Present yourself with respect and dignity – Tonya Williams

Canada is celebrating the first-ever annual Gender Equality Week from September 23 – 29, 2018. At Namaste Newsline, we take pride in supporting women’s causes and empowering women. As part of our initiatives, we had an opportunity to speak with one of Toronto’s very successful woman entrepreneur, who has been making a huge impact in the society for over a decade.

Tonya Williams, Founder, Executive and Artistic Director of ‘ReelWorld Film Festival’, says that Gender Equality is something she grew up with, everyday of her life. She calls out to all women to take this week to reflect on what they have accomplished and not to think that they are disempowered. Especially, with regards to sexual harassment issues that came forth last year, Tonya says that how women present themselves confidently and professionally will contribute hugely towards their success.

A WIFT-T Crystal Award recipient, Tonya Williams has established herself as a force to be reckoned with. Always fearless, in 1979 she was one of the first black actresses to break into mainstream Canadian television. She is best known for her twenty year starring role as “Dr. Olivia Barber Winters” on the popular daytime drama The Young and The Restless which airs in over 60 countries and has garnered her two Emmy Nominations and numerous national and international awards, including two NAACP Image Awards and an ACTRA award of excellence.

With over forty years in the entertainment industry, she has worked in front and behind the cameras. Through her production company, Wilbo Entertainment, she has been both producer and director, and for five years Tonya sat on the Toronto Film Board where she worked tirelessly at creating more opportunities for emerging talent. Tonya Williams is a passionate, tenacious advocate for filmmakers of colour around the world.

In 2001, she created the Reelworld Film Festival as a powerful means of empowering racially diverse emerging talent in Canada. Now in its 18th year, Reelworld has launched the careers of hundreds of racially diverse artists and continues to be a launching pad for talent in all areas of the entertainment industry.

The theme for this year’s Festival will be no different than the previous years, she says. “Our purpose is to give opportunity to racially diverse filmmakers, more so to those who are of Canadian origin”.

Reelworld’s Industry Panels which are free to attend, create networking and professional development opportunities for emerging and underrepresented filmmakers and storytellers. Our focus this year is on FILMMAKERS, WRITERS, FUNDING, and THE PITCH. Each stream will feature sessions with industry leaders through case studies, panels, and talks at the Toronto Reference Library. Please visit their website to register for these sessions.

The Opening Night will feature the film ‘Roobha’ at the Glenn Gould Studio on October 9th and ‘3 seconds Divorce’ will also be playing with other films during the  Festival from  October 10th to the 14th  at Famous Players Canada Square Cinema. Tickets can be purchased at

The Festival ‘s closing night will feature ‘Circle of Steel’ and an Awards Ceremony.  The Reelworld Visionary Award celebrates remarkable individuals whose passion and determination continue to make a significant contribution to Canadian film and television. Their lifelong dedication to the arts has opened doors for diverse artists and forever changed the Canadian entertainment landscape.

​This year Reelworld recognizes Frances-Anne’s tremendous achievements as both a filmmaker and an advocate for artists of colour in the entertainment industry.

For decades she has steadfastly helped young artists believe that they have the power to bring about social change within themselves. Her festival,Caribbean Tales has shone a spotlight on the diversity of the Caribbean diaspora and strengthened the Canadian media industry.Her work as a director, writer, and producer has touched us all. Frances-Anne’s work is heartfelt and powerful. It has and continues to play a vital role in carving out a space for underrepresented voices and important conversations.

Tonya urges our readers to come out and watch meaningful films which are not commercialized, and they don’t get to watch on T.V and mainstream channels. Let’s celebrate together! Kudos Tonya Williams, Namaste Newline’s Woman of the Week!



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