Take a visceral journey with AWAY, TOGETHER – a TIWT production

Away, Together has officially premiered in virtual realms. Written and directed by Sana A. Malik, the film follows Ayah, a 10-year-old young woman who explores the outdoors for the first time. Beautifully shot against visceral landscapes of New Mexico, Ayah is a 10-year-old refugee on her first camping trip who ends up finding connection to ancestral memory even in the most unfamiliar of places.

Away, Together screened at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival where it won the Best New Mexico Narrative Short.

On October 22nd, writer and director Sana A. Malik will be part of a live panel and Q&A with Women Under the Influence (WUTI) and the North Face to speak about the process of making this film along with four other recipients of the Move Mountains Filmmakers Grant.

One year ago, four emerging filmmakers were selected to receive the grant after submitting their ideas for film projects that capture exploration in its most authentic sense – a unique expression of the explorer’s mindset.

At the inaugural WUTI goes IdyllWILD festival, the grantees were introduced to three highly acclaimed mentors. The mentors have guided the filmmakers through every stage of the filmmaking process over the past year – and now, with four finished films ready to unveil, we get to virtually reunite the grantees and mentors in a virtual event that you are invited to!

Hosted by Tabitha Denholm, you can RSVP for this panel via this link.

The film will continue its journey to the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival for a Canadian premiere on November 12th.

We hope to see you as we celebrate our first scripted film production.

Watch a trailer for Away, Together here.



Away, Together Trailer

Introducing the trailer for Away, Together. A This is Worldtown films original production.

AWAY, TOGETHER was written and directed by Sana A. Malik.

Producers: Caterina Barbera, Anthony Pedone, Sana A. Malik.

Edited and original music by Greg Samothrakis.

Director of Photography: Alana Mejía González.

Supported by the North Face’s Move Mountains Filmmaker’s Grant.


A new future for This is Worldtown

This is Worldtown is re-launching as TIWT Films. The goal, as always, is to support women of color filmmakers tell stories that comprise the fullness of our Black, Brown, Indigenous and diasporic selves. Our original production focus is on documentary and scripted narrative work.

The focus of this platform has always been on first-person visual, written works that brings new perspectives to issues of migration, politics, race and culture. The tagline remains: We tell stories behind the crisis, directly from those who are building, making art, sharing their pain and their truth. This is Worldtown: Your voice. Your Terms.

As a digital publication, we have had the pleasure of publishing and supporting content from women around the world. We have run a series of successful and groundbreaking live events.  We have supported a cohort of Black, Indigenous, Women of Color emerging visual storytellers through a year-long mentorship program. We have spoken at and presented our work at various summits, exhibitions and conferences. Our storytellers have been tied to influential funders, organizations and institutions including the North Face, ITVS, the New Yorker, BBC, CBC, Frontline PBS and HBO. While we move away from commissioning new work for publication at this time, we will be keeping an eye out on the most compelling stories and contributing widely to diverse film making communities as we focus on producing original work.

This is Worldtown’s Director and Founder Sana A. Malik says “launching This is Worldtown has been one of the great privileges of my life — focusing on the way BIWOC expression has transformed digital storytelling, running a successful mentorship program and seeing how BIWOC continue to lead as storytellers have been some of the most defining milestones for me.” As Malik, a filmmaker who has been the editorial voice behind the platform moves forward in this journey, she shares her decision to pivot to TIWT films. “There is also a re-assessing of what value this platform can add to this moment and as my own journey has taken me deeper into filmmaking, I am excited to expand and explore those possibilities through this medium.” For This is Worldtown, the mantra has always been, “living, breathing, platform” and now it breathes new life.

In addition to original scripted and non-fiction work, This is Worldtown will also be available for client-based video production and consulting projects. We are a full service creative production company with cinematographers, editors, producers and directors.

Watch this space for news about our first production going live in the next few days.


Call for Submissions: Behind the Dust

**Deadline: Oct. 29th, 2017 at 11.59pm**

Apply now

Behind the Dust is a new visual series led by emerging Muslimah mediamakers telling their own stories behind the dust of mainstream narratives about their communities.

Why “Behind the Dust”?

There is so much noise that our experiences and perspectives are often shrouded by layers of dust. These are layers that continue to falsify our narratives and further silence our words. The goal of this project is to create a more reflective mediascape that is nuanced and emerges powerfully from the dust of stories that serve to keep us invisible, or pathologize our experiences. Behind the Dust is a chance for racialized and Muslimah mediamakers to take control of the narrative through beautifully rendered visual photography and documentary video.

What is this series?

