Monday, April 28, 2008

Sundance Channel Buys Canadian Docs, NFB Films

The American specialty channel Sundance has acquired rights to 11 National Film Board of Canada productions, including Confessions of an Innocent Man, made by Vancouver’s Paperny Films.

Confessions, directed by Academy Award-nominate David Paperny and narrated by Martin Sheen, recounts William Sampson’s horrific account of being wrongfully imprisoned in Saudi Arabia. Sampson, a British-Canadian citizen working as a business consultant at the time of his arrest, was charged by the Saudis with plotting murder and a terrorist bombing. Tortured and jailed for almost three years, Sampson wrote of his experience in a book (cover image, pictured) of the same name. Paperny’s film made headlines of its own when if was featured last fall at the Vancouver International Film Festival.

Other items in Sundance’s shopping cart include Triage: Dr. James Orbinski’s Humanitarian Dilemma, about Canadian doctor James Orbinski (head of Medecins sans Frontieres/Doctors Without Borders) on an African pilgrimage of hope; and the feature documentary Wild Horse Redemption, by Academy Award-winning director John Zaritsky. Produced by Terence McKeown (The Boys on the Bus), Wild Horse Redemption looks at innovative program in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains that offers inmates the chance to learn how to train and work with wild horses.

Sundance’s short list of short films includes, Oscar nominee Madame Tutli-Putli, Sleeping Betty, Engine 371, Conte De Quartier, Flutter; Jeu, Tower Bawher and Tragic Story Y With A Happy Ending.

More Doc Talk

Air India 182, which recently opened Toronto’s Hot Docs film festival, will air June 22, commercial-free, on CBC. The film, directed by Sturla Gunnarrson, will air on the anniversary of the flight's departure 23 years ago, and on the eve of Canada's National Day of Remembrance for Victims of Terrorism.

On June 22, 1985, Air India flight 182 left Canada en route to Delhi with 329 passengers aboard, most of them Canadians. An explosion in the baggage compartment ripped apart the plane, when it was near the Irish Coast, killing all on board. Canadian Sikh extremists, seeking revenge against the Indian government, planted the explosives when the flight began its journey from Vancouver. (You can read more about the film in an earlier blog dated March 18…)

The Hot Docs festival has just ended in T.O.…Just in time as tomorrow Vancouver’s Doxa Festival will announce its lineup …Doxa will run from May 27 to June 1…Check this space tomorrow for the 411 on the lineup and fest highlights.

Thursday, April 17, 2008


If only it was that simple. Tune in tomorrow night to South Park ( Friday, April 18, 9:30 pm, The Comedy Network) for the very special episode Canada On Strike.

The South Park dudes Trey Parker and Matt Stone - who've been massaging a love-hate relationship with the Great White North for some time - have again shifted their gaze above the 49th parallel. Believe it or not, this is the 12th season for the series that introduced Americans to Terrance and Philip.

In this one, the head of the World Canadian Bureau leads Canadians into a lengthy strike with the only hope of a deal resting with negotiator Cartman (huh?) and the other South Park lads. Apparently news of Canadians on strike results in a mass influx of picket-crossing Danes. Touche.

Right about now, if you pay attention to politics south of the border, images of the remarkable documentary A Day Without Mexicans are likely being screened in the movie theatre of your mind.
Artwork: CTV

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Sup with a Star: Celebs Rally Round Luminary Babz Chula

So, if you’ve spent any time around Vancouver’s film & TV biz, you’ve probably met the wondrous life force known as Babz Chula (far right). Actor, performer, writer and mentor, Chula generates a the whirlwind of energy and excitement where ever she goes, and whenever she’s on screen, as evidenced by her recent turn in The Green Chain (by Mark Leiren-Young).

Chula has been battling cancer for several years, relying on a mix of traditional and naturopathic therapies, some of which aren’t funded by the province’s Medical Services Plan. She recently learned that the C-word is back, her third bout, and she’s again in the fight of her life.

Chula’s fellow thesps have banded together as the Babz Chula Lifeline for Artists Society (BCLAS) to help raise funds to cover her rising medical costs. Chula, above, shares a laugh with her friend Liz McBratney, a member of the society.
Led by actors Ben Ratner (Da Vinci’s City Hall), Suleka Mathew (Men In Trees) and Nick Lea (X-Files), the society is spearheading a number of projects, including an online E-bay auction, offering showbiz goodies of all sorts. Up for bids are several chances to have dinner with a star: among those who've agreed to be 'auctioned ' off are Lea, Mathew, David Duchovny, Chris Carter, Peter DeLuise and Callum Keith Rennie.

