High Lights

StarBuzz Online - Toronto

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

From Breakaway to Canada's Walk of Fame

Samita Nandy 
Celebrity Cultural Critic 

for StarBuzz
Celebrity Cultural Critic Samita Nandy on the fame of Russell Peters in Canada
StarBuzz Weekly, Toronto-Russell Peters is not only funny but also famous!

The Canadian comedian made his silver screen debut in the romantic comedy Breakaway.  Premiered at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), Breakaway is a film that portrays an all-Sikh hockey team and the Canadian dream of achieving hockey stardom.  Produced by Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar, Breakaway releases on September 30, 2011 and launches Russell Peters as a film actor in Canada.

Coincidentally, Russell Peters has also been inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame (CWOF).  He has been permanently cemented into Toronto's Entertainment District and awarded a star.  The star, however, does not necessarily celebrate Russell Peter's existing stardom.  Although based on the star-studded Hollywood Walk of Fame, CWOF does not aim to celebrate ‘celebrities’ or ‘fame’ as much as it celebrates Canadian excellence and achievements.  Marissa Soumalias, Manager of Inductee Relations, claims, “we no longer wanted to celebrate the fame and celebrity of people.”  In fact, CWOF aims to “get rid” of the Hollywood notion of fame in America.  In order to shift from the Hollywood notion of fame, CWOF renames its Canadian stars to ‘inductees’ and ‘honourees.’  In doing so, CWOF demonstrates:
[...] true essence of Canadian identity.  In every person that we acknowledge, they must be peace-loving, diverse, and harmonious; they must be social responsible, morally responsible, creative, competent, successful and innovate – if they don’t meet these criteria, they won’t make our list.

Soumalias further contends that Canadians are “humble” and “humanitarian,” and these “get back to our roots.”  She adds, “That’s what Canada is all about – we are a very humble, kind nation. We need to project that to the world."  In the past, Peters performed a number of stand-up comedies where he pointed out what it means to be a Canadian and have Canadian accents.  Now, he is being inducted into a Canadian commemorative site where all programming and content are 100% Canadian.  In light of these practices, Russell Peters is not simply awarded for his stand-up comedies and film but also for his performance of Canadianness.

Initially, CWOF used to be organized during the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).  Media representations of TIFF largely celebrate American stars in Hollywood North that CWOF aims to resist.  For Marissa Soumalias and Julianne Taskey, former Manager of Special Events,  there were legitimate reasons for the initial organization.  For them, it was a matter of sheer timing, venue availability, and meeting demands of broadcasters and PR representatives.  As a result of this, Soumalias and Taskey assert, some CWOF inductees were able to attend a film premiere at TIFF.  Alternatively, a star at TIFF was able to attend the annual gala event of CWOF.  In both cases, these stars would receive front page and / or exclusive coverage in media.  Soumalias and Taskey contend that the overall international coverage around and within TIFF helped to establish the identity of CWOF.  However, Soumalias states that CWOF is now able to be a “stand-alone [Canadian] event” and does not need to be organized in the same way as TIFF.   
Recently, Russell Peters attended the premiere of his film Breakaway at TIFF and is expected to attend the CWOF award ceremony in October.  For more information on Russell Peters' upcoming performances, check his official website http://www.russellpeters.com/  

Pics: Ben Girn

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