Lilly Singh breaks the mould with new late night show

“A Little Late with Lilly Singh” offers diversity, energy, and a fresh perspective 

Photo courtesy lilly on Instagram

By Annemarie Cutruzzola

If Lilly Singh were to host a late-night show, what colour suit do you think she’d wear? If you said grey, navy, or brown, you’re probably new here — Singh is a fan of all things colourful. If you’re still wondering, she settled on a bright red ensemble for her show’s premiere — a bold outfit that reflects the spirit of the show.

You likely know Singh from her YouTube channel, where she built an audience of close to 15-million making relatable comedy sketches. Now she’s here to “throw some melanin up in your late night” as the first bisexual woman of colour to host a late night talk show. “A Little Late with Lilly Singh” premiered on September 16 and replaces Carson Daly’s slot on NBC. 

The episode on Monday, September 23 began with a six minute monologue about dating apps, with Singh effortlessly navigating between personal anecdotes and broad observations. After a satirical workout video sketch with witty commentary about the gender pay gap, Singh interviewed her first guest of the week, American actress Jessica Alba, before the pair were treated to some mini makeovers. 

Video courtesy A Little Late With Lilly Singh via YouTube

Singh exudes energy for the entire 25 minutes. After her opening monologue she high-fived audience members in the front row before running back behind her desk. This energy is reflected in the set of her show. It’s vibrant and colourful, a stark contrast from the brown desks and black suits you’d see on most late night shows. And perhaps it’s a coincidence, but the pink, blue and purple lights in the background seem to mimic the bisexual pride flag. 

Singh’s instincts from YouTube carry over to her show. She still has the authenticity and homegrown vibe of a YouTuber but she also has the confidence of a traditional celebrity. The result is an interesting mix of self-deprecating and self-assured humour. Her quick wit combined with audience interaction and occasional cheeky glances off to the camera during interviews make the viewer feel connected and in on the jokes. At some points it feels like you could be watching one of Singh’s YouTube videos. 

Checking boxes and breaking barriers

In an interview on her show’s premiere day, Singh told Seth Meyers that she wants to be known as a storyteller. But she’s making history, and history makes headlines. Singh is the first queer woman of colour to host a late night talk show, and much of the media hype has been focused on this fact. 

In her first opening monologue, Singh acknowledged this, joking that these descriptors are used so often she should change the name of her show to “A Little Late with a Bisexual Woman of Colour.” But hey, it’s 2019, and it’s been long enough. Not seeing yourself represented on screen can be isolating, and constantly hearing stories told from the same perspective can be exhausting. Singh fully owning these parts of her identity allows people who share these identifiers to see themselves reflected, which can be a significant and powerful experience. 

Steps towards diversity and representation in the media are finally being taken. But it’s not just what we see on screen. Singh is also advocating for diversity behind-the-scenes in Hollywood. She proudly describes the writer’s room for her show as a “mini United Nations”, as it consists of over 50 per cent women and over 50 per cent people of colour. 

Having people with different perspectives and backgrounds involved in the production of the show adds another crucial layer of diversity. Even the animated intros to the games she plays with her guests feature players with different skin tones. It’s the small details added by a diverse staff and Singh’s offhand comments about her experiences that make people feel represented. 

Tackling tough topics

It’s safe to say that Singh is a very proud Canadian. The CN Tower looms in the background of the “A Little Late” set while a loonie is embedded in the desk she sits behind. She’s a huge Raptors fan and she even named her dog “Scarbro” as a tribute to the Toronto neighbourhood she grew up in. 

But in light of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s recent brownface controversy, his pre-recorded segment was swiftly cut from Singh’s primetime special which aired just hours after the scandal first broke. The cancellation sent a clear message. She isn’t afraid to make tough choices. And she won’t tolerate intolerance. 

While talking politics or recapping the day’s news headlines may not be her style, Singh has already used “A Little Late” to speak about issues she’s passionate about in her own way. A rap song she made for the show’s premiere features her opinion on paid maternity and paternity leaves, public breastfeeding, and abortion rights all in 10 seconds flat. She clearly isn’t afraid to start conversations that may be considered uncomfortable or address controversial issues.

Video courtesy A Little Late With Lilly Singh via YouTube

Mixed reactions from viewers online

So how are viewers reacting to “A Little Late” so far? A quick perusal of Twitter, Imdb, or even the comments on the show’s YouTube channel reveals that the public’s reaction has been quite polarized. On Imdb in particular, many reviews of her show are either one star or ten stars. 

Among the one-star reviews there seems to be a common thread of criticism — that Singh makes jokes and references about her race, gender and sexuality too often.

Yes, segments like “The Wage Gap Workout” speak specifically about issues relating to her identity. But she’s also used her monologues to talk about personal experiences that are universally relatable, like using dating apps or getting high for the first time. Singh shines in these monologues, which bear the most resemblance to her YouTube videos (but with a bit of added maturity). She’s in her element when she can talk to the camera and just tell a funny story. 

Gif courtesy A Little Late with Lilly Singh via GIPHY

Like she says in her rap song, “A Little Late” is meant for everyone. Or at least those with enough of an open mind to watch an authentic, engaging, funny storyteller who also happens to be a brown, bisexual female. 

In a recent Instagram post, Singh said: “Beyond being from the internet, being a woman of colour, being bisexual, being Canadian... I’m a storyteller.” That part of her identity is just as important as the others. 

Singh is not simply late night’s diversity hire. She’s unapologetic, outspoken, and challenges the norms. “A Little Late” is just the beginning — Singh is ready to take on the world in whatever colour suit she pleases. 

'Liked.' - The comedy show straight from your Instagram feed

Toronto-based monthly improv show bases comedy off of audience’s social media

The show’s poster. (Liked./Carley Thorne)

The show’s poster. (Liked./Carley Thorne)

By Alexander Sowa

Liked. is a Toronto-based improv-comedy show, based on taking an audience member’s Instagram posts and using them as a jumping point for hilarity, only escalating as the performance goes on.

