Ace Hotel Toronto has launched a new monthly film screening series, Shorts In Conversation, that creates space for both cinema and dialogue. Each month, an organization curates films and filmmakers to discuss the craft, taste, and journey of putting thoughts into moving images.

Toronto’s queer film festival, Inside Out, has been chosen as the host organization for the first three months, with the inaugural edition launched on Feb 22, 2023 with a packed event, with March 22 and April 19 being the next installments. These events are free to attend, but an RSVP is required via the website links below.

theBUZZ had an opportunity to get the inside scoop on this exciting event, along with other programming initiatives taking place onsite at this hip and happening hotel. See below for a Q&A with Michael Nyarkoh, Community & Marketing Manager, Ace Hotel Toronto.

Photo Credit: Clea Christakos-Gee

Where did the inspiration for this series come from?

‘Shorts in Conversation’ came out of a desire to see makers have a dialogue about their work in a freeform setting, while highlighting the not-so-evident and intangible connections directors, writers, and actors have when creating cinema. In addition, we’re also attempting to provide a new format that’s different from the typical panel discussion.

You’ve partnered with Inside Out for the first three events, each queer, but different. Was there reasoning behind starting the series with this organization?

Ace Hotel Toronto had a preexisting relationship with Inside Out, so the partnership came about quite naturally. We both have a similar goal of championing and sharing stories that represent a wide range of experiences in our community, so the Shorts In Conversation series was a true alignment of those values.

Can you explain a bit about the format of the evening, screenings, talk backs, etc.

The event starts with an introduction to the directors, actors, and writers that are part of the highlighted projects, followed by back-to-back screenings of the films. After the films wrap, we have an unstructured conversation with the panelists, leaving the remaining 30 minutes open for audience questions.

Tell me about the space within the hotel that the event takes place.

Interspace, in a lot of ways, is the community’s playground. It has housed screenings, book readings, breathwork classes, dance parties, and a variety of other events. We hope to continue to shape this space and its programming, while inviting in our community to discover and explore at Ace Hotel Toronto.

What other groups will you be partnering with, or themes that you’ll be spotlighting going forward?

We’re always interested in working with partners that share the ethos of creating moments of discovery. The intent is always to push programming forward and make space for all ideas, while opening up our hotel to emerging talent, our elders, and new leaders across all creative fields and disciplines.

What do you hope attendees will take away from these events?

I hope attendees walk away with a new film to admire, a sense of courage to create, and, hopefully, a new film friend. Similarly to other programming initiatives here at Ace Toronto, the goal is to build connections and provide opportunities for our guests to learn.

Any plug for other exciting programming coming up that we should know about?

On March 26, we’re hosting the next installment of our New Hope series, a curated music night that will see New Ho Queen taking over our beautiful rooftop bar, Evangeline, to play an electrifying collection of dance music. The April edition of the Shorts In Conversation Series on April 19 will centre queer documentaries, and we will be joined by “Thot or Not” director Dylan Glynn and Amanda Ann-Min Wong, director of “The Way We Are.” Lastly, spring will bring a Ballroom series called Class of ‘23 led by FUNCTION. FOMO will have rotating DJs and hosts in Evangeline every Saturday.

Shorts In Conversation – Queer Genre Films

March 22, 2023, 7:00pm- 9:30pm

Confirmed filmmakers: Lu Asfaha,  director of “Fresh Meat”; Mark Pariselli , director of “Family”; and Lovina Yavari and Onna Chan , directors of “Red String of Fate

Lu Asfaha is an award-winning Toronto filmmaker whose films cross genres to externalize the internal. In 2018 she released the short documentary Freedom Summer on CBC Gem, won the CineFAM script competition to make fantasy short Paladin and was part of the post production team on CSA-winning documentary Mr. Jane and Finch.

Mark Pariselli is an award-winning writer and director based in Toronto. He graduated magna cum laude from York University with a BFA in Film Production. He is a Berlinale Talents alumnus and his work has been presented at numerous film festivals, including Frameline: The San Francisco International LGBTQ+ Film Festival, Outfest Los Angeles LGBTQ Film Festival, Inside Out Toronto 2SLGBTQ+ Film Festival, BFI Flare: London LGBTQIA+ Film Festival and the Iris Prize LGBT+ Film Festival. Retrospective programs of his short films have been presented in Toronto, Sicily, New York City and Montreal.

Lovina is a Canadian Actor, an award winning Director, Artist, Fashion Designer, and Internationally published model in Toronto. Her debut short film, “Red String of Fate,” has garnered attention from 20+ film festivals around the world and received multiple awards and nominations, including a jury award for best art direction and special effect at the 2021 Image +Nation LGBTQ film festival. The project was shot in two days with a $4,000 budget and crew of six people during the pandemic in February 2021.

Shorts In Conversation – Queer Documentary Films

April 19, 2023, 7:00pm- 9:30pm

Confirmed directors: Dylan Glynn ,director of “Thot or Not”; and  Amanda Ann-Min Wong , director of “The Way We Are”

Dylan Glynn is a painter, author and animator based out of Toronto, Canada. His multidisciplinary practice includes a broad selection of traditional media (watercolour, pastel, collage, pen and ink), 2d cel-animation, and Photoshop, and is unified by Glynn’s signature application, which he describes as “one-shot, first-thought, best-thought, perfectly imperfect”. In effect, Glynn brings the decisiveness and vitality of a 30-second gesture drawing to every medium he explores. The resulting images have a sense of raw energy and fresh colour as opposed to feeling muddy and overworked.

Amanda Ann-Min Wong (they/she) is a Toronto-based film director, writer, sound artist, and musician. Their work explores themes of loss, nostalgia, and memory, as well as finding purpose and community through the arts. In their free time, Amanda loves rocking out with their band, cutsleeve.

All events take place at Ace Hotel Toronto, 51 Camden Street, from 7:00pm to 9:30pm. RSVP required at links above. All films screening will be accompanied with open captions or English subtitles (all languages will be subtitled, including English).

Shorts In Conversation – Queer Black Filmmakers

February 22, 2023, 7:00pm- 9:30pm

Confirmed filmmakers: Ajahnis Charley , director of “I Am Gay” ; and Karimah Zakia Issa , director of “Scaring Women at Night”

Ajahnis Charley (they/them/that bitch) is a Black, Non-Binary comedian and is the Just For Laughs’ New Face of Comedy: Canada. Well, one of them. But look how pretty they are! The National Film Board produced Ajahnis’ award-winning directorial debut, I AM GAY. Spoiler alert: they are very gay. Their international hit solo show THOTS & PRAYERS played at Toronto, Montreal, and New York Sketch Comedy Festivals. Ajahnis is a co-founder and co-producer of the Untitled Black Sketch Project, Canada’s first all-Black sketch ensemble, unless Joe Pesci wants to join. Ajahnis is obsessed with Joe Pesci.

Karimah zakia issa is a Montreal native, London and Toronto based filmmaker. They direct and write short films, music videos and branded content. They also play with film photography. They could direct paint drying and it would have a queer, black woman hue to it. It’s part of who they are and they love that it’s inherently woven into everything they do, but it’s certainly not all that defines them.


About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.