Press Release

Toronto, ON: 07 Oct 2020 - The Reelworld Film Festival and Reelworld Screen Institute will present filmmaker, actor, writer, and visual artist, Dr. Shirley Cheechoo with the 2020 Reelworld Visionary Award in recognition of her incredible 30 years of dedication toward diversifying the Canadian entertainment industry and in honour of her living legacy.

This award honours
industry leaders who have made unparalleled strides for the advancement of people of colour
and/or people in Indigenous communities and people of colour.
Reelworld proudly recognizes Dr. Shirley Cheechoo for her unmatched body of work in the
film industry. She is renowned as the first Indigenous woman to write, produce, and direct a
dramatic feature film, Bearwalker-- for which she won the Best Director award at the first
Reelworld Film Festival in 2000, and screened at the Cannes Film Festival.
Reelworld Founder and Executive Director Tonya Williams shared her thoughts on
honouree “I saw Shirley Cheechoo’s film back in 2000 and was shocked that no film festival
in Canada accepted to screen it even though it had screened at Cannes. Her powerful film
set the standard and beacon for the festival ever since, especially as Shirley has always
used her talent to bring attention to the issues of her community with the creation of the
Weengushk Film Festival and the Institute. She continues to teach and mentor so many
Indigneous youth on how to take their authentic voices and speak truth to their experiences.”
While working on her feature film Bearwalker, Dr. Cheechoo became aware of how many
Indigenous youth had an interest in the filmmaking process but had limited opportunity. This
led to the inception of the Weengushk Film Institute (WFI) in 2002. WFI is a non-profit,
charitable organization, dedicated to exclusively supporting the creative works and pursuits
of Indigenous artists. Thanks to the environment and training fostered by the WFI, many
participants have gone on to receive awards for their short films at notable Canadian film
festivals including Cherokee Film Festival and Cinefest Sudbury Film Festival.
“It is an honour to be recognized by The Reelworld Film Festival and Reelworld Screen Institute
for the second time, but this time as a Visionary,” stated Dr. Shirley Cheechoo. “I believe that
film is one of the most powerful vehicles for bringing people together and materializing the
social change we desperately need in our industry.”
Dr. Shirley Cheechoo will be joining us for a special “In Conversation With” webinar on Monday,
October 19th, 2020 at 12:00pm EST. All Reelworld Film Festival industry programmes are free
and available worldwide. Click here to sign up.
The Reelworld Film Festival and Reelworld Screen Institute are the largest national
platforms dedicated to supporting Canadian filmmakers and artists from the Black, Indigenous,
Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern and Latin American communities. Since its inception in
2001, Reelworld has been at the forefront in promoting racially diverse Canadian talent.
For more information on the Reelworld Film Festival and Reelworld Screen Institute, visit
https://www.reelworld.ca.
Weengushk Film Institute (WFI) is a non-profit, artist-focused film and television-training
centre, dedicated to unlocking the creative potential of Indigenous youth.
For more information on the Weengushk Film Institute (WFI) visit
https://www.weengushk.com/about

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For media inquiries, please contact: 

alison@reelworld.ca

Reelworld Communications Director

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Founded in 2000 by Tonya Williams, The Reelworld Film Festival and Reelworld Screen Institute are the largest national platforms dedicated to supporting Canadian filmmakers and artists from the Black, Indigenous, Asian, South Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latin American communities. Since its inception Reelworld has been at the forefront in creating access and inclusion for racially diverse Canadian talent.

2020 Reelworld Visionary Award Announcement - Dr. Shirley Cheechoo