In their show at Bad Dog Comedy Theatre on Sept. 24, a group of seven performers started by going through an audience member’s Instagram feed, pausing to ask for more detail on certain people or events and cracking jokes all the while. When they felt they had enough material, they started the show.

The partial cast of  Liked.  on stage, as they ask questions about an audience member’s Instagram. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

The partial cast of Liked. on stage, as they ask questions about an audience member’s Instagram. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

As the show went on, each scene outdid the last, continuously increasing in amusement. The characters that came alive on stage were hilarious — larger-than-life — and yet also grounded in details that the performers had asked about from the audience. A friend who was nervous about driving was transformed into a climate activist who murdered people with his car. The hospital they worked at was suddenly a masquerade run by criminals. The performers took small things, apparent from social media, and used them as the seed to create great comedy.

The audience’s laughter grew with each scene, because even though what was happening was ridiculous, they were all in on the joke. The greatest feeling in the room was that of intimacy and being a part of what was happening instead of just watching it unfold. 

Even in the final scene, a lighthearted funeral for a character who had died a total of three times throughout the night, it still kept with the detail from those initial Instagram posts — something absurd drawn from the sort of everyday, mundane life that people lead.

The full cast of  Liked.  on stage during a funeral scene. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

The full cast of Liked. on stage during a funeral scene. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Carley Thorne, a Toronto comedian and one of the two producers for Liked., explained the initial idea for the show.

Carley Thorne, striking a pose after the show. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Carley Thorne, striking a pose after the show. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

“A lot of the improv you see in the city is short little scenes. We wanted to tell a story. And then we were thinking about the way that people portray themselves on social media, and how it’s different from how they actually are,” Thorne said.

It is ultimately a show about youth, both in terms of the show’s cast and its audience. 

“This is a young show. It’s for students, but also for young adults,” said Veronika Slowikowska, Liked. co-producer and fellow comedian.

Veronika Slowikowska outside the theatre after the show. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Veronika Slowikowska outside the theatre after the show. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

“We’re fairly young in the community, and we thought what would be a show that would get young people out?’ And Instagram just kind of popped into our heads, and we were like ‘Oh that would be an insane show! That would have endless possibilities!’,” Slowikowska said.

“You don’t think about how people view your social media. So we thought it would be fun to show people, to hold a mirror to them to show them what their social media really says about them,” Thorne said.

Liked. has been hitting the stage for over nine months, and will be performing at Bad Dog Theatre again on October 21.

TIFF 2019: Red Carpet Recap

By Regina Dickson

Fall is a bittersweet time of the year. Summer is over, which means no more weekends at the cottage, day trips to the beach or naps by the pool. On the bright side, for those of us who live off of schedules, systems and structure, fall is our time to thrive, as we get back into a ‘routine.’ 

Every September, Torontonians get through summer farewells with the help of a little light at the end of the tunnel. That light being, of course, the Toronto International Film Festival. The annual festival happens in September and takes place right in the heart of the city, including parts of Ryerson University. It’s that perfect time of the year when Leonardo DiCaprio is spotted strolling the streets of Toronto or Jennifer Lopez passes you by on campus. Nevertheless, not all of us get a chance to meet the stars or snag a ticket to a film screening. If you feel like you missed out on the action, we’ve got your back. Here’s your recap of the TIFF 2019 red carpet looks. 

In the wake of Riverdale being a hit teen drama, Lili Reinhart’s appearance at TIFF was very well received. The star attended the festival with her new movie, Hustlers, in which she stars alongside Jennifer Lopez and Keke Palmer. Reinhart came to her first ever TIFF in a white ruffled Rodarte dress, with two voluminous flowers resting on her shoulders, completing her graceful look. 

Photo by Frazer Harrison, courtesy of Getty Images

Photo by Frazer Harrison, courtesy of Getty Images

Jennifer Lopez has had decades of experience dressing for red carpet events and it shows. She boldly wore a mustard yellow Maison Yeya dress, accessorized with a glistening clutch, designed to look like a stack of cash. 

Photo by George Pimentel, courtesy of Getty Images

Photo by George Pimentel, courtesy of Getty Images

Keke Palmer attended this year’s TIFF in an elegant sparkling Robert Cavalli gown with a slit reaching nearly up to her hip.

Photo by Frazer Harrison, courtesy of Getty Images

Photo by Frazer Harrison, courtesy of Getty Images

You may know Brie Larson from 21 Jump Street, but her new film Just Mercy is far from a comedy. Being part of this year’s TIFF, the film is based on a true story of a Harvard law graduate defending the wrongly-accused in Alabama. Larson even shed a tear when talking about the film. She wore a floral hot pink Giambattista Valli gown with a long train. To match, but not steal attention off her dress, she wore simple hot pink pumps and a basic clutch. 

Photo by Emma McIntyre, courtesy of Getty Images

Photo by Emma McIntyre, courtesy of Getty Images

Whether you were Team Edward or Team Jacob back in the day, you’ll appreciate the photo below. This photograph is referred to by many as “Captain America meets Batman.” Robert Pattinson has recently been casted for the role of Batman and Chris Evans has famously portrayed the role of Captain America in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Pattinson came to TIFF with his new film The Lighthouse and Evans was here with his new movie Knives Out, which uniquely combines the three genres of comedy, crime and drama. 

Photo courtesy etcanada via Instagram

Photo by GP Images, courtesy of Getty Images

Photo by GP Images, courtesy of Getty Images

To this year’s TIFF, Pattinson wore a dark navy Dior suit, overtop of a white silk collared shirt. In contrast, Evans went with a more casual outfit, wearing checkered dark grey pants, a zip-up sweater and a white polo.

Photo by GP Images, courtesy of Getty Images

Photo by GP Images, courtesy of Getty Images

Among the biggest names to visit this year’s TIFF was Meryl Streep. The Hollywood actress was part of this year’s festival with her film The Laundromat. This film is about a widow who sets out to investigate a fake insurance policy, tracing it to a pair of Panama City’s fraudulent law partners. The Oscar-winning actress wore a floral, classic Valentino dress, accessorized with retro sunglasses. 

