4. WATER

REEL CANADA Blog Archives

REEL CANADA and Vinay Virmani Take Over Princess Margaret High School

REEL CANADA Vinay Virmani Princess Margaret High School

Students at Princess Margaret SS in Surrey can’t get enough of BREAKAWAY star Vinay Virmani


Princess Margaret High School in Surrey, BC, has a population of approximately 1,500 students, of whom about 1,275 are of South Asian origin. That is one of the reasons Acting VP J.B. Mahli jumped on the opportunity to bring the film BREAKAWAY to his school. JB is as “with it” as an educator can be and he wanted to give his students the chance to see a bit of their lives on screen: The movie deals with the struggles of Rajveer Singh, a young Sikh in Brampton who tries to reconcile his dreams of Canadian hockey glory with the demands of family tradition.


The real catnip for JB, though, was the appearance of the young writer-star of the film, Vinay Virmani. Vinay had graciously agreed to come out west with the REEL CANADA tour and we were eager to make the most of his presence. In all, we screened BREAKAWAY three times in two days – once at John Oliver Secondary in Vancouver and twice at Princess Margaret, each time for roughly half the school.


It’s hard to describe the visceral excitement with which these students devoured the story of the film, and then practically devoured the star himself. After the screening and the Q&A, and a great many autographs and hugs, we had to get pretty forceful about moving Vinay through the crowd of about 600 12-year-olds who were pretty forceful themselves in their quest for a piece of Vinay.


More than just the celebrity fever, though, the most poignant part of the day was watching Vinay speak to these kids, ask them about their dreams, and encourage them to pursue them relentlessly. He responded to their adulation (at all three screenings) with enormous humility and a sense of responsibility as a member of his community giving these young people something of value to look up to.


It was a moment when the movie, the star and the audience all blended seamlessly into a perfect REEL CANADA moment, inspiring young people to celebrate the wonderful country they live in and being inspired by them in turn.

REEL CANADA's 6th Annual Windsor Event

Reel Canada Windsor event

Students from across Windsor in attendance at the Capitol Theatre


Another successful partnership between REEL CANADA and the Windsor International Film Festival is in the books. This year’s festival at the beautiful Capitol Theatre featured over 500 high school students from eight schools across both local school boards! The morning featured two of our most inspiring films, the ever-popular BREAKAWAY and the environmental documentary SHARKWATER, featuring a special guest, “eco-warrior” and filmmaker Emily Hunter (daughter of Greenpeace co-founder Paul Hunter). Following the screening of BREAKAWAY, a fascinating discussion involving several students regarding what it means to be Canadian and growing up under pressure was led by the co-founder of REEL CANADA, Jack Blum. The students of Windsor were very eager to share their stories with their fellow students.


Reel Canada Bob Duff

Windsor Star sports journalist Bob Duff


The afternoon also featured two films, including the hockey epic THE ROCKET. We brought in hockey expert and sports journalist for the Windsor Star Bob Duff to discuss Maurice Richard, today’s NHL and the current lockout with the students. Our other feature presentation in the afternoon was a new film to the REEL CANADA program, director Nathan Morlando’s bio-pic about Canada’s most notorious bank robber, Edwin Boyd. It was a packed house for REEL CANADA’s first official screening of EDWIN BOYD: CITIZEN GANGSTER. We were fortunate enough to reach the director of the film in Los Angeles via Skype for a very interesting post-screening conversation.


Reel Canada Nathan Morlando

EDWIN BOYD director Nathan Morlando via Skype 


Over a dozen students lined up to ask Nathan questions ranging from what it was like to spend time with the family of Edwin Boyd to how to make it in the Canadian film industry. One student asked Nathan, “What advice do you have for [those of ] us who want to become filmmakers?” Nathan replied, “Get a cheap camera or borrow one from your parents and start writing stories and making movies with your friends. Your circle of friends, whether it’s from high school or college, will be the ones you work with over and over again because they share the same love for storytelling and they will work for free!”


