News & Updates

Announcing the 2024 Unsung Voices Participants

21 May, 2024

The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival is excited to announce this year’s Unsung Voices participants! The Unsung Voices: Summer Youth Video Production Workshop will offer young Asian Canadians with a keen interest in film and media art the opportunity to express themselves as artists, learn from industry professionals, and produce a distinct story centred around this year’s theme of ‘hope.’ The films created will have their world premiere at the 28th Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival in November 2024.

Read more about the selected participants below!

Meet the 2024 Cohort

Assel Akhmetova

Assel Akhmetova (she/her) is a Kazakh Toronto-based editor and director, with a passion for writing and a curiosity for exploring new ways of cinema.

Her most recent directorial work, I Want To Live (2024), has premiered in New York and Vienna, and is currently playing at festivals around the world. She also directed a short documentary, Male Gazed (2022), and wrote a feature screenplay, When Peonies Bloom (2023), which she pitched at Hot Docs TED Rogers Cinema.

Assel Akhmetova is a BA in Film and Media Production, a lifelong learner, and a multidisciplinary art enthusiast.

Instagram: hypnavision

Ellen Yuna Ahn

Ellen Yuna Ahn is an emerging Korean-Canadian filmmaker based in Toronto. Drawing from her background in performance art and theatre directing, Ellen is drawn to stories that delve into intimate character studies and explore abstract concepts. In her own work, she endeavours to craft compassionate narratives that navigate the delicate balance between tragedy and hope, avoiding the inclination to favour one over the other.

With experience in production, editing, and directing gained from her time in both London (UK) and Toronto (CAN), Ellen brings a versatile skill set to her projects. Currently, she is working in post-production on feature films whilst actively pursuing her passion for writing and directing.

Instagram: ellen.yuna

shelly bahng

shelly seo bang is a Korean cis queer woman writer, poet, and community builder based in Tio’Tia: Ke (Montréal). She is committed to exploring togetherness and aloneness. She is a part of Pan Asian Collective.

Instagram: humflow

Sofia Habib

Sofia Habib is an Afghan actor, writer, and arts worker based in Ontario. She performs both on stage and screen and has played the lead role in two films that premiered at Reel Asian Film Festival. Sofia will take the stage this June at The Theatre Centre. Sofia is a graduate of University of Toronto’s History of Art program as well as Humber College’s Arts Administration & Cultural Management program. In 2024, Sofia founded Peaks Central Asian Film Festival, a festival dedicated to highlighting Central Asian film and filmmakers. With an upbringing that bridges Eastern and Western cultures, Sofia often thinks about cultural identity, family dynamics, and self-discovery. For her filmmaking debut at Unsung Voices 13 she aims to explore just that, marking a significant step in her artistic journey.

Instagram: sofiahabib, peaksfilmfestival

Liam Ma

Liam Ma (he/him) is an award-winning actor and filmmaker currently based on the unceded and ancestral territories of the xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish) and səlilwətaɬ (Tseil-Waututh) peoples, known as Vancouver. His work has been shown globally, premiering at the Cannes International Series Festival, Stareable Fest NYC, Sydney Web Fest, and the Canadian Film Fest. His practice examines human psychology, diasporic grief, and queer futurism.

Instagram: liamalekma

Lee Nisar

Lee Nisar is a Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker, writer, and photographer living and working in Toronto, Canada. Their work explores issues related to intergenerational curses, queerness, and absurdity. Heavily inspired by horror and poetry, they seek to use multimedia tools to navigate various perspectives. When not working on their own projects, Lee enjoys karaoke, trying out new recipes, and annoying their cat.

Instagram: leekzoup

Meet the 2024 Mentors

Shant Joshi

Shant Joshi is an award-winning producer and president of Fae Pictures, based in New York and Toronto, on a mission to decolonize Hollywood. His credits include award winners at Sundance (Framing Agnes), Red Sea (In Flames), Iris Prize (Scaring Women at Night), Durban (Runs in the Family), premieres at Cannes, Toronto, Canneseries (Streams Flow From A River), Aspen (I Live Here), Palm Springs (Diaspora), Hot Docs, Black Star (Noor and Layla), Bentonville, and BFI London, and nominees for the Canadian Screen Awards (Queen Tut). He was also an executive producer on Nisha Pahuja’s Academy Award ® nominated film To Kill A Tiger, an impact producer on John Greyson’s TEDDY Award-winning film International Dawn Chorus Day, and an associate producer on Ingrid Veninger’s Canadian Screen Award-nominated film Porcupine Lake.