Photo by Amy Sussman, courtesy of Getty Images

Photo by Amy Sussman, courtesy of Getty Images

Broadway actress Cynthia Erivo’s new historical drama Harriet was part of this year’s TIFF as well. The Tony Award-winning actress attended the red carpet in an off-the-shoulder voluminous peach gown, which was the talk of the town. 

Photo by Frazer Harrison, courtesy of Getty Images

Photo by Frazer Harrison, courtesy of Getty Images

Last but not least, Scarlett Johansson, the world’s highest-paid actress, according to Forbes, was present at this year’s TIFF for her new films Marriage Story and Jojo Rabbit. According to Forbes, Johansson earned C$74.4 million over the past year only; most of it being from her role as Black Widow in Avengers: Endgame. The actress wore a silky Oscar de la Renta dress to the premiere of Marriage Story. She then changed into a metallic Rodarte dress for the premiere of Jojo Rabbit. 

Photo by Frazer Harrison, courtesy of Getty Images

Photo by Frazer Harrison, courtesy of Getty Images

Photo by George Pimentel, courtesy of Getty Images

Photo by George Pimentel, courtesy of Getty Images

With the last day of TIFF being September 15, we are left with nothing but photographs and anticipation of next year’s festival. Comment below and let us know which celebrities you wish to see most at next year’s TIFF, as well as which looks you liked most at this year’s red carpet.

Tickets can be expensive, but being a Leafs fan doesn’t have to be

By Lara Kuipers

Toronto Maple Leafs fans watch Game 2 between the Leafs and the Boston Bruins in the NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2013. (Photo courtesy KatieThebeau/ Wikimedia Commons )

Toronto Maple Leafs fans watch Game 2 between the Leafs and the Boston Bruins in the NHL Eastern Conference Quarterfinals in 2013. (Photo courtesy KatieThebeau/Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a Saturday night in Toronto. The sun is just beginning to set, casting a golden glow over the busy people walking in the streets.

“Tickets, I got tickets!” a man yells as he waves two pieces of paper in the air feverishly. It’s not just any Saturday in Toronto, it’s a Saturday night and the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing hockey at home.

Inside the home venue of the Leafs, Scotiabank Arena, men, women, boys and girls of all ages are walking around with a jump in their step. Holding a cold beer in one hand and a hotdog in the other, it’d be hard pressed to find someone not sporting the home team’s jersey – either in the royal blue they wear at home games or the sharp white they wear at away games. Occasionally a rare fan may be seen wearing the other team’s jersey, usually getting heckled by Leafs fans in the hallway that circle the perimeter outside the rink.

With beers in their hands, fans find their seat sections and wait in line as ushers point them to their seats. Through the curtains to the sections the ice is unveiled. The bright lights, the white ice and the screaming fans hits like a rush of adrenaline. The players are already out there warming up – shooting pucks hard at the empty net – never failing to miss their shots. The favourites are all there including the young guns, Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner. Frederik “Freddy” Andersen stretches on their end in the neutral zone. John Tavares and Nazem Kadri are chatting as they skate around. There’s a vibe in the arena, it’s only a vibe you can get from being in the rink to watch a game live. That is, if you can afford it.

For anyone who’s a Leafs fan, seeing a home game in person is a must. However, unfortunately for Leafs fans, they have one of the most expensive tickets in the National Hockey League (NHL). A ticket in the nose bleeds (the seats at the top section of the stands) is still going to cost around $100 per person and better sectioned seats are hard to come by. However, in recent years, an alternative approach to watching the game at Scotiabank Arena has evolved, Maple Leaf Square.

Maple Leaf Square is located at 15 York Street in Toronto, in the area right outside the front doors to the arena. During playoff time it is sectioned off from traffic and designated as a “tailgate” area for Leafs fans to gather during the game. Above the front doors hangs a large screen that plays the game while it’s on. For the past few years the crowd has been packed with fans and the best part is, it’s free.

21-year-old Ryerson University student Haley Bretney has been a fan of the Leafs for most of her life and has visited  Maple Leaf Square to watch a game on three separate occasions.

Bretney said that she didn’t know what to expect the first time she went but remembers that as soon as she walked in, a worker handed her a rally towel with music blasting on the speakers.

“Everybody was really into it. I almost felt like that was more exciting than actually being inside because those were the true fans – trekking out to go to the square and watch. There weren’t a lot of people on their phones or whatever, not watching. If you went to the square you were going to stand for three hours and you were going to watch,” said Bretney.

“I know I would rather be inside, but the atmosphere is so much better outside because those are really the true fans.”

Like Bretney, Ryerson student Mat Rodger, a 20-year-old Leafs fan, said he prefers watching the game in Maple Leaf Square rather than inside the arena.

“I feel like that’s where the real fans go. Inside the rink, the tickets are so expensive, you don’t really get the blue-collar fans,” Rodger said.

But to get to see a Leafs’ game at Maple Leaf Square during the playoffs, the team has to make the playoffs first. That shouldn’t be an issue this season as the Leafs are having one of their best seasons in recent years. They are currently sitting in third place in their division with 89 points. They sit four points behind the Boston Bruins – one of their biggest rivals in the game – with 12 games left in the season.

The results so far this season are not surprising when a deeper look is taken into the dynamics of the team. This season started on a high note before it even started when highly sought after free-agent forward John Tavares signed with the Leafs on July 1, 2018 after playing nine seasons with the New York Islanders.

Tavares is now having one of his best seasons in the NHL as he currently sits fourth in the league with 39 goals scored. But this 2018-19 Leafs’ team is one with a lot of depth because Tavares isn’t the only one on the NHL’s statistics leaderboard. Mitch Marner, playing his third season in the NHL at only 21-years-old sits fourth in the league with 60 assist.

