TIFF Filmmaker Lab is a talent development programme that takes place during the Toronto International Film Festival in September.
Each year, 20 Canadian and international directors receive an exceptional professional development experience, and an introduction to the global community of filmmaking. Over a four-day period, participants have the opportunity to interact with and learn from internationally acclaimed filmmakers and guests.
Each participant to TIFF Filmmaker Lab is carefully reviewed by a pre-selection committee comprising up to three members of the TIFF Industry programming team. A shortlist of candidates will then be presented to a jury that may include members of the TIFF Industry, Festival, and Audience and Community programming teams. Using an established set of criteria, the jury will convene to review and deliberate each application to collectively determine programme participants. Below are the participants for 2020.
Maha Al-Saati is an independent filmmaker interested in exploring femininity, gender, and women’s issues in the Arab world. She is a university professor of media who has taught in both Saudi Arabia and Canada. Her research focuses on media education, and the influence of culture on popular Saudi media. Her experimental videos and short films include Hair: The Story of Grass (18), which was an official selection of Fantastic Fest 2018, Slamdance 2019, and HollyShorts 2019; Cycle of Apples (19); and Fear: Audibly (17). Her feature project Hajj to Disney was selected for development by the Red Sea Lodge in partnership with TorinoFilmLab.
Yuhi Amuli is a film director, producer, and screenwriter from Rwanda. His three short films, Ishaba (15), Akarwa (17), and Kazungu (19), have screened and won awards at festivals worldwide, including Durban, Zanzibar, Luxor African Film Festival, Vues d’Afrique in Canada, Festival International du Film d’Amiens in France, Festival cinémas d’Afrique – Lausanne in Switzerland, and Rwanda. He produced the feature film Nameless (17), which took part in Takmil — a post-production program at the Carthage Film Festival — and was picked up for distribution by Orange Studio in France. His directorial debut feature, A Taste of Our Land (20), premiered at the Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles, where it won the Best First Feature Narrative Award. He is currently developing his second feature film, Exodus.
Tammes Bernstein is a Danish director and writer. He graduated from the National Film & Television School (NFTS) in England in 2020. He has a background in advertising and worked as a creative at the advertising agency AKQA in Paris. Prior to NFTS he studied at Copenhagen Film and Photo School, and directed commercials and music videos while making short films. His NFTS graduation film Shoal (20) was shortlisted for the GSA BAFTA Student Film Awards.
Antoine Bourges is a Vancouver-based filmmaker originally from Paris. His shorts Woman Waiting (10) and William in White Shirt (15), along with his mid-length film East Hastings Pharmacy (12), have screened in festivals across North America and Europe, including the Berlinale, TIFF, the Viennale, and Centre Pompidou’s Cinéma du réel. His first feature, Fail to Appear (17), was released for a theatrical run at TIFF Bell Lightbox.
Jorge Cadena was born in Barranquilla, Colombia. He studied photography in Buenos Aires. In 2016, he earned his bachelor’s degree in filmmaking at HEAD – Geneva with his film El Cuento de Antonia, which won the Tiger Award for Short Films at Rotterdam in 2017. Cadena obtained his master’s degree at ECAL/HEAD in 2018 with the film The Jarariju Sisters, which received a special mention at the Berlinale. In 2019, Cadena was selected to take part in the Karlovy Vary EFP Future Frames program. He’s currently working on his first feature film, Malestar Tropical.
Pier-Philippe Chevigny is a filmmaker from Montreal. His films combine socio-political subject matter with suspenseful writing and intense camerawork. His short films have received international attention, with Tala (13), Vétérane (17), and Rebel (19) screening at festivals including TIFF, Busan, Namur, Vladivostok, REGARD, Winterthur, and Mecal Pro. In 2020, his first feature film project, Richelieu, was selected at the prestigious Berlinale Co-Production Market and has been greenlit by SODEC, the Québécois film-funding agency. A second script, an untitled project on LGBTQ+ rights and police brutality, was announced as a finalist for the SFFILM Rainin Grant. He is currently working on both projects, with the former set to go into production in 2021.
Marilyn Cooke is a writer-director who explores themes that include family ties, dreamlike states, and complex, diverse characters with strong female voices. Her first short film, Nothing But Us (15), was selected by film festivals in Quebec and Iceland, and was broadcast on TV5 Québec Canada and on Japanese television. Her second short, Wanted: Strong Woman, was released in 2019 and is currently on the festival circuit. To date, it has been shown in 25 Canadian, US, and international festivals and has won five awards. CBC Gem and Shorts TV have acquired broadcasting rights to the film. Cooke is currently working on pre-production for her third short film, and developing both a web series and her first feature film.
