VIFF Impact Award

VIFF Impact Award

Recognizing that documentary filmmaking can be a powerful agent of change, this award is intended for the director of a Canadian documentary that's deeply concerned with social issues. It's designed to offer some of the resources necessary to amplify the film's message, ensuring that it resonates long after its VIFF screening, potentially transforming the movie into a movement.

Congratulations to the inaugural award winner for 2014,
"Just Eat It" with Grant Baldwin and Jenny
Rustemeyer, awarded Oct 4th, 2014. 


The award includes:

$5,000 cash award sponsored by Agentic Digital Media

$5,000 in marketing and strategic in-kind services supplied by Agentic and Story Money Impact



Press Releases and Media Coverage

Read more on Impact Producing on Agentic's Blog

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2014 Eligible Films

  • Everything Will Be

    Canada, 2013, 85 mins, DCP

    Director Julia Kwan documents the pivotal changes affecting the culture and economy of Vancouver’s Chinatown, one of the oldest in North America. With humour and sympathy, Kwan introduces us to residents who see their way of living eroding and to others who welcome the transition, including real estate consultant Bob Rennie.

    Q: With film as such a powerful tool for social change, who will most benefit if your documentary achieves the impact you intend?
    Director, Julia Kwan:

    The long term residents and elders of Chinatown. Chinatown as a cultural enclave would benefit from the exposure and the preservation of this historically significant community. I have a personal connection to Chinatown and I wanted to show the community I grew up in, from an insider’s look. A friend recently told me that she sees the newspaper lady each day in her Strathcona neighborhood, but cannot communicate with her. This is an insider’s look into the thoughts and feelings of the longtime members of this community and I hope to tell their stories to newcomers, such as my friend.

  • Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story

    Canada, 2014, 75 mins, DCP

    We devour countless cooking shows, culinary magazines and foodie blogs. We love food and yet—thanks to our expensive obsession with expiration dates and perfect produce—we throw nearly half of it in the trash. Attempting to live waste-free, filmmakers Grant Baldwin and Jen Rustemeyer subsist on discarded food for six months. Their documentary charts their experiment’s shocking revelations. Winner, Emerging Artist Award, Hot Docs 2014.

    Q: With film as such a powerful tool for social change, who will most benefit if your documentary achieves the impact you intend?
    Director, Grant Baldwin:

    Everyone does. 25% of what we purchase is discarded, so the financial burden could be lightened if families decreased their food waste. Additionally, taxes are saved if we compost rather than throw food away in the garbage. Film gives viewers a chance to connect with the protagonists, who in this case were Jen Rustemeyer and myself (Grant Baldwin). If you do it the right way, documentary film gives people the opportunity to insert themselves into the story and to connect more deeply with the protagonist’s situation.


  • Monsoon

    Canada, France, 2014, 104 mins, DCP

    Sturla Gunnarsson’s latest is a personal reflection on chaos, creation and faith in a land of believers. He explores the incomparably vast seasonal weather system that permeates and unifies the immense and varied cultures of India. As the huge system gradually engulfs every region of the country, we meet a remarkable array of individuals whose lives are fundamentally affected by the phenomenon.

  • The Boy From Geita

    Canada, 2014, 79 mins, HDCAM-SR

    Born with albinism, Adam is ostracized in his Tanzanian village and assaulted by witch doctors who believe his limbs possess mystic properties. A Canadian with the same condition hears Adam’s story and takes action. “Harrowing and poignant… Vic Sarin’s [documentary], with its searing images, is both ode to human resilience and ingenuity, and indictment of human cruelty and stupidity.”—Globe and Mail

    Q: With film as such a powerful tool for social change, who will most benefit if your documentary achieves the impact you intend?
    Director, Vic Sarin:

    I hope that humanity benefits as a whole from hearing this story. We seldom celebrate humanity — we tend to dwell on the negative side of life — but there are people who are doing powerful things in the face of inhumanity and they should be celebrated. Visual media is the most effective medium to reach the masses. Film has allowed us to provide a clear and realistic image of these horrible practices, so I feel it is the best way to bring issues to the forefront.

  • The Price We Pay

    Canada, 2014, 92 mins, DCP

    In his latest incendiary investigative documentary, Harold Crooks (Surviving Progress) examines the sordid history of offshore tax havens and the dire contemporary ramifications of such corporate malfeasance. It seems that it’s big business’ world and we’re just picking up the tab. But how long can the middle class and poor bear the tax burden? This is a shocking look at an unsustainable system poised to implode.

    Q: With film as such a powerful tool for social change, who will most benefit if your documentary achieves the impact you intend?
    Director, Harold Crooks:

    Given that the subject of the film is the threat that the offshoring of the world’s wealth represents to the middle class and the welfare state as well as small and medium business, everyone, really the 99%, stands to benefit from the message and activism around our film. Our film began with a writer and her frustration at a lack of impact of her book and that led her to bring it to a film producer. There are so many ways in which film itself can be used as an organizing tool by activist groups, many of which are clamouring to be able to use the film as part of their tax justice activism.

