#ReelAsian22: A Recap of the Reel Ideas Industry Conference

Photography by Michael Tjioe

From November 8 – 16, The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival celebrated it’s twenty-second of showcasing contemporary Asian films and videos from East, South and Southeast Asian artists in Canada and around the world

A big part of the festival is the Reel Ideas program, an industry conference that aims to provide opportunities between emerging talent and  established filmmakers.

A common piece of advice that resonated throughout the entire conference was:

Do Your Research.

  • Research the people you pitch to.
  • Become knowledgeable about the industry.
  • Learn as much as you can about your subject, first as a gradual process to build that relationship and rapport.
  • Complete in-depth reviews of your audience.

The importance of research and preparedness was reinforced by multiple panelists because it amplified the outcomes for success.

The morning kicked off with Elevate Your Pitch, an informative panel about pitching to investors and production companies with seasoned professionals in the industry. Romeo Candido, senior producer for CBC Arts and  CBC Arts: Exhibitionists moderated the discussion with Melanie Hadley, Executive in Charge of Production for CBC Drama,  and Michael Steinberg, Senior Account Manager of TV, Motion, Picture Group at National Bank.

Melanie Hadley spoke about the importance of staying connected to gatekeepers in the industry. “Keep all the access points/gatekeepers and contacts that you know (especially if you leave and return back into the industry), those people are important to connect with” she said.

Michael Steinberg expanded the conversation by sharing his experience of content creators pitching to financial sponsors, advising the audience about the importance of preparation.

“The secret is being prepared and structuring storytelling. It is about being able to paint that picture to the audience and convey your project concisely.” – Michael Steinberg

Filmmaker and correspondent of CBC Arts, April Aliermo, moderated another panel called ReMappings,. with Ashley Duong, a Montreal-based film director and multimedia storyteller, and Sun-Kyung Yi, the Program Coordinator for Seneca College’s Documentary Filmmaking Institute (DFI) that explored various aspects of documentary filmmaking and the fragile way of forming a story that is authentic to a subject.

The discussion delved into issues of intimacy and the filmmaker-subject relationship:“If you are an aspiring or emerging documentary filmmaker, tell the story that touches you on a personal and intimate level. Look in your own backyard,” according to Sun-Kyung Yi.

Duong added, “one skill filmmakers don’t intentionally train themselves on is listening and helping people feel heard.”

“Before you start a project, during research and development that person or community are experts of their story because they live it. By the time you are done the story, you will become an expert because you are sharing their story,” added Sun-Kyung Yi.

The afternoon finished with a vibrant conversation between Sherren Lee, an award-winning Director born in Taiwan, bred in Montreal and currently located in Toronto, and Sook Yin Lee, a Canadian broadcaster, musician, filmmaker, and actress. Lee is famously known from her stint as a MuchMusic VJ, and has been a host on CBC Radio since 2002. Lee’s conversation dealt with finding creative freedom on her own terms, the ins and outs of making decisions, having regrets and living with intentionality.

Lee asked the audience, “what are you curious about? And create the space where you can ruminate this question then explore it.”

That sense of curiosity has driven Lee’s work and life, and she spoke important words about growth as a filmmaker through experience, “at the end of life, we aren’t looking at our diplomas, we are looking at life experiences.”

On another panel, actor and filmmaker Farah Merani, moderated a panel about being an influencer and creating an impact using digital platforms. The conversation between Merani, photographer Alexia Fernando and Jessica Prois, former executive of HuffPost Asian Voices addresses important themes of being an online influencer.

Prois spoke about the importance of getting any press or attention, “getting on a small blog (or any type of media/press attention) is good because more press attention makes you more credible.”

In an online world that is saturated with voices, Fernando reminded the audience of the importance of using a variety of mediums.

“The [virtual social media] tools are there, use that to leverage your voice. Use that online platform but also have another platform that isn’t online. Reconnect with traditional mediums,” she said.

The conference was enriching and educational for anyone spanning the industries of film, television, marketing, public relations, accounting, and beyond. Future iterations of the Reel Ideas conference will only grow from here.

The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival is a unique showcase of contemporary Asian cinema and work from the Asian diaspora. Works include films and videos by East, South and Southeast Asian artists in Canada, the U.S., Asia and all over the world. As Canada’s largest Asian film festival, Reel Asian provides a public forum for Asian media artists and their work, and fuels the growing appreciation for Asian cinema in Canada. Check out other images from the festival.

