Every Story Fund – Asian Heritage Month

Every Story

Asian Heritage Month

Film has the power to transform the way we see the world. But not every story gets told.


Asian Heritage Month. Every story deserves the spotlight. Inspiration (Onstage Conversations). Skill Building (CJ + TIFF K-Story Fund. Project Development (Accelerator Programmes). Amplifications (Canada's Top Ten). This month empower new Asian voices. Donate today.

In a recent study, Asians and Pacific Islanders (APIs) represented only 3.4% of lead roles in US-produced films in 2022. Researchers found that 82% of Asian characters in the top 100 streaming titles were “race agnostic” — meaning cultural heritage had nothing to do with the character’s storyline, or was only briefly mentioned. As a consequence, fewer films seen by larger audiences told Asian stories or featured characters with Asian backgrounds. Cultural specificity is often erased.

At TIFF, we believe in taking the lead as a platform for cultural communities to speak in their own words to the widest possible audience. Every Story deserves to be in the spotlight.

This Asian Heritage Month, be part of the movement to champion the future of Asian storytelling — elevating the representation and authenticity of Asian stories, and expanding opportunities for Asians in key creative positions. Your donation will go toward growing industry-leading initiatives in the four stages of our cycle of impact. See just some of TIFF’s recent work below.


Andy Lau speaking on stage


Energizing creatives to pursue roles in the film industry through programming.

  • We connect audiences and creators with artists through intimate, moderated discussions about the creative process. At TIFF’s 2023 In Conversation With… presented by Visa, guests included Andy Lau, Lee Byung-hun, and Park Seo-jun.
  • Recent TIFF Industry Conference speakers have included world-renowned Asian filmmakers Park Chan-wook, S.S. Rajamouli, and Lulu Wang, bringing the audience closer to the craft.

A group of people in conversation


Creating opportunities for creators to learn new skills and expand their network.

  • In partnership with CJ Cultural Foundation and the Korean Film Council, we created the CJ + TIFF K-Story Fund to foster and champion emerging Korean Canadian and Korean American filmmakers. Eight have been selected to participate in a four-month story development process with support and guidance from CJ ENM.
  • Recent mentors for our TIFF Industry programmes have included intensive training with industry-leading Asian storytellers Lulu Wang, Deepa Mehta, Andrew Ahn, and Sanjay Sharma.

Two people speaking to each other


Providing support to incubate, advance, and exhibit projects by equity-seeking creators.

  • In 2023, 50% of the Series Accelerator programme, presented by Canada Media Fund, projects featured Asian Canadian participants in key creative roles.
  • This past year’s recipients of the Every Story Accelerator Micki Moore Fellowship included producer Enrique Miguel Baniqued, who aims to bring Filipino stories to audiences worldwide as a force for change.

A group of Korean filmmakers from left to right: Helen Lee, Anthony Shim,


Championing the vision of diverse storytellers to audiences and markets, and sparking meaningful dialogue.

  • Film Circuit is TIFF’s outreach programme, engaging grassroots networks to bring the best of cinema to communities across the country. In 2023, Celine Song’s Past Lives was screened at over 50 locations across Canada, including a personal video introduction for her hometown of Markham, Ontario. Deepa Mehta’s Water is the most popular film in Film Circuit history, with over 140 screenings and 26,000 in attendance between 2005-2017.
  • Indian-born Canadian filmmaker Nisha Pahuja’s To Kill a Tiger had its World Premiere at TIFF, where it won the Amplify Voices Award for Best Canadian Feature Film. The documentary follows an Indian family’s quest for justice in the wake of a heinous violation. The film would go on to win more than 20 awards and was nominated for Best Documentary Feature at the 2024 Oscars.


TIFF has launched the Every Story fund to promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in film by:

  • CHALLENGING the status quo
  • CELEBRATING diversity
  • CREATING opportunities for equity-seeking creators

To promote diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in film, TIFF is driven to:

CHALLENGE the status quo by identifying and addressing barriers upheld by prevailing industry practices and attitudes, and by fostering intentional conversations and commitments to diversity and inclusion.

