Tonya Williams believes that there is power in storytelling. As a woman of color working in Hollywood as an actress, director, and producer, she recognized that many voices were underrepresented in storytelling and its power wasn’t being sufficiently harnessed for social good. In 2001, she founded the Reelworld Film Festival to showcase films that explore pressing social issues and to celebrate those valuable underrepresented voices. For Williams, the festival is all about empowerment.
This year’s festival is taking place October 11-15 in Toronto. Screenings of films including documentaries, shorts, and feature films are be the main event but there will also be an opportunity for attendees to explore virtual reality and play new video games.
The festival opened on Wednesday with a screening of the documentary film Abu, the story of the struggles a gay man faces with his devout Muslim parents. Other films that will be shown during the festival include:
- Freelancer on the Front Lines: a documentary about a journalist in the Middle East;
- Half Ticket: a drama about kids in an Indian slum and the dream of pizza;
- In Jesus’ Name: a documentary about the treatment of Indigenous children in a boarding school;
- Newton: a dark comedy about an Indian election;
- The Solitude: a drama about the Venezuelan crisis;
- Accidentals: a short film about a father-daughter relationship; and
- Residues: a short film about police brutality
For the first time, this year’s festival will present the Reelworld Reel Activist Award. This year’s honoree is Jesse Wente, an Ojibwe broadcaster and film programmer who is a strong advocate for Indigenous rights. Reelworld also selects the Emerging 20, a diverse group of up-and-coming talent in film including actors, writers, and directors. The 20 selected will attend a workshop, be connected to important people in the industry, and have the potential to secure funding. Among the participants this year are actor/director Keeya King, writer/director Isa Benn, and director Alicia Bunyan-Sampson.