The Layers They See

By Aniqa Rahman

Co-written and edited by Glamma Kimaiyo

Over the next few months, we will be featuring the projects from our Behind the Dust Visual Series Mediamakers. The Layers They See by Aniqa Rahman is the final in the series.

Preservation, 2018 Model/Artist: Glamma Kimaiyo Photography By Aniqa Rahman

A colleague of mine once confided in me that she did not like to be asked about her background or nationality. She explained to me that, given the current geopolitical climate, people tended to politicize her Middle Eastern identity; and those judgements made her feel uneasy. “The Layers They See” is a photography series that explores identities; and how we view ourselves, in comparison to how we are perceived by others.

Initially my project was focused on how traditional Indigenous beadwork/embroidery is used as a powerful storytelling medium. But, after conducting the interview, my focus shifted to intersectionalities and the complexity of identity-politics, as expressed through art.

Recruiting artists was a nearly impossible task, consequently getting this project off the ground was no easy feat. In fact, the underwhelming response to my call-outs nearly forced me to abandon this topic altogether. I quickly realized that when it came to sharing personal stories and artwork a lot of people were fearful of being taken out of context and therefore apprehensive about participating. Needless to say, I am humbled and grateful that I found someone willing to discuss such personal and sensitive subject matter.

I was fortunate enough to collaborate with Glamma Kimaiyo, an interdisciplinary Toronto-based artist of Afro-Caribbean and Indigenous ancestry. Glamma’s insistence on exploring every facet of her creativity, and not limiting herself, has made her fiercely talented in a multitude of mediums, including: audio engineering/production, singing /songwriting, deejaying, spoken word poetry, jewelry and clothing design/construction to name a few. Among all of Glamma’s artistic endeavours, the one which most connects her to her indigeneity is her beadwork; and I wanted to know more about her perspectives.

(Left) Hidden Layer I, 2018 (Right) Surface Layer II, 2018 Model/Artist: Glamma Kimaiyo Photography by Aniqa Rahman

On Saturday May 19th, 2018, I met Glamma at a friend’s studio apartment. I remember being quite anxious at that time. I wasn’t sure how the interview would go.  Nonetheless, Glamma’s entrance and her upbeat personality before and during the interview made the process fun and engaging.

In speaking with Glamma, I became increasingly aware of the pervasiveness of white supremacy, and the diverse ways it manifests within various ethnic groups. During our exchange, my eyes were opened to the ways that covert racism homogenizes melanated people and attempts to relegate them to oppressively generic categories.

One negative impact of this, that Glamma herself admitted to experiencing, is the conditioned behaviour of, ‘not going out of her way to mention her complete ancestry’. For when she does, the inquirer almost always professes that she absolutely, “doesn’t look Native!”

So in fact, Glamma plainly admits that societal ‘norms’ have conditioned her to offer the abridged version of her background; a coping mechanism developed in order to avoid being scrutinized, belittled or interrogated.  Compared to her Indigenous and European multi-racial counterparts, who tend to be wholeheartedly and instantly accepted by the mainstream and Indigenous communities alike, race politics has made her assertion as a native woman a conundrum to those narrow minds that ask, ‘How can a Black woman be Indigenous?’

Intertwine, 2018 Beaded Necklace by Glamma Kimaiyo Photography by Aniqa Rahman

Following our conversation I realized that, to tell or not to tell becomes a double-edged sword.  Glamma, for the most part, chooses to navigate her identity outside of the gaze.

Her private explorations of traditional crafts and teachings at  beading circles learning from various ‘aunties’ over the years connects her to this part of her heritage.

Through her patient and meticulous construction, she believes that she honours the legacy of her ancestors and harnesses the healing properties of the metaphysical world. More important than people’s perceptions, she spreads “good medicine” through her beadwork.

The process was never an easy one —  as an artist myself, I had to develop a piece which best describes my style and aesthetics of work while still maintaining the integrity of Glamma’s story. The practice that I never want to conform to as a media-maker is to generalize and take a narrative out of context — a practice that we continue to see in mainstream media.

I was able to break the story down through creative writing process on race and intersectional identities.

