Canadian director Charles Officer dies at 49

December 5, 2023

Canadian actor and director Charles Officer died Friday at age 49 from complications after a heart attack and a lengthy illness. 

Officer broke out with independent movie Nurse.Fighter.Boy in 2009, which was set in the neighborhood where he grew up as the son of a British father and Jamaican mother. Other major works included Mighty Jerome and Unarmed Verses. 

His latest project was Akilla’s Escape, which tells the story of a drug dealer who interrupts a robbery and captures a gang member who is 15 years old.

Officer reportedly had a lung transplant in 2022, but details about the transplant and his illness were not known.

"Deeply saddened"

Officer graduated from the Canadian Film Centre. His films aim to describe and illuminate the Canadian Black experience.

He directed four episodes of the 2022 CBC/BET series The Porter, which won 12 Canadian Screen Awards earlier this year, including best direction (drama series).

“For Charles, it was about telling stories that matter, whether that was in a doc, feature or series – it was about finding the characters and lifting up the voices that so often go unheard,” Jake Yanowski, who started the production company CaneSugar Filmworks with Officer in 2015, said. “His big thing was not getting stuck in categories. He’d say, ‘I’m not here to check boxes off for people, I’m here to smash boxes.’”

“He saw directing as a way of enjoying the full creative experience. He wanted to be there from the beginning of a project to the end, to bathe in it,” Yanowski added. “His graphic-design background was great for that, too, in terms of framing and production design and creating fully dimensional worlds.”

Tributes rolling in

The Toronto Black Film Festival wrote on X about his death: "We’re deeply saddened by the loss of Charles Officer. His impactful work in film and storytelling touched many hearts, and we were honored to present many of his films and welcomed him at TBFF back in 2013."

The National Film Board of Canada said: “Today, we mourn the passing of Canadian filmmaker Charles Officer and extend our sympathies to his loved ones.”

Friend and fellow actress Katie Boland also posted a moving tribute on X.

Clammy Davis Jr., another actor who worked with Officer, said it was a "joy" to work with him.

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