Cameron Bailey’s name is synonymous with the Canadian film industry.
As the Artistic Director of the Toronto International Film Festival—a title he’s held for just under a decade, following 11 years spent as a programmer with the festival—Cameron has elevated TIFF to the stature of its eminent French counterpart across the pond in Cannes.
A Canadian cinephile—by way of London and Barbados—Cameron has drawn on his library of knowledge to shape an inclusive platform for filmmakers around the globe, while simultaneously amplifying Canada’s reputation for producing poignant and innovative films that depict the rich diversity of our country.
Though his history with TIFF is extensive (dating to 1990) and his critical expertise on film is evident from the years he spent as a writer and broadcaster on the subject for media outlets including CBC Radio One, the root of his curatorial efforts is more personal than professional, sown from Cameron’s own experience growing up as a viewer. “Media diversity and media literacy hit close to home for me,” he says. “Growing up in Canada, I never read a book or watched a film or TV show that reflected my experience.”
As the architect of TIFF’s cultural mosaic, Cameron upholds a mandate to encompass a spectrum of voices in the festival’s selection of gala presentations—rather than treating anything outside the realm of red carpet films as an appendage. Beyond the festival, he is shaping the future of inclusivity within the industry through teaching. An instructor in film curation at the University of Toronto, Cameron also sits on the Advisory Council for Western University’s School for Arts and Humanities, in addition to racking up guest speaker miles from jaunts that range between Canadian universities to the Smithsonian Institution.
“Now, with so much more film and TV being projected at us from every screen, it’s even more important that young people learn how to navigate the persuasive power of moving images, and how to take those tools into their own hands,” he explains. “That’s a part of what we do at TIFF, and I want to make it even bigger.”
The arts thrive on diversity: the beauty of different perspectives, the insight garnered from other cultures, the unity found in embracing stories unlike your own. The same can be said of diversity in Canada, as Cameron suggests when asked what line in Canada’s anthem stands out to him. “Has to be ‘from far and wide,’ Canada’s indigenous people have welcomed and hosted people coming from far and wide for hundreds of years. That generosity is humbling. So is what each new generation of migrants continues to contribute to Canada.”
Read on to learn why Cameron believes in widening your world view by engaging the diversity of communities in Canada.
Why is “we” stronger than “me?”
You can change your thoughts, your emotions and your beliefs, but until you act, your change is limited to you alone. “We” amplifies the change you make.
What is the kindest action you’ve been on the receiving end of recently, and what about the gesture touched you personally?
The gestures that touch me most always come from my son. He can share some of his sandwich with me and my heart melts.
Describe the core values of your ideal Canada.
We stay curious about each other. We learn. We keep our eyes open to each other and to the world.
What small action have you taken in present day to help secure a brighter future for our country tomorrow?
I try to be more vocal in advocating for change. I try to remind myself and others that our time is limited and we should use it to make positive change as best we can.
Nominate one person you believe is working to positively change the future of Canada.
Mustafa the Poet is the young person I’m most impressed with lately. Big heart, big soul, hugely expressive mind and voice.
As we work to make Canada a better country, what is one action you would like people to take?
Get out of your enclave and mix it up. Too many of us fall into social circles where everyone around us thinks, talks and even looks like us. Canada’s genius is its diversity, but that works best when we know each other up close.