♦ Canadian child star Jacob Tremblay walked the blue carpet at Sick Kids Hospital in Toronto earlier this month to attend a special screening of his new film, Wonder, joined by his young costars Kyle Breitkopf and Toronto’s own Millie Davis and a group of young Sick Kids patients who helped him prepare for his role in the film. Wonder, which also stars Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson, is based on the 2012 novel of the same name by R.J. Palacio about a young boy named Auggie Pullman who was born with facial deformities caused by a rare congenital condition called Treacher Collins syndrome. The story follows Auggie as he discovers the joy of learning and new friendships as well as the difficulties of being different and a target for bullying when he attends public school for the first time. In order to transform into Auggie, Tremblay wore a wig, contact lenses and facial prosthetics during filming — but he felt it was even more important to do the character justice by understanding the perspectives and feelings of kids who live with Treacher Collins and other similar conditions in real life. “I made friends and I also asked them if they could send me letters of any tips or experiences or stories they had,” Tremblay said of his time visiting the children at Sick Kids, many of whom were thrilled to lend their expertise to a thoughtful, accurate portrayal of someone whose daily struggles mirror their own.
♦ More than a dozen organizations that protect the interests of actors, talent agents, filmmakers and other active professionals in Canada’s film and television industry met in Toronto last Thursday for a call-to-action discussion, led by the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA). On the agenda: collectively forming strategies to address, prevent and eradicate the decades-spanning issue of sexual misconduct within the industry. A statement issued to the press following the meeting says that the first order of business is creating a code of conduct that clearly defines what constitutes inappropriate behaviour and what the specific consequences will be for breaching the code. The stakeholder group also aims to create educational programs that help foster a system that enables victims to report incidents of harassment and abuse without fear of penalty and career damage.
♦ A new YouTube channel that showcases classic Canadian TV shows has finally been launched, thanks to joint efforts by Google Canada and the Canada Media Fund. Called Encore+, the new streaming channel has already made full episodes of several classic homegrown TV shows like Due South, Degrassi High, Are You Afraid of the Dark? and Da Vinci’s Inquest available for streaming worldwide, along with a number of feature-length films and documentaries. Some titles are already available for viewing in both English and French, while countless others will become available over time as beloved programs of decades past make the transition from analog to digital format.
♦ Several buzzworthy titles that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this fall are now available for home viewing on digital streaming services like Netflix and CraveTV. Lovers of music and pop culture may want to check out documentaries like Gaga: Five Foot Two (which follows a year in the life of the legendary music star Lady Gaga as she produces a new studio album and prepares to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show), Long Time Running (which follows The Tragically Hip’s emotional farewell tour in the wake of late frontman Gord Downie’s terminal brain cancer diagnosis) and Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond (which follows the making of the 1999 biographical dramedy, Man on the Moon, starring Jim Carrey as Andy Kaufman). Other new releases include Brawl in Cell Block 99, One of Us, First They Killed My Father and the Toronto-filmed miniseries Alias Grace.
By Miranda Cross