ReelWorld filmfest awards recognize diversity


Something just clicked the first time emerging hip hop artist JRDN (Jordan Croucher) sang “Tha Ghetto” for his cousin and music director Cazhhmere.

“I said, Cuz, we got to go home and shoot a video for this,” said Cazhhmere after “Tha Ghetto” was recognized as the most outstanding music video at this year’s ReelWorld Film Festival that concluded last Sunday night. “It was a love song for the ‘hood where we grew up and I thought it would be appropriate that we go back to the community that has always been there for us.”

A total of 26 music videos, 25 features and 23 shorts were screened over the five days of the 11th annual festival which was founded by award-winning Canadian actress Tonya Lee Williams.

Last May, Halifax-born JRDN, who played professional basketball in France for a year, and Cazhhmere, who spent her first six years in Halifax before coming to Toronto, rented a car and drove 19 hours back to Atlantic Canada to shoot the video.

“We went to family gatherings and shot everyone we could in the community where we were raised as young kids,” said Cazhhmere whose “Good in the Hood” won the Best Canadian-made Music Video award at last year’s festival. “This song was really about them for them.”

Husband and wife Moses and Patricia Bebia-Mawa were presented with this year’s Visionary award. They founded the Planet Africa Group that produces a weekly TV show aired on OMNI TV.

“This award is special because it’s coming from an organization which actually provides a platform for different diverse communities who ordinarily would not have that opportunity in big festivals, to showcase not only their culture, but their stories,” said Bebia-Mawa who hosts the TV show. “That is exactly what we do at Planet Africa. We tell stories that are not necessarily stories that the mainstream would like to look at and in doing that, we are helping to erase stereotypes.”

Trailblazer awards were presented to film composer Vikas Kholi, producer & director Tricia Lee, producer Lee Kim and actors Sarah Podemski, Cle Bennett and Vinessa Antoine who was unable to attend the awards ceremony because she’s in Nova Scotia preparing for the recurring role of Evidence “Evi” Ryan in the second season of Haven.

Bennett, who has had roles in Soul Food, Doomstown, Urban Legend and The Line, was thrilled to receive the award from Williams.

“She blazed a trail for people like me, so I am humbled,” said the Canadian-born Ajax high school graduate. “I played cops and robbers while I was growing up and I found a way to turn that into a career.”

Williams founded the ReelWorld Film Festival to showcase Canada’s diversity and provide a platform for visible minorities to display their artistic talent and in the process motivate audiences through film.

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