Nathan was a great guest to the students of Windsor and we’re looking forward to his followup to EDWIN BOYD.

REEL CANADA at Reel Asian

Reel Asian

REEL CANADA's Deanna Wong reflects on her time at the 2012 Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival, the importance of the festival and REEL CANADA's history with Reel Asian.


Last week, REEL CANADA co-presented two screenings, DAL PURI DIASPORA and UNSUNG VOICES, at another “REEL” festival – the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival. Partnerships with other local festivals are important for two main reasons: as sources for new films to include in our programme, but also a way for us to promote what we do to an audience that might not hear about us otherwise – in this case, primarily fans of Asian film.


Dal Puri Diaspora



Reel Asian is a 16-year-old festival whose mandate is to promote the film and video works of artists of east, southeast and south Asian descent from Canada and all over the world. The festival was founded in 1997 by Anita Lee – now a successful producer at the NFB – who discovered the world of Asian American film festivals when one of her first short films did the festival circuit back in 1995. Profoundly affected by the feeling of community and support from the audience and fellow filmmakers at these events, some of which had already been around for decades, Lee returned to Toronto and established Reel Asian as a way to showcase the works of Asian film- and videomakers, so many of which never see the light of day in a Canadian theatre.


Unsung Voices



Toronto is a city of festivals, and the question is often asked: why are all these “niche” festivals necessary? To me, the answer is simple: community. My own experience just as someone who loves film and television is that I get ridiculously excited when I see an Asian face like mine on screen. But that feeling can turn to one of isolation on the other side of the camera – often the lone Asian face at larger festivals like TIFF, Lee recognized the importance of creating a network of support for filmmakers of Asian descent, many of whom are on a career path that is not traditionally supported by their families. After 16 years, the festival has become like a family reunion that filmmakers and others in the industry come to year after year, presenting new work and reminiscing about the past, but it is also a place where relationships are established that can lead to new collaborations and new projects to present at future festivals.


REEL CANADA’s relationship to Reel Asian goes back to REEL CANADA’s first year – in 2005, the animated doc- feature THE MAGICAL LIFE OF LONG TACK SAM had been programmed for the very first festival at Wexford CI, but filmmaker Ann Marie Fleming was based in Vancouver. LONG TAK SAM had premiered at Reel Asian, and, wondering if there was anyone connected to the film in Toronto, Executive Director Jack Blum contacted Reel Asian’s then Executive Director – me – to ask. I recommended Reel Asian board member and local filmmaker Keith Lock, who attended the event at Wexford, addressing questions about the craft of filmmaking. Keith’s latest short, the charming MAGICAL COINCIDENCE, debuted at this year’s Reel Asian.


Fruit Hunters



Back to this year’s festival, I am happy to report that I saw so many great things by talented Canadian filmmakers, including a live show featuring Romeo Candido’s unique, interactive web series PRISON DANCER, which won Reel Asian’s award for Best Canadian FEATURE; a spotlight program on NFB animation producer Michael Fukushima, who produced last year’s Oscar- nominated short DIMANCHE; Richard Fung’s funny and enlightening doc about the origins of roti DAL PURI DIASPORA; and the beautifully rendered AnimAsian award–winning REQUIEM FOR A ROMANCE, by Jonathan Ng. And even though closing night has officially come and gone, it’s not quite over yet: Reel Asian continues for one more weekend with screenings in Richmond Hill, ON, including the Toronto premiere of THE FRUIT HUNTERS, the latest doc by UP THE YANGTZE director Yung Chang.


See the full festival program here.

REEL CANADA's 3rd Annual LINC Event

Reel Canada LINC Vinay Virmani, Veronica Tennant, Michael McGowan

Jack Blum, Vinay Virmani, Veronica Tennant, Joanne Vannicola, Michael McGowan


The spillover from Hurricane Sandy had touched down in Toronto but that did not keep 900 Adult ESL learners from attending our annual event at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on October 29th.