Álvaro Gago Díaz was born in Vigo, Spain. He studied communication and music in Galicia, drama in Chicago, and filmmaking in London, where he established himself as a director and editor while teaching at the Young Film School and organizing the Galician Film Forum. He edited Xacio Baño’s first film, Trote (18), which had its world premiere at Locarno and its Spanish premiere at the San Sebastián Film Festival. Díaz’s short film Matria (17) won over 70 awards, including the 2018 Sundance Grand Jury Prize, and was nominated for a Goya Award in 2019. His follow-up short film, 16 de decembro (19), premiered at Locarno and screened at AFI FEST and Clermont-Ferrand. He is currently working on the script for his first feature film, Matria.
Shawn Gerrard is a filmmaker from Toronto and an alumnus of the York University film production and screenwriting program. He has directed a number of short films, including Isaiah's Birthday (14), My Viola (15), The House on Carter Road, and Call Me When You Get There, and the feature film Space & Time (17). His films have focused on the struggles of people looking to make a place for themselves in the world. Inspired by his own biracial background, a major theme of Gerrard’s work is the contextualization his characters face around their racial identity and issues of injustice. The intersections of family and race, and how they can — or can’t — define a person, play a pivotal role in his upcoming works.
Lillah Halla is a Brazilian director and screenwriter. She studied at the Escuela Internacional de Cine y Televisión in Cuba, followed by a research program in experimental cinema at Concordia University in Montreal. She was a script consultant and line producer on Island of the Hungry Ghosts (18), which won Best Documentary Feature at Tribeca and was nominated for an Independent Spirit Awards. She co-wrote O Ensaio (18), which was commissioned by the São Paulo Biennial and played at the Berlinale Forum Expanded. She was co-dramaturge for a theatrical production of Stabat Mater, which won the Best National Dramaturgy Award at Shell Brazil 2020. Her most recent short film, Menarca, is one of the 10 shorts selected for Semaine de la Critique at Cannes 2020. Ainda, her debut feature as a director, is currently concluding its development. Halla is also the co-founder of the São Paulo–based film collective Vermelha, a political project for women and queer filmmakers in Brazil.
Meredith Hama-Brown’s work as a director has taken part in various international film festivals, including Palm Springs ShortFest, Shnit, Fantastic Fest, and the Fantasia International Film Festival. Her film Broken Bunny (18) won the Sea to Sky Award at the Vancouver International Film Festival, Best Narrative Short at Las Cruces International Film Festival, and Best Film at the Future of Film Show. Her music video for the Alaskan Tapes song “And, We Disappear” won runner-up for Music Video of the Year on Booooooom, a Graphite Pencil for cinematography at the D&AD Awards, and Best Music Video from the Canadian Society of Cinematographers, and it was chosen for the Prism Prize Top 20 list. Her work has been featured on Nowness Picks, Directors’ Library, Directors Notes, Booooooom, and Mâché Digital.
Fawzia Mirza is a queer Muslim Pakistani writer, actor, and director. She was named one of Independent Magazine’s “10 Filmmakers to Watch” in 2017. She is a White House Champion of Change, a 3Arts Award recipient, a Djerassi resident, and an alum of Tribeca Film Institute’s All Access program. Her first feature, Signature Move (17), which she co-wrote, produced, and starred in, won the Grand Jury Prize for US Narrative Feature at Outfest. The episode she wrote for the CBS limited series The Red Line (19) marked the first instance of a gay Muslim romance on network TV. Her short film I Know Her (19) is currently on the festival circuit and will be in CBC’s Short Film Face Off in October 2020. As a writer-director, Mirza is in pre-production with her short film Noor & Layla, in association with CBC Gem. Her one-woman-play-turned-screenplay, Me, My Mom & Sharmila, won an SFFILM Rainin Filmmaking Grant and a Canada Council for the Arts grant, and participated in TIFF Writers’ Studio 2020.
Irene Moray is a photographer and filmmaker from Barcelona. In 2012 she moved to Berlin. For three years, she collaborated with the performance collective the--family, performing at various cultural entities throughout Europe such as the Astrup Fearnley Museum in Oslo or the Chisenhale Gallery in London. During her stay in Berlin, she directed her first fiction short film, Bad Lesbian (18). She worked as a photographer for different agencies, producers, and publications such as i-D, Dream Magazine, S.C.P.F., Distinto Films, and Erika Lust. After four years in Germany, she decided to return to her hometown, where she shot her next short film as a writer and director: Suc de Síndria (Watermelon Juice). The film premiered at Berlinale Shorts, was nominated for a European Film Award, and won the Goya Award for Best Live-Action Short Film.
