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.
Omolola Ajao is a Nigerian-Canadian playwright and filmmaker. Existing in the realm of Black realism and magical Black realism, her priority in filmmaking and playwriting is to create Black interiority and complex emotionality, carefully presenting the specific lives of people she knows and creates. Her first film, Prodigal, documented three young African women on their burgeoning conceptions of home and was screened nationally. Her second film, YYZ, was acquired by CBC Gem and won a Canadian Screen Award. Her third film, Fufu, is currently on the festival circuit. Revelations, in development, is her first feature film.
Zayn Alexander is a Lebanese film director and actor based in New York City. Alexander’s debut short film, Abroad, an intimate drama that explores the life of a Lebanese immigrant couple, made its world premiere at the 2018 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. Alexander’s second directorial effort, Manara, screened during the 76th Venice Film Festival in the Giornate degli Autori section in a special screening. Most recently, Alexander was awarded the prestigious Khayrallah Prize for Abroad’s “deep and honest exploration of diaspora and immigration.”
Ian Bawa was born and raised in Winnipeg and graduated from the University of Winnipeg Film program. His film Offline toured around the world, winning at festivals such as Yorkton Film Festival and Fargo Film Festival. Bawa started out interning with Film Training Manitoba in the lighting department, from there working in every department a set (both big and small) can offer. His film credits include Imitations (16), which premiered at TIFF; Tapeworm (19), which premiered at the Vancouver International Film Festival and Slamdance; and Strong Son (20), which premiered at TIFF, Vancouver, and the Aspen Shortsfest. He is currently in development on a feature film.
Enrique Buleo was born in Spain in 1979. He received a BA in Fine Arts and he pursued a master's degree in screenwriting for film. Between 2015 and 2016, he directed Decorosa, which earned him several national and international awards. In 2018 he made Hell and Such, a short film that premiered at the Gijón Film Festival in 2019 and was selected at festivals such as Palm Springs, Slamdance, Guanajuato, Nashville, and Clermont-Ferrand, winning the First Special Jury Mention at the latter. It also won the ARTE TV Award for Best International Short Film at Filmfest Dresden. Women visiting a city, his new short film in post-production, was selected as a project at the 2020 Torino Short Film Market and the 2021 Cannes short-film market. His first feature-film project Still Life with Ghosts has been selected in three development programs in the last two years — including ECAM’s Incubator — and participated in the 2021 Cannes Focus CoPro.
Jorge Camarotti was born to a working-class family in São Paulo, Brazil. In 2003, he moved to Montreal where he pursued a career as a professional photographer and then as a filmmaker. He has directed a dozen short films, both documentary and fiction, always remaining true to giving voice to the most aggrieved individuals of our society. He wrote and directed Kinship (19), which was selected for film festivals such as Palm Springs, Maryland, Clermont-Ferrand, and REGARD and which received a nomination at the 2020 Canadian Screen Awards for Best Live-Action Short Drama. Besides working as a mentor for aspiring BIPOC filmmakers, Camarotti is now working on his first feature film, Edith.
Jaione Camborda studied at the Film and TV School of the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague (FAMU) and the University of Television and Film Munich (HFF), after which she moved to Galicia and founded the production company Esnatu Zinema. Her body of work as director includes Proba de axilidade (Agility), Nimbos, Lilit, and Rapa das bestas (Wild Mane Crop). In 2019, she produced, scripted, and directed the feature film Arima. After its screening at San Sebastian Film Festival, she won Best Direction in the New Waves section at the Seville European Film Festival and Best Film in the Escáner section at the Márgenes Film Festival. She has also been a scriptwriter on the feature films Os fenómenos and Ons — both directed by Alfonso Zarauza — and has worked as art director on several feature films.
Harry Cepka is a Canadian writer and director currently living in New York. His first feature film, Raf, premiered at TIFF in 2019 and went on to win numerous awards in North American and European festivals. In 2020, he co-directed Wormgirl, a pandemic-themed web series that premiered virtually on the website No Budge. His latest feature film project, working title Eddie, has received development support from Telefilm and was a participant in the Berlin-based JETS 2021 feature-film development program. He is currently developing a Canada Council of the Arts–supported film called Gas Mask. Cepka also works as an editor, having edited films that played at Sundance, Rotterdam, and TIFF. He is part of an informal collective of New York City–based filmmakers, most recently working on Marian Mathias's Cinéfondation-supported feature film Runner.