Auston Matthews who is also playing his third season in the NHL, recently became the first player in the Leafs’ long history to score at least 30 goals in his first three seasons in the NHL. In the plus-minus category, not one but two Leafs players cracked the top ten in the league with veteran defenceman Ron Hainsey topping the league with a +33 plus-minus, and defenceman Morgan Rielly sitting in fourth with +30. This comes to no surprise as the team sits third in the league in goals against average with a +46.

In addition to being fourth in the league with plus-minus, Reilly is having one of his best seasons as he sits first in the league with goals by a defenceman at 19. Backing them up, Freddy Andersen sits third in the league with goaltender wins at 33.

With a team channeling such depth and skill with just a few weeks left in the regular season, a playoff run seems very likely. So, you might want to consider hopping on the subway or GO Transit train and riding to Maple Leaf Square to watch the game in a crowd of fellow Leafs fans. Just remember to bring your jersey.

Valentine’s Day poetry event at Union Station intrigues local commuters

By Alexander Sowa

‘Poetry in Union: Railway Lines and Valentines’ lets travellers get a personalized love poem written by one of nine professional Toronto poets

Union Station passersby were encouraged to engage in early Valentine’s Day festivities by allowing Toronto poets to personalize a poem for them.

Commuters and visitors were invited to sit down, enjoy a free cup of hot chocolate and doughnuts while the poets did their work.

“You sit with a person in an intimate space, at a desk. Not across the desk, but together. And you just ask them questions. What’s on your mind? What’s on your heart? What do you think of when you think of train travel?” said Kate Marshall Flaherty, organizer of the event.

Kate Marshall Flaherty at ‘Poetry in Union.’ (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Kate Marshall Flaherty at ‘Poetry in Union.’ (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Flaherty continued to explain what the participants could expect at the end of their session with their Toronto poet.

“Eventually, as any poet will tell you, you get an image or a spark or an idea, and then you write for a minute or two. And then you read it to the traveller. Even amongst ourselves when we did it, it was very powerful. I can only imagine what it must be like for an unsuspecting traveller,” she said.

Hannah Martin, a marketing company owner, said that it was interesting to have someone attentively listen to what they had to say, as well having questions posed to them that people would not normally ask.

“(The poets) ask you questions … like ‘What is it in your life that’s going on that you need this for?’ And then you have to think about it,” said Martin.

Hannah Martin, left, with her company co-owner Shannon Litt, right, posing with their poems at the event. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Hannah Martin, left, with her company co-owner Shannon Litt, right, posing with their poems at the event. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Dominique Bernier-Cormier, one of the poets, described the writing process as wonderful and intimate.

“It feels like you create a space very quickly where people aren’t strangers anymore, very fast. But it’s tough because with only a couple of questions, you have to get a whole bunch of images to put in the poem,” he said.

Dominique Bernier-Cormier, Toronto poet, smiling while on a break from poem-writing. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Dominique Bernier-Cormier, Toronto poet, smiling while on a break from poem-writing. (CanCulture/Alexander Sowa)

Chloe Catan, the public art program manager for Waterfront Toronto, said that she gained a great admiration for the poets.

“I decided that I wanted to give my husband a poem for Valentine’s Day. I told Dominique the story of how we met in Mexico City. He listened to me for a few minutes, and then wrote a beautiful poem. I’m really happy,” said Catan.

‘A big first step’

The event, “Poetry in Union: Railway Lines and Valentines” was presented by the League of Canadian Poets.

According to Ayesha Chatterjee, the league’s former president, they are a “non-profit organization whose mandate is to encourage and promote poetry in Canada, as well as Canadian poets.”

This event is the first of its sort to be held by the league. “We usually don’t do events. Usually what we do is we’re in the background, we help to provide funding, we tweet, we use social media, we do stuff like that. We have an annual lecture at a conference, but this is the first time we’ve done anything quite like this. It’s a big first step,” said Chatterjee.

Flaherty emphasized that it was important for the poets involved to be from Toronto and showcase diversity.

“We really tried to have a cross-section of Toronto, which I think is the most multicultural, most diverse population in the world. It’s really important that we covered a microcosm of the world in Toronto,” said Flaherty.

The nine poets involved are all Toronto residents - Lesley Belleau, Dominique Bernier-Cormier, Ronna Bloom, Michael Fraser, Suparna Ghosh, Jessica Hiemstra, Max Layton, Rajinderpal Pal and Kate Marshall Flaherty.

The Right Time

Flaherty said that she was inspired to create the event in 2017 after being sent a video of “The Poet Is In,” a similar event that was held at Grand Central Station in New York.

Since Union Station had just been renovated, she said that they were working hard in order to make it accessible, arts friendly and community wide.

Flaherty said that she hopes to make this an annual event and that they are working with Union Station to make it happen.

If you are interested in more events like this at Union Station, you can view a full calendar of all the free activities they offer at

Review: The European Short Film Festival at Carlton Cinema

By Ivonne Flores Kauffman

The European Short Film Festival took place on Jan. 31 at the Imagine Cinemas Carlton Cinema in Downtown Toronto. The festival featured seven short films from six European nations (France, Germany, United Kingdom, Denmark, Czech Republic), each film different from the others.

Mental health, fear, death and hope were some of the central topics of these films. All the material presented at the festival fell into one of two categories: drama or comedy, providing the audience with evoked nostalgia, anger and sadness.

Despite the serious topics addressed in these films, not all of them were well-produced.

Ponožky (Socks) is a Czech dark comedy. Presented at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival and directed by Mike Suchmann, this nine-minute film tells the story of Jidi, a man who is unable to rekindle the flame in his marriage. Sadly, his wife’s love is not the only thing that has vanished from Jidi’s life as the film revolves around his mysteriously disappeared socks, which leads him into having a surreal day.

The short comedy presents an uninterested, bored wife and a poor man whose attempts to recover the love of his life are often ignored. In one of the scenes, Jidi’s wife hosts a dinner party where he realizes she is having an affair with one of the guests. After punching the guest in the face and storming out, Jidi locks himself in the bathroom to masturbate. Soon enough, his wife knocks on the door asking him for the divorce. The last scene shows Jidi ejaculating socks all over his wife.