Asantewaa Prempeh was raised in Ghana. As a filmmaker, her passion is to represent authentic African experiences. Her interest in film began while studying graphic design in college. Despite coming from a society where filmmaking as a career is highly overlooked and undervalued, the success of her debut short film influenced her decision to study and pursue filmmaking at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts, where she received her MFA. Since then, Prempeh’s short films have screened at Sundance, BFI London, Los Angeles, and Rooftop Film Festival, among others. She has also received support and participated in labs and workshops from institutions such as IFP and Sundance. Prempeh’s goal and vision is to use her observational style and approach to encourage positive action in others, and to represent African voices in cinema.
Simon Ryninks is a writer-director whose films are funny, tender, and gently political. His latest short film, The Plunge (19), was longlisted for the BAFTAs and his previous film, Contractor 014352 (17), won Best European Film at Brest and aired on Canal+ in over 50 countries. His films have screened at festivals including Chicago, Palm Springs ShortFest, and London Short Film Festival. He is currently writing his first feature film, Out There, which is in development with Ffilm Cymru Wales. Additionally, he has devised and directed several site-specific live productions featuring interactive technologies that explore history and social change. He teaches filmmaking to MA students as a visiting lecturer at the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London.
Josephine Stewart-Te Whiu (Ngāpuhi/Te Rarawa) is a New Zealand–based writer and director of Māori and Caucasian descent. She trained as an actor and worked as a successful theatre maker before her transition to the screen. She was shortlisted for the Sundance Institute’s Merata Mita Fellowship for Indigenous Artists in 2017 for her script Lucky. In 2018, she was awarded the Māori Screen Excellence Award from the New Zealand Film Commission. She was one of the nine Māori women who contributed to the anthology film Waru (17), which played the New Zealand International Film Festival and TIFF. Her first short film, Ani (19), also screened at TIFF after premiering in Berlin. The film has been acquired by Searchlight Shorts. Her second short, When We Were Kids, has just been completed. She currently has two feature films in development.
S.M. Turrell is a Métis Canadian producer, director, and writer of drama, documentary television, music videos, and commercials. He graduated from York University’s Film Production program. His director credits for TV include Invention Nation (07), the Gemini Award–winning National Parks Project (11), Colleen Stan: The Girl in the Box (16), Children of the Snow (19), and Ted Bundy: Falling For a Killer (20). He directed the short films Follow (12); Odessa (15), and The Trapper (18). He has directed more than 100 music-video clips for major label artists and popular independent artists, winning a Juno Award and four MuchMusic Video Awards. His series pitches and screenwriting collaborations with Andrew Kirkwood have garnered interest and support from HBO Canada, Anonymous Content, the Canadian Film Centre, Rhombus Media, and Telefilm Canada. Turrell splits his time between Toronto, Los Angeles, and Wolfe Island in Ontario.
Jeff Wong was born in Vancouver. He studied screenwriting and photography at Columbia University, and completed NYU’s film graduate program in Singapore. His short films include Doug (08), which premiered at the USA Film Festival, and H’mong Sisters (12), which premiered at TIFF. He has spent the last few years working on commercials and music videos for brands such as Huawei and artists such as Jackie Chan. He hopes to return to narrative filmmaking with his first feature film.
Asia Youngman is an award-winning filmmaker from Vancouver, Canada. Her films have premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, the Vancouver International Film Festival, and the imagineNATIVE Film + Media Arts Festival. Her first film, Lelum’ (17), won Best Documentary Short at imagineNATIVE, and her latest film, This Ink Runs Deep (19), won Best Documentary Short at the Calgary International Film Festival. She is an alumna from the Canadian Academy Directors Program for Women and the Berlinale DocSalon Toolbox Programme, and a participant in the 2020 Netflix-BANFF Diversity of Voices Initiative. She is currently working on her short dramedy Hatha through the Harold Greenberg Fund's BC Shorts Program, and is in development on her first feature film.
Sasha Leigh Henry is a Toronto-based filmmaker and content producer. Her film Bitches Love Brunch screened at festivals internationally before being acquired by CBC Gem. As a producer, her credits include Randall Okita's Canadian Screen Award winner The Lockpicker (16) and Kelly Fyffe-Marshall’s upcoming sophomore film, Black Bodies. Henry is currently wrapping up her latest short, Sinking Ship, and is in development with New Metric Media for an original comedy series about a millennial Black woman and her imaginary hype girl. A frequent panellist and speaker, she is also an alumna of POV 3rd Street, Black Women Film!, and RBC’s emerging artist spotlight.