TIFF’s CEO shares his early experiences of being part of a minority in Canada

Cameron Bailey doesn't shy away from the reality of his journey

Paul Wells and Cameron Bailey on stage filming a live podcast taping
Veteran journalist Paul Wells and TIFF CEO Cameron Bailey discuss the future of movies at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy on Jan. 25 (Marva Trim/Toronto Observer) 

The importance of differences in the film world, on and off screen, make for an important experience for all to enjoy together, Cameron Bailey told a live audience in Toronto Wednesday night.  

“Understanding that there are multiple perspectives, is really what my entire cultural life and career has been about. Learning and trying to communicate more,” Bailey, CEO of the Toronto International Film Festival, told veteran journalist Paul Wells.

Bailey joined Wells for an interview at the Munk School of Global Affairs & Public Policy at the University of Toronto on Jan. 25; it was released on Wells’ podcast this week. Among other topics, Bailey discussed his experiences as a Black immigrant, rising through the ranks as a film critic, and the future of the film industry.

Bailey is responsible for setting TIFF’s strategic direction and leading its teams toward fulfilling the festival’s mission to transform the way people see the world through film.

“My role now has to do with setting a direction for the ship,” he said.

Bailey’s life began in England and Barbados. He later migrated to Canada with his family in the ’70s at the age of eight. He says that “the people were not terribly welcoming” upon their arrival to Canada and they had also left England because of the everyday racism they experienced.

He also experienced racism after arriving in Ontario.

“I’d be in a classroom where I was the only Black student. And it’s hard to imagine in Toronto today, but that was very much the case then. There was casual name calling and fights in the schoolyard,” Bailey said.

“Being a good student” helped in dealing with the isolation of being the only Black student in his classes, Bailey went on.

“Because I loved reading [and] I loved doing well in school, that’s what I just kept my eye on the whole time,” he said.

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Bailey went on to study at the University of Western Ontario, where he met Wells; they both volunteered for a student newspaper. He went on to become a film reviewer.

He never thought he would become the CEO, saying he wasn’t someone with a grand plan. He took all opportunities that came with journalism that allowed him to create in so many different ways.

TIFF created a space for everyone to experience film and emotion together “because something different happens when you watch films together [and] when you gather as human beings, the emotions get amplified,” Bailey said.

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Posted: Mar 10 2023 6:43 pm
Filed under: News