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Film Festival: Sarnia native aims to encourage young filmmakers

Tara Jeffrey Ravi Srinivasan wants to inspire a new generation of filmmakers in Sarnia-Lambton.
Ravi Srinivasan, right, hosts a Q&A with actor/writer Don McKellar at the Toronto International Film Festival. Photo courtesy, Adelle Taylor

Tara Jeffrey

Ravi Srinivasan wants to inspire a new generation of filmmakers in Sarnia-Lambton.

“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while,” said the 29-year-old Sarnia native, who now works for the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

“I had always wanted to get into film, but there wasn’t any place or anyone nurturing those kind of ambitions when I was in high school.”

It wasn’t until university that Srinivasan realized he could actually pursue a career in the film industry. After his post-grad at Sheridan College, he landed a job as programming associate for one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world.

“I just wish I had some direction to pursue it earlier,” he said.

So the former St. Patrick’s High School student is bringing the film industry home to Sarnia through his own creative endeavour -- the South Western International Film Festival (SWIFF) -- running in November. His goal is to inspire youth to get involved in filmmaking.

“We’re all consumers of culture, but we’re trying to create creators of culture, and that starts at the grassroots level,” he said. “We want to help make Sarnia a place where young people can create film.”

A special launch event is being held April 29 to drum up excitement among local youth. Some 400 high school students will attend a mini-film fest at Galaxy Cinemas as part of National Canadian Film Day, presented by REEL Canada, a non-profit organization celebrating Canadian film.

“Students had a hand in voting for which films they wanted to see; we’re trying to give them a real feel of a film festival,” said Srinivasan, noting that The Whale (2011) and Fido (2008) made the final cut. He’ll host a Q&A following each of the films, with director Suzanne Chisholm, and screenwriter Dennis Heaton, respectively.

“That’s what’s really exciting -- that they’re actually coming to Sarnia to engage with the students.”

Slated for Nov. 5- 8 in Sarnia’s downtown, SWIFF will boast film screenings at The Imperial Theatre, along with filmmaking workshops at the Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery with industry professionals.

Srinivasan has assembled a Sarnia-based board of directors, and is working closely with groups like cineSarnia, with a common goal to make Sarnia a cultural hub for filmmaking and film appreciation.

“I really think there’s a huge thirst for something like this in Sarnia, especially with the rejuvenation of downtown, the new art gallery and the success of events like artwalk... It’s the right time to bring this to Sarnia and Lambton County.”

For more information about SWIFF, including how to register for one of the filmmaking workshops, visit

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