There are layers which people see.
Individuals which identify you based on your dominant racial features or appearance.

There are layers which people don’t see, but only oneself sees.
Individuals who are unaware of your ethnic background, and only you are aware of.

The layers which are hidden, and which only surfaces when called upon.
Individuals who question your ethnicity, when you disclose your identity.

After writing and reviewing this process, I chose to use long exposure photography and light painting technique to capture or symbolize the layers of Glamma’s identities. Even though some may think it is too literal, I felt this process best described my creativity and would do justice to the artwork. Like Glamma, I felt inspired by the darkness, by the colour scheme and craftsmanship, and had to exercise my patience when it came to capturing or recording these images. One major connection that I found between Glamma and I is that we both love utilizing traditional methods to practice our craft, hence why I recorded the images via camera as opposed to manipulating and putting all these images together in photoshop.

After interviewing Glamma, I realized how much the power of storytelling can enable  people to create remarkable projects. Her stories serve as a great inspiration that have challenged me to further explore photography as a medium. Even though the story behind this project is not about myself per se; as an artist, I can empathize with and relate to many topics which she elaborated on, including how one perceives their own identity. I want people to know that as an artist, I want to bring certain stories to life and I intend to do so through visual narrative. There are stories that need to be told, there are conversations that need to happen, and there are more genuine artworks that need to be created.


Aniqa Rahman is a recent University of Toronto graduate, where she earned her Honours Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. She owes much of her success in life to not only her family, friends, and mentors, but also to Community Arts which has been an integral part of her healing process as well as growth towards her individuality. Raised in a diverse neighbourhood in Scarborough, Aniqa has been immersed in the Arts since 2013. She participated in ArtStarts’ Sew What?!, East Music and Project Management with Scarborough Arts, We are Lawrence Avenue with Cultural Hotspot and UforChange photography classes.

It was at UforChange where she found her passion for photography and began developing her own style.; In the past few years Aniqa has managed to acquire notable clients, win Juror’s choice, and gain recognition from Toronto Star and UofT Magazine for her photographic Arts. She has a huge admiration for capturing multicultural festivals as well as Toronto’s fashion scene, and has gone on to shoot events such as African Fashion Week Toronto, St. Jamestown Festival, Multicultural Canada Day 2015, and Fashion Arts Toronto ( |FAT|). Her goal is to further develop her photography skills; she believes learning is for life and with that brings joy into her Art.

Diaspora and Shame: Stories Under my Tongue

By Anne-Audrey Remarais

my tongue

moving in different ways




left, right

the way it moves around

dances around, in my mouth

the choreography initiated by you


sustained by me

under the umbrella of shame

shame building stages where my tongue can dance,

where my tongue can be showcased,

outside of me.

there is no chain tying up my tongue.

at my own mercy,

i carry this shame in my tongue,

in the way it moves to please you,

in the way it awkwardly dances in my mother tongue,

in the way i stop the dance when the lights are on,

lit by my mother,

lit by my father.

how hurtful is it to see the pain in your eyes when our tongues don’t move at the same rhythm.

how hurtful is it to see the pride in your eyes when our tongues move at the same rhythm.

Caribbean Sea. The Ayiti they don’t showcase. View from the 500 steps in Koto.

Growing up in Montreal, when I was a teenager, I would always feel at home with friends of colour, especially Haitian friends, with whom I felt I could relate even deeper. We would laugh at some of our parents mannerisms. When we spoke French, we would throw in Kreyol words. When I would return to my parents’ house, I would hide that side of me. Responding to my parents in French only, ashamed my tongue would twist in the wrong ways. I felt in between worlds, not Canadian enough, not Haitian enough. Internally struggling as I proudly said I was Haitian, only out of my home. I was looking for my place.

My parents immigrated to Canada for different reasons. My mom came from Haiti as a teenager for better educational opportunities while my father came as a young adult to escape the Haitian Duvalier dictatorship at the time. They left behind their homeland, families, friends, culture and lifestyles. They had to start fresh, relearn everything, and face new forms of racism.

Road in between my dad’s family house and my sister’s house, in Kanperen, Ayiti.

