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Manitoba film czar Rachel Rusen looking forward to busy time post-COVID

Rachel Rusen

“I am excited that our provincial government has identified film production as one of the industries that will be allowed to re-open as part of phase 2 of lifting Covid-19 restrictions in Manitoba,” says Rachel Rusen, Manitoba Film Commissioner and CEO of the Manitoba Film & Sound Recording Development Corporation.

“We are working with the government and the Chief Public Health officer to prepare guidelines and protocols.”
Rusen confirms that Manitoba Film & Music remains busier than ever with production inquiries stimulated by the province’s competitive tax credit. “In its earliest days,” she notes, “film production was more of a seasonal cottage industry, but it has evolved to become a robust economic driver that has a good balance between foreign and domestic production. Whether local or international, fundamental to Manitoba’s success has been the Manitoba Film and Video Production Tax Credit that was first introduced in 1997. The tax credit has resulted in over $260 million in total production volume last year alone. Having A-list talent in Winnipeg is not only exciting but also elevates our city’s profile when those who have filmed here discuss what a jewel of a province we are.”
Among recent productions that have been filmed here, she reports, are: “The Ice Road”, starring Liam Neeson and Lawrence Fishburne; “Flag Day”, with Sean Penn; and “Nobody”, a Universal production featuring Connie Nielsen, Christopher Lloyd and Bob Odenkirk. Local producers, Rusen adds, create their own content, such as “Dr. Keri-Vet”, “Polar Bear Town” and “Taken” and collaborate as producers on scripted series such as “Burden of Truth” for CBC and “Edgar” for Radio Canada – and as service providers for many Lifetime and Hallmark productions shot around the city.
“We punch above our weight. We actually need more people to fill the job demands.”
Rusen is approaching the first anniversary of her appointment as CEO for the Manitoba Film & Sound Recording Development Corporation but has been involved in the industry for more than a decade as an entertainment lawyer. Prior to joining the corporation, the former MLT Aikins LLP partner practiced commercial, corporate and business law before shifting her focus to entertainment law.
“I recognized in the entertainment industry in Manitoba a vibrant growth industry,” she explains.

In her role as an entertainment lawyer, Rusen has acted for clients across Canada in all areas of the entertainment industry including film, television, music, new media and book publishing. As a result, she is also able to contribute her expertise as a board member, Manitoba Film & Sound Recording Development Corporation, Manitoba Music, On Screen Manitoba, the Comweb Group and Food Banks Canada, among others.
“In my new role, I continue to work with the same stakeholders but in a different capacity with the benefit of understanding producer challenges,” she points out. Growing up in River Heights, the entertainment industry was not unfamiliar to the daughter of Joan and Jack Rusen. She recalls frequent visits from her uncle, the inimitable Monty Hall.

A former Joseph Wolinsky Collegiate student, Rusen graduated from the University of Winnipeg Collegiate program before pursuing a law degree that culminated in er being called to the Bar in 1997.
Much of her work, she explains, involves promoting the province internationally to attract foreign service production, meeting with international producers looking to film in Canada and representing Manitoba before the Association of Provincial and Territorial Funding Agencies, the National Tax Credit Committee and the International Business Development Group. She is also a member of the Association of Film Commissioners International.
Rusen adds that her responsibilities also include working with local musicians and their associations. “We have supported many touring musicians,” she says. “Now though, during these Covid times, we are helping musicians with online programming.
“Film and music really do go hand in hand. This year, one third of the movies being filmed in the province for television use Manitoba composers. Ultimately, success in the business relies not only on talent but also on relationships.”

Family and Judaism are very important to her, she says. “I grew up in a traditional Jewish family and am proud to say that my three children have all been enrolled at Gray Academy. (Her oldest, Nicole, is currently in third year Science, middle child Mitchell is graduating from Gray this spring and Harry, the youngest, is in Grade 7 at the school.)
“I couldn’t be prouder of my children. They are the joys of my life and they support the work I do on behalf of the province. Certainly, it is a balancing act, but it helps having my parents as active and involved grandparents.”
So what kind of programming does Manitoba’s film guru enjoy watching? “I enjoy watching documentaries and real life stories,” she responds. “I also like streaming original series on Netflix and similar services. I am particularly excited to see the number of Manitobans listed in the credits.”
“I am a proud Manitoban,” she concludes. “I love this opportunity to help put Manitoba on the world stage. It is incredibly rewarding when I can welcome people from abroad to our great province and see them hire local crew, cast local actors, work with local producers and enjoy the legendary hospitality of friendly Manitoba.”
“The demand for content is growing exponentially with global streaming services, broadcasters and film and sound studios producing billions of dollars of content each year. I believe that Manitoba is well positioned to capitalize on this opportunity by showcasing Manitoba talent and working with stakeholders to focus on expanding our infrastructure and labour force.”

