Toronto is known for TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), but it also hosts one of the most socially important film festivals in North America. Reelworld Film Festival focuses on “harnessing the power of film as a force for social good.” Now in its 16th year, the festival takes place at the Harbourfront Centre from Wednesday, October 12 through Sunday, October 16 showcasing full-length feature films, visual reality (VR) presentations and interaction, and gaming options. It is the first year to solely address social issues and will continue to do so in future years. And this festival promises to be no ordinary one. Each film will be followed by the opportunity to sit down with leaders and various organizations to discuss and implement the next step for a positive change. Watching, learning, and making a direct difference puts this festival into a category all its own.
I spoke with Gave Lindo, Executive Director of the Reelworld Film Festival, to discuss the festival’s programming, goals, and opportunities. Although Lindo’s background is not in filmmaking,he has always “…been interested in storytelling and using media to do that regardless of the format…” He felt that social change happens by using a variety of media or being “medium agnostic.” The festival’s use of VR and gaming delivers information or stories to the viewer in yet another unique format. The festival even has a game to help young ones learn about the importance of our natural resources called “Save the Park.”
As the panel discussions and meetings following the screenings set this festival apart from all the rest, Lindo explained that this is a “…launching pad for filmmakers and films to actually create impact and change in communities.” Each film has a representative organization “…for deeper engagement.” For example, “Almost Sunrise,” a Chicago based film, addresses PTSD. The Wounded Warriors will then discuss with viewers how they can continue to make a difference and help veterans. “Naledi: A Baby Elephant’s Tale” tells the story of the connection between this majestic animal and her caretakers. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) will be on hand afterward to sit down and brainstorm with the viewers what they can do together to help stop poaching. It’s an amazing opportunity to not only see a film, but to be changed and motivated by it.
Lindo has seen a dramatic increase in the number of films available which address social issues. “In a way,” he said, “it’s a scary thing. The more troubled the world seems to be, the more filmmakers are responding to what’s happening.” Several film submissions for the Syrian refugee crisis and police brutality as well as civil rights have been noted. Those films chosen for this festival will “…create community engagement…and inspire action among those in the audience.”
Whether your passion or interest is in the environment, women’s issues, politics, or aging, to name a few, this festival will spark a drive in you to make a difference in this world. From full-length feature films, documentaries, games, and visual reality experiences, Reelworld Film Festival has it all. Watching together and learning together leads to making a difference together. Film is the catalyst for change. Be a part of that change.
For more information about the festival and films, go to www.reelworld.ca