  • The Pristine Coast

    Canada, 2014, 110 mins, HDCAM

    Wild fish populations in BC have been declining since the late 70s, at about roughly the same time the open-net fish-farm industry began to grow fish in marine waters. Focusing on the research of biologist Alexandra Morton, filmmaker Scott Renyard links the crash of many fish species on Canada’s West coast to diseases spread from fish farms in this persuasive and urgent call to action.

    Q: With film as such a powerful tool for social change, who will most benefit if your documentary achieves the impact you intend?
    Director, Scott Renyard:

    BC residents will all be breathing less carbon dioxide, and it will also effect our economy if we switch from open net pen fishing to a method that separates wild from farmed fish. It was a “eureka” moment when I read about Dr. Patricia Atwood’s work. If we lose large numbers of fish populations, it will have a huge impact on whether oceans will fix or release carbon. In this case, film allows people to see the scope of the issue in a short time. We are all busy, so to capture a 30 year period in a 2 hour window gives us a grounding that is really powerful for viewers.

The Jurors

David Rummel

David Rummel

Throughout his four decade career, David Rummel has produced for Mike Wallace and 60 Minutes, run an investigative unit at ABC News, served as a senior producer at NBC News, produced for PBS Frontline, and helped build the online video unit at The New York Times. He has won every award in television news and documentary, and currently teaches International Reporting and Advanced Video Reporting at UBC’s Graduate School of Journalism.

Lynne Fernie

Lynne Fernie

Lynne Fernie is a documentary filmmaker and the Senior Canadian programmer for the Hot Docs International Festival of Documentary Film. She wrote and co-directed the Genie and multi-award-winning documentaries Forbidden Love: the Unashamed Stories of Lesbian Lives, Fiction and Other Truths: A film about Jane Rule, and Apples and Oranges.

Julia Ivanova

Julia Ivanova

Julia Ivanova is an award-winning Vancouver documentary filmmaker. Her film “Family Portrait in Black and White” won at Hot Docs 2011 as the Best Canadian Feature and played at Sundance. Ivanova has been actively involved in the documentary filmmaking community by co-chairing DOC BC, being on the Board of Hot Docs Festival and mentoring emerging filmmakers.  Being a director-editor-cinematographer and an avid fan of international documentaries, she believes in the emotional power of visual storytelling and poetic cinema. 

About the Impact Award

Documentary films and their strategic campaigns are important tools in achieving collective impact goals. Because filmmakers, funders and non-profits are all keen to demonstrate impact, the reach and relevance of documentaries has become an area of increased study. The methodologies are still evolving, and much evidence remains qualitative, but it indicates that yes, documentaries stimulate dialogue and spark action. 

For example, Waiting for Superman (VIFF 2010) partnered with, which helped raise $2.4 million in support of a gift card campaign and led to 75,000 new people donating on its site. Force of Nature: The David Suzuki Movie (VIFF 2010) rolled out live webcasts with 40,000 students across Canada. Dr. Suzuki hosted the ‘virtual classroom’ interactive educational sessions, guided by a comprehensive downloadable teacher's guide. And Invisible War (VIFF 2012) inspired a groundbreaking trauma recovery program for survivors of American military sexual assault. Over twenty pieces of relevant new legislation have since been introduced. 

Not all documentaries purport to be activist films. VIFF pre-selected from the Canadian Images Program a shortlist of Impact documentaries, and the jury will choose the winner based on the potential for the prize to stimulate positive social change. ‘Impact production’ includes strategic goal setting, partnership building, audience development, outreach, social marketing, web extensions, educational materials, community tours, evaluation metrics, and more. In Canada, financial support at this crucial time in a film’s life is almost impossible to secure. The VIFF Impact Award will give a boost to these documentaries, which, if more widely seen, are poised to improve all of our lives.

I have a passionate conviction that strongly crafted, compellingly told real life stories elicit the kind of emotion that can lead to positive social change. I believe in the power of film, and the importance of supporting Canadian filmmakers – beliefs that are shared by both VIFF and by Phillip Djwa of Agentic Digital Media. 

Tracey Friesen 

Story Money Impact


Since The Corporation film's success in 2003, impact producing in Canada has shown how documentary storytelling can create real social change. We are extremely excited to work with the next group of committed and innovative filmmakers.

Phillip Djwa

Agentic Digital Media


  • Agentic Digital Media

    Agentic is a web development agency that provides core website design, strategy, and transformational digital media solutions. We specialize in creating websites for social change organizations and believe in using digital media for good.
  • Story Money Impact

    Story Money Impact is an initiative, founded by Tracey Friesen, which seeks to increase connections between artists, funders and activists.  Given the right partnerships and resources, media can change hearts, minds, behaviours - and public policy.
  • CKNW