In Tumultuous Times SIFA Festival, Headed by Thi Be Nguyen and Sean St. John, Shines Light on Social Change

Doing their part to inspire societal change, executives Thi Be Nguyen and Sean St. John are partnering to highlight and recognize the creative work of artists, filmmakers, photographers, not-for-profit organizations, and others to create awareness of social issues around the world. 

The organizers recently announced plans for the 2021 Social Impact Film and Art Festival (SIFA) Red Carpet Gala and Awards Ceremony. The festival, which aims to give voice to all social causes, will invite artists to submit their projects to be recognized in one of the event’s social impact film and art awards.

Thi Be Nguyen, Founding President of the SIFA Festival, says the event will highlight and draw attention to the film and art that is making a difference.  In an interview with the Toronto Sun, Nguyen explained, “I think there are many ways to inspire change, and through film and art is one of them. Images speak a thousand words. Stories can inspire and motivate. History can teach and influence. Songs can touch the soul and bring emotions. A piece of art or photography can ignite a reaction.” 

Nguyen says she first had the inspiration to create the SIFA Festival in 2017, but it was the coronavirus pandemic that really ignited the flame within her to get the event moving.


“During this pandemic, we have seen how social causes impact communities around the world. Don’t get me wrong, social advocacy has always been around, but I think it has been even more elevated during this crisis. I have always been interested in learning about society around the world from its history, to its culture and art, and its social issues and evolution,” Nguyen explained.

Nguyen has enlisted the help of Toronto bank executive and philanthropist Sean St. John, who is the co-founding partner of the festival.

“When Thi Be presented the idea to me, and being an avid fan of art myself, specifically of contemporary art and photography and documentaries about people in general and icons who changed the world, it instantly spoke to me. After we got off the phone, I immediately sent her an email saying, “this is an incredible idea, thank you for thinking of me. I want to be involved,” said Sean St. John. 

Together, the organizers hope they can create a stage for promoters of change, or as St. John said, “a stage where they can be heard and given the chance to motivate others to support those causes that speak to them.”

Submissions for the SIFA Festival will be accepted until December 31st, 2020, with the SIFA Festival Awards and Gala taking place from August 6-8, 2021. Prizes for category winners will include a social impact award, cash, the announcement of winners in a Canadian national newspaper, the projection of the film or showcase of the project at the SIFA Festival in 2021, an invitation to attend the SIFA Festival Red Carpet Gala and Awards Ceremony in 2021 and the royalties for their film from on-demand views.

The SIFA Festival will recognize over a dozen categories, from feature and short film/documentary, TV series, theatrical, songs, paintings, photography, poetry and books. 

Nguyen explained, “Basically, we want to see any art that has social issues and social impact at its heart. We invite producers, filmmakers, artists, charitable organizations, businesses, or any individual or group worldwide to submit their impactful projects to the SIFA Festival Awards.”

The judging process will consist of a jury committee of experts in various fields that will evaluate the projects, and up to 5 nominees will be selected in each category. Award winners will receive a recognition award, a symbolic bursary and media coverage.

Thi Be Nguyen and Sean St. John, who have worked on philanthropic projects together in the past, said they are looking forward to helping others in their own way through the SIFA Festival. 

Nguyen: “Apart from bringing awareness, what is very important to me is that each social cause we bring to the public can generate positive solutions through peaceful dialogues from the audience.” 

As for Sean St. John, he added: “My hope is that by doing this festival, we are creating a stage for promoters of change, a stage where they can be heard and given the chance to motivate others to support those causes that speak to them.”

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