York U. Alumna launches first Regent Park Film Festival


TORONTO, November 13, 2003 -- Film festivals are usually associated with the red carpets of Cannes, Sundance and the Toronto International Film Festival. Chandra Siddan, a recent graduate of York University’s Faculty of Education (BEd ‘03), wants to show that Toronto’s Regent Park community is an equally colourful venue to hold a film festival.


To celebrate the diversity of one of Toronto’s most vibrant communities, Siddan organized the Regent Park Film Festival which runs next Thursday, Nov. 20 to Saturday, Nov. 22.


In addition to films and documentaries made by South Asia filmmakers – this year’s inaugural theme – the Festival will also screen films made by Regent Park residents themselves.


Chandra  SiddanHaving recently immigrated to Toronto, Siddan was struck by the need for cultural events for new immigrants. “The perspectives of newcomers to Canada are usually left out in the cold, even in a culturally rich and diverse city as Toronto,” says Siddan. “Immigrants fall back on cultural products from the countries they left behind, none of which address the issues that made them leave their countries in the first place. Here they are confronted by a sophisticated media establishment that sells products, unrealistic fantasies of social mobility and the ‘American way of life’.”


She adds, “The Regent Park Film Festival is a grassroots attempt to break the sense of alienation and isolation felt by many newcomers. We are bringing multiculturalism into the realm of popular immigrant discourse and a dissemination of thought-provoking ideas through film.”


The impetus for the Festival came when Siddan was enrolled in the Bachelor of Education Program at York’s Regent Park teacher education site. She garnered the support of the local community as well as her instructor Jeff Kugler, principal of Nelson Mandela Park Public School, who offered his school as the venue for the event, and Prof. Harry Smaller who garnered broadly-based support from the University.


Smaller says, "York is a leader in teaching students about the new realities of the urban classroom. We are proud that our Regent Park site is able to work in partnership with the community and people like Chandra Siddan.”


Siddan was born in Bangalore, India where she studied English Literature. She studied filmmaking in New York and worked on several short films and a documentary in Germany. She has lived in Toronto since 2000 and continues to pursue film projects and write.


The Regent Park Film Festival is being organized with the support of several York University departments and programs (the Faculty of Education, the Faculty of Arts program in South Asian Studies, and the Center for Asian Research), the Nelson Mandela Park Public School, Regent Park Focus, Regent Park Resident Council, SAVAC (South Asian Visual Artists Collective), and SALDA (South Asian Left Democratic Alliance).


Information about Festival screenings is available at: www.regentparkfilmfestival.com.




For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:


Ken Turriff

Media Relations

York University

416-736-2100, ext. 22086