COMMFFEST Uses Film, Art and Music to Educate on Tolerance

Jun 1, 2021 by

Sandie de Freitas is the founder and president of Commffest Global Community Film Festival, an organization she started in 2005 after working in film distribution and seeing a great number of “unappreciated films” made by independent filmmakers being shelved.

Now in its 16th year in downtown Toronto, the festival she created includes Commffest Radio, an online radio show that speaks to the community on social and relevant issues as well as interviewing filmmakers, musicians and artists. In 2011, Commffest World Music along with the Commffest Art Exhibition was launched. Coming from the island of Antigua & Barbuda in the West Indies, she started the annual Commffest film festival in 2019 for youth, drawing numerous schools from across the island. Her first feature length film, St Lawrence, is currently in production.

The Global Search for Education welcomes Sandie de Freitas

What would you say distinguishes COMMFFEST from other global Film Festivals?  

What distinguishes us from other film festivals is staying true to our mandate. Commffest is about bringing global communities together using film, art and music to educate us on our differences and similarities while shining a light on human conditions that are less known yet critical to our well-being.  

We are most proud of our interactive panel discussions allowing filmmakers and community stakeholders e.g. to engage in dialogue with the audience members. 

These panel discussions create dynamic conversations that lead to an exchange of ideas and changes of attitudes. In addition, our prestigious MADA ‘making a difference award’ is given to filmmakers and artists whose works champion and reflect the issues of the communities they represent.

The pandemic changed the world.  What do you see as the pros and cons of what we continue to live through today and may continue to live with in the foreseeable future?

If we look at world history, we can clearly see that changes occur after pandemics and it is up to the individual to see this as an opportunity for growth by adapting to change. This latest pandemic gave rise to online events, increasing opportunities for all creators/messengers to reach a wider and more diverse audience, and in some way leveled the playing field between big business versus small and grassroots organizations. This is an opportunity for government and big business to ensure that rural and marginalized communities have access to modern technology. 

Remote and live streamed events will be the norm but can work successfully alongside live, staged and outdoor concerts once the pandemic is controlled.

Commffest Stories – What criteria do you look for when you select a story to showcase on Commffest?  What does a Commffest film teach us?

Commffest selects films that have positive messages or highlight specific issues affecting global communities that offer the opportunity for audience engagement and education while being entertained. These films can be presented in any genre.

Commffest will be an online media platform that combines live talk content  featuring guest speakers from around the world as well as an annual weekend event in Toronto combining film and panel discussions. 

What does the future look like for Commffest?  Where do you hope to go next?

For the last 16 years, Commffest has successfully worked hard to inspire and support national and international amateur and professional people, be it in film, music, art or theatre. Several feature events happen during the year such as workshops, conferences or variety shows, culminating around September – October with the annual Global Community Film Festival, which now happens live online because of the Pandemic.  Over time, Commffest has developed good relationships with many community groups, business organizations, volunteers, and the many filmmakers whose films were promoted that further helped their careers. The prestigious MADA award (Making A Difference Award) ceremony is an annual event awarding the best in several categories. The bright future with Commffest is concentrating on feeding a growing hungry audience by increasing online presence with updated and interesting content that includes new educating and inspiring films, provocative debates, music shows, workshop programmes for youth and more. When the pandemic is over and people are allowed to attend live events, Commffest will be amongst the first to present one.

Sandie de Freitas and C.M. Rubin

Commffest is a curator for the Planet Classroom Network. Don’t miss Swimming Upstream, now screening on the Planet Classroom Network YouTube Channel

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