There has never been a better time or a better film festival to make filmgoers aware and become educated to the many social issues that has affected us. Now in its 16th year, the Reelworld Film Festival has gone back to its roots by screening films that mainly deal with social issues of global importance and has expanded the experience at the same time. The Reelworld Film Festival will be taking place at The Harbourfront Centre this year with many new items on the itinerary such as virtual reality films and interactive video gaming in which both are serving as an emerging form of storytelling. There will be an Arts Market, Poetry Slam and an Art Battle Live Painting Competition which will make the Reelworld festival experience like no other. In addition to the Q&A sessions after each film, there will be a Conversation Room where the audience can talk with a whole host of others and discuss the film in more depth and of course try to draw up solutions. FERNTV spoke to Executive Director Gave Lindo about this exciting instalment of this year’s Reelworld Film Festival.
FERNTV: Tell us how you became part of the Reelworld Film Festival and tell us about your role?
Gave: I took over as the Executive Director of Reelworld back in May of 2015. Reelworld had just finished it’s 15th year and I saw it as an opportunity to build upon the legacy of the festival and re-focus the mission to focus on issue driven films of global importance. Given all of the chaos that is facing our world today, I felt as though Reelworld could more intentionally use film as a tool for social good – and to be a platform to showcase stories that offer both context and solutions to pressing challenges.
As Executive Director, I’m responsible for providing the overall direction and vision for the organization and leading an amazing and dedicated team of passionate people who care deeply about harnessing the power of film for social change.
FERNTV: Usually the Reelworld Film takes place much earlier in the year but this time around it happens to take place in October. Why has this change happened?
Gave: Moving the festival to the Fall took place for a few reasons. Firstly, by moving the festival to later in the year, it allowed us to have a wider selection of films to choose from.
FERNTV: Reelworld is going to be taking place at the Harbourfront Centre this year. Tell us how this will be a better home for this festival?
Gave: This year, Reelworld has expanded to focus on both traditional and emerging forms of storytelling such as virtual reality films and interactive video gaming. As a result, the Harbourfront Centre is a perfect venue since there are many multi-purpose spaces that can be used to feature different types of programming that happens outside of a traditional theatre. We’re making great use of the Harbourfront Centre’s versatile venues to program an Arts Market, Poetry Slam, an Art Battle Live Painting Competition, and a networking style conversation event. It simply wouldn’t be possible to feature all of these activities in a traditional movie theatre.
FERNTV: You have implemented virtual reality films into the programming at Reelworld. Can you let us know why you wanted to do this at this year’s festival?
Gave: Virtual reality films are incredibly effective in taking a viewer into a new world and immersing them in a situation or experience that they would not be able to experience otherwise. This year, audiences will be able to be immersed in a refugee camp, experience what it’s like to be in a war zone, explore the impact of climate change on the environment, and feel what it’s like to be unjustly targeted by police. We hope that through introducing virtual reality experiences, we can help to share more impactful stories about some of the current and pressing issues facing our world.
FERNTV: Tell us a little bit about Art Battle Night and what is going to take place there.
Gave: Saturday evening is when we’re announcing our filmmaker awards and we wanted to create an event that was more interactive and engaging than typical awards presentations. So we partnered with Toronto Art Battle which is the team behind live competitive painting events. We have six local visual artists who will be competing to create paintings inspired by the award winning films. These paintings will be on display throughout the evening but then given to the award winning filmmakers in place of a traditional award plaque or statue. It will be a great evening for audience members to watch these talented artists paint live during the evening. It’s definitely one of the most anticipated events of our festival.
FERNTV: What happens in the Conversation Room and why has this been installed into the programming at Reelworld?
Gave: As a festival focused on exploring pressing issues of global importance, we created the Conversation Room in order to connect audience members directly with activists, nonprofits and leaders who are on the ground making a difference. After each screening, we provide an opportunity for individuals to engage deeper in issues and to take action. To that end, we’ve partnered with organizations such as Lifeline Syria, Wounded Warriors, Workman Arts, Mathew House, 100 Strong, Wildlife Conservation Society and many others, who will be physically present in the Conversation Room and will be able to answer questions, provide volunteer opportunities, and create additional opportunities to get involved in the issues audiences just finished watching in a film.
FERNTV: Why it is important to showcase the films from ACTRA YEAA at Reelworld?
Gave: Reelworld has always been a festival committed to creating a platform for emerging storytellers. Since 2011, Reelworld has put the spotlight on emerging filmmakers in Toronto with our ACTRA Shorts program. The program features short films made by members of ACTRA’s Young Emerging Actors Assembly (YEAA) – a chapter of creators and screen actors between the ages of 17-30. These films tend to shine a spotlight on important issues and this year is no different. Themes covered include LGBTQ issues, transgender issues, diversity/inclusion, and electoral politics. This is a great opportunity to see the next generation of Toronto’s filmmakers
FERNTV: What are you looking forward to most at Reelworld?
Gave: I’m really looking forward to Canada’s first ever Media for Impact Conference which brings together filmmakers, and nonprofits together to connect, learn, and explore how to use media as a tool for social good. Attendees are in for an amazing day as we feature talks, case studies and meetups featuring the organizations behind acclaimed issue driven films such as Virunga, The True Cost, Girl Rising, Bully, The Hunting Ground, The Square, and Gasland.