Justin Ducharme is a filmmaker, writer, dancer, and curator from the small Métis community of St. Ambroise on Treaty 1 Territory. His curatorial efforts have been shown at the Vancouver Queer Film Festival, ReelOut Fest, SUM Gallery, and grunt gallery’s Mount Pleasant Art Screen. He is the co-editor of Hustling Verse: An Anthology of Sex Workers’ Poetry published by Arsenal Pulp Press. His writing has been featured in Sex Worker Wisdom, PRISM magazine and Canadian Art. He currently lives and works on Unceded Coast Salish Territory.
Sarra El Abed finished her degree in film direction at UQAM in 2018, where she was awarded the best fiction prize for her graduation project. Ain’t No Time For Women (Y’a pas d’heure pour les femmes) is her fourth film and has won multiple awards in national and international festivals such as Clermont-Ferrand, RIDM, and Slamdance. In April, she won the award for Best Canadian Short at the Hot Docs Festival, making her film eligible for the Oscars. Flirting between fiction and documentary filmmaking, she likes to breathe whimsy into the ordinary and comedy into dramatic situations. She’s currently working on her first feature film, Adieu Minette.
Gunhild Enger graduated from Edinburgh College of Art in 2005 and the School of Film Directing in Gothenburg in 2012. She was nominated for a BAFTA with her graduation film Bargain and has since screened her films at festivals around the world. Her film Premature (12) won Best Short at several festivals. The Committee (16) and Play Schengen (20) both premiered at Locarno and the Chicago International Film Festival. In 2020 she co-directed a Norwegian animation feature film for children, Two Buddies and a Badger 2 – The Great Big Beast. Enger also worked on casting The Square (17), which was directed by Ruben Østlund and won the Palme d’Or at Cannes.
Tiffany Hsiung is a Toronto-based filmmaker and a two-time Canadian Screen Award winner. Her short film Sing Me a Lullaby (20) won the inaugural IMDbPro Short Cuts Share Her Journey Award at TIFF and was named one of TIFF’s Canada’s Top Ten of 2020. It also won the Directors Guild of Canada Best Short Film Award and two prizes at the WIFT-T Showcase. Hsiung’s debut feature documentary, The Apology (16), won the Peabody Award, the duPont-Columbia Award, and the Allan King Memorial Award. Hsiung has been recently signed to United Talent Agency and is in development for her debut feature drama, based on Sing Me a Lullaby. Hsiung was elected as second-vice chair of the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) Ontario Executive Board in 2020. She is a board member at DOC Canada and was recently invited to sit on the Hot Docs executive board. Hsiung is also a member of the DGC’s BIPOC Members Committee.
Jessica Barclay Lawton is an Australian writer-director whose films have screened at 70+ festivals, including Locarno, Tribeca, Sapporo, and Melbourne, and have been Nowness and Vimeo staff picks. Her work is raw and intimate, characterised by a hybrid style that combines documentary and narrative practices. Lawton is a MIFF Accelerator Lab alumna and recipient of the Creative Victoria Creators Fund, through which she is developing hybrid feature films The Sweetness — a second-round finalist in the 2020 Screencraft Film Fund — and Paradise Youth, in which a genderqueer topless bar worker navigates a complicated sexual awakening in a wobbling tightrope walk across gender lines.
Marianne Métivier stood out with her first short film, Raspberry (13), which was selected in competition at the Festival du nouveau cinéma and in the Coup de Coeur Program at the Short Film Corner in Cannes. In 2016, she completed her filmmaking studies at the Université du Québec à Montréal, where she won the award for Best Fiction from L’École des médias. Greatly inspired by her travels around the world and her respect for the environment, Métivier explores human relationships, cultural identity, and the pivotal moments of life. She Who Wears the Rain (19) had its international premiere at the Berlinale in the Short Film Competition, in 2020. Métivier is currently developing her first feature film, The Splendour of Life, and her first documentary, Back Home, for which she received a development grant from the Talent Lab of the Rencontres Internationales du Documentaire de Montréal (2020).
Rachael Moton is a writer, director, and failed internet comedian. Her obsession with weird indie films and reality television led her to attend Temple University, where she graduated with a BFA in film with a concentration in directing. Her work has been supported by various organizations including Sundance Institute, SFFILM, the Westridge Foundation, and The Gotham. As a storyteller, Moton is passionate about sharing stories of marginalized people with a goal of promoting empathy, usually by utilizing comedy. If she wasn’t a filmmaker, Moton believes she would’ve been a great reality TV star.
