Reelworld Film Festival: Harnessing the Power of Film as a Force for Social Good

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The annual Reelworld Film Festival is taking place at The Harbourfront Centre from Oct. 12–16th. They’ll be showing tons of films about compelling issues and each film will have an opportunity to connect with organizations who are working on issues on the ground. You can watch films about the Syrian refugee crisis and then connect with organizations like Lifeline Syria. You can check out a film about the ivory trade with WCS Canada. There is a film about eldercare with The International Federation on Aging. The film Almost Sunrise will also be there with Wounded Warriors Canada!

The list of films with a cause is extensive – check it out! Make sure you use The Fair Trade Show discount code FTS10 for 10% off of festival passes.

If you attended our previous Fair Trade Show in June then you probably noticed the virtual reality set-up at Reelworld’s booth. They were showing the very powerful short, Clouds Over Sidra, about a 12 year old Syrian girl living in a refugee camp in Jordan. Hopefully you got the chance to experience the film yourself and to understand how powerful these visual stories can be.

 

 

We asked Sarah Mortimer, Reelworld’s Communications Coordinator, to tell us a bit more about their motivations

Tell us a bit about Reelworld and what you are aiming to do.

Reelworld Film Festival is a social impact film festival based in Toronto, Ontario. Now in our 16th year, we’re dedicated to harnessing the power of film as a force for social good. Through our programming, we work to connect inspired people to inspired partners and films. We screen films about pressing social issues like immigration, conservation, the refugee crisis and more. Our main goal is help you bridge the gap between feeling inspired by what you see in a theatre and taking direct action. After our screenings, we help connect audiences with non-profit partners, activists, and people who are on the ground making change so that you can make a difference too!

 

What was the inspiration behind the Reelworld Film Festival?

The story that helped our Executive Director, Gave Lindo, really understand the potential social impact of film is a documentary called Almost Sunrise. Almost Sunrise follows two veterans suffering from suicidal thoughts and depression as they walk from Wisconsin to California. They meet lots of other vets and mental health care professionals along the way and meditate on this idea of moral injury. Moral injury is different from PTSD which is very fear-based – instead it’s the feeling of despair you get when you’ve done something that goes against your own moral code. Gave was at a pitch session in Chicago when he learned about the film and what really struck him was how many people – ordinary citizens – could relate to the film and were rallying behind it. Former soldiers, families and friends truly believed it was the film that could save lives. Almost Sunrise had a really successful impact campaign – through post-screening meditation sessions and outreach they really were helping to make a difference in communities. So that’s what Reelworld is working to help important films do. We want to use films to help ignite change.

At The Fair Trade Show, we use the power of storytelling to inspire and activate citizens. The media impacts the world every day but it’s up to us to choose what kind of media we want to consume. If you love eye-opening films and shorts, this is one festival you don’t want to miss!

Soul Woven: From Guatemala to Canada, a True Family Business

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“The path that lead me towards founding Soul Woven was a winding road,” states Claire Levick, the founder of fair trade fashion company Soul Woven. It was her mix of interests, frustrations and desires that led her to take a risk, commit to her values and start a fashion business that stood for ethical and fair practices. Soul Woven is a fair trade fashion collection curating traditional Mayan creativity into innovative, modern design by working directly with a number of different artisan groups in Guatemala.

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Who are the people behind Soul Woven?

“My mom and I are very grateful for the relationship we have with our artisans. We take pride in the friendships we have cultivated over the small amount of time that Soul Woven has existed. A great part of Guatemala’s culture is devoted to family and it is common for the parameters of ‘family’ to stretch beyond. I learnt that from a direct experience a few years ago.

When my mother came to Guatemala for the first time, I introduced her to Esperanza, Marten and their family – the soul of our boot production.  We were invited to come to their workshop to observe their cobbling process. What we believed to be a short business trip, turned into a day I will never forget for the rest of my life.

When my mother came to Guatemala for the first time, I introduced her to Esperanza, Marten and their family – the soul of our boot production.  We were invited to come to their workshop to observe their cobbling process. What we believed to be a short business trip, turned into a day I will never forget for the rest of my life.

