Meet the executive director of Regent Park's free community film festival

Heading into its 18th year, Regent Park Film Festival is Toronto's longest-running free community film festival. Get to know Angela Britto, the Executive Director of the festival on why she's passionate about her role.

Angela Britto is the Executive Director of the Regent Park Film Festival

Regent Park Film Festival Executive Director Angela Britto (Ramya Jegatheesan)

The Regent Park Film Festival is heading into its 18th year as Toronto's longest-running free community film festival. Offering a variety of programming year-round from screenings to panels and workshops, the festival supports local talent and provides an opportunity for the community to come together to celebrate film. Angela Britto is the Executive Director of the Regent Park Film Festival. We spoke to her about her passion for the role, and what it's like to pivot a festival online amidst the pandemic.

Angela Britto
Executive Director, Regent Park Film Festival
Toronto, ON

All responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Tell us about yourself.

I'm a first generation Tamil woman, writer and arts administrator in Toronto. I've been the Executive Director of the Regent Park Film Festival since August 2019. I've previously worked in arts non-profits and for the provincial government in various roles. I have a MA in English from the University of Pennsylvania and my writing was most recently in The Unpublished City II (2018), a collection of creative nonfiction. While my journey to where I am now has been anything but linear, I've been lucky to build on my interests in diaspora, access, community and storytelling throughout my education, work, and writing. 

What's the best thing about your role as Executive Director of the festival?

Angela at the Regent Park Film Festival in 2019 (Kshiteej Sawhney)

I love what I do because I get to be creative, analytical, independent and community-engaged. I am able to turn my values into action, experience powerful art, and collaborate with incredible artists. I get to work with a dedicated team to support and amplify BIPOC filmmakers, stories and audiences. That's really meaningful to me as a racialized woman who rarely saw stories in Canadian media that reflected me and my community growing up. 

What is the biggest lesson you've learned while adapting the festival to the digital space during the pandemic?

As a film festival, we bring large groups of people together to share in the magic of on-screen storytelling. As a small non-profit organization, we've had to pivot quickly without much of a roadmap. What a year of learnings it's been! Particularly for me as a first-time Executive Director and the new leader of the festival during a pandemic.

We've learned that people still crave community, connection and stories that resonate with their identities and experiences. We've had to grow our technological capacity as an organization and we've learned that a digital festival is just as much work as an in-person event.

Although we've been able to draw wider audiences and provide more flexibility in accessing our content, we've also learned that digital isn't always better. It creates access issues for low-income communities in terms of technology and Internet bandwidth. Since our festival is rooted in Regent Park, the move online has removed local, in-person events that bring people from all walks of life together for shared experiences around art, food and celebration. 

What are you most looking forward to at the festival this year?

I'm looking forward to engaging our key communities in a different way this year, and presenting a solid lineup of films, panels and talkbacks in a new format. Festival Programmer Faduma Gure has curated a fantastic program of films that explore the theme of "Dis-Place." The films highlight BIPOC stories and reference the relationship to the physical space of Regent Park, and the many forms of displacement that its communities have experienced and are navigating. I'm also looking forward to our closing night event, the Emerging Directors' Spotlight and Pitch Competition, where early-career filmmakers get to pitch their next projects for funding. 

Why do you think film is an important medium for sharing community stories?

Farewell Regent by Christene Browne (Submitted by Regent Park Film Festival)

Film is multi-sensory, evocative and cathartic. It's best when experienced collectively. It sparks discussion, and it creates a multi-voiced narrative around specific experiences. As Regent Park undergoes significant change, film becomes a way of preserving and archiving its histories. As seen in Christene Browne's documentary Farewell Regent, screening at this year's festival. The films we show allow BIPOC communities to see themselves represented on and behind the screen.

Anything else you'd like to share?

I think the Festival theme "Dis-Place" also draws attention to the disruption that COVID-19 has made to ways of life, as well as our way of doing things at the festival. I'm looking forward to sense of accomplishment our team will feel after putting together an entire festival while working remotely, with most of us never having met in person! I'm immensely proud of what we've been able to accomplish together. 

Regent Park Film Festival takes place virtually from November 26-29, 2020 (Submitted by Regent Park Film Festival)

The 18th Annual Regent Park Film Festival runs November 26-29 online. It is Toronto's longest running free community film festival in Canada's largest and oldest public housing neighbourhood. For more information on Regent Park Film Festival, visit the website here. 

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