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The Future of Canada’s Film Industry with TIFF’s Joana Vicente

joana vicente updated header
joana vicente updated header
Photo credit: George Pimentel

Joana Vicente, Executive Director and Co-Head of the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), tells Mediaplanet about the future of Canada’s booming film industry and how to achieve diversity and accessibility in the industry.


When did your interest in film begin? 

I’ve always loved films, but it became an obsession at 11 or 12 years old when I saw a series of musicals in my hometown of Lisbon and it never stopped.


How has the pandemic changed the film industry and the role of film festivals in Canada?

Film festivals are a vital link in the chain of global film culture and that hasn’t changed, even after COVID. The industry has definitely endured some losses — cinemas closing and the loss of revenue that came with that — but from what we have seen, filmmakers – creators have been inspired and resourceful and even more determined to share their stories throughout this global pandemic. And film festivals are about sharing – stories, viewpoints, and experiences, and they also provide a platform for films and filmmakers. These things are very important to the industry in Canada. 


What’s the best way to achieve diversity in film?

By making space for everyone’s stories. By including the storyteller in the development of the film and for the industry — at all levels — to acknowledge that the point of entry into the industry has long been monitored, if you will, by the same people so it’s important to make space for others to decide what gets made, where resources go, and so on. TIFF talent development programmes — our Share Her Journey initiative, now in its fifth year, and our recently announced Every Story fund — are committed to amplifying equity-seeking voices, particularly from Black, Indigenous, People of Colour, and LGBTQ2S+ creators. At TIFF we know that there are systemic barriers to the film-making experience and that not every story gets told. We need to create the resources, support, and learning to make space for these stories.


What role does digital transformation play in terms of accessibility for those who physically can’t make it to a film festival?

It’s been quite a learning experience with the digital platform. In 2020, we had to pivot and be resourceful to keep audiences engaged and be present in the industry, so our digital platform started there and it was very well-received. It engaged audiences for TIFF 2021 who otherwise may not have had the opportunity to travel to Toronto. And this year, we kept it as part of TIFF, while still having many in-person screenings, to keep our new audiences engaged and to help ensure that those who cannot travel to Toronto for COVID issues in their own regions could still experience TIFF. It makes good business sense and it’s TIFF’s opinion that digital will be a part of festivals from now on. 


In your opinion, where do you see the film industry headed? 

The film industry is resilient. Right now, we’re in a time where the industry is in flux. We’re seeing a paradigm shift from traditional theatrical exhibition to streaming but also a great focus on content. We look forward to a more inclusive universe of storytellers and hope the consolidation still allows for a healthy, diverse, and creative ecosystem. We also believe people will always love coming together to experience the magic of theatrical exhibition. TIFF Bell Lightbox will always provide a curated and state-of-the-art space for that.

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