I say all this because I carry their stories within me as I navigate this world to create my own stories. My dad would tell me how as a young adult he never knew if he would be able to come back home as a lot of young folks were getting arrested, kidnapped, or killed by soldiers. He never realized how his life was holding on to a thread until he stepped foot in Canada. My mom actually never went back, after 44 years, feeling the pressure of the shame to have abandoned her country and the trauma to come back to a homeland that doesn’t feel like home anymore. My interests have an origin. An origin of struggle. As a child of diaspora, navigating my identity has never been easy. Always on a search to define who I am and who I am not, caught in-between two worlds, and sometimes more. Going against whoever comes to bash Haiti and its beautiful people. Stuttering when people ask me where are you from? No but, really?

I went to Haiti last summer for the second time, accompanied by my father. The purpose of the trip was to learn about Haitian drumming, research locals’ beliefs and practices around Voodoo spirituality, and reconnect with the land and the people, especially family members. The challenges that surfaced on this trip shed light on how I was romanticizing Haiti and my connection to it. I was thinking about all the beautiful moments I would living without any obstacle; the food, the music, the conversations. But trying to fit in my ancestors’ homeland is a process that takes time, and the privileges I hold as a Canadian-born body blur my identity. When a family conflict happened in Haiti, I knew I had a ticket to leave and go back to Canada eventually. I have the privilege of mobility. Another struggle was also questioning, and being ashamed of questioning, relationships; wondering if they’re sincere or if people are simply expecting gifts, an access to migrate to Canada, or money, in exchange. Heartbreaking. I don’t blame them, nor myself, I blame all the –isms, the systems exploiting our land, people and resources. Migration, whether forced or chosen, always has some deeper implications relating to colonialism, imperialism, racism, capitalism, and/or all other oppressive –isms.

Avocado tree in my family’s backyard planted by my grandfather I never met. It is over 50 years old, having provided avocados to 3 generations and counting.

I didn’t choose where I was born, I didn’t physically migrate from one place to another, but my ancestors did, my parents did. This movement is in my blood. Carrying their stories, also means carrying their trauma. Even when it manifests in different ways. Ashamed of the way my tongue dances between languages, the journey continues. I leave shame behind, as I commit to compassionately allow myself to use the language that was so beautifully crafted by my ancestors.

Family of chickens living freely in my family’s backyard.

Throughout my stay in Haiti, I realized what drew my attention a lot was nature, whether it was the actual land, animals, the sky or families of chickens, banana trees, kabrits, and the list goes on. This attraction taught me a lot about my search for connection, with my own people, whatever that looks like, and with the land of my ancestors which links me to a deeper aspect of my identity. Becoming aware of this longing, I see now how it translates to all aspects of my life; the friendships that became the extended family I never had access to, my community and art interests. For me, it’s seeing how existential questions relate to my communities, where I create & sustain safer spaces for/with my communities, exploring roots and traumas, and always wanting to learn about the stories that make up someone’s life. What stories hold the foundation of the ground on which you stand?


Anne-Audrey is a black queer woman of Haitian descent, 2nd generation. The layers of her identity are explored through the art that she creates and the community she strives to be a part of and build. The main themes being diaspora identity, healing, land, queerness, trauma, and migration, and how they all interact with one another. She loves creating, whether it be theatre, djembe drumming, poetry, or cooking; trying to break the boxes she was taught to exist in. Channeling her self-discovery journey is a healing and revolutionary act where she reclaims the power of authoring her own narrative. Currently based in Montreal, she studies Performance Creation at Concordia University, and facilitates i woc up like dis: self-discovery, a workshop series for women of color, using theatre and photography for healing and transformation. @findinglyfe_

Have You Eaten?

By Soko Fong Negash

Over the next few months, we will be featuring the projects from our Behind the Dust Visual Series Mediamakers. Have You Eaten? by Soko Fong Negash is the fifth in the series.

* * *

A study of the languages of love between Chinese mothers/daughters and the things that may be lost (or gained) in translation.

* * *

In Hong Kong Cantonese, “Have you eaten rice yet?” [sihk jó faahn meih a? 食咗飯未呀?] is a common greeting, the equivalent of “how are you?” in English.

It’s a question that can cut through tension or discomfort, no matter how big or small. It is simple, really: food is labour, and labour is love in practice. Any problem can be soothed, theoretically–or at least kept at bay–as bellies are full and fires cooled. A breather, if you will, from whatever hardships befall you.