Over the course of the year, four to eight visual storytellers will be chosen to create work that brings these experiences to the forefront. These can be in response to actions that have happened in your community, or they can be in-depth looks into themes and heroes that’ve inspired you — in any space or community. Be creative, open and honest in your proposal. Tell us why you’ve chosen these topics, and how you will approach them.

What can I expect?

  • As a participant, you will work with the project team who will support the selected visual storytellers in creating photography pieces, videography pieces, and/or written works.
  • You will be compensated $250+ for producing visual content for This is Worldtown.
  • The works created by all participants will be showcased on www.thisisworldtown.com and select works will be exhibited during two events throughout the year.
  • You will have the chance to be matched with a mentor and to partake in a Toronto-based mentorship sessions.
  • Intentionally build a network of Muslim and BIWOC visual storytellers across Canada and be introduced to a host of resources and media companies and practitioners that can support your media arts practice in the future.

Who is eligible?

The priority for this project is woman-identified Muslim media makers* between 18-35 and visual storytellers across Canada, however, we are open to proposals from all Black, Indigenous, Women of Colour mediamakers in Canada. Your project can explore an array of topics and is not limited to only looking at issues of Muslims or Race in the country. What’s important is the depth and creativity that comes out in your proposal.

Check out some of our previous features to get inspired on Love and Intimacy in Kenya; Mother-Daughter relationships in the Sudanese diaspora; or the women of the Colonias on the US-Mexico Border.

What do you mean by “woman-identified”?*

We, at This is Worldtown, recognize that cisgendered women are not the only kind of woman that exists in the world, and we find language limiting of people’s experiences. This project (and all of our calls) is open to submissions from trans women, gender non-conforming folks, and gender diverse people who identify closer to feminine rather than masculine.

The mentorship sessions and events will be based in Toronto, but I live outside of the city. Can I still receive the same support?

While this project is open to submissions from all over Canada, the majority of the physical programming will be held in Toronto. It is a requirement for all applicants who live outside of Toronto to have access to a strong internet connection and can participate through video calls or phone calls. If you are matched with a mentor, you will connect with them virtually. Unfortunately, we do not currently have funds to support travel for this project.

I have work that’s already in development, can I still apply?

Yes! Just share what you’re working on in your proposal.

I am interested in applying for both photography and videography.

For visual storytellers who are interested in both mediums, please submit two different applications highlighting your skills in photography in one application and your skills in videography in another application

What are some key things to think about?

Things you might want to think about in developing your proposal:

  • What are the stories that I wish to tell? Have I seen other versions of them? How is my project or practice expanding new narratives and storylines?
  • What do I need to expand my project?
  • Am I looking for access or entry into media that doesn’t reflect my experience?

Sounds great! How do I apply?

Complete an application by October 29th, 2017 at 11.59pm  through this link.

If you have more questions, please email them to Fonna at info@thisisworldtown.com.


We are grateful to the Inspirit Foundation for their support of this project.

Through Her Eyes: Capturing the Refugee Journey

This is Worldtown’s new series Through Her Eyes will be featuring female photojournalists and visual storytellers who are covering issues of global relevance, whether in their home community or in a place under fire.

Our first contributor is Tanya Kaur Bindra, a Swiss-Canadian documentary photographer and filmmaker. She has spent the past five years reporting on conflict, postcolonial politics, and migration in over 20 countries across West Africa, South Asia, and Europe. She was the first recipient of the inaugral Ali Mustafa Memorial Award in 2017. Bindra spent many months covering the refugee journey in Europe, as people arrived from countries like Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as Eritrea, South Sudan and Somalia. In the context of rising right-wing populism in Europe, and myopic framing of a “refugee crisis,” Bindra feels her work is more pertinent now than ever before. She states, “my hope is that by documenting and contextualizing the struggles and resistances of asylum seekers and migrants, the time period known as a “refugee” or “migration crisis” can be reframed for what it actually is, a crisis of solidarity.”

What pushed you to do this story?

As a photographer, I am increasingly becoming interested in documenting communities with histories marked by dislocation and migration, as my own family’s history has been, and understanding the act of migrating in a period of time where more people are migrating than ever before. It allows me to examine migration as a contemporary issue at the heart of current political debates in Europe and North America and through photography, we can get some understanding of who migrants are, why they left their home countries, what their current lives look like, how they have integrated into German society, the relationship they have with their new “home”, and how their identities been shaped by their environment and the experiences of European bureaucratic immigration systems.