"The media has gotten behind us and the money is coming in slowly, but surely. We have a long way to go to cover the cost of Babz’s treatments, but the response, thus far, has been very encouraging," says Ratner.

So far dinners with celebrities are drawing the highest bids on the auction. Bidders can vie to dine with the likes of:

David Duchovny (Californication, X-Files) and Nicholas Lea (X-Files, Men in Trees)
Chris Carter (X-Files)
Callum Keith Rennie (X-Files movie, Battlestar Galactica)
Peter DeLuise (Stargate SG-1)
Paul Adelstein (Private Practice) and Suleka Mathew (Men In Trees)
Gabrielle Miller (Corner Gas) and John Cassini (Intelligence)
Paul McGillian and Jewel Staite (Stargate Atlantis)
Matthew Good (musician)
Tahmoh Penikett and Kandyse McClure (Battlestar Galactica)

The auction also features a wealth of movie and TV memorabilia, including a slate from the new X-Files movie donated, crew jackets, gift baskets and original scripts.

For more information or to link to the auction, go to

Thursday, April 10, 2008

OUT OF GAS? Brent Butt and Crew Will Sign Off in 2009

See you later, Jackass.

Sorry, Corner Gas fans. But soon you’ll hear Oscar Leroy (Eric Peterson) bark that for the last time. The upcoming sixth season of Corner Gas will be its last, series creator Brent Butt announced today.

“It’s a very difficult decision, but the right decision, and one I felt I had to make,” said Butt, in a statement issued by Prairie Pants Productions.

Developed originally by Butt, a stand-up comedian, for The Comedy Network and CTV, Corner Gas became a hit with Canadians who loved its wry and sardonic sense of humour. The cast includes Butt, Peterson, Janet Wright, Gabrielle Miller, Fred Ewanuick, Lorne Cardinal and Tara Spencer-Nairn.

The series began airing in the United States last July on Superstation WGN. Nineteen new episodes will go into production next month (May) in Regina and Rouleau, Saskatchewan, for broadcast during the 2008-09 TV season.

“For the good of the show, I wanted to exit gracefully, on top of our game, when we’re at our prime – because that’s how I want viewers to remember Corner Gas: at its very best.”

Bill C-10: Will It Stand Up to a Legal Challenge?

The biggest problem with Bill C-10 is that it may not stand up to a legal challenge, Senator Francis Fox, who knows a thing or two about legal things, said yesterday during Senate Question Period.

The former Liberal Solicitor-General told the Senate that Bill C-10 it might be unconstitutional, according to legal scholars. Said Fox, "Consider what Pierre Trudel, a prominent legal scholar with the law faculty at the Université de Montréal, said in an article published in Le Devoir on April 7. He called Bill C-10 an unwarranted violation of freedom of expression.

"He is not a Liberal, a Conservative, a Bloc member or a New Democrat; he is a university professor, an expert in the field. He says and I quote, 'The text of the bill does not contain a definition of 'public policy.' Freedom of expression is protected by a constitutional text: section 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees this freedom. It can only be limited by a rule of law (and not the discretionary decisions of a minister).' "

And that was the same point we made weeks ago in a previous blog post: the amendment in Bill C-10 gives the Minister of Heritage the right to supersede the Charter of Rights and Freedoms on a whim.

The government has not even outlined what 'guidelines,' will be used. To attempt to introduce this amendment, let alone pass it into law, without such guidelines is ridiculous. And the more Conservative members of the House and the Senate try to argue that bill is not about censorship, the more patently obvious it becomes that censorship is absolutely the driving impetus behind the bill.

Consider remarks made by Senator Marjory LeBreton, leader of the government in the Senate, when she was asked about the 40,000 member strong Facebook group, Keep your censoring hands off of Canadian film and TV! No to Bill C-10!.

"I have been asked about Facebook before. I never look at Facebook because I do not understand the technology. I think the concept is dangerous...Some of the information that has surfaced with regard to this bill has left the impression that this is censorship. It is not censorship. I think I am quite within my right to say that opinion is misinformed.