Shant currently sits on CMPA’s Restructuring, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Action Committee, and previously was Co-Chair of the BIPOC TV & Film Board, and co-founder of the Future of Film Showcase.

He is an alum of the Canadian Film Centre, Rotterdam Lab, and Osgoode Hall Law School, and was named a MIPTV Producer to Watch, Reelworld Trailblazer, nominated for an Indiescreen Award, and to York University’s Top 30 Changemakers under 30.

Ashley Duong

Ashley Da-Lê Duong (she/her) is a filmmaker based in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal. Her directorial debut, A TIME TO SWIM, won the Best First Feature Film at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival 2018. As CALQ x Villa Saigon’s Quebec Artist Laureate in Vietnam, she is developing her second feature-length project, a hybrid documentary about her father’s memoir. Ashley has also directed for several series, including INSIDE FELIX & PAUL STUDIOS and CBC ARTS. Recently, Ashley wrote and directed the TV hour-long documentary, SPACE EXPLORERS: MOONRISE ON THE ISS. With over 250 hours of footage filmed on the International Space Station, SPACE EXPLORERS is the largest production ever filmed in space. Ashley is a member of Brown Girl Doc Mafia, BIPOC TV & Film, and has served on the Board of Directors of the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) Quebec. Ashley grew up in Calgary, on the traditional territories of the people of the Treaty 7 region. With a BA in Environment Studies and Cultural Studies from McGill University, Ashley specializes in stories about relationships between humanity and the natural world.

Ammar Keshodia
Filmmaker & Curator

Ammar Keshodia is a Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker and curator based in Toronto. He currently serves as a Programming Associate at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and has previously worked at festivals such as SXSW, the Victoria Film Festival, and the Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival. Ammar holds a degree in Political Science and Cinema Studies from the University of Toronto. He has written for publications like Bright Wall/Dark Room, NANG Magazine, and Peephole Journal, and his film work has been supported by the Canada Council for the Arts.

Jay Wu
Creative Producer, Writer & Director

Jay (they/them) is a queer Hong Kong-Canadian creative producer and writer/director. They currently lead development at LaRue Entertainment, building out the company’s slate of series and features. From 2021 to 2023, Jay was a development executive at Bell Media where they developed both comedy and drama for network CTV and streamer Crave including SULLIVAN’S CROSSING (CTV/The CW), CTV’s #1 hit drama for 2023. As a writer/director, their work has screened at festivals internationally including Wicked Queer Boston, Inside Out Toronto, Vancouver Asian Film Festival, Asian CineVision, Image+Nation Montreal, and North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival. Their most recent short TOE THE LINE (2021) was also nominated for a Golden Sheaf for Scripted Short at Yorkton Film Festival 2022. Their first feature film, YO WE’RE DYING, is co-directed/written by Keisha Phoenixx and was selected for Telefilm’s feature production program Talent to Watch 2023. It is being produced by Fonna Seidu’s Snail Mail Media.

Christopher Yip
Writer & Director

Christopher Yip (he/him) is a queer Chinese Canadian writer director based in Toronto whose works examine religion, family, and sexuality through a distinct diasporic lens. He is a participant of the Warner Bros. Discovery Access x Canadian Academy Director’s Program for 2023-2024 and was most recently nominated for two Canadian Screen Awards. His series Streams Flow From a River, produced by Fae Pictures, premiered at the Cannes International Series Festival and is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video and Apple TV in Canada. His latest film FISH BOY had its World Premiere at the BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival, was 1 of 8 projects selected for the Frameline Completion Fund, and is continuing its international award-winning festival run. Christopher is represented by Jennifer Irons at META Talent Agency.

Aisha Jamal
Filmmaker & Film Programmer

Aisha Jamal is a filmmaker and film programmer, based in Toronto. Aisha’s feature documentary debut A KANDAHAR AWAY, about her family’s connection to the small Saskatchewan, Canada hamlet of Kandahar, premiered in 2019 at the Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival in Toronto, Canada. Her previous short films include the award-winning THE LONG WAY HOME (2017) and SEEDS OF THE PAST (2015). She recently directed, co-produced and co-wrote the eleven part doc web series HOW WE DIE, rethinking our relationship to death and dying. Her latest short film FIELD NOTES (2023) about a bird advocate premiered at Hot Docs 2023. She is currently working on her second feature documentary.

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