I suppose what interests me the most though is the subjective experience of coming to a new land: how individuals struggle, survive and thrive, how they form communities and what memories constitute those communities’ collective histories. I want to know how the processes of identity formation and negotiation are shaped by migration, and how people come to think about concepts of home and of belonging.

Through this documentation, what was the most surprising thing you encountered?

It might not be surprising because it happens all over the world time and time and time again, yet people’s willingness to open their homes and their hearts (and also their kitchens!) to me as a total stranger still touches me in unexpected ways.

Women and mothers feature heavily in these photos — what was it that drew you to taking their pictures? telling their stories?

Women and children face particular dangers when they flee their homes. Whether they are with families or alone, women are often at risk of sexual assault en route, in camps or shelters. Domestic violence increases with displacement and as many women do not have an independent source of income, some may engage in higher-risk activities such as sex work to travel or survive.

But the women I met are also flourishing in their new environments and making life changes that they don’t think they would have been able to do in their home countries.  One mother I met has started writing a novel despite leaving school at 15 to get married, other women have left unfulfilling and abusive relationships, some are learning how to read and write for the first time. The challenge of migrating and integrating into a new society has pushed them into areas of personal growth that I’m not sure they foresaw.

Can you describe some of the emotions you had doing this work? in thinking about the larger refugee crisis, and your role in telling these stories?

Given that anti-immigrant sentiments and xenophobic attacks are on the rise in Europe and North America and that what is at stake is the formulation of comprehensive and humane policies on integration, asylum, and migration, the need to understand why people risk everything to leave their home country is stronger than ever. My hope is that by documenting and contextualizing the struggles and resistances of asylum seekers and migrants, the time period known as a “refugee” or “migration crisis” can be reframed for what it actually is, a crisis of solidarity.

These are issues I have engaged with my whole life as a result of my own family history, my past organizing work, and through the work I do now as a filmmaker and photographer. I think my role as a storyteller is to focus on the individual experience and to create work that seeks to complicate dominant narratives. Ultimately, I can only hope that photographs work towards a tolerance of contradiction and ambiguity to reflect the varied and diverse experiences of refugees and migrants.

What’s the core message that you wanted to convey to your audience through these photos?

It is important to me that the work is reflective of the very real lived reality of struggle and hardship that many face when coming to a new country but that is also celebratory of the resilience and resistance of migrant communities. There is so much beauty in diasporic and migrant cultures, and in some ways, I see this as being a constructive way to respond to sometimes devastating realities.


Four Female Filmmakers to Watch at TIFF

The Toronto International Film Festival (September 7 – 17) begins this weekend and to announce the end of This is Worldtown’s summer hiatus — we are giving away free tickets to four films by female directors. See below for details.

  1. High Fantasy
Still from High Fantasy. 2017

“High Fantasy”, a new film by South African Director Jenna Bass feels like an old-school adrenaline packed road trip film. But it touches on issues of race, gender and dispossession alluding to the country’s complex identity issues. Bass describes it as a found-footage body-swap satire”. Much of their body-swapping predicament is captured by their cellphone cameras where “they must deal with all the complications that come from being another race or gender in the so-called Rainbow Nation.” Sounds like the perfect film to mark our times.

  1. Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart
Still from Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart.

Filmmaker Tracy Heather Strain brings the life of Black playwright, communist, feminist, lesbian, and outspoken Lorraine Hansberry to the screen in the documentary Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart. Featuring rare archival footage, the film tracks the screen and stage productions of Lansberry’s well-known play, A Raisin in the Sun. Hansberry was only 34 when she died, but she led a full and active life — one that Strain portrays with dignity and care in this documentary.

  1. Our People Will be Healed
Still from Our People Will be Healed. Obomsawin 2017

Renowned Indigenous filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin makes a return to TIFF with Our People Will be Healed. The documentary is a look into what action-driven decolonization looks like in Norway House, a First Nations community in Manitoba. Obomsawin’s films provide sharp narratives of what Indigenous communities have endured across Turtle Island under the hands of colonizers, while also looking to and celebrating the future of Indigenous self-determination.

  1. Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat

Boom For Real is a look at the teenage years of acclaimed painter Jean-Michel Basquiat, before his rise as an artist in the 1980’s in New York, and his tragic death at 27. Past memorializations have focused on the period in Basquiat’s life where he was part of the downtown arts scene, becoming one of the first Black Male artists to break in and blend multiple genres. Boom For Real provides an intimate look at an even younger Basquiat, giving us a glimpse into his greatness before the rest of the world knew him.

Sign up for our mailing list and send us an email at: info [at] thisisworldtown.com by Saturday, September 9th by 9 am for these tickets!