It was an exciting day for REEL CANADA as we screened ONE WEEK, BREAKAWAY and IRON ROAD, followed by Q&A’s with guests from each film. 


For ONE WEEK, REEL CANADA veteran facilitator Marvin Karon led a fantastic discussion with the writer/director of the film Michael McGowan. McGowan has been a major supporter of the REEL CANADA program for several years and has always provided our audiences with thoughtful insight into Canadian filmmaking and his process as a storyteller. Michael discussed the difficulties and joys that come with the territory of shooting a film in the Canadian outdoors in several different locations across the country. The adult ESL crowd was very gracious and happy to have Michael speak with them about his film. We at REEL CANADA are excited for Michael’s latest film STILL, which is set to hit theatres before the year's end.


While one group was discussing life, and the journey to find oneself, another group of ESL learners were discussing hockey and the difficulties of trying to live up to the expectations of the generation before you. The film was BREAKAWAY and the writer/star of the film Vinay Virmani joined a very enthusiastic audience to discuss his heartwarming film. The crowd was eager to hear Vinay’s inspiration for the film. Vinay intimately revealed that he too had experienced a similar kind of pressure to follow in his parents' footsteps but had other life goals and desires he needed to pursue first. Vinay continues to place himself in the ranks as REEL CANADA’s most beloved guests and his gracious and humble ability to engage his audience is a pleasure to watch.


Reel Canada LINC Doug Hum

Fern & Doug Hum


Our biggest crowd of the day was for the epic period piece IRON ROAD. The audience, which included a large contingent of recent arrivals from China, was very interested to discuss the film with local Chinese-Canadian Doug Hum, an expert on the building of the railroad who was able to provide fascinating historical context for the events in the film. The audience also had the pleasure of a double bill as one of the producers of the film, Anne Tait, stopped by to entertain the crowd with stories and anecdotes from working on the film with Chinese born director David Wu.


It was another successful day at the TIFF Bell Lightbox for REEL CANADA and we are anticipating an even bigger event when we return to the Lightbox on November 20th!

Deepa Mehta's New Film Midnight's Children



Legendary Canadian director Deepa Mehta's (WATERBOLLYWOOD/HOLLYWOOD) latest film MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN opens in Toronto, Vancouver & Halifax on November 2nd. 



"Born in the hour of India's freedom. Handcuffed to history."

MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN is an epic film from Oscar-nominated director Deepa Mehta, based on the Booker Prize winning novel by Salman Rushdie. At the stroke of midnight on August 15, 1947, as India proclaims independence from Great Britain, two newborn babies are switched by a nurse in a Bombay hospital. Saleem Sinai, the illegitimate son of a poor woman, and Shiva, the offspring of a wealthy couple, are fated to live the destiny meant for each other. Their lives become mysteriously intertwined and are inextricably linked to India's whirlwind journey of triumphs and disasters.


From the unlikely romance of Saleem's grandparents to the birth of his own son, MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN is a journey at once sweeping in scope and yet intimate in tone. Hopeful, comic and magical – the film conjures images and characters as rich and unforgettable as India herself.


Watch the wonderful trailer:




Here's what Deepa Mehta has to say about her new film:


"This movie is extremely dear to my heart, as you know. It speaks to the quest for identity, family and the triumph of hope; things we all have personally dealt with at one time or another. While walking around Telluride, Colorado with Salman a few months back, someone walked by us after the screening of MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN and we overheard them saying that it was "just like FORREST GUMP...but with brown people!" Of course, Salman attested that he wrote the book before Tom Hanks read the script..."


Where it's playing


Varsity (2 screens)

Sheppard Centre


Silvercity Richmond Hill

Winston Churchill



Fifth Avenue

International Village (2 screens)

Park & Tilford





Check out MIDNIGHT'S CHILDREN website for more info, video clips, stills and more or follow the film on Twitter and Facebook!