In my opinion, the film was not only weird but also misogynistic. Its results make it hard to emphasize with a man who does nothing to fix his marriage and would rather spend all day feeling sorry for himself. The last scene of this short film is supposed to be funny, but there was not even a hint of laughter from myself and the rest of the audience. The director’s decision to use socks to simulate Jidi’s ejaculation was confusing and offensive. To me, Suchmann’s comedy was not funny and it made me feel quite uncomfortable from beginning to end.

Ponožky was not the only short film that disappointed.  British project Tea & Coffee failed to deliver a neat production. The film directed by Maaya Modha and Adam Patel has an exciting plot about a young British-Indian woman who struggles to deal with her father’s deteriorating health, all while keeping a secret from him. This bittersweet short film shows the difficulties faced by an interracial marriage and the pain of seeing a loved one battling mental illness. Despite being extremely moving, the quality of the film lacked good shots, the scenes were poorly captured and it almost felt like it was produced by amateur filmmakers.

On the other hand, the short films that captured my attention were produced by the youngest filmmakers featured in the festival. The Boy with the Teddy, a 14-minute German film, follows the story of a kid and his teddy bear as he runs away from his dysfunctional home. After facing strangers’ indifference, the boy meets a young adult who takes care of him. Despite approaching topics such as child abuse and loneliness, this film is extremely heartwarming and full of hope.

A scene from the short film  The Boy with the Teddy  by Alessandro Schuster. (Photo courtesy of Alessandro Schuster)

A scene from the short film The Boy with the Teddy by Alessandro Schuster. (Photo courtesy of Alessandro Schuster)

Director Alessandro Schuster was only 16 years old when The Boy with the Teddy won the Platinum Award for Best Acting Ensemble and Gold Award for Best Young Filmmaker and Best Child/Young Actor at the 2018 Independent Short Awards (ISA).

In an email interview, Schuster explained that the five-day shooting presented two significant challenges. The first was to coordinate all the members of the cast and production before and during the shooting.

“Luckily it all worked great at the end! After all, everyone worked for ‘no-budget’," said Schuster.

The second challenge while filming The Boy with the Teddy came during post-production. Schuster explained that some of the scenes shot for this film were improvised. “In our film much is told through flashbacks…When editing, it was difficult to place them meaningful and good, without being exaggerated,” added the young director.

According to the Independent Shorts Awards website, Schuster, who is also an actor, is currently working on various TV productions, has produced and directed a couple of music videos and is attending school.

Another young filmmaker who presented his work at the European Short Film Festival was Jakob Hardeberg Svensen. His nine-minute production Games We Play, was shot during a Danish spring day. The film follows three 11-year-old friends’ (Johan, Clara and Felix) first encounter with death.

Behind the scenes of the short film  Games We Play.  (Photo courtesy of   Jakob Svensen)

Behind the scenes of the short film Games We Play. (Photo courtesy of Jakob Svensen)

“[Death] doesn’t have a big significance to them. At a certain age they become more interested and develop a morbid fascination for adult rituals such as funerals,” said Svensen in an email interview about his coming-of-age production.

“For me as a director the film wasn’t necessarily a story about death, but more about the memory of a timeless childhood.”  

Svensen’s inspiration to create this film came from his own childhood memories. The film’s aesthetic is composed of a range of grey and green tones, the outdoor and indoor scenes and the lack of dialogue which all work to transport the viewer to their own childhood memories. Games We Play was the most mentally stimulating film presented at the festival.

The European Short Film Festival, an excellent platform for film enthusiasts to enjoy different productions, was made possible by WILDsound. If you are interested in film festivals, check the WILDsound events website.

6 Fun and Affordable Date Spots in Toronto

By Sarafina Romano

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, CanCulture has got you covered with the best date spots in Toronto.

With midterms just around the corner, it is easy to get sucked into a dizzying vortex of cue cards and iced coffee. Here’s a gentle reminder that the red hearts stuck to coffee shop windows are not the product of a sleep-deprived hallucination. Yes, it is almost V-Day folks.

Valentine’s Day gets a lot of criticism for being a ‘Hallmark holiday,’ but who doesn’t love, well, love. Whether you are in a long-term relationship, flirting with your crush or forever single, this is a great time of year to celebrate “La Joie de Vivre” in one of the funkiest cities in the world.

Below is a list of unique spots for a cute Valentine’s Day date with your significant other or maybe, your squad. And no need to worry, they are all cheap.

The Clay Room - 279 Danforth Ave

The inside of The Clay Room on Danforth Avenue in Toronto. (CanCulture/Sarafina Romano)

The inside of The Clay Room on Danforth Avenue in Toronto. (CanCulture/Sarafina Romano)

This one is for all you artists or wannabe artists out there and for the adults who never grew out of their paint-by-numbers phase. You know who you are. Located in the heart of the Danforth, The Clay Room is a fun and creative way to spend Valentine’s Day. Choose anything to paint that your heart desires, from plates to dog figurines to vases. After you complete your piece of art, you can pick up your shiny masterpieces a week later. Prices vary from $8.75  to $20.75 depending on the size of the piece.

Skating at Nathan Phillips Square – 100 Queen St. W

The skating rink at Nathan Phillips Square in located right in front of Toronto City Hall. (John Vetterli/Flickr)

The skating rink at Nathan Phillips Square in located right in front of Toronto City Hall. (John Vetterli/Flickr)

If being outdoors is more suitable to your liking, try skating at Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square. Just minutes away from Ryerson University, this skating rink is surrounded by tall arches and twinkling lights. If you do not have your own skates, you can easily rent a pair for $10 at the rink.

Star Gazing at University of Toronto - Bahen Centre for Information Technology (50 George St.)

