Days of the Condor.
♦ ‘Tis the season to be jumpy! The Toronto After Dark Film Festival (TDAFF) is back next week, scaring up the very best of indie horror, sci-fi and cult films for Halloween-hyped moviegoers. This year’s contest saw over 900 submissions from filmmakers around the world — and with only 20 entries making the final cut, audiences will be treated to the most nail-biting, hair-raising and heart-quickening picks of the bunch. For those who like to plan ahead, check out the full festival lineup and get your tickets here.
By Miranda Cross