My name is Zavia Forrest. I am a member of the TIFF Next Wave Committee, an initiative that allows high-school students — like me — to program a weekend film festival in February, exciting film-focused events, panels, and more, as we help our peers dig deeper into the film industry.
More than that, we use our platform to act as advocates within our communities. Every day, through our programming and work, we prioritize equal representation and champion the diverse voices — and that’s part of the reason why we are so thrilled to be here today to support women in film. This event is important to all women, but if you’ll indulge me for a moment, I’d love to talk about why it’s especially important to young women, like me. From a young age, we are introduced to the arts and media in ways we don’t always notice: commercials, how we’re seen onscreen, what role models are available to us, and how we’re spoken about. As awesome and critical as the representation we see nowadays may be, there are still some aspects that are increasingly important to me, my committee, and all other young women around us.
It’s time to change the way we make connections, in ways that we can relate and respond to. We need to make space to create and inspire more accurate and authentic representation, without being forced into a box overflowing with the cookie-cutter idea of how young women should be rather than who we are.
This is not to say that I don’t love a good cliché. Women are complex — we can embrace clichés, while also celebrating and demanding nuanced, intricate portrayals of our daily lives. We can battle the clichés that affect our perception of women but also be able to understand and enjoy the clichés. Let me say that again: we can enjoy clichés! Some are cute, funny, and classic. However, we want to encourage a mindset of recognizing clichés for what they are, without worrying about how these forms of media will affect our character and our real-world personalities. We see them as fantasy and enjoy, without bringing them into our reality.
This is why initiatives like Share Her Journey, are so important to us. It allows for discussion — uninterrupted, unbiased, uncomfortable discussion. Women of all ages, sizes, and shades get a platform to express every single small emotion we have, to amplify our voices that will be heard, and to have a vibrant celebration that will not be ignored.
So thank you to Share Her Journey for allowing me, as a young woman, to share the realities and thoughts of my community. We hope to inspire all forms of thinking to infiltrate our favourite industries. We are the Next Wave. We are what’s next.
View the Share Her Journey Rally here.