Sirjana Pant is a founding member of TNFF, and has been with the organization at every turn, from its earliest stage. TNFF began, in her words, as a conversation among some friends all that were interested to “engage in contemporary social issues in Nepal and bring those conversations to the broader community in Toronto.” With a slightly bigger group, they continued discussing a way to deliver “a forum where such a dialogue could take place.” The idea they kept coming back to was to have an event that is both engaging and entertaining. The proposal to have a Nepali film festival was an obvious one. “Independent filmmaking in Nepal was growing,” she says, “in numbers, quality and in terms of highlighting these issues.” All that was left then was the “groundwork,” so “thirty individuals came together to lay the foundation of TNFF and put together the first annual Toronto Nepali Film Festival.”
Since then, Sirjana has held various positions and filled numerous roles for TNFF. She has been involved in nearly every aspect of TNFF. A few include: “mobilizing volunteers, garnering support from businesses and institutions in North America, and establishing relationships with film-related individuals and organizations in Nepal.” The work is always plentiful and the reward just as copious. When asked what she has found most rewarding about her experience in TNFF, she replied that, “the most rewarding aspect of TNFF is getting inspired and energized by fellow volunteers.” She goes on to say TNFF is a real “learning environment,” and it is easy to see why; volunteers of all walks join TNFF and form immediate bonds.
The quality of submissions has made marked improvements every year. The support from the community has been equally valuable. As the years have gone by, the filmmakers have also become more accessible to their viewers. In certain screenings – like the most recent one on Deepak Rauniyar’s Highway – TNFF has provided interactive forums, which are also a crucial addition to the film festivals themselves. According to Sirjana, the growth has been “continuous” both in TNFF’s support of independent filmmaking – through honorariums and awards like the Nepal International Indigenous Film Festival (NIIFF) – and the growth of the organization itself, through the support of its viewers and volunteers. With this growth, TNFF has also been able to gain exposure for otherwise marginalized groups and filmmakers. When asked what she wanted for the future of TNFF, her cheery reply was, “more engagement and entertainment for our audience!” and “engag[ing] in dialogues with the audience about the various issues.” For its future, she hopes for a “25th Annual Toronto Nepali Film Festival and more;” the “more” being additional years than the current five, as well as an aspiration for Toronto being an agent and advocate for similar festivals in more North American cities. For now, the passion and dedication that started this organization will sustain this organization well into its coming years.
- SWIKAR OLI