After 13 years, the Reel World Film Festival is expanding to include one of North America’s fastest growing cities.
The festival this year will run for five days from April 2-6 at Famous Players Canada Square theatres before shifting to Markham for three days from April 11.
Actress Tonya Lee Williams founded the 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.
She said the Town of Markham approached her to bring the festival to Canada’s most diverse city. Nearly 70 per cent of the city’s population comprises visible minorities.
“One of my staffers was at a function in Markham and the conversation came up organically about us sharing this festival with them,” said Williams, the 1977 Miss Black Ontario who is best known for her role as Dr. Olivia Hastings on the daytime drama, The Young and the Restless. “The Mayor (Frank Scarpitti) was very excited to have it in his city because he felt it reflected the population.”
Williams met with Scarpitti and city officials a few weeks ago to finalize plans for the Markham section of the festival.
“Since launching this festival in 2001, I’ve always intended for it to be in Toronto and in other locations across the country,” she said. “This additional three-day film festival will allow us to bring distinctive programming and the very best of ReelWorld Film Festival to our neighbours in Markham. I look forward to working with business and community leaders in Markham to shape this annual event, and I thank his Worship Mayor Scarpitti and the Markham councillors for their extremely warm welcome.”
Reel World Film Festival recently unveiled its new board members. The list includes National Basketball League of Canada club owner and investment strategist Steve Conville, lawyer Eboue Reinbergs, creative producer and broadcast television executive Joan Jenkinson and CTV anchor/reporter Andria Case.
“They bring different skill sets to our organization,” Williams said. “Andria has great ideas for social media and outreach and she will be extremely useful as we prepare to unveil our new business plan.”
A National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People (NAACP) award winner and two-time Emmy Nominee, Williams returned to her California home on December 30 after spending the Christmas holidays with her mother in the Greater Toronto Area.
She was quite busy last year, spending six months in Europe after the conclusion of the 2013 Reel World Film Festival in April.
England-born Williams attended the Cannes and Zanzibar Film Festivals, represented The Young and the Restless at the Monte Carlo Television Festival and contracted an agent while in London for nearly two months.
“I love Europe,” she said. “I am thinking about moving there, but I just cannot pick up and leave like that because I like to plan things out. I went to Los Angeles for the first time in 1984 but I did not settle there until three years later. I like the energy in Europe and their projects always seem to be mature and interesting.”