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OCAD U mourns loss of acclaimed filmmaker and champion of Black voices

Charles Officer

Photo courtesy of the Globe and Mail.

The OCAD University community is deeply saddened by the passing of Charles Officer on December 1, 2023, at the age of 48. Officer was a graduate of the communication and design program at the Ontario College of Art (OCA), before it became OCAD U.


Charles Officer was an acclaimed filmmaker and champion of Black voices, and an award-winning and visionary director, producer, writer and performer.

Officer studied communication design at OCA. He then attended the Neighbourhood Playhouse in New York City, where he studied performance.

His work through features, documentary and television often centred Black voices and characters. Officer produced the groundbreaking 2022 CBC/BET television series The Porter, which won 12 awards at the Canadian Screen Awards (CSA) in April, including best writing and best drama series.

He helmed feature-length films, such as the crime drama Akilla's Escape and the documentary Unarmed Verses, which told the story of Toronto Community Housing residents who were uprooted while their neighbourhood was revitalized.

Officer's 2008 debut feature, Nurse.Fighter.Boy, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and was nominated for 10 Genie Awards, the precursor to the CSA. His short film entitled Short Hymn Silent War, told the story of four black women coping with an epidemic of gun violence in their community. The film screened at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival. His directorial debut When Morning Comes, a short film, also premiered at TIFF in the year 2000.

In addition, Officer directed multiple episodes of television including Rookie Blue (ABC), Saving Hope (NBC), Private Eyes (Ion), Ransom (CBS), 21 Thunder (Netflix), Ransom and Coroner. He has directed music videos for artists such as K’naan and DJ Green Velvet. He served on the boards of Reel Canada, which introduces Canadian cinema to recently landed immigrants, and The Art Gallery of Ontario.

He and his producing partner Jake Yanowski started the production company CaneSugar Filmworks.

Officer is being remembered among his peers as a long-time creative collaborator and an influential member within the Canadian film and television sector.

OCAD U extends its deepest condolences to his family, friends and loved ones.

The Globe and Mail