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Christopher, Cobbler
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Sitting in complete and utter shock, both my mom and I sat there feeling our hearts about to explode. Half way through the dance, I stumbled to find my camera to capture a part of this magical moment. When the dance ended, we met the girls individually and learnt that they were all nieces of Esperanza and Marten. Next, they proceeded to teach my mother and I the process of how girls in Guatemala learn to make Huipils and the graduating steps it takes to get there. That day, I grew a profound appreciation and understanding for the talent and lifetime dedication that goes into the creation of a Guatemalan huipil. We then went through the process of boot making with the cobblers. From cutting the pattern pieces and leather skins, to constructing the sole and adding the finishing touches, we learnt in great admiration the steps to completing a handmade pair of boots. The afternoon carried on for a number of hours as the house grew more full of family members, all with a role in the business.

 

Thinking our day was coming to an end and that we would return to our room, exhausted and ready for bed, we were told dinner was going to be served. We insisted, as Canadians do, that they did not need to feed us. And as Guatemalans do, they didn’t listen and sat us down in our seats and didn’t let us get up until the meal was over and table cleared. The meal that followed was one of the best meals I have ever had. Handmade tamales started us off as they were passed around the table. The main course was a traditional Guatemalan stew called, Pepian. A beautiful array of coriander, cloves and cinnamon, give flavour to a tomato and chili based chicken broth. We were told after the meal that they had butchered one of their chickens for the meal. I am still at a loss for words when I talk to Esperanza about that night and the symbolism of their gift that day. The evening ended with many hugs and an agreement that our relationship was not only business, not only friendship, but family. I am forever grateful to be able to have begun a business based on these values and I hope to continue to grow Soul Woven in the same way forever.”

Check out Soul Woven at www.soulwoven.ca and follow them on Facebook and Instagram

You can also watch out our interview with Claire below:

Big Village: Supporting Artisans Abroad and Inspiring Global Citizens at Home

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John and Liz Blaauwendraat are on a mission to share their message that “fair business relationships are the best way to effect change towards the challenge of income inequality.”

What was the inspiration that got you into this business?

We had been working with a social entrepreneur on a community development project in Ghana since 2009, and I was able to travel there in 2011 and 2013.  We were involved in fundraising, and had been investing personal resources in the construction of a school in the town of Asamankese.  We were thrilled to see that project completed and classes underway during our visit in ’13, but came to the realization that in order for this to be sustainable, we would have to find a way to use local resources to fund this and other projects.  We could see that there were so many wonderful products being made in Ghana that could be brought to Western markets, and started working on a strategy to use these products to bless projects in that country.

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The family business not only sells handmade products from Ghana, but they also commit to teaching the next generation about fair trade. John and Liz, along with their daughter Avery and son Anders, have developed a series of presentations that they take around to different students in grades 2, 6 and 10. These interactive presentations focus on the fair trade principles and how they tie in to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Along with fueling the next generation of changemakers, they also connect with students creative side by conducting a bracelet making workshop using their recycled glass beads.

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Weaving baskets in Bolgatanga, Ghana

How is Big Village impacting the world?

We use the baskets and beads as practical examples when we introduce topics such as recycling, cultural identity, social justice, and sustainability to our customers and students.  Our partners in Ghana are models of resourcefulness because they use materials that are readily available to them to make the products.  The baskets are constructed from a special type of grass that grows in abundance in Northern Ghana, and is resilient to the effects of climate change.  The glass beads are made from bottles in the community that were broken and unused.   The workers will gather them from the roadside and they are bring them to the factory to be re-formed into our beads.

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The Blaauwendraat family visiting their partners in Bolgatanga, Ghana

Visiting Ghana in June of 2015 they had an opportunity to meet with their partners. Spending time with the artisans allowed John and Liz to see how they live and work and to get to know their families.  Through a translator John had the opportunity to speak to them about how much Big Village customers love the baskets, I spoke about how our relationship with them is like a basket; each of us is like a blade of grass, and through our partnership we have, through the many connections, become woven together into something that’s strong and beautiful.”

 

Big Village, Big News: Big Village has teamed up with the Stephen Lewis Foundation to sell baskets which will support fundraising for the Grandmothers Campaign! The Grandmothers Campaign supports grandmothers and their communities in Africa as they struggle to care for the millions of children orphaned by AIDS.

Check out Big Village at www.bigvillage.ca and like their Facebook Page!

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John at The Fair Trade Show in June 2016 at Heritage Court, Enercare Centre
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Liz and John at The Fair Trade Show in June 2016 at Heritage Court, Enercare Centre