TIFF 2022 is supported by young talents. Here are some of the stars leading the charge

At this year’s Toronto International Film Festival, organizers are touting an increased number of films compared to the scaled-down hybrid editions of the previous two years.

But with more films comes more emerging talent, as many of the biggest and most impressive productions at TIFF 2022 feature new faces.

CBC News has compiled a list highlighting some of these young actors leading a slate of new titles, what led them to their roles, and where they plan to go from here.

Gabriel LaBelle, The Fabelmans

Gabriel LaBelle, bottom center, on the Fabelmans poster. LaBelle, 19, plays a somewhat fictionalized, younger version of director and co-writer Steven Spielberg. (TIFF)

Gabriel LaBelle, a 19-year-old Canadian-American, leads one of the most anticipated and anticipated titles of this festival. In The FabelmansLaBelle plays a somewhat fictionalized, younger version of director and co-writer Steven Spielberg, as he falls in love with the art of filmmaking.

LaBelle, who co-stars Seth Rogan, Paul Dano David Lynch, and has been in a few other productions though her role in Fabelmans will be her first starring role in a studio film. Her first credited role was in CTV’s Pattern in 2013 — a series developed by her father, actor and producer Rob LaBelle.

Keris Hope Hill, Pink

Keris Hope Hill, left, works behind the scenes on Rosie with director Gail Maurice. (GAT Productions)

At just seven years old, including six during filming, Keris Hope Hill is one of the youngest actresses to lead a film at this year’s festival. The Kanien’kehá:ka girl from Six Nations of the Grand River in southern Ontario plays the lead role in Pinkan ensemble film touching on family, childhood, the Sixties Scoop and Aboriginal identity.

Having never acted before, Hill learned a lot on set after being discovered during a province-wide talent search by writer and director Gail Maurice. She is currently working on another production, that of Jennifer Podemski Little birdwhich similarly follows an Indigenous woman searching for her birth family after being deported in the Sixties Scoop.

Dohyun Noel Hwang and Ethan Hwang, rice boy sleeping

Dohyun Noel Hwang, far left, and Ethan Hwang, far right, portray the same character at different ages in Anthony Shim’s Riceboy Sleeps. (TIFF)

As The Fabelmans, riceboy sleeps features its child protagonist at different stages of his life. And in the film directed by Anthony Shim, this role is shared between two Canadian actors: Ethan Hwang, 17, and Dohyun Noel Hwang, eight (unrelated).

The two share the role of Dong-hyun, a South Korean boy brought to Canada by his mother after his father’s death. Ethan starred in a few projects before that – including appearing as ‘young Ben’ on Netflix The Umbrella Academy. For Dohyun, a native of New Westminster, British Columbia, this is his first role.

Isaiah Lehtinen, I Like the movies

Isaiah Lehtinen stars as Lawrence in I Like Movies, the feature debut of Toronto-based Chandler Levack. (TIFF)

Born and raised in Nanaimo, BC, and having spent a lot of time in Vancouver, Isaiah Lehtinen had to brush up on his Onatrio-isms for his role in I like movies. The film, from the debut feature Chandler Levack, follows a movie buff and video rental clerk growing up in Burlington, Ontario in the early 2000s.

At 24, he had little experience at that time. He has had acting experience before, however, with roles in the good doctorthe russo brothers Lethal class and – like LaBelle – he was named a TIFF Rising Star at this year’s festival. Outside of acting, Lehtinen is a rapper who performs under the name Hermit.

Zion Matheson, Matteus Lunot and Harlow Joy, Soft, tender

Left to right, Zion Matheson, Matteus Lunot and Harlow Joy. The three teenagers all made their film debuts in Soft. (Kirk Lisaj)

Although slightly under the radar, Soft, tender (previously advertised as Cat) announces the arrival of three young talents in Canadian cinema: Harlow Joy and Matteus Lunot, both aged 14, and Zion Matheson, 13.

Soft, tender details the unique experiences of growing up as a queer child in Canada, but without an emphasis on self-discovery: children of Soft, tender all know their identities.

The three stars were discovered after a year and a half of research by director and writer Joseph Amenta, who auditioned 300 actors. Lunot from White Rock, British Columbia, whose father appears as a background actor in the film, has already appeared in a Hallmark TV movie in 2021, although it is his first feature film. Toronto fashion and basketball fan Joy has appeared in several short films. Matheson, a trans girl also from Toronto, has previously appeared in a music video by Dutch DJ Bakermat and Canadian singer Kiesza – and says she now spends her time learning music and “waiting [her] first Oscar.”

Price-Maenpaa River, North normal

River Price-Maenpaa, left, and Sarah Gadon star in Carly Stone’s North of Normal. The film is an adaptation of Cea Sunrise Person’s 2014 memoir. (TIFF)

Just eight hours away, River Price-Maenpaa of Windsor, Ont., leads North of normal alongside actress Sarah Gadon, in an adaptation of Canadian author Cea’s memoir Sunrise Person. And Price-Maenpaa’s success in the film industry at such a young age is perhaps unsurprising: Both her mother and father are actors, while she once starred in Tales from the Loop and Blue’s clues.

The film, directed by Carly Stone, follows Person (played as a child by Price-Maenpaa) as she seeks stability and security that her mother cannot provide.

Sara Montpetit, Falcon Lake

Sara Montpetit, right, appears in Falcon Lake. The 21-year-old actress is back at the festival for the second time. (TIFF)

Quebecer Sara Montpetit, 21, had her first role and debut at TIFF just a year ago, with the lead role in Marie Chapdelaine — an adaptation of the novel of the same name.

Now she’s back with falcon lake, a contemplative feature film by writer/director Charlotte Le Bon. It follows teenagers coming of age and mildly terrorizing each other in rural Quebec and is adapted from the graphic novel A sister, Falcon Lake by Bastien Vives.

While Montpetit asserted herself as an actress, in other circles she was already well known. A student at Robert-Gravel High School in Montreal, she co-founded a student collective for action against climate change and launched the Fridays for Future marches, inspired by those of Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg.

Enzo Desmeules Saint-Hilaire, Coyote

Enzo Desmeules Saint-Hilaire appears in an image from Coyote, Katherine Jerkovic’s new film. (TIFF)

Also from Montreal — and grandson of the late documentary filmmaker Alain Saint-Hilaire — 8-year-old Enzo Desmeules Saint-Hilaire plays in Coyote as Zachary, the distant relative of an unlucky man who is forced to take care of him. From director and screenwriter Katherine Jerkovic — whose film Roads in February won TIFF’s 2018 Best Canadian Debut Feature Award – the film is described as “the touching story of a family trying to put themselves back together”.

Despite the moving subject, Saint-Hilaire says that for his next role, he would like to star in a comedy.


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