For the past 20 years Tonya has been overseeing the vision and day to day operations of Reelworld Film Festival and Reelworld Screen Institute. Born in London, England to Jamaican parents, she has been working in the Canadian and USA entertainment industry for the past forty-five years, as an actress, producer, director and writer. She has been nominated for two Emmy Awards and won two NAACP Image Awards, ACTRA Award of Excellence, WIFT Crystal Award, Harry Jerome Award and others. She works and lives between Los Angeles and Toronto. Since starting in the entertainment industry Tonya's one goal has been to use the screen platform to correct the historical stories of racialized communities and to present more positive representation of Canadian Black, Indigenous, People of Colour in authentic storytelling. She currently sits on the Telefilm Inclusion & Diversity Group and the Canadian Media Fund Black Leaders Group, both with the goal of creating more access and diversity in the Canadian entertainment industry above and below the line.
Founder & Executive / Artistic Director
Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Emily-Jane Williams is a Toronto based arts professional and University of Toronto graduate with over 14 years experience in development, marketing, research writing, and program development. A strong believer in the importance of multiple narratives and diverse storytelling, Emily-Jane joined Reelworld in 2017 to further her goal of building inclusivity and dismantling racism in the arts. As Development Director, Emily-Jane works closely with the Executive Director and Board of Directors to oversee and develop fundraising activities including sponsorship marketing, partnership development, and project, capital, operation grants to support diverse Canadian storytellers and the Reelworld mission.
Alison has built a 20-year career in media and the arts, starting in advertising and digital media and eventually extending her communications skillset to commercial production while working for top Canadian Broadcasters including CTV and Corus Entertainment. As a Humber College graduate of Advertising and Graphic Design, Alison brings an in-depth and tactical understanding of the delivery of messages. Most recently, after starting a Skincare Business (Room 100 Skincare) and returning to York University to complete a degree in Communication Studies, Alison has provided consulting services to small businesses with a focus on defining and structuring communications that support their business objectives. With a desire to help underserved communities Alison has sat on the Board of Directors for Tangled Arts (formerly Abilities Art Festival) where she facilitated the rebrand of the organization. As Communications Director at Reelworld Alison developes and oversees the communication plans for partnerships, outreach, and media awareness.
Rodrigo started with Reelworld in 2003 as Marketing & Office Manager, becoming the Finance & Operations Coordinator in 2005, and earning his present role as Finance Manager in 2006. He is a Certified Management Accountant, and holds an MBA from the Richard Ivey School of Business at Western University. As an immigrant from Argentina, Rodrigo’s work at Reelworld aligns with his passion for film as a tool to bring communities together. He is also the Associate Vice President for Marketing Strategic Initiatives & Automotive Promotional Planning at Canadian Tire.
Rodrigo Diaz Varela
Digital, Interactive Industry and Operations Manager
Gesilayefa Azorbo is a Toronto-based creative hyphenate (writer, photographer, filmmaker and film festival multitasker) with an abiding love of music, film, TV and literature. Her creative work explores themes related to creativity and identity. As a photographer and a filmmaker she loves to shoot creative portraits and profiles of artists in their element, including her documentary "Indie Womyn" profiling Juno-nominated Toronto artist Alysha Brilla. Her film festival work ranges from programming at Planet In Focus, to Industry at Hot Docs, with earlier stints as a student programmer for Images Festival, and Critics Panel member for Toronto Youth Shorts Film Festival.
Outreach and Marketing Manager
Born and raised in India, Pahull Bains is an experienced journalist covering film, culture, style and identity. A Columbia University graduate, she has worked in the magazine industry for over eight years, writing for publications like Vogue India, Wired, Billboard and GQ India. She moved to Toronto in 2017, and most recently worked at FASHION Magazine as their Culture & Lifestyle Editor. Having covered the entertainment industry in Canada for four years, highlighting emerging talent, inequity in the industry, and diverse storytellers, she is now bringing her passion for film to Reelworld, where she works on sponsor, industry and media outreach, as well as industry initiatives and events.
