#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.

Eight Films Directed by Women of Colour Making Their Feature Debut at TIFF

It’s that time of the year! The 43rd Toronto International Film Festival (September 6 to 16) begins this week and 122 of the films selected are directed or co-directed by women, accounting for 36% of this year’s titles.

And in an attempt to shift the gender status quo, TIFF has made a five-year commitment — Share Her Journey — to increase participation, skills, and opportunities for women behind and in front of the camera. Stand up for change with TIFF, ReFrame, TIME’S UP, and #AfterMeToo on the morning of Saturday, September 8 at the Share Her Journey Rally. All who want to see and be part of real change in the film industry are invited to join the crowd on John Street at 10am.

Check out This is Worldtown’s picks of films directed or co-directed by Black, Indigenous and Women of Colour who are making their narrative feature debuts at this year’s #TIFF18.

Still from Firecrackers

FIRECRACKERS (Dir. Jasmin Mozaffari)

Lou and her best friend Chantal plan to get out of their isolated, run-down town and move to a city far, far away. When Chantal’s unstable and possessive ex violates her during a night of partying, the girls decide to exact their revenge on him through a night of vandalism and debauchery. The consequences of their actions are devastating, threatening the girls’ chances of ever leaving. The more Lou fights tooth-and-nail to save her friendship and hold onto her dreams, the more she spins out of control as she begins to realize that freedom will come at a high cost.

Still from The Third Wife

THE THIRD WIFE (Dir. Ash Mayfair)

In 19th century rural Vietnam, 14-year-old May becomes the third wife of wealthy landowner Hung. Soon she learns that she can only gain status by asserting herself as a woman who can give birth to a male child. May’s hope to change her status turns into a real and tantalizing possibility when she falls pregnant. Faced with forbidden love and its devastating consequences, May finally comes to an understanding of the brutal truth: the options available to her are few and far between.

Still from Lionheart

LIONHEART (Dir. Genevieve Nnaji)

Set in Southeast Nigeria, Lionheart tells the story of Adaeze Obiagu, a young woman who becomes saddled with the responsibility of running her ailing father’s business under the suffocating supervision of an intensely crude and eccentric uncle. Her competing business instincts and family obligations become a catalyst for a drastic change not everyone is ready to embrace.

Still from Birds of Passage

BIRDS OF PASSAGE (Dirs. Cristina Gallego, Cira Guerra)

The origins of the Colombian drug trade is explored through eyes of an indigenous Wayuu family that becomes involved in the booming business of selling marijuana to American youth in the 1970s. When greed, passion and honor collide, a fratricidal war breaks out and puts their lives, culture and ancestral traditions at stake.

Still from The Day I Lost My Shadow

THE DAY I LOST MY SHADOW (Dir. Soudade Kaadan)

Syria, 2012. During the coldest winter the country has witnessed, all Sana dreams of is cooking gas to prepare a meal for her son. She takes a day off from her job to search for a gas cylinder and suddenly finds herself stuck in the besieged area. It is then that she discovers that people lose their shadows during the war.

Still from The Crossing


Studying in Hong Kong but living in Shenzhen (the port of Mainland China), Peipei has spent 16 years of her life travelling between these two cities. To realize the dream of seeing snow in Japan with her best friend, Peipei joins a smuggling gang and uses her student identity to smuggle iPhones.

Still from The Chambermaid

THE CHAMBERMAID (Dir. Lila Avilés)

Eve, a young chambermaid at a luxurious Mexico City hotel, confronts the monotony of long workdays with quiet examinations of forgotten belongings and budding friendships that nourish her newfound and determined dream for a better life.

Still from Our Body

OUR BODY (Dir. Han Ka-ram)

An overeducated, disenchanted would-be civil servant fixates on another woman she sees as ideal. Curiosity turns into admiration, which then risks evolving into something much worse.

Celebrate Emerging Women Directors with Breakthroughs Film Festival

Breakthroughs Film Festival is Canada’s only film festival devoted exclusively to short films directed by emerging women directors. The festival is back for it’s seventh year on June 15 and 16 in Toronto, and features 19 outstanding short films from 9 different countries spanning across 5 continents. Check out the line up here.

This is Worldtown is giving away two passes to the festival screenings taking place this weekend.

