Shirley Cheechoo Receives Reelworld Award
(October 8, 2020 – Toronto, ON) The Reelworld Film Festival has named Dr. Shirley Cheechoo as their 2020 Reelworld Visionary Award recipient. The Reelworld Visionary Award honours industry leaders who have dedicated decades toward changing the face of the Canadian entertainment industry through advocating, creating spaces, and pushing boundaries.
Dr. Shirley Cheechoo, a Cree filmmaker, actor, writer, and visual artist, made her directorial debut in 1998 and is revered as the first Indigenous woman to write, produce, and direct a dramatic feature film in Canada for her film Bearwalker, which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. This film also opened Reelworld’s inaugural 2001 festival where Dr. Cheechoo won the Best Director award.
Reelworld’s Executive Director Tonya Williams shared her thoughts on the honouree, saying, “I saw Shirley Cheechoo’s film back in 2000 and was shocked that no film festival in Canada accepted to screen it even though it had screened at Cannes. These kinds of microaggressions towards Canadian Black, Indigenous, People of Colour artists in Canada is the motivation behind me creating Reelworld. Her powerful film set the standard and beacon for the festival ever since, especially as Shirley has always used her talent to bring attention to the issues of her community and continues to teach and mentor so many Indigenous youth on how to take their authentic voices and speak truth to their experiences.”
Realizing the lack of opportunity for Indigenous youth who were interested in getting into the industry, Dr. Cheechoo created the Weengushk Film Institute, a non-profit, charitable organization dedicated to exclusively supporting the creative works and pursuits of Indigenous artists. WFI provides Indigenous creatives with a space to explore storytelling through film, develop their craft, and engage in community-based learning processes while receiving proper representation in the media arts. The contributions Dr. Cheechoo has made to the film industry are monumental– she has opened doors for the Indigenous community to have more opportunities to thrive in the industry.
Dr. Cheechoo expressed her thoughts on being this year’s award recipient in saying: “It is an honour to be recognized by The Reelworld Film Festival and Reelworld Screen Institute for the second time, but this time as a Visionary. I believe that film is one of the most powerful vehicles for bringing people together and materializing the social change we desperately need in our industry.”
The Reelworld Film Festival will congratulate Dr. Shirley Cheechoo on her award on October 19th at 12OM EST, during a One-on-One industry webinar panel with Dr. Shirley Cheechoo. All of Reelworld’s industry webinar panels are free of charge and accessible worldwide. Click here for more information.
Also see: Dr. Shirley Cheechoo’s filmography.