At the University of Toronto’s Bahen Centre for Information Technology, they have a small observatory for stargazing. ( Sabrerider /Wikimedia Commons)

At the University of Toronto’s Bahen Centre for Information Technology, they have a small observatory for stargazing. (Sabrerider/Wikimedia Commons)

On the first Thursday of every month, the University of Toronto hosts free stargazing at their planetarium. This is a great option for those who are not into candlelit dinners in packed restaurants on Valentine’s Day. Or, for those who forgot about the holiday - oops! Head up to room 1160 of the Bahen Centre for Information Technology for the next out of space tour on March 7th.

Rooster Coffee House – 568 Jarvis St.

View of Rooster Coffee House from the upper level of the café.  (Photo courtesy @Roostercoffee via Twitter)

View of Rooster Coffee House from the upper level of the café. (Photo courtesy @Roostercoffee via Twitter)

New relationships can sometimes get fuzzy around Valentine’s Day, with a lot of uncertainty surrounding expectations. A chill coffee shop that’s just far enough away from campus is sure to be reassuring in that department. Rooster Coffee House is a cute, two-floor café with a mixture of barstools and comfy chairs. CanCulture recommends the tea lattes, which range from traditional chai lattes to toasty almond lattes.

Art Gallery of Ontario – 317 Dundas St.W.

Wooden arch hallway designed by Frank Gehry for the Art Gallery of Ontario. (Photo via Pixabay)

Wooden arch hallway designed by Frank Gehry for the Art Gallery of Ontario. (Photo via Pixabay)

Take a relaxed stroll through the Art Gallery of Ontario, situated near Kensington Market. The famous artwork and unique architecture will give you and your date plenty to talk about, not to mention tons of photo-ops. The current rate for students at the AGO is $11. Insider tip: if you show your Presto card at the ticket counter, you can get 20 per cent off your ticket!

Allan Gardens Conservatory – 160 Gerrard St. E.

Allan Gardens’ Cool Temperate house. (CanCulture/Jessica Fonseca)

Allan Gardens’ Cool Temperate house. (CanCulture/Jessica Fonseca)

Allan Gardens is just a few minutes away from the Ryerson University campus and is the perfect escape from the hectic city life. The conservatory consists of six greenhouses with flowers, cacti, and even papaya trees. It is a perfect spot for some romancing and warmth in the February chill. Allan Gardens is open every day of the week, free of charge.  

Alternative ways to get fit: Pole dancing

By Madi Wong

Madi Wong, managing editor and Chloe Cook, arts editor ventured out to Brass Vixens Queen Street West studio to participate in a beginner pole dancing class. Watch them test their skills and moves and meet the Vixens  community.

Each person will differ and be at their own pace when it comes to working out. Whether you are a fitness enthusiast, a gym goer looking to try something new, or someone trying to find the right kind of exercise that motivates them.

Going for a run and weight lifting are typical go-to forms of exercise, but if you are not too keen on either of those options, there are plenty of alternatives to get you sweaty and in shape.

Indulging in a form of fitness that revolves around dance is a very popular, and very successful way for people to not only work out but thoroughly enjoy exercising.

For fourteen years, Brass Vixens, a Toronto-based pole dancing and fitness class studio, has boosted numerous bodies and minds with their high-energy and challenging classes.

With four studio locations across the GTA (Queen Street West, Yonge Street, Vaughan and Mississauga) they have become Toronto’s largest pole dancing and fitness class studio.

“Pole dancing is an amazing form of fitness. It works all aspects of your body; working on  toning your arms, back muscles, getting your abs conditioned, your legs as well,” said Melissa Jones, manager at Brass Vixens Queen Street West studio.

Pole tests your balance, coordination and flexibility. It also challenges every part of your body; abs, back, arms, legs. Through each elaborate and rhythmic move, you learn to discipline yourself to focus on accurately showcasing each movement.

Jones, who has been with Brass Vixens since the day it first began, teaches all levels of pole dancing, stretch and conditioning classes.

Students are not limited to just pole dancing, each studio offers a variety of other classes including aerial, burlesque and lyra.

“For me, getting into actual teaching was built here. I loved being able to make people happy, make them smile. People being appreciative of me and what I was helping them with sparked a love of teaching,” said Jones.


CanCulture/Madi Wong

Abby Ramzi, an instructor at Brass Vixens, said that pole dancing is more than just a dance form to her.

"When I first started pole dancing, I had kind of negative perceptions about my body and myself and I just wasn't very comfortable being a woman. Just being in a time, growing up, [and] being in a culture where there’s a lot of pressure on women to look and behave in a certain way,” Ramzi said.

Before she became an instructor, she was a student who tried out a class after discovering the studio on Groupon. “I tried the first class and I was hooked ever since .. I just can’t get enough. I never stop,” she said.

Ramzi said that with pole, she is able to just be herself and strives to share that same feeling with her students. She wants each person to feel comfortable, grow and transfer their energy and perception into a more positive outlook on themselves.

Pole dancing is empowering, it releases your inner power and takes you to a new level of body confidence and positivity.

“People come in here, all shapes, all sizes, all ages. Men and women and everything in between. They come in with maybe low-self esteem and they leave with friends, they leave with a new version of themselves after their first class,” said Jones.

“So, we’re not just working on your physical fitness, we’re working on your health, well-being and state of mind.”

Both Ramzi and Jones said that their favourite part about Brass Vixen’s is the community and people they meet along the way.

Being in the studio, where the atmosphere is as lively and as engaging with all types of people allows for the Vixens workers and students to forge bonds and build relationships.

“You meet women in their 60s who just want to try something different. You meet young guys who, you know, just want a different form of fitness. Everybody has their own story and it is all unique … The relationships you build here are like nothing else,” said Jones.

Artscape creative hubs allow Toronto artists to flourish through creative expression

By Serena Lopez

If you’re not an up and coming artist in the Toronto area, you probably haven’t heard of or used a space in the city called a creative hub. Creative hubs, also known as cultural hubs, are on the rise in the arts community in Toronto and have become staple additions to the city’s established art scene.

