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10 Must-See Films From TIFF That Will Inspire You To Take Action

Only with awareness will there be change, and I applaud these filmmakers for shedding light on these stories and issues.

09/18/2017 15:00 EDT | Updated 09/20/2017 10:45 EDT
Mark Blinch / Reuters
Director Angelina Jolie arrives with activist Loung Ung (C) and director Rithy Panh (R) on the red carpet for the film "First They Killed My Father" at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), in Toronto, Sept. 11, 2017.

I love the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), and this year was no different. I love the glam, the stars, the energy, but most of all, I love the movies. I am a veteran red carpet journalist and I've been fortunate to interview many A-list movie stars and directors, for a show called "Red Carpet Diary."

I am also a believer in philanthropy and raising awareness of real issues that affect people's lives. I am a huge supporter of World Vision and the great work that they do around the world. I have travelled extensively with World Vision (with my friends and family in tow), most recently to witness a program focusing on the first 1,000 days of a child's life, in Cambodia.

World Vision Canada
The author in Cambodia.

My life is somewhat unique in that I straddle the glam of Hollywood and the film and TV industry, while always keeping my eyes open to see if there is an opportunity to help others and raise awareness.

I am always curious at TIFF to see what films are out there that come from a conscious place, and bring to life world issues that are affecting people around the world. This is a list of some of those at this year's TIFF.

Only with awareness will there be change, and I applaud these filmmakers for shedding light on these stories and issues.

These are the films from TIFF 2017 that I feel inspire humanity while raising awareness:

1. "First They Killed My Father"

Angelina Jolie co-produced, co-wrote and directed this film. Between 1975-1979, Cambodia's Khmer Rouge regime committed a horrific genocide resulting in the death of up to three million people. This film is the story of one survivor.

2. "Ava"

Set in Tehran, Ava is an obedient girl who follows all the rules. Her mistrustful mother questions her relationship with a boy and goes as far as taking Ava to consult a gynecologist to see if she is still a virgin. The outrageous violation of privacy is juxtaposed with social optics.

3. "Pahuna: The Little Visitors"

Three Nepalese children are separated from their parents when they are forced by armed fighters to flee their Nepali village. They must rely on each other and forage for food and shelter, to keep their baby brother alive.

4. "Insyriated"

A mother of three is trapped inside her small apartment to escape the war in Damascus that rages just outside her door. Shot almost entirely within the confines of a few rooms, it illustrates the very real terror that presides over families in war-torn Syria.

​​​​​​5. "Makala"

This portrait of a Congolese labourer struggling to support his family shows his minimal resources, daunting tasks and physical struggles, in a sensitive portrayal. It won the Grand Prix at Cannes Critics' Week earlier this year.

5. "Black Kite"

This film from Afghanistan examines the impact of history on one family. A father shares his love of kite flying with his daughter even though it is a banned activity. Their hobby becomes a kind of resistance.

7. "Under Pressure"

Set in an underfunded public hospital in poverty-stricken Rio de Janeiro, a broken surgeon faces his own demons amidst the socio-economic crisis. This medical drama is full of humanity and suspense, and the acting is superb.

8. "The Breadwinner" (Animated) TIFF Kids

An 11-year-old Afghan girl is forced to disguise herself as a boy to support the family when her father is unjustly imprisoned. She finds strength in her family's love and in the power of storytelling.

9. "Village Rockstars"

Set in a remote village in India, a 10-year-old girl fights against stereotypes and poverty to pursue her dream of becoming a rock star. Shot entirely in the remote village where director Rima Das grew up, the movie stars a local, non-professional cast.

10. "The Other Side of Hope"

Issues surrounding refugees and forced migration are the focus of this story about a failing restaurant owner who hires a young Syrian refugee he finds sleeping in the inner yard of the restaurant. This beautiful movie won the Silver Bear at the Berlinale and is considered one of the best of the year.

Joan Kelley Walker
The author on the TIFF red carpet.

If I am going to see a movie, I want to be entertained, but I believe great filmmakers will always have a very clear message that supports and inspires humanity. I hope you enjoy these movies as much as I have.

If you weren't able to attend TIFF this year, don't worry! Some will be released on Netflix, or on DVD after the festival, so watch for them!

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