♦ An outpouring of grief, reflection and loving memories washed over the nation last week following the passing of beloved Canadian icon Gord Downie, who was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer in 2015. Thousands of heartbroken fans, musicians, artists, athletes, actors, politicians and First Nations leaders paid tribute to the late Tragically Hip frontman after the news broke on Wednesday morning, with many sharing stories on social media about how his music touched their lives and how his activism and love for his country inspired them to be better people. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also delivered an emotional send-off to his friend, saying “We are less as a country without Gord Downie in it” through tears. “He knew that as great as we were… we needed to be better than we are” he added, as a nod to the singer’s dedication to working towards reconciliation with Canada’s First Nations communities. Downie passed away late Tuesday night, surrounded by family and loved ones in his hometown of Kingston, Ontario.
♦ The Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema has also joined the important national conversation on reconciliation. After hosting the imagineNATIVE festival earlier this month, the popular indie cinema has begun the practice of offering formal land acknowledgement before all documentary screenings and live events, either verbally or via on-screen projection. Land acknowledgement is a gesture of reconciliation wherein a speaker or representative addressing a crowd pays respect to native history by stating the traditional name of the land or territory they are standing on. Hot Docs’ special programs curator Will DiNovi, who referred to the initiative as “an important and long overdue gesture”, has already seen a wave of positive responses from audience members, many of whom are embracing the chance to educate themselves on an important part of Canada’s history that is often glossed over by provincial curriculums and mainstream news media.
♦ A new politically-themed Canadian TV show seems like it may be slightly juicier than the average House of Commons livestream. Political Blind Date is an upcoming six-episode series, airing November 7 on TVO, that pairs up politicians from all levels of government for date-like outings, where the goal is to ignite meaningful, civil discussions on important (and often-polarizing) national issues. Hot topics of conversation will include the legalization of cannabis, public transit, safe injection sites, prison and more. Leave it to Canadians to come up with a fun, friendly way to achieve peaceful discourse on stuff that matters!
♦ Suits star Meghan Markle has been the subject of much public interest lately thanks to her high-profile romance with Prince Harry — the pair caused a miniature media frenzy with their first official public appearance as a couple at the Invictus Games in Toronto last month — but what else do we really know about the Toronto-based actress? For those with a thirst for more Markle, a documentary helmed by her estranged half-sister, Samantha Grant, is airing this Saturday on Channel 4, titled When Harry Met Meghan: A Royal Romance. While the documentary is sure to contain plenty of coverage on the celebrity couple and what their relationship means for the Royal family (as the title suggests), Grant says the film also tells the story of Meghan’s family, dating all the way back to their ancestral roots, plus a little bit about her life and career before she met Harry. This isn’t the first time Grant has taken a personal interest in exposing the details of her famous sibling’s life: earlier this year, she was reportedly working on a tell-all book deemed an act of jealousy by even her own family members, and has not shied away from critical commentary on Markle’s celebrity status in the past. However, she appears to have swung in the general direction of good intentions with When Harry Met Meghan, praising her half-sister’s quality of character and humanitarian efforts throughout the film’s press junket. Whether Grant is donning not-quite-convincing sheep’s clothing remains to be seen.
♦ The countdown to the 25th Canadian Model and Talent Convention has begun! The annual four-day event in May provides an incredible opportunity for aspiring Canadian actors, singers, dancers and models to be seen by top-tier talent agents, managers, scouts and casting directors by participating in a wide variety of workshops, seminars, one-on-one interviews, on-site talent competitions and more. Details on specific locations and events are still yet to be announced, but most of the Toronto portion of the event has been confirmed to take place at the Toronto Airport Marriott Hotel. Waiting to be discovered? Find out everything you need to get your application process started here!
♦ With headlines still dominated by the explosive allegations against disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein that surfaced earlier this month, all eyes are on major industry players across the board to take action and confront the much bigger, uglier problem of sexually-motivated abuse of power within the industry. While Toronto’s most public entertainment outfit, TIFF, has laid relatively low on the issue so far (offering only a brief tweet about sexual harassment, followed by the quiet removal of Weinstein’s photo from the TIFF building’s hall-of-fame corridor) others have been more vocal in their condemnation of what many are referring to as an industry-wide “open secret”. The Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television called for a “zero-tolerance policy against abuse and sexual harassment” last week, inviting all industry partners to work hard together to eradicate the problem. Meanwhile, president of ACTRA Toronto Theresa Tova said “It can’t be all that they do. It can’t be all that we focus on”, in reference to TIFF’s photo-takedown — a sentiment that mirrors what many others feel about the seemingly “band-aid” solution of making Weinstein a scapegoat. Still, as the old adage goes, talk is cheap — what Hollywood needs right now is real, actionable recourse.
By Miranda Cross