All else can wait. Sit. Eat.

Have You Eaten? is an ongoing photo and audio series that explores languages of motherly love, pertaining to the relationship between mothers and daughters of Chinese descent. For this project, I connected with eight mother-and-daughter pairs and asked them about what love looks like in their relationships.

In an effort to complicate ideas around the archetype of the tiger mom and the concept that Chinese Mothers Don’t Say I Love You, this is an offer of both the tenderness of physical intimacy and the varying expressions of care.

For some, affection comes easy, bright and unmistakable. And for others, it takes time and a special sort of compromise.

From shoot-to-shoot, home-to-home, I found myself returning to the same place. What does it mean to be loved? How is love expressed and received? What becomes of what is lost in translation?

Take a listen.

* * *

“I think she loves by making sure that I don’t suffer.”

Karen on her mother:


Theresa on her daughter:

* * *

“As opposed to saying ‘I love you’, it’s, ‘eat your vegetables’”

Sihan on her mother:


Tea on her daughter:

* * *

“…there was a fresh meal on the table, and I’m like, this woman does not live with me anymore, but she continues to take care of me by nourishing my body.”

Sahar on her mother:


Lin on her daughter:

* * *

“She does things that I never would have done in my childhood and I’m really proud of her […] To me, she’s fearless.”

Emma on her mother:


Grace on her daughter:


Soko Fong Negash is a Toronto-born visual artist of Chinese-Eritrean descent. Her creativity is explored primarily through the realms of art, writing, documentary film production, and photography. She is inspired by the underbelly of a place, unspoken (mis)understandings, ancestral knowledge and trauma, and the messy parts of cultural identity.

Get to Know: The Dynamic Duo of ‘The Future is You and Me’

The Future Is You and Me is a program designed to support young women of colour to take on leadership positions in creative and arts organizations. Based in Vancouver and co-founded by Kristin Cheung and Megan Lau, The Future is You and Me aims to use workshops and mentorship to engage and inspire the next generation of diverse women leaders.

We sat down with Kristin and Megan to discuss gender equality, empowerment through mentorship and the importance of safe spaces in their workshops. The Future is You and Me begins another round of workshops in Winter 2019 in Vancouver.

What inspired you to create The Future is You and Me? How did your collaboration start?

Megan Lau: The idea started with Kristin, who has extensive experience in arts and culture in Canada. She has given so much time to cultivating spaces for artists from marginalized communities — and as a result, that has generated opportunities to be in spaces with key decision makers and administrators. On her way back from working with some of these arts and culture leaders in Ottawa in 2016, she wrote a Facebook post that was a call to action. She invited friends to be a part of changing the face of the cultural and creative industries in Canada, and it really spoke to me.

We met for coffee and started spitballing ideas about how to create a systemic intervention, and how to best use our skills and experience. I really felt that having someone older to turn to for support and to see myself in would have made a tremendous difference in my career path early on. And that was the kernel that became The Future.

We were especially inspired by the Toronto-based workshop series for young black women called #GYALCAST Academy, which put a deep focus on the relational and the importance of love and friendship.

Kristin Cheung: I’ve known Megan for many years through the arts, the publishing sector, Vancouver’s Chinatown community, and the community activism scene in Vancouver. We’ve had very similar paths navigating careers in the arts. I felt that collaborating with Megan was the right fit for this project. My background is in arts fundraising and Megan’s background is communications and mentorship. We share similar experiences in community organizing and are both passionate about diversity.

Can you describe why you chose to create a mentorship program?

ML: A lot of young women are looking for mentors. We named The Future a mentorship program partly because it’s a draw for the women we want to welcome. In the end, our program doesn’t have a traditional mentorship model: our participants aren’t paired with anyone. Instead, we’re introducing them to a handful of women doing incredible work in our city, and we hope that they will connect with them afterward.

As racialized women doing this work, we’re often the only people of colour in a room. We chose a mentorship model as a way to focus on building intergenerational and cross-disciplinary connections because those relationships can sustain us in those moments of isolation and frustration.

