Originally Ian Bawa went to UWinnipeg to become a lawyer. After graduating with a BA in criminal justice and political science, Bawa went back to UWinnipeg to study filmmaking. Now a filmmaker, Bawa showed his heartfelt short film Strong Son, starring his father, Jagdeep Singh Bawa, at this year’s scaled-down Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).
Although this is not his first film at TIFF, making this year’s program was exceptional due to a pared down line-up of only 50 feature and 35 short films, which is a testament to his work. His first film, Imitations, premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival with fellow alumni Fabian Velasco and Miloš Mitrović, who is now an instructor at UWinnipeg.
TIFF describes Bawa’s film as “an endearing portrait of a South Asian man and his relationship with the father who shares his passion for weightlifting.”
“My experience at UWinnipeg, particularly in the theatre and film department, gave me many of the strengths that I continue to use today to keep making films,” said Bawa. “I met like-minded individuals who would want to talk to me about movies, and when we weren’t talking about movies, we were learning about them.”
More importantly, Bawa notes he met some of his closest friends and film collaborators at UWinnipeg, namely Velasco and Mitrović, whose films have also been in numerous festivals around the world including TIFF and the Vancouver International Film Festival.
“These friends and collaborators allowed me to continue to make films for many years after graduating,” said Bawa. “We’ve seen success, hardships, and fun together, and all for the sake of ‘making a movie.'”
Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Theatre and Film Christopher Brauer said Bawa, “has a funny, personal, whimsical style built on a strong technical foundation.”
“His film work is engaging and quirky in the best possible sense, and that clearly appeals to the programmers at TIFF,” said Brauer. “Being featured at a festival like TIFF is a major accomplishment, and this year especially, the TIFF lineup has worldwide reach. Ian is a graduate of our program and a regular guest instructor and we’re so proud to see his work recognized in such a prestigious venue!”
Bawa also credits his UWinnipeg experience with mentally preparing him to become a filmmaker. He quotes one his favourite film professors, John Kozak, and shares, “To be a filmmaker, you need to be like a train: unstoppable.”
Bawa is a born-and-raised Winnipegger. A graduate of the UWinnipeg Film program, Bawa has seen his films garner great success and tour the world, winning at festivals.