Sign up to our mailing list and send us an email at: info [at] thisisworldtown.com by Thursday, June 14th by 12:00 PM for these tickets!

Eight Films to Watch at Hot Docs Directed by Women of Colour

Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Film Festival (April 26 – May 6) begins this week and it also marks the festival’s 25th anniversary. This year, 50 per cent of the docs at the festival are made by women — achieving gender parity for the first time. Here are some of This is Worldtown’s picks of feature-length docs to watch at this year’s fest. All of these films are directed by women of colour, and many of them are their first features!  These films follow stories of systemic racism, injustice, abuse and corruption – from voices that are often silenced or misheard – to reveal a deeper understanding of survival, resilience, community and healing.

Check out our list of must-watch docs at this year’s #HotDocs25.

Still from The Feeling of Being Watched


In the Arab-American neighborhood outside of Chicago where director Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbors think they have been under surveillance for over a decade. While investigating their experiences, Assia uncovers tens of thousands of pages of FBI documents that prove her hometown was the subject of one of the largest counterterrorism investigations ever conducted in the U.S. before 9/11. With unprecedented access, The Feeling of Being Watched weaves the personal and the political as it follows the filmmaker’s examination of why her community fell under blanket government surveillance. The film sold out all screenings at Tribeca Film Fest to rave reviews. This is a must watch!

Still from Take Light

TAKE LIGHT (Dir. Shasha Nakhai)

As Africa’s top energy producer, Nigeria exports millions of barrels of oil that go on to power industries and vehicles around the world. However, for more than 50% of the country’s population, they have no access to electricity, and those who do often only get a few hours of power a day at best. Take Light looks at the web of Nigeria’s electricity crisis as told through the perspective of a charismatic electrician.

Still from Women of the Venezuelan Chaos


Embodying strength and stoicism, five Venezuelan women from diverse backgrounds each draw a portrait of their country as it suffers under the worst crisis in its history amid extreme food and medicine shortages, a broken justice system, and widespread fear. Featuring stunning visuals and creative soundscapes, Women of the Venezuelan Chaos presents a uniquely beautiful country and people, who remain resilient and resourceful despite the immense challenges they face.

Still from Primas

PRIMAS (Dir. Laura Bari)

Primas is an evocative portrait of two cousins, Rocío and Aldana, Argentinian teenagers who, in the wake of heinous acts of violence that interrupted their childhoods, are determined to free themselves from the shadows of their past. Traveling in Argentina and Montreal, the girls come of age having revelatory experiences in their everyday lives; learning dance, mime, theatre, circus and visual arts. They express through their bodies what only their imagination, their unique perspective and their unshakable resilience can reveal.

Still from Warrior Women

WARRIOR WOMEN (Dirs. Christina D. King, Elizabeth A. Castle)

From the 1970s American Indian Movement to 2016 protests at Standing Rock, Warrior Women charts the lifelong activism of Madonna Thunder Hawk, a Lakota woman who, now with her daughter Marcy, continues to fight for Native liberation. Through their story, the film explores what it means to balance a movement with motherhood and how activist legacies are passed down from generation to generation in the face of a government that has continually met native resistance with mass violence.

Still from Blowin’ Up

BLOWIN’ UP (Dir. Stephanie Wang-Breal)

Blowin’ Up takes us inside the walls of an experimental courtroom in Queens, New York, that attempts to redress the way women arrested for prostitution are shuffled through the criminal justice system. As the film unfolds, we hear directly from these women, in their own words, and begin to understand the complex scenarios that brought them into this space in the first place.

Still from Whispering Truth to Power


Filmmaker and human rights lawyer Shameela Seedat tracks Thuli Madonsela, South Africa’s first female Public Protector, as she builds her second case against the country’s President, Jacob Zuma, in his unlawful spending of public money. Whispering Truth to Power is a portrait of a remarkable woman in public office, and the cost of keeping justice alive in an increasingly conflicted country.

Still from A Thousand Girls Like Me

A THOUSAND GIRLS LIKE ME (Dir. Sahra Mosawi-Mani)

Iron-willed in the face of cultural and familial pressures, a courageous young Afghan woman forces her father to stand trial for years of sexual abuse—and exposes a sexist justice system and the plight of women at its mercy.