A creative hub is a facility that is specifically dedicated to providing space and support for networking, business, development and community engagement for individuals within the creative, cultural and tech industries.

Many of the creative hubs that currently exist in the city are built under the Toronto Artscape Foundation. According to the Artscape Foundation’s mission statement, they are made up “of a group of not-for-profit organizations dedicated to creating spaces for creatives and expanding arts development in communities.” They currently have 15 developments in multiple locations in downtown Toronto.

Here’s a breakdown of some of Artscape cultural hubs that are already supporting local artists in the community:

Artscape Youngplace (180 Shaw St.)

Courtesy of Artscape Youngplace/ Jeff Hitchcock /Wikimedia Commons

Courtesy of Artscape Youngplace/Jeff Hitchcock/Wikimedia Commons

Opened in 2013, Artscape Youngplace is located in the West Queen West neighbourhood. It offers studio spaces for both artists and organizations for rent and hosts artistics programs and events for all ages. They offer various opportunities for artists to show off their work in their space whilst collaborating and networking with other artists both big and small.The facility also features a centre for Indigenous theatre and exhibitions that showcase underground artists’ works that are free and open to the public right in Toronto’s strongest artistic community.

Artscape Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas Street East)

CanCulture/Serena Lopez

CanCulture/Serena Lopez

While most creative hubs in the city require membership, this Regent Park facility is completely open to the public and hosts a number of arts programs for youth. This facility hosts a wide range of arts related programs including dancing, art-making, singing and music with various cultural spaces open to the public and organizations. Artscape Daniels Spectrum encourages not only creative expression but to promote community building and a greater appreciation for the arts in the neighbourhood.

Artscape Daniels Launchpad (130 Queens Quay East, East Wing; 4th Floor)

Courtesy of Artscape (artscapeto) via Instagram

This 30,000 square-foot facility opened last fall on Toronto’s Waterfront and specializes in providing programs and entrepreneurial opportunities for artists. With co-working spaces, workshops and innovative creative studios equipped with the latest technology, Artscape Daniels Launchpad inspires and gives artists a way to expand on their work.

Toronto-based filmmaker, Qais Pasha, got a first-hand experience of what Daniels Launchpad had to offer through a program the hub launched in the summer of 2017 before it opened.

“I hadn’t even thought about a plan to make profit off of my work before starting the program at Daniels Launchpad,” said Pasha.

Having no prior professional experience through Daniels Launchpad, Pasha said he was given a grant to support the funding of his feature film project. In addition, he was also provided the tools to expand his skills and teach him how to sustain himself as an upcoming artist. Memberships are required in order to access the space and range from $50-125 per month. Artscape Daniels Launchpad also shares a joint talent space within their facilities called HXOUSE x Launchpad (a Toronto-based creative hub started by The Weeknd and his team), which also commits itself to providing creatives with the resources they need to successfully develop their ideas.

How to eat healthy at Toronto Eaton Centre

By Ashley Alagurajah

Eating healthy can be a daunting resolution while in the big city of Toronto. With so many delicious foods and smells, it’s hard to resist the temptations all around you, especially in the Toronto Eaton Centre. We took a trip to the food court and found three unique options if you are looking for some healthy choices while you’re out and about.

Urban Herbivore is a plant-based food spot that makes delicious vegetarian meals. Options like sandwiches, salads, and bowls are not only tasty, but they are good for you too. Today we tried the Moroccan Stew ($10.84 CAD) which is a “mild Mediterranean stew with root vegetables and chickpeas served on choice of grain.” We substituted the rice base for quinoa and turned this into an extra nutritious lunchtime meal.

Mucho Burrito was next on the list. The build-your-own Mexican spot was perfect for creating a bowl that has exactly what you crave. We ditched the tortilla and went for a Build Your Own Bowl ($11.25 CAD) instead of a burrito, and once again switched out rice for quinoa. The rest of the bowl was beef, beans, salsa, and cheese – a spicy and delicious meal that your body will thank you for.

Last, but certainly not least, was Jimmy The Greek. Although rice and potatoes can be alluring, we went for the Chicken Fillet Greek Salad ($10.99 CAD). The salad had lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onions, olives, feta cheese, and delicious Greek dressing, topped with a grilled chicken fillet for protein and souvlaki sauce.

We hope this gave you an idea of what you can do to avoid the grease and focus on nutritious eats in the tempting setting of the Toronto Eaton Centre food court.

Inkdigenous Tattoo studio: Embracing Indigenous art and culture through tattoos

By Bree Duwyn

Inkdigenous Tattoo studio offers a safe place for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people alike to share their passion for art.

Métis activist and tattoo artist, Toby Sicks, created the Toronto-based studio in 2017 with the aim to promote Indigenous artists while raising awareness and breaking down the stigmas that surround their communities.

“We have a beautiful place where people can come in, get together and share stories,” said Sicks.

Sicks felt like he never got the opportunity to fully express himself while working for other people or while completing apprenticeships. This kick-started his motivation to pursue a different path.

The path led Sicks to attending George Brown College where he enrolled in a community worker program in order to gain experience working with the community, as well as learn more about his culture and traditions, including anti-oppressive practices.

After getting in touch with his roots and involving himself with community events to fight against the inequality of Indigenous people, Sicks took up tattooing professionally.

A  custom chest piece  designed by Toby Sicks that was made to symbolize spirituality and ceremony for a customer undergoing a healing journey. According to Sicks, the piece symbolizes the customer’s cultural identity of the Kanyen’kehà:ka Mohawk nation. Learn more about this custom tattoo in this  video  by APTN. (Photo courtesy of   Toby Sicks   via Instagram)

A custom chest piece designed by Toby Sicks that was made to symbolize spirituality and ceremony for a customer undergoing a healing journey. According to Sicks, the piece symbolizes the customer’s cultural identity of the Kanyen’kehà:ka Mohawk nation. Learn more about this custom tattoo in this video by APTN. (Photo courtesy of Toby Sicks via Instagram)

In addition, he participates in charity events to raise awareness for Indigenous issues such as  fundraising events to raise awareness of youth suicide prevention in Indigenous communities, as well as missing and murdered Indigenous women and The Pipeline Project.

