Filipina-Canadian Short Film Premieres at TIFF Lightbox


This year, Calgarian born Karla Villanueva Danan participated in The Unsung Voices Youth Video Production Workshop with the Reel Asian International Film Festival based in Toronto. The 11-week workshop provided mentorship from media professionals and a platform for Asian Canadians to express themselves as artists to produce distinctly Asian Canadian stories.

The 26- year- old Filipina was one of five chosen out of a pool of 60 applicants hailing from different asian backgrounds. Each participant was tasked with working on each other’s short films as well as writing and directing their own. Danan’s short film Jezebel premiered on Nov 9 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in downtown Toronto during the annual Reel Asian International Film Festival.

The eight minute film is a Filipina-Canadian coming-of-age story, which focuses on the relationship between a traditional Catholic mother and her 20-something Canadian born daughter living in the city. Jezebel is lighthearted, with plenty of relatable Filipino-isms from hilarious tagalog mom texts to portraits of Jesus. The film was inspired by something that actually happened between Danan and her mother and is a project she is very proud of.

“I made a short film about my mom and I that is a bit silly but sweet and shows a snippet of Filipino-Canadian essence that we haven’t seen before on any screens,” explains the first time filmmaker.

Many relatives and close friends attended the screening in support of Danan, including her mother who flew to Toronto from Calgary for the event.

“It was a dream come true of [my mother] having this experience of ‘let’s go to Toronto for the weekend and watch my kid’s movie at the TIFF Lightbox,’” she explains.  

The venue where the premiere was held is the largest theatre of the Toronto International Film Festival, a fact which Danan was intimidated by. However, she says with relief that she drew many laughs, even from those of different ethnic backgrounds.

“It was really special to have strangers come up to me and tell me they enjoyed it,” she says.

Danan was especially happy that she was able to bring together many different Filipina artists from Toronto for her film, including the actors, music, visual art and behind the scenes crew.

“It’s so important for this program to exist and for Filipinos to be encouraged to be in the arts,” she explains.

“The sense of belonging and identity that we can create through media – that’s what’s going to change lives.”

Danan is currently coordinating more screenings of Jezebel, including this spring at the next Pinay Power conference in Montreal, an event that will highlight the Filipina experiences in the diaspora.

To learn more visit