Initiatives include:

  • Expanding the Media Inclusion Initiative in order to foster a more inclusive media corps
  • Hosting talks to contextualize film content year-round and during the Festival
  • Collecting metrics related to the barriers to access and inclusion, both internally and across the industry
  • Fostering a sense of belonging online and at TIFF Lightbox

CELEBRATE diverse storytellers and build inclusive audiences by increasing representation in TIFF film programming, by removing barriers to public participation, and by building strong ties with community partners and their audiences.

Initiatives include:

  • Offering free film tickets and programming through community partners and other channels
  • Expanding opportunities to showcase and amplify diverse voices in programming and curation

CREATE opportunities to directly support creators who are Black, Indigenous, people of colour, 2SLGBTQ+, women, and/or from other equity-seeking groups and their projects by expanding talent development programs, alumni programming, and career development opportunities.

Initiatives include:

  • Supporting access to TIFF Industry programming for emerging creators
  • Creating year-round opportunities for talent development programme participants and alumni
  • Developing year-round mentorship opportunities


    Support Every Story and your donation will be matched by fund Founding Partner NBCUniversal

    2023 tax receipts will be provided for donations of $10 or more. Charitable Registration No. 11930 4541 RR0001.

    Canada’s Top Ten is presented by MUBI

The Viola Desmond Cinema Campaign

On November 8, 1946, 32-year-old businesswoman Viola Desmond bought a ticket to a film at the Roseland Theatre in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. She chose a floor seat, unaware of the cinema’s unwritten policy that they were reserved for white patrons, and that Black moviegoers were relegated to the balcony.

When an usher asked her to move, Viola refused, taking an historic stand against racial discrimination. She was physically removed from the theatre, arrested, jailed overnight, and fined $26. Charged with tax evasion of one cent, she was never informed of her right to legal representation.

Viola Desmond standing alongside her graduating students.

Viola Desmond (far left), was a talented beautician and a mentor to young Black women in Nova Scotia, opening the Desmond School of Beauty Culture in 1947.

Viola’s protest received little national attention at the time, and the charges against her went unpardoned in her lifetime. It wasn’t until her youngest sister, Wanda Robson, was in her seventies and advocating for this story to be known by the public that Viola’s courage was brought to light. Because of Wanda’s activism, her sister’s story inspired many people throughout Canada to take up the fight against anti-Black racism, and Viola was posthumously granted a free pardon by Nova Scotia’s Lieutenant-Governor in 2010. Eight years later, Viola was commemorated on the $10 bill, making her the first Black person and the first non-royal woman to be featured on a Canadian banknote.

Viola Desmond (left) and Wanda Robson (right) looking at the camera in the Hi-Hat Club

Viola Desmond and Wanda Robson at the Hi-Hat Club in Boston, 1955.

To continue Viola and Wanda’s legacy, on November 8, 2022, TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey proudly announced that in recognition of Viola’s historic stand against racial segregation in a movie theatre, we would name Cinema 1, our largest cinema, and the only one with a balcony, the Viola Desmond Cinema. A $2 million fundraising campaign was launched, with the goal of supporting Black women storytellers, enhancing programming for Black audiences, eliminating access barriers, and amplifying Viola and Wanda’s stories. Two special seats were dedicated to the sisters in the front row of the cinema as a symbol of their heroism.

On Viola Desmond Day in 2023, Cameron Bailey announced that TIFF had raised $1.5 million of its $2 million goal and unveiled the new Viola Desmond Cinema commemorative plaque in the lobby. This campaign milestone was made possible by the generous contribution of presenting partner NBCUniversal and valued campaign donors.

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay and TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey unveiling the cinema plaque

Filmmaker Ava DuVernay (left) and Cameron Bailey, TIFF CEO (right), unveil the Viola Desmond Cinema supported by NBCUniversal

TIFF is committed to continuing Viola and Wanda’s legacy through our $2 million fundraising campaign, an extension of TIFF’s Every Story fund that champions diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging in film.

We invite you to join us in honouring Viola and Wanda, because communion in a movie theatre belongs to everyone.


Presenting Partner

Champion Donors
Donette Chin-Loy Chang
Wes Hall
Jennifer A. Tory
Annette Verschuren and Stan Shibinsky

Kamala-Jean Gopie
Jennifer Holness
Kenneth Montague and Sarah Aranha
Clement Virgo
The Viola Desmond Campaign Community Supporters

For inquiries and opportunities please contact Lesley McCarroll, Director of Development.