Each year, TIFF Rising Stars showcases new Canadian and international acting talent during the Toronto International Film Festival — placing the emphasis on the next generation poised for success.
The actors who are selected for the programme are immersed in a series of public events and private industry meetings during the Festival. They undertake professional development with international casting directors, filmmakers, producers, and industry executives. TIFF Rising Stars alumni include Stephan James, Tatiana Maslany, and Sarah Gadon.
This year’s TIFF Rising Stars will be lead actors in Official Selection feature films at the 2021 Toronto International Film Festival.
Arooj Azeem is a Canadian actor. She stars as Sheila in Haya Waseem’s Quickening, which is making its World Premiere at TIFF 2021. This is Azeem’s debut feature-film performance.
Emma Ferreira trained at York University’s Acting Conservatory; she was then cast as Juliet in Measure for Measure and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing in Canadian Stage’s Shakespeare in High Park (now called Dream in High Park). She followed that up with a lead in Jason Sherman’s Copy That at Tarragon Theatre. Learn To Swim, which is premiering at TIFF 2021, is her feature-film debut.
Phillip Lewitski is known for his leading role in the Hulu original series Utopia Falls, his guest-starring role in CW’s Supernatural, and his recurring guest-star role in the series finale of the History channel’s Vikings, where you meet his character ’Wejitu. Born in Canada, Lewitski comes from a French, Ukrainian, and Mohawk ancestry. His heritage is a strong part of his identity and he strives to learn and explore his cultural roots. He is represented by Carrie Wheeler Entertainment and A3 Artists Agency.
Jaden Michael has captured the attention of Hollywood as a young star to watch. At just 17 years old, he is set to star in the upcoming 2021 Netflix series Colin in Black and White, which was produced and directed by Ava DuVernay and is premiering at TIFF 2021. Michael most recently appeared as the lead in the Netflix feature Vampires vs. the Bronx (20). Other notable credits include a starring role in Wonderstruck (17) for Amazon, which was directed by Todd Haynes and premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. He had a recurring role on The Get Down (16–17) that Baz Lurhmann specifically wrote for him. He also appeared in Jim Jarmusch’s Paterson (16), and the indie feature drama Custody (16) alongside Viola Davis and Ellen Burstyn.
Amber Midthunder is gearing up for a groundbreaking year. She stars as the female lead in Netflix’s thriller The Ice Road opposite Liam Neeson, and she can be seen on the small screen as well: on the CW reboot of Roswell, New Mexico, the third season of which premiered this summer, and in the Marvel series Legion for FX. Midthunder’s story is truly unique; she is one of a handful of Native Americans in the industry. She is an enrolled member in the Fort Peck Sioux Tribe and a huge supporter of her community. Her philanthropic efforts speak to representation in the industry, environmentalism, and the humane treatment of animals.
Thomas Antony Olajide is an screen and stage actor from Vancouver, BC. He starred in Thyrone Tommy's short film Mariner and appeared in the French-language Québécois television series Les Nomades II, for which he was nominated for Best Actor at the 2020 Prix Gémeaux. He appears in Tommy’s latest film, Learn To Swim, which will have its world premiere at TIFF 2021.
Dimitrius Schuster-Koloamatangi made his big-screen debut in The Jonah Lomu Story while still in school. He will next be seen as the lead of Tom Hern and Halaifonua Finau’s The Panthers, premiering at TIFF 2021. The series surrounds a group of young protesters in New Zealand who, inspired by the Black Panthers in the US, form the Polynesian Panther Party to fight racial injustice levelled against them. Being half Samoan and half Tongan himself, he connected with the history and themes surrounding the series on a personal level, and brings not only a commanding charisma but also an authenticity to his standout performance. He will next be seen as the lead of Damon Fepulea’i’s DOX, which shoots this year. He’s represented by Stride Management and Red Rocket Actors.
Karam Taher was born in 2004 in Jordan. In her first onscreen appearance, she plays the titular role in Darin J. Sallam’s Farha, which will have its world premiere at TIFF 2021. Taher underwent intense acting training for several months with the film’s director, leading her to transform into and embody the character in this period piece.
The 2020 class of selected actors consists of Sheila Atim, Tanya Maniktala, Rainbow Dickerson, and Madeleine Sims-Fewer.
The 2018 class of selected actors consists of Devery Jacobs, Lamar Johnson, Michaela Kurimsky, Jess Salgueiro, Stéphane Bak, Ahmed Malek, Josh Wiggins, and Eleanor Worthington-Cox.
The 2016 class of selected actors consists of Grace Glowicki, Jared Abrahamson, Mylene Mackay, Oc Ukeje, Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama, and Sophie Nélisse.
The 2014 class of selected actors consists of Alexandre Landry, Julia Sarah Stone, Shannon Kook and Sophie Desmarais.