Founded by award-winning actress Tonya Williams, the annual Reelworld Film Festival returns this October 17th – 21st, celebrating its 19th year continuing to open doors for racially diverse Canadian filmmakers and media artists from all across the country.
Now in its 19th year, Canada’s leading racially diverse film festival, the Reelworld Film Festival is back once again this October 2019 putting a spotlight on BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) content creators and allowing those diverse communities to claim their own stories and bring their unique perspectives to the table. Running from October 17th – October 21st, 2019, the festival will showcase, for the very first time, 100% of its festival films created by Canadian BIPOC filmmakers.
“Our Programming Team did an outstanding job for this year’s festival seeking out the best Canadian content from talent we don’t always see or hear of.” says Tonya Williams, Reelworld Film Festival Founder/Executive and Artistic Director and most notably known for her starring role as Dr. Olivia Barber Hastings on the Emmy Award winning series The Young and The Restless. “I founded Reelworld back in 2001 because I saw a need. Having faced the challenges myself as an artist in the entertainment industry in Canada I knew only too well how limited access was for BIPOC Canadian filmmakers and content creators. Reelworld was launched to give a platform to those talented individuals that we were losing at an alarming rate to the USA. Over the past 19 years we’re been instrumental in launching the careers of hundreds of Canadian talent – names like Dawn Wilkinson, Richie Mehta, Charles Officer, Samantha Wan, Simu Liu, and so many more. Beyond the festival screenings, Reelworld supports filmmakers and strives to create a community of connected BIPOC talent. We have a slate of popular Industry Panels and our longstanding E20 program, which works to connect some of Canada’s most talented emerging BIPOC talent with industry executives and professionals within the Canadian entertainment industry, is one of the highlights of the festival. At the festival, we also take the opportunity to spotlight and applaud excellence through our Visionary Award and our six Trailblazer Awards presented each year.”
“This year our program is 100% Canadian. With a renewed focus on Canadian filmmakers, the theme for our 2019 festival is Home.” Says Ammar Keshodia, Reelworld Film Festival 2019 Lead Programmer. “With all of our films this year, you’ll see stories about people that are forging new homes for themselves or struggling to correct the complex relationships within their families. Some of these households have incredibly dark problems to deal with and some remind you just how important home can be to the life and success of someone. There is anxiety, joy, and revelation in these homes and you’ll find characters that are running away from it or running to it.”
For 2019, Reelworld Film Festival has programmed films with stories about finding a home in community, in culture and in people. The festival kicks off on Thursday, October 17th at Glenn Gould Studio (250 Front Street West) sponsored by TD Bank Group with a reception followed by the opening night gala film THE INCREDIBLE 25TH YEAR OF MITZI BEARCLAW directed by Shelly Niro, a comedic, but grounded look at life on an Indigenous Reserve.
On October 18th, Filmmaker Panels and the festival favourite installation, the Virtual Reality Zone, will take place at the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street). Sponsored by Telefilm, Ontario Creates and the Writer’s Guild of Canada, the free Reelworld Industry Panels will also be held at the Toronto Reference Library from 1:00 PM – 6:00 PM and will focus on Writers, Filmmakers, Shadowing/Mentorship, and Kid’s and Family Content Creation. The Reelworld Industry Panels create networking and professional development opportunities for emerging and underrepresented filmmakers and storytellers. The panel will feature prominent BIPOC industry leaders such as producer Romeo Candido, Literary Agent Sohrab Merchant, Writer Vivian Lin, Writer Alejandro Alcoba, Motion Director Gloria Ui Young Kim, Cinematographer Dmitry Lopatin, Producers Sonya Di Rienzo, Jennifer Podemski, and Floyd Kane, Development Executives Adam Feigen, Shaleen Sangha, Nicole Mendes and Michael Goldsmith. Each panel gives audience members the opportunity to ask questions and facilitate discussions with the artists. Participants will be able to sit in on insightful discussions, while also getting the chance to participate and network with panelists. At 7:00 PM, the festival’s shorts programs featuring directors Johnny Vong, Amar Wala, Rolla Tahir, Tyler Evens, Samiramis Kia, Lara Zeidan, Bretten Hannam, and Sammy Gadbois will be screening their films at the Famous Players Canada Square Cineplex located at 2190 Yonge Street
Festival Film screenings will also be held at Famous Player Canada Square which will include notable features such as:
THE SPIRIT WITHIN by Gil Cardinal and Wil Campbell In a trend that’s worsened over the last decade, Indigenous people are overrepresented in Canada’s prison system and it’s a pattern that shows no signs of slowing down. We take a look back at Gil Cardinal and Wil Campbell’s 1990 documentary on Native spirituality programmes that helped Indigenous men get in touch with their roots and avoid the revolving door that would see them back in prison after release. Join us for this special retrospective screening, followed by a panel discussion.
