Feature Interview – Executive Director Mariam Zaidi

We at Breakthroughs Film Festival are thrilled to introduce our brand-new Executive Director, Mariam Zaidi, who will lead us in championing the work of emerging women filmmakers. That is, and has been our mandate here at BFF for the last seven years, and we are just getting started.

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If you haven’t met Mariam yet, well, saddle up and get ready to hear a list of wonderful and exciting accomplishments this young woman has had already in her young life, with a whole heck of a lot more to come, that’s for sure.

Mariam is a South Asian filmmaker and arts manager who is based in Toronto, Canada. Her film work focuses on cinematic, character-driven stories that often explore the experiences of people from her South Asian community.

Mariam's work has been funded and supported by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), Liaison of Independent Filmmakers of Toronto, Ontario Arts Council, Canada Arts Council, and BravoFACT! Foundation to Assist Canadian Talent, and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).

She was the associate producer on multiple award-winning documentaries, including Migrant Dreams, which was a 2017 Sydney Hillman Prize winner for Journalism; Top 10 film at the 2017 Hot Docs Canadian International Film Festival; nominated in 2018 for the biggest documentary achievement in Canada – the Donald Brittain Award for best Social/Political Documentary.

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More recently, Mariam directed the short film, Over Time, which premiered at the  21st Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival. Both the Directors Guild of Canada (DGC) and Women in Film and Television (WIFT-T) are given an opportunity during this festival to award a Best Film, and Mariam’s Over Time took the honours.

Alongside her independent film work, Mariam has held multiple positions at local arts organizations and festivals including the Canadian Filmmakers Distribution Centre, Regent Park Film Festival, European Union Film Festival, and Images Festival.

She currently holds the position of Associate Programmer at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival.

“We’re in a pivotal time in the history of cinema,” says an emphatic Mariam, “a time where women have emerged as a dominant and unabashed force in filmmaking. We are standing up, raising our voices and breaking barriers that never should have been there in the first place. Women in film are increasingly unafraid, and by virtue of that boldness, cementing our positions in the larger narrative of cinematic history.

“This is why Breakthroughs is such an important film festival, and why I am proud to join the team this year. We’re an organization that exclusively rewards and celebrates women directors who produce work in a variety of storytelling styles from fiction to documentary, animation to experimental, and far beyond.

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“The celebration of women is crucial in our industry, especially in times like these. It is also equally important for us to make genuine efforts to move beyond mere recognition and to practice active inclusion. We need to ensure that our goals of representation include folks who identify as Black, Indigenous, and women of colour, as well as those who come from varied economic.”

And that is our new fearless leader. If you think these last seven years were great, wait for each new year about to outshine the others like you’ve never seen.