Jay Baruchel attended the same high school as William Shatner, but unlike his famous alumni, or other well-known Canadians like Mike Myers and Jim Carrey, Baruchel has never turned his back on his Canadian roots.

The young Montrealer, who has a maple leaf tattooed over his heart, alternates between appearing in big budget American movies like Knocked Up and Tropic Thunder and coming home to make smaller films like Real Time and The Trotsky (featured at this year’s TIFF). I don’t mean American films that use Toronto as a stand-in for New York, but honest-to-God homegrown films made by Canadians for Canadians.

Fetching Cody, for instance, played at TIFF in 2005. Variety called it a “mix of gritty street-life drama, perky teen romance and seriocomic sci-fi time-tripping,” but that description hardly does this strange little gem justice. Baruchel is Art, a drug pusher on Vancouver’s Downtown East side. When his girlfriend Cody (Sarah Lind) drops into a coma after a drug overdose, Art uses a homemade time machine to visit key moments of Cody’s life. Ultimately he learns that the best way to save her life will be the hardest option for him to choose. It’s a cool film for those who like their romantic fantasy with a bit of grit.

Just Buried (TIFF ’07) is another dark romance; a Haligonian take on The Trouble with Harry. This time out, Baruchel plays a nervous young man who inherits a nearly bankrupt funeral home. It isn’t until he falls in love with an attractive young mortician (Rose Bryne) that he begins to realize she might have something to do with the mortuary’s upturn in business. Reviewing the movie, the L.A. Times said, “Just Buried puts ‘fun’ in funeral.”

At last year’s TIFF, Baruchel co-starred with Randy Quaid in Real Time, a dramedy about a compulsive gambler from Hamilton given one hour to live by a Zen master hit man. Here Baruchel takes an unlikable character and breathes life into him, showing how a real person can fall down the rabbit hole of excess and crime.

It’s probably easier to get laughs (and better paying as well) doing his Chewbacca impersonation à la Knocked Up in big American films, but Baruchel is determined to continue working in Canada.

“I am a proud Canadian, number one, that’s the biggest thing,” Baruchel said. “All I want to do is make independent movies in Canada.”

– Richard Crouse’s Movie Show can be seen every Sunday at 6:30 p.m. on the E! Channel; mrchaos33@hotmail.com.