Few things galvanize communities like film, art and culture. While some argue that culture can be divisive depending on where you live in the world, when combined with understanding and openness it becomes a very powerful thing that can bring people together. I believe in film and art, and that great films can transform society in a positive way. They can be extraordinary conduits that broaden our collective minds and enhance our overall diversity.
In Toronto, where I live with my family, there was no South Asian film celebration when we started. The City’s motto is Diversity Our Strength because it is one of the most diverse and culturally rich cities in the entire world and thousands of people of South Asian origin live here. I know this because I am someone who is of South Asian origin and while I grew up in the Middle East and Canada, I have experienced the inclusiveness that is cultivated in Canada’s biggest city.
I trained and graduated in Computer Engineering & Technology and then studied Information Technology Management in Toronto. While I learned a great deal about computer engineering and software, I drew core inspiration from my grandfather who taught me the values of hard work, commitment, dedication, focus and building great relationships in my personal and business life. To this day, I hold close the great relationships I have with my family and friends as well as those with whom I work.
It was these relationships and core values from my grandfather that pulled me away from the technology world and toward my love for film. And with the support of my friends and family, I launched the International Indian Film Festival Toronto (IIFFT) in 2012. One day, I would like to see IIFFT grow into a major international festival; a must attend event on the global festival circuit. To become a festival that celebrates Indian arts and culture with our North American brothers and sisters and provides a stage for the work of the incredibly talented people within the Indian and Indian-Canadian film communities.
The festival is growing, and we are getting ready to host the eighth edition from August 9-15. It will be virtual this year as we all adjust to the lasting effects of Covid-19. Despite the change, we continue to receive incredible support from the community, business partners, governments, celebrities, producers and directors. The day will come when the festival can return to a lived and immersive celebration of culture for those in North America to truly understand the enthusiasm and significance we might share for the Indian film industry around the world.
Link to the IIFFT at https://www.iifft.ca/
Malik Ahmad lives in Toronto with his family and is passionate about film and culture. Trained as a computer engineer, he spends his time with family and building the International Film Festival into a true celebration of the Indian film industry in North America.