DOCNOW Festival celebrates its 5th year


After two years of intense creative work, the time has come for the emerging artists and graduate students from Ryerson’s Documentary Media (MFA) program to showcase their projects to the Toronto community and the world. From May 1st to July 14th, the DOCNOW festival will present viewers with an innovative collection of diverse works, which challenge the meaning and methods of contemporary documentary practice, from film-making to mixed-media installations.

DOCNOW’s 31 participating artists offer audiences an intimate look at a range of current issues—from a film confronting disabilities in and outside of Canada, and a new media project on experiences of being transgendered, to a photo-based essay film on the lives of factory workers in China, and an interactive project on immigrants who own and operate businesses along Bloor Street. The festival offers fresh perspectives and approaches to important current issues.

Ryerson’s Documentary Media program

Established in 2007, Ryerson’s Documentary Media program is the only MFA degree program in Canada dedicated to developing tomorrow’s documentary filmmakers and visual artists. The program contributes to Canada’s world-renowned reputation for excellence in documentary by nurturing new talent and critical approaches. A unique facet of this program is its cross-disciplinary structure in which students produce work in film, new media, photography, installation, or combinations of the above.

DOCNOW screenings will take place at the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema, 506 Bloor St. W., Toronto, on May 29th and May 30th from 6:00pm to midnight. Exhibitions can be viewed from May 1st to July 14th at these Toronto galleries:

Ryerson Image Centre Student Gallery

  • Ryerson School of Image Arts Commons
  • Toronto Image Works
  • I.M.A. Gallery
  • Art Bar: Gladstone Hotel
  • Milk Glass Co.
  • Oz Studios


(HD Video)

Screening: May 30, 19:45 At: The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

Co-production: Rita Simone

This story began in 2010 with Veras’ journalistic project concerning the impact of female leaders in poor rural communities in north-east Brazil. This professional experience soon became a personal journey about hope, a promise, and a re-encounter. Healers tells the story of a woman known as Dona Josefa who has been a health care worker, midwife, and community leader for over 50 years. Besides taking care of villagers, she can deeply affect people who cross her path, like filmmaker Gabi Veras—who had a dream of becoming a mother. After a promise made by Veras, the director returns to Sertão—Brazil’s most neglected area—and discovers the world of herbal medicine. Healers shows that despite the lack of support from authorities in these remote areas, traditional medicines which combine prayer with the use of herbs are slowly making governments realize their power. Today, some communities in the region that have been served by these herbal-based treatments have shown themselves to have efficient, trustworthy, and economical systems of alternative medicine. Intrigued by such an effective way of promoting health, Veras takes the viewer on her personal journey, uncovering an unconventional world that exists and functions thanks to women like Dona Josefa.

Artist Bio

Born on a tropical island, Gabi Veras has spent more than 15 years in newsrooms both in Brazil and Canada. She has been a freelance journalist for CBC Radio and Radio Canada International. Most recently she was as a producer for CBC Newsworld, and also for OMNI Television in Toronto and Calgary. Telling compelling human stories through documentary has always been her passion. In 2001, she co-produced Avi Lev’s documentary We Are Samba.



(HD Video)

Screening: May 30, 21:30 At: The Bloor Hot Docs Cinema

The criminalization of poverty in Rio de Janeiro emerges from a history that began with slavery, continued via the economic servitude of the oppressed classes after emancipation, and culminated in the explosive growth of favelas (urban slums) in the second half of the twentieth century.

Rhythms of Resistance explores the controversial new community policing program (UPP) in Rio, which purports to “pacify” communities previously dominated by drug traffickers.

The film presents musicians living in recently “pacified” favelas who compose freedom songs recounting their experiences as victims of police violence and social exclusion. Internationally acclaimed samba composer Cathola is shot by police shortly after UPP forces arrive in his community of Cantagalo. Inspired by his near-death experience, Cathola posits a better future through his lyrics of resistance. Cathola’s story is woven together with a series of colourful vignettes in which politicized street artists unravel the rhetoric of the pacification program, charging that the UPP is exacerbating the criminalization of poverty in Rio. Imagining a more peaceful society promised by pacification, the film’s cast of characters has given up waiting for basic rights to be guaranteed by the state and is instead asserting those rights through music and performance art.

Artist Bio

Jason O’Hara sees media as tools for advocacy and social change. O’Hara has filmed in over 25 countries, his footage having been featured on the CBC’s Nature of Things and The Fifth Estate, TVO’s Why Poverty Series, in two theatrical documentaries, and on television news in Brazil, Venezuela, and the USA. O’Hara created the participatory photography component of a youth engagement project that won Brazil’s UN MDG Award.

O’Hara is currently directing a feature documentary in collaboration with EyeSteel Film, funded by the Toronto and Ontario Arts Councils, about forced community evictions before the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics. O’Hara’s MFA is supported by Canada’s Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).


All screenings and exhibitions are FREE and open to the public.

Please visit for schedules, venues, project details and artist profiles.

For more information and interview requests, please contact: Gabi Veras at (647) 244 7107, or at,


Leila Monteiro Lins

Leila has more than 30 years of experience in journalism and marketing, including media relations, event planning and the development of communication strategies. In April 2010, LML launched Discover magazine in Canada.

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