Regina International Film Festival and Awards

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A photo of a person sitting on a chair being filmed by another person on a TV camera.
Paving the way for progress through film! Sepehr Rahmati

A review of the event’s importance and opportunities

by sepehr rahmati, contributor

It’s a great time to be a film student at the University of Regina (U of R) and an international filmmaker in Canada. 

As an Iranian international student and filmmaker, I am always looking for opportunities to further dive into Canadian culture and make connections in the local film industry.  

The U of R is an amazing resource for film and filmmaking. I have met many talented local artists in the film production program I am enrolled in, but what I really want to talk about is the great opportunities provided by the Regina International Film Festival and Awards (RIFFA).  

Every year, filmmakers across Canada – top film directors, actors, producers, and other industry leaders – come to Regina, Saskatchewan for the major event. It’s the place to be for any filmmaker.  

After all I had heard about RIFFA, I really wanted to be involved with this festival. Ever since I came to Regina in 2021, I wished to attend a Canadian film festival as a filmmaker. Then, last year, I was invited to speak at the event by RIFFA Media Relations Manager, Amir Said. 

Said has a large network of people in Regina to invite when it comes to film and arts. That’s why when he reached out to ask me to speak at one of the film screenings he organized, it was an honour. I felt honoured to have my work recognized by an international festival here in Canada, as I have been an artist and a filmmaker for my entire life.  

My projects were mainly produced in countries outside Canada but I have worked on productions here in Regina, as well as other areas in Canada such as Alberta and the Yukon. I was not expecting my international projects to make such an impact with a Canadian audience, and being invited to attend such a festival as a filmmaker and speaker really did feel special. 

The event that I got to speak at was the Global Citizen film screening event at last year’s festival, the first of its kind to be held at the festival. Said organized the event last year for RIFFA to raise awareness on serious international issues. 

“Thanks to the Global Citizen film series, we put the international in Regina International Film Festival and Awards,” said Said. 

Said had wanted to organize this first ever Global Citizen film series because he wanted to put international issues in front of Canadian audiences. “I’m a relative newcomer to Canada myself, I came to Regina in 2018. I’ve done so much research into Canada’s issues, like its municipal problems, provincial problems, and federal problems, and the world’s problems as seen in many countries and states overseas.”  

Said continued, saying, “I’ve traveled the world, bearing witness to the world’s issues firsthand in places like impoverished Europe, the Middle East, even the poor conditions in some First Nations communities right here in this country. I think many Canadian audiences take for granted a lot of issues they deal with because, believe me, there are some serious issues going on in the world. War. Famine. Disease outbreaks. The list goes on, and that’s what I wanted to showcase with my Global Citizen film series last year.” 

It was heartwarming to see that fellow immigrants like Said and the other organizers of the festival were also newcomers to Canada. As a first generation immigrant, I am always reassured when I learn the success stories of other immigrants such as myself. I am proud of my Persian blood, and I am proud to be a new Canadian as well. 

“It’s just so important that new Canadians like us celebrate this country and our place here while keeping in touch with our ethnic backgrounds and heritage. I really do think Canada is the best country in the world, but I’ll never forget my roots,” said Said. 

Said wanted me to speak at the event because he was familiar with my work and because he knew some of my life story. He knew that I had been a witness to many international issues all over the world such as war, censorship, and many other things. He had also seen me perform in Regina and was impressed with my performance and love for local arts. 

I always had a vision as an international filmmaker trying to make an impact in Canada. To be invited to speak at a prestigious film festival like RIFFA was a great opportunity for me to make an impact. I had a vision, but it was truly mind blowing how fast I was able to achieve success in Canada. It shows hope for Canada and the international students like me. 

RIFFA is giving international students a platform to speak about serious issues. I am honored that I was able to speak at the festival’s first Global Citizen event. I hope that more students will attend the festival this year to meet industry experts and leaders in filmmaking. 

For me as a filmmaker and a student, I think that any student looking for more experience in film should look into the Regina International Film Festival & Awards as it is an amazing way to get some hands-on experience with film, and showcasing a film for a professional audience. 

The 2024 film festival is happening August 20-24 in Regina, and anybody interested in film or looking for ways to get more involved can find more information at riffa.ca 

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