"I am also quite within my right to say that the vast majority of Canadians would like to see their tax dollars well protected. I am sure that most Canadians would not want to see their tax dollars funding a film that is pornographic, that shows abuse of women or men or that is violent or denigrating to any particular group."

Right. Many Canadians don’t want their tax dollars financing such films, and there are already measures in place to ensure that doesn’t happen. And defining pornography is a legal matter; it’s not a Josee Verner matter or a Marjory LeBreton matter.

Frankly, I find Stephen Harper’s hair cut somewhat obscene, possibly pornographic. But I understand that there’s a great difference between my opinion and a legal opinion of obscenity. My opinion just doesn’t matter, well, in a legal sense... It’s the rule of law that matters in a democratic society.

Keep in the mind the following declaration by G8 Foreign Ministers, "Together with democracy and the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law is a key condition for lasting peace, security and sustainable development."

There’s a lot that’s wrong with the tax credit amendment…but nothing is as abominable as the fact that it may afford the Heritage Minister the power to interfere with a citizen's Charter right to freedom of expression.

And at last the legal community is saying so.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008


More evidence that TV's traditional pilot season is going the way of well, newspapers…Just kidding, let’s say going the way of analog TV.

CBC announced today that it’s bought two new dramas, one called The Wild Roses, about a wealthy Alberta oil patch family, that just happens to be run by a bunch of feisty women. Its cast includes Sarah Power, Steve Byers and Michelle Harrison.

The second series dubbed The Session is set to be a starring vehicle for former Godiva’s leading lady Erin Karpluk. She’ll play a woman who time travels with the help of an oddball therapist, to be played by Michael Riley. No word on whether or not she’ll drive a DeLorean, but she’ll be going back to relive her past.

Both series are scheduled to premiere next January (2009). Rewind & replay: CBC’s 2008-09 season will feature: The Border, Sophie, Heartland, The Session and The Wild Roses. So far...

Meanwhile, the Fox network in America announced it will soon announce pick ups of another batch of pilot episodes, moving ever more towards a system of year-round, rather than seasonal, development.

Fox's goal is to present several completed episodes of a new series next spring, rather than just pilots, at next year’s up-fronts.

Broadcasting, everywhere, is in transition…Today in Ottawa, the Senate Banking Committee reviewing Bill C-10 heard testimony from arts leaders, including filmmaker Mark Leiren-Young (The Green Chain), while across the bridge, the CRTC continued hearings into Canada's cable broadcasting industry.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

CRTC Says No to HDTV National Network

The CRTC has said nyet to HDTV Net.

The network’s application to launch Canada’s first free national HD network has been denied. HDTV Networks Inc. confirmed today that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) denied their application for broadcast license. Read the CRTC’s decision for yourself, at

HDTV’s plan was to launch and base the network from Vancouver and broadcast 100 percent HD content. HDTV Networks proposed to devote 126 hours each week to the broadcast of HD programming, and indicated that 60 percent of the programming broadcast between 6 a.m. and midnight, and 50 percent of the programming broadcasting between 6 p.m. and midnight, would be Canadian programming.

But no go.

HDTV’s approach was likened to an effort to create a “superstation,” by Michel Arpin, the CRTC's Vice-Chairman of Broadcasting, in a statement today.

“The programming strategy associated with such a station is inconsistent with the objectives of the Broadcasting Act and the Commission's policies. We have never granted a licence for such a conventional television station in the past and did not find any compelling reason to do so at this time.”

Arpin pointed out that HDTV’s commitment to create local programming was limited to just two hours weekly in the cities it hoped to serve: Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, Montreal and Halifax.

Details of HDTV’s thoroughly impressive application can be found at Check out Application No. 2006-1658-4.

The switch from analog to digital will cause some shifts in the broadcast landscape. But this decision suggests that those already in the field of play will have the advantage in reaping any benefit from evolving technology. In a dissenting opinion, Len Katz, CRTC Vice-Chairman of Telecommunications was critical of the decision.

“To deny HDTV Networks at this time, I believe, sends the wrong message, not only to the applicant, but to all prospective Canadian entrepreneurs and innovators, that in order to enter the Canadian system, you must make the same commitments as the established players. This leaves little if any flexibility or creativity. I would have preferred that the Commission licence HDTV Networks with clear conditions that would provide some content requirement relief in HDTV Networks’ early years with gradual increases to its commitments as it gets more established,” wrote Katz.