BECAUSE WE ARE GIRLS by Balijit Sangra After decades of silence, three sisters from a conservative South Asian family reveal that they were sexually abused by an older relative. Because We Are Girls gives no oxygen to the abuser or his crimes, instead focusing on the healing process for the victims and their struggle to discuss this issue within their family and community.
FAREWELL REGENT by Christene Browne In a documentary that charts the complex canvas of Regent Park, Christene Browne puts a human face on the unique tensions and fellowships of the country’s most infamous social housing project. Farewell Regent eschews the storied violence of the community to focus on the activism and resilience that has always been in the DNA of its people.
THE POT AND THE OAK by Kiarash Anvari In a searing indictment of male ego, Kiarash Anvari announces himself as a new Iranian-Canadian voice with this dark satire about a failing playwright whose life begins to collapse when he learns he’s sterile. In keeping with Iran’s great cinematic tradition, Anvari toys with the boundary between fiction and reality as his bitter protagonist stumbles toward a deliciously dark conclusion.
XALKO by Sami Mermer and Hind Benchekroun A small village in Turkish Anatolia slowly becomes a ghost town as families move abroad, leaving behind a group of dedicated women who keep things running, in a rare document of the hidden consequences of migration. These women are the life of the film as they work the livestock together and make bread to feed their families while joking about their absent husbands.
On Sunday, October 20th, the Reelworld ACTRA YEAA SHORTS will put the spotlight on youth and emerging talent in Toronto showcasing seven short films, written, directed and produced by members of ACTRA’s Young Emerging Actors Assembly (YEAA) including Christer Harris, Justine McCalla, Samy Osman, Darrell Faria, Natalie Dale, Lora Campbell and Colin Mercer.The programming and screenings segment of Reelworld’s 2019 Festival wraps up with the Awards and Closing Ceremony, held the same evening, also at Famous Player Canada Square. Significant awards that will be handed out this year includes the Visionary Award which will be presented to president and cofounder of DiversiPro Inc., Hamlin Grange as well as the six Trailblazers Awards which will be awarded to Farah Merani, Albert Shin, Nyla Innuksuk, Emmanuel Kabongo, Nathalie Younglai and Mohit Rajhans. Created in 2002, the Trailblazer Awards recognize outstanding achievements by racially diverse professionals in the Canadian entertainment industry.
This year’s closing film is BECOMING LABRADOR by Rohan Fernando, Tamara Segura, and Justin Simms which takes a look at a whole generation of Filipino men and women who have travelled halfway across the world to work in Labrador, leaving behind families and friends as they struggle to adjust to a remarkably different climate and culture in Canada.
Finally, on Monday, October 21st, the Reelworld Emerging 20 Filmmaker Incubator program will be in full swing. With support from Telefilm Canada, OntarioCreates, CMPA and the Ontario Arts Council, 20 emerging BIPOC artists will meet industry leaders, mentors, and funders at the Face2Face Pitching event followed by a Festival Close Out Industry Mixer.