KC: The program is structured as weekly workshops for a cohort of 12 young women of colour. We have a small group so we can learn all about each other’s projects and personalities, and build strong bonds. Having hands-on workshops enables active and non-hierarchical learning, where mentors learn from participants and vice versa. We often meet around couches, like 12 friends sitting around a living-room space. Megan and I want to create a safe space to share intimate or sensitive information our participants normally might not talk about in other social settings like work meetings, parties, or readings.

2016-2017 Cohort for The Future is You and Me program

What issues do you hope to change / address through your collective?

KC: We’re really focused on building a stronger network of women of colour involved in creative and artistic professions — particularly in leadership positions. We want our participants to use their work, as administrators or artists, to represent and champion their diverse views and experience.

Gender equality is currently at the forefront of mainstream conversations about social change, but we also need to always think of diverse views within a feminist framework inclusive of race and ethnicity. Because we have more women at the top, it doesn’t mean anything if they are not reflective of the diverse population.

ML: There aren’t many other programs like this in Canada, let alone Vancouver. In fact, we might be the only inter- and multi-disciplinary program for racialized women in the arts. Each time that we run the program, we are putting the issue in front of people who may not spend much time considering the makeup of their boards or the diversity, or lack of, in their staff. Every time we offer the program, we are both saying that we are here and we deserve to be treated fairly, and we are telling young Indigenous and racialized women that they matter and their creativity can be a catalyst for change.

What is your ultimate goal with this program?

ML: I believe the ultimate goal of all programs aiming to create social change should be to make themselves obsolete. When women of colour and Indigenous women — including trans women, those who have invisible and visible disabilities, and women who identify as part of the LGBTQ community — are properly represented in the cultural sector, there won’t be a need for programs like ours. Then we’ll be able to rest, ignore our inboxes, and go to the beach!

In the short-term, my hope is that our participants feel empowered and equipped to pursue careers in the arts and seek out work that welcomes their perspectives and criticality. The work ahead is to challenge the status quo, and we want our participants to know that their experiences and perspectives are valid and valuable.

KC: I definitely agree with Megan. If all arts organizations (and other sectors like business and tech) can enable leadership from women of colour, through an intersectional lens, then we’ve accomplished our goal. Right now we’re not at that point and we still need to build awareness through a program like ours and build solidarity in our peer networks and beyond.

Can you tell us more about your upcoming workshops and what’s in store for The Future is You and Me?

ML: Our upcoming series of workshops will have a new focus on the ways that women in our community have expressed their identity, activism, and creativity, and connect their work to a larger history of women artists. We’re also going to dig deeper into practical skills — like organizing your finances and strategies for job applications — that will support sustainable careers. Our outreach will also focus on connecting with more BIPOC women and women with disabilities.

We’ve received tremendous support from The Canada Council for the Arts and The City of Vancouver for this project, so it’s likely that we’ll be able to offer the program at least one more time this year.

Kristin Cheung loves consuming cultural products (art, film, books, zines, YouTube videos) and facilitating arts and creative projects. Kristin has worked as an Arts Administrator and fundraiser for organizations such as Contemporary Art Gallery, Gateway Theatre, Ricepaper magazine, Geist magazine. Kristin has graduated with a Masters in Arts Administration & Cultural Policy from Goldsmiths University of London.

Megan Lau began her creative life carefully arranging her crayons according to the colours of the rainbow. In other words, she has always been an organizer. Megan has been active in the local arts and culture community as a writer, editor and programmer for the past decade. She holds a Master of Publishing from Simon Fraser University. Her writing has appeared in publications across Canada, including Maisonneuve, Megaphone, Hayo, Shameless, Ricepaper magazine, and Reader’s Digest.

But You’re Not Black: This Short Doc is Redefining the Correlation between Race, Colour and Culture

BUT YOU’RE NOT BLACK is a short documentary that shines a light on how society’s conceptions of culture and heritage are often perceived based entirely on someone’s visible race — and the impact that can have on an individual’s sense of identity. This film challenges and redefines the correlation between race, skin colour and culture.

The film follows Danielle, a descendant of Chinese-Caribbean parents who was born and raised in Toronto, as she answers the common question “what’s your background” by traveling back to Trinidad.

Danielle and her team are currently fundraising for production costs in order to complete the film and use it to promote inclusivity, empathy and diversity in film. Learn more about the Kickstarter campaign for BUT YOU’RE NOT BLACK and support here.