Minos Nikolakakis was born in Athens in 1980 and is a freelance writer, director, and producer. His films have participated in international festivals (including LA Shorts, Cinemed Montpellier, Uppsala, and Flickers Fest), had a theatrical release, and received awards. These productions were supported by the Greek National Broadcasting Company ERT SA. His short The attic screened in the Egbert Baqué Contemporary Art gallery in Berlin, in the David Bowie exhibition. He is a member of the Hellenic and European Film Academies and is a Zurich Film Academy, Sarajevo Talents, and Berlinale Talents alumnus. He has produced features and documentaries. He is an engineering graduate of the University of Patras, and worked as a civil engineer to support his passion for filmmaking. His first feature, Entwined, premiered at TIFF 2019. He has another two features in development.
Vonne Patiag is an AACTA- and AWGIE-nominated filmmaker based in Western Sydney, Australia. He co-wrote and was associate producer on Australia’s first primetime Filipino TV series The Unusual Suspects (SBS) for Aquarius Films and the upcoming anthology feature film Here Out West (ABC) for Emerald Productions & Co-Curious. He was also a showrunner and director on Halal Gurls (2020, ABC), which screened at Marseille Web Fest, NZ Web Fest, and Rio Webfest. He directed and wrote Tomgirl (2018, SBS), which is a 10-minute short that serves as a proof-of-concept for the feature and played Outfest Fusion LA, Palm Springs ShortFest, and St Kilda Film Festival. He was recently awarded the Spirit of the West award by Made in the West Film Festival for his impact on promoting inclusive filmmaking practices in the Australia film industry.
Zoé Pelchat began her career directing music videos in Montreal after studying communications at Concordia University and film direction at l’inis. She quickly moved to advertising and fiction. Her first landmark project was her web series Dominos (18–20), broadcast on TV5/Unis.tv. The two seasons travelled around the world and won several awards, most notably Best Digital Series at Canneseries. Pelchat followed up with her first short film, Moon (20), which competed in festivals such as Clermont-Ferrand, Vancouver, FICFA, Festival du nouveau cinéma, Rendez-vous Québec Cinéma, and Aspen Shortsfest. She is currently writing her first feature film, Douce Prière (Praying Softly). She is also working on two television series and two other short films, Gaby les collines and Atlantis. Her work has a very personal signature: sharp dialogues, intoxicating visuals, and an undeniable love for humans.
André Hayato Saito studied cinema in Buenos Aires. In 2011, together with Cesar Augusto De Souza Nery, he became a director at Movie&Art and lectured as a teacher at Escola Livre de Cinema e Vídeo. In 2012, the pair released a book and a short film called Thomás tristonho, selected for 13 festivals around the globe. In 2013/2017, at Paranoid BR, they directed advertising and content, such as the short film Luz, which was selected for the 29th Festival Cinélatino in Toulouse. In 2018/2019, the duo became in-house directors at Stink Films. The two are currently partners at MyMama Entertainment, where they are developing their first fiction film entitled Yellow Chrysanthemum, which was shortlisted for the 2020 Hubert Bals Fund. In 2021, the duo also ministered classes at Beijing Film Academy. Saito is currently releasing his first solo work, a short fiction documentary called Kokoro to Kokoro.
Vitória Vasconcellos is a Brazilian actor and director. She has directed, produced, written, acted in, and edited a wide variety of short films that have travelled the world. Her short thriller Pathei Mathos was included in the 2021 Cannes Short Film Corner and has won multiple awards. What she really cares about is exploring the intersectionality of the female experience (with Latinas often in focus) and the sensorial poetry that connects us to the world. She has recently graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts, where she was also awarded the Global Scholar distinction. She is a current student of the Stella Adler Art of Acting Studio in Los Angeles.
Adrian Wallace is a Toronto-based writer, director, and actor. He won a 2021 Canadian Screen Award for Best Direction in a Documentary Series for Black Sun, which was acquired by CBC Gem as part of the series Being Black in Toronto. Wallace is a Humber College alumnus who studied dramatic arts, comedy writing, acting, and film and television production. His work has been screened at film festivals worldwide. He is the creator, writer, director, and co-lead of the web series Courtside, which won an Audience Choice Award at the 2017 Miami Web Fest and Best Web Series at the 2018 Toronto Nollywood International Film Festival. Wallace was also accepted into Reelworld’s Emerging 20 and Level UP programs. Currently, he is developing a pair of original TV series and his feature film debut.