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Barbara Ka Yee Lee

REELWORLD'S

2021 TRAILBLAZER
RECIPIENT

Founder & President

TRAILBLAZER

AWARDS

REELWORLD

2022 TRAILBLAZER
RECIPIENTS

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Trailblazer
Awards

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Barbara Ka Yee Lee

Founder & President

Barbara Lee has spent over twenty-five years as a community advocate and organizer of events to increase opportunities for Canadian Asian artists in mainstream music, film, tv and media. She is the Founder of the Vancouver Asian Film Festival (VAFF). Canada’s oldest Asian film festival, Racial Equity Screen Office (RESO) and Elimin8Hate.org. RESO’s mandate is to bring Canada’s diaspora stories to the world. Barbara is also a writer and independent filmmaker and has worked as a broadcast journalist receiving the national Radio and Television News Directors’ Association (RTNDA) Award for Best Editorial in 1998. Her film “Between the Laughter” was one of the National Film Board’s REELDIVERSITY 2004 winners which aired on CBC and PBS Northwest. She is currently finishing her personal music documentary SING MY SONG and her horror script.

Meet the Trailblazer

Motivation

Building community and helping others find their voices and creating pathways to make their stories come to life on screens.

Work

Empowering others. Connecting things and people to make impossible, possible.

Success

A bit of both. I always go back to what Oprah Winfrey says, “Luck is when Opportunity meets Preparedness”, so I am always preparing myself for when opportunity comes, because you just never know when and how it will appear.

There are quite a few, but they each taught me a valuable lesson. I learned to speak up even if I am the lone person of colour in a room with no allies in sight. I have found my voice to be a disruptor and to call out those that have marginalized others. All those times of not being seen or heard is always fresh in my mind.

Experience

Impact

I have been fortunate to have many positive mentors and supporters, too many to name just one. It takes a village to build and create anything worthwhile, it is almost impossible for one person to do it by themselves. My immigrant parents and siblings were probably the biggest influences in my life. Growing up on a farm gave me strong work ethic. Nothing develops strong work ethic like farm work.

Collaboration

I was fortunate to have great people join VAFF who are passionate about Asian representation in film and television. We have had thousands of wonderful volunteers come through VAFF. Some for short period of time and others who have been with VAFF for years. As I always say, VAFF is a family and you never leave a family.

Challenges

I still don’t feel like I made it. There is still so much more to do to have sustained representation in mainstream film, television and media. There is still so much more advocacy work to do to break down systemically racist barriers in the screen industry. We need more young people to join in with this work.

Advice

They should be humble and know that they are not as good as they think they are, but if they are that good, they still have so much more to learn. Be a sponge. They will learn something from everyone they meet, even if it is learning to avoid people like them.

2022 VISIONARY AWARD

2022 AWARD OF EXCELLENCE