Sicks explained there is a lack of Indigenous tattoo studios and that by opening up his own, he could promote culture as he was influenced by his community work and the time he spent dabbling in tattoos.

“It's not just for myself per se, it's also for other Indigenous artists,” said Sicks. “I’m looking for different mediums, different designs that I’m able to put in my studio. So, I could be looking for designs from different nations across Canada, not just a specific style or person.”

Sicks exhibits a variety of Indigenous art styles inside his studio to promote diversity of culture. He displays art pieces such as paintings, handmade jewelry, custom-made merchandise and even plays Indigenous music in the studio to encourage others to appreciate different forms of Indigenous culture and art.


(CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

Sicks also explained the importance of giving homage to art or artists that inspire him to create tattoos and through this, gaining the appreciation for the artwork and acknowledging its origin.

“This is a way of crossing out the cultural appropriation factor, to show the appreciation for the different arts out there,” said Sicks.

There is also a chance to be educated on the origin of the tattoo, in order to put more value into the significance of tattoos as art.

“It’s a little more than just getting an Indigenous art piece on you … you’re also getting an education behind it, stories and meaning,” said Sicks. “It is very important not to lose concept of who you are as a person, the loss of identity is like forgetting who you are. You lose place in society. Once you do know your traditions, culture and place in society it's easier for you to build within your community and help the members within the community.”

Sicks believes in discovering yourself and your culture to find yourself in a positive manner within society.

A Unique Experience

While in Inkdigenous Tattoo, I found myself admiring the room with its compelling art pieces and welcoming atmosphere, making it easy to start a conversation. You can find an abundance of snacks and a comfortable waiting area within the studio which gives off a homey vibe.

Sicks enthusiasm about tattooing is contagious as he feels passion and pride in his work while exuding confidence. Sicks was also very humorous and charismatic in nature, which is excellent for making his clients feel at ease.

When a client came into the studio I found myself having the opportunity to watch Sicks, for an entire afternoon, do a cover up tattoo.

Not having seen a tattoo been done before, I took up the offer in order to benefit from the learning experience and see Sicks’ art come to life.

After deciding on a design of a three-eyed raven, inspired by Game of Thrones, Sicks drew up the piece and began the transformation.


(CanCulture/Bree Duwyn)

I was also able to aid in small things such as folding paper towels or helping him to use a numbing spray on the tattoo. Getting a chance to be involved and watch the process of the creation of art was a great learning experience and I felt very welcomed. I quickly came to understand Sicks’ meaning of a safe place for community to come together and share stories.

After the day was done, I felt a genuine appreciation for the patience, skill and positivity that tattooing requires.

Inkdigenous Tattoo studio is located at 124 Jarvis Street in Toronto and is open 7 days a week.

New food options available for commuters as Union Food Court opens

By Severina Chu

Commuters now have a variety of new and tasty meal options with the opening of the Union Food Court at Toronto’s Union Station.

Part of the Union Station revitalization project, construction for the food court was first approved in 2009 and originally scheduled to be completed by 2015. Several delays later, the food court finally opened in late November of 2018.

It is located on the lower level of the GO York Concourse and offers 10 new food retailers and seating for up to 600 people. Many of the food vendors offer meals that cost $15 or less which allows students to grab a bite to eat before class, work, or on their way home.

The Union Food Court offers food from local vendors around the city. While commuters can still buy from familiar chains like McDonald’s, Tim Hortons, and Pizza Pizza, they now have the option of choosing healthier and more culturally diverse meals. Here’s a closer look at what’s on the menu.

Loaded Pierogi

In its newest Toronto location, this retailer serves the traditional Polish dumpling dish with a twist. Customers can get pierogies, either fried or boiled, loaded with various meat and vegetable toppings.

One of Loaded Pierogi's vegetarian options, Baba's Classic ($9) is topped with caramelized onions, sour cream, and green onions. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

One of Loaded Pierogi's vegetarian options, Baba's Classic ($9) is topped with caramelized onions, sour cream, and green onions. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Bangkok Buri

Inspired by the street food served in Bangkok, Bangkok Buri serves traditional Thai cuisine with a modern influence. The menu includes noodles, rice, and salad dishes, as well as gluten-free and vegetarian choices.


Known for being an authentic taste of the Caribbean, this established Toronto business has now made its way to Union Station. They are well-known for their jerk chicken, which they offer either in a platter meal or on a sandwich with Jamaican coco bread.

The jerk chicken sandwich ($10) is served on Jamaican coco bread and comes with a beverage. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

The jerk chicken sandwich ($10) is served on Jamaican coco bread and comes with a beverage. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Paramount Fine Foods

Paramount Fine Foods is serving up authentic Lebanese cuisine, including classics like shawarma and falafel served in a wrap, on rice, or on salad. The Union Station location also offers fresh bread and house-made sweets.


A family-owned and operated Italian restaurant in Toronto, Scaccia has expanded its brand to a quick service location. The scaccia, a stuffed flat bread from Sicily, is made with various combinations of meats, vegetables, and cheeses that makes for the perfect meal on-the-go.

Scaccia has a wide range of good eats, from hearty meat and cheese sandwiches to lighter vegetarian options. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Scaccia has a wide range of good eats, from hearty meat and cheese sandwiches to lighter vegetarian options. (CanCulture/Severina Chu)

Shanghai 360°

Shanghai 360° serves dishes typical of northern Chinese cuisine. With familiar Chinese takeout favourites such as fried rice and dumplings, the Union Station location also offers a noodle bar with your choice of noodle and soup base.

Sushi Shop

Despite the simple name, Sushi Shop is not your traditional Japanese menu. Here you can get sushi in creative forms, such as burgers, tacos, and burritos, along with unique flavour combinations.

The Union Food Court is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekdays and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.