Celebrating film’s local heroes of 2019

These people have helped change Toronto's film and TV landscape, and will be making their marks well into the 2020s


Yung Chang, filmmaker

Recently relocated to Toronto after a sojourn in Montreal, the director of Up The Yangtze, China Heavyweight and The Fruit Hunters was more visible than ever this year, premiering his latest project This Is Not A Movie – about journalist Robert Fisk – at TIFF and then being named the Canadian spotlight artist at the Reel Asian film festival, where he presented his very first documentary, Earth To Mouth, and hosted a live reading of his dramatic feature script Eggplant. Next up: getting This Is Not A Movie into theatres in the new year, and getting Eggplant in front of a camera after years in development.

Simu Liu

Samuel Engelking

Simu Liu, actor and action hero

Pretty much every cast member of Kim’s Convenience had a great year, but Liu – who plays prodigal son Jung on the CBC sitcom – and was part of NOW’s 2019 rising screen stars feature – had the best. In July, he was named Marvel’s first Asian lead in the upcoming martial arts adventure Shang-Chi And The Legend Of The Ten Rings. He celebrated by paying it forward to director Lulu Wang and his future co-star Awkwafina, buying out a screening of The Farewell at the Varsity and inviting the city to join him.

Catherine Lutes

Catherine Lutes, cinematographer

At a point where digital post-production makes almost anything possible (if you have the budget), Lutes distinguishes herself by keeping it real her images are consistently striking but rarely exaggerated, finding beauty and dynamism in faces, bodies and  landscapes. Last year, she gave us the sun-blasted small town of Jasmin Mozaffari’s Firecrackers and the chilly Toronto of Patricia Rozema’s Mouthpiece, both released theatrically in 2019. And this fall she was back at TIFF with Albert Shin’s Niagara Falls mystery Clifton Hill, and on CBC shooting the final season of Anne With An E. Her earlier credits include the eerie forestry of Nadia Litz’s The People Garden and the tense cityscape of Sara St. Onge’s Molly Maxwell, as well as six early episodes of Baroness Von Sketch Show and Jamie Travis’s idiosyncratic short films.

Amar Walla

Amar Wala, director and mentor

Having struggled to get another gig after his breakout documentary The Secret Trial 5, the Scarborough-raised filmmaker convinced CBC to launch a paid shadowing program for BIPOC filmmakers while working on the documentary series In The Making to help underrepresented talent get a foothold in the industry. (Wala’s not the only filmmaker doing this: Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn created the Indigenous Youth Mentorship program in Vancouver while making The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open.)

Paradise Theatre team

Paradise

The Paradise team (from left): general manager Keegan Ferguson, director of communications Sonya William, director of programming Jessica Smith, director of operations David Thorek

Team Paradise

It took a little longer than originally planned, but the renovated, refurbished Paradise Cinema on Bloor West finally reopened this month after 13 years sitting dormant. (It’s part of an ambitious food-and-entertainment complex that also includes Bar Biltmore and Osteria Rialto.) Director of programming Jessica Smith has lined up an intriguing multidisciplinary program, mixing live music and comedy cabarets with new releases and smartly organized film series, including a Toronto Plays Itself retrospective that samples some 60 years of the city’s cinema and kicks off with a New Year’s Day 2020 screening of Edgar Wright’s delirious Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World.

@normwilner

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