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Winnipeg Jewish Theatre to open season with world premiere of “Pals”

Richard Greenblatt and Diane Flacks in rehearsal for "Pals"

By BERNIE BELLAN The opening show of Winnipeg Jewish Theatre’s 2023-24 season promises to be a clever and poignant take on relationships between men and women, when “Pals” makes its world premiere on November 9 in the Berney Theatre, running until November 19.
“Pals” is the third two-person show created by the team of Diane Flacks and Richard Greenblatt. Interestingly, when I spoke with Flacks and Greenblatt while they took a break from rehearsing the play in Toronto, they told me that their previous two two-person plays also had one word titles – with four letters in both: “Sibs” and “Care.”
“Pals” is the story of two friends, told over a 25-year time period. Their friendship survives many tribulations, including both characters entering and exiting many other relationships. The play uncovers the underlying tensions that permeate all friendships.
“Pals” opens with the two characters meeting for the first time. I asked Diane and Richard whether the notion of their having sex ever enters into the plot, but Richard was quick to exclaim, “We don’t have sex.”
Diane also noted that, in the case of her character, she is married to another woman. (Diane is a lesbian in real life.)
The fact that the characters maintain a friendship though becomes a source of friction within their respective relationships. It raises the question: Can you have an intimate, albeit platonic, relationship, with a member of the opposite sex all the while you’re in a physical relationship with someone else?
I asked whether the characters in “Pals” are Jewish (which both Diane and Richard are), and the answer was “yes.”
Both Diane and Richard have had past associations with the Winnipeg Jewish Theatre. Richard’s goes back a very long time – when he directed the critically acclaimed “League of Nathans” in 1995.
Diane Flacks appeared in a one-night performance of a show in 2021 called “25 Questions for a Jewish Mother,” which was a part of that year’s Tarbut festival. There were no in-person events that year, due to Covid, but “Jewish Mother” was available on Zoom and had a huge audience.
In addition to writing for the stage, Diane Flacks has written for TV, including Working the Engels, Baroness Von Sketch Show, Young Drunk Punk, PR, and The Broad Side.
Richard Greenblatt has performed in theatres across Canada and abroad, as well as in feature films, television and radio. He co-wrote 2 Pianos 4 Hands, which played on five continents and in over 150 cities since it opened in 1996.
Pals is directed by the internationally acclaimed director Jillian Keiley. More information, tickets and 5-show subscriptions can be found at: You can also reach WJT by phone at (204) 477-7478.

To watch a preview video from Pals, click here:

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Simkin Centre introduces Friday afternoon Shabbat services – open to all

By BERNIE BELLAN (Posted Oct. 31) The Simkin Centre held its first ever Friday afternoon Erev Shabbat service this past Friday (Oct. 27), led by Rabbi Matthew Leibl.

There were more than 30 residents in attendance, along with various other outside guests. The service was approximately 45 minutes long and was filled with stories and songs associated with Friday evening Shabbats – some from Rabbi Leibl’s own childhood and some from more recent years.

The Friday afternoon Erev Shabbat services are now to become a regular features at the Simkin Centre and are open to anyone to attend.

To watch a short clip of Rabbi Leibl introducing his first Friday afternoon service click

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The complete text of MP Marty Morantz’s speech at the community vigil for Israel on October 10

Marty Morantz at the community vigil for Israel October 10

Tonight we are all Israelis!
Conservatives stand with Israel.
Pierre Poilievre stands with Israel.
On Saturday we woke up to unspeakable images.
We must stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel as it defends itself from these criminal and barbarous acts.
On Shabbat, Hamas brutally invaded Israel, invaded homes, killing hundreds, taking hostage hundreds.
More Jews were killed in Saturday’s attack than in any single day since the Holocaust.
Some 1500 human beings killed in a single day would be like 6000 Canadians being murdered in a single attack.
They were children, babies, men, women.
They were young people just out listening to music at a dance party.
This was an unprecedented brutal attack.
As we speak Hamas is threatening to execute innocent hostages.
This outrage cannot, must not stand.
Don’t let anyone tell you Hamas is the legitimate voice of the Palestinian people. It is not a government.
They are a genocidal murderous and evil death cult and they must be defeated.
But friends, we have seen evil before.
Jews have been persecuted for millennia, but we have survived.
Conservatives unequivocally condemn the invasion of Israel by Hamas terrorists and the sadistic violence that Hamas has carried out against innocent civilians.
Now is the time for moral clarity. There is no moral equivalency between democratic Israel and the butchers of Hamas.
There is no response, no matter how strong, that would be disproportionate to the crimes Hamas has committed.
Israel has the right to defend itself against these attacks and respond against the attackers – as any other country would.
Theodore Herzl, the father of modern Zionism, said, “If you will it, it is no dream.”
In 1948 that dream became a reality – a homeland in Israel, the promised land.
Working together Israelis turned a desert into an oasis.
An island of democracy surrounded by a sea of autocracy.
A Jewish state where Jews could live in peace free from fear and persecution.
Let there be no doubt. Israel is the ancient and indigenous homeland of the Jewish people.
We will not let the butchers of Hamas take that dream, long realized, away from us.
Many politicians will stand with Israel when it is easy.
But listen to what they say when it is hard.
They will talk about “both sides.”
I’m here to tell you that there is only one side.
The side of morality.
The side of democracy.
The side of Israel.
We see too often politicians at the United Nations unfairly singling out Israel for criticism.
I will always stand against the unfair singling out of the Middle East’s only democracy.
Already there are calls for Israel to deescalate.
I ask you.
Would any country deescalate after having its people slaughtered in cold blood?
I wish the people of Israel and its brave soldiers Godspeed on their mission to defend the promised land from pure evil.
As Prime Minister Stephen Harper said:
Through fire and water Canada will stand with you.
Am Yisrael Chai!

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