Barbara Mamabolo is a screen-based professional located in Toronto. Barbara completed her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto and was awarded the Atom Egoyan Cinema Studies Scholarship. Barbara is an alumna of the CBC’s Development Workshop for Diverse Creators and Black Women Film! Canada. Barbara worked as an associate producer for LoCo Motion Pictures on the acclaimed web series’ My 90-Year-Old Roommate Season II and How to Buy a Baby and recently worked as a story editor on Kim’s Convenience Season V. Barbara currently screens films for SXSW. She strongly believes that film has the power to facilitate social change and couldn’t be more excited to support and elevate racialized talent in her position at Reelworld.
Marina Hanna is a marketing-communications writer-editor and project manager in the arts & culture industry. Previously, she was a copywriter at TIFF and the managing editor of publications at Tribeca Film Festival. She currently screens films for the Human Rights Watch Film Festival and freelances for the Toronto Star. Marina holds a combined Honours Bachelor Degree in Mass Communication and Political Science from Carleton University, and a Graduate Certificate in Journalism New Media from Sheridan College.
Originally from Iran, Reza Sameni is a film programmer and cinematographer based in Toronto. He has supported festival programming for the JAYU’s Human Rights Film Festival, the South Western International Film Festival, the Syria Film Festival, and the Canadian Sport Film Festival. As a cinematographer, Reza has over a decade of experience working on documentaries and short films that focus on human rights, injustice, and domestic violence, several of which have been screened at many international film festivals including IDFA, Rio de Janeiro, Denver, and Rendezvous with Madness.
Ella is an award winning interdisciplinary artist, photographer, filmmaker, impact producer and creative facilitator based in Toronto. Ella’s creative practice explores themes of racialized identity, Canadian diaspora, reclamation, embodied landscapes, contemporary dance and representations of the Black female body in Western visual culture. Her work has been presented in galleries, public spaces, festivals and for broadcast across Canada, the US and Europe. In 2015, her film "Black Men Loving" won Best Canadian Film at the Caribbean Tales Film Festival and is one of the top featured artists on CBC Arts the Exhibitionists. She is the founder of Black Women Film!.
Born to Canadian parents of Caribbean descent, Aisha is passionate about bringing stories of the underrepresented to the forefront of our social purview. She is an actor, writer, and filmmaker who holds a BA with specialized honours in Theatre from York University. Recent Film/ TV and Theatre appearances include CBC’s “Working Moms”, “Murdoch Mysteries", and The Canadian Premiere of Sarah DeLappe’s critically acclaimed play “The Wolves”. Aisha has just wrapped her second short film ShoeGazer, the 2018 Selection for the Toronto ACTRA Women’s Committee’s Film Creation Lab which she wrote, starred and co-produced.
Jordan Smith-St. Kitts
Digital Operations Coordinator
Jordan Smith-St Kitts is a graduate of the Television Broadcasting at Seneca College. I've started to take a high interest in the Audio side of Production and Post Production. "I like to refer myself as an artist at times. More specifically an artist with the interest of beat making. I enjoy video editing, and am always interested to take on new and exciting opportunities. This year I have gotten a wonderful opportunity to get a chance to work for the Reelworld film festival. I've enjoyed every moment and can't wait to assist again next year!"
Nasiche Taylor is a Chartered Professional Accountant, (CPA, CMA). Nasiche completed her designation in Toronto, ON with CPA Ontario in 2015. In 2016 Nasiche completed the Professional Bookkeeping Program with the Universal Accounting Centre. Born in Toronto and raised in Western Canada, Nasiche has worked for the energy industry and government agencies and currently volunteers as a Financial Administrator for Kingdom Life Ministries in Mississauga. Nasiche enjoys adventure and biopic films. Nasiche feels that film brings us a bit closer together in this great big wonderful world, and is a great way for a story to live on long afterwards.
X Height Media
Leslie & Lisa
Festival Artwork & Program Design
Leslie and Lisa don’t see colours, they see flavours. The twin sisters are the owners and principle designers at X Height Media, where they have cultivated a diverse portfolio of projects ranging from magazine to film poster creations. They are proud to have established unique extensions of XHM including Dn’A, “words-only” glass panels and Valley of the Kings cards for the non-living.
XHM has enjoyed designing the official artwork and materials for Reelworld since 2010.