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Ravi Srinivasan, the senior manager of festival programming for TIFF, was known 'for his passion, his generosity and the joy he brought to cinema.'George Pimentel /TIFF

Ravi Srinivasan, senior manager of festival programming for the Toronto International Film Festival and a “champion” of the Canadian film community, has died at age 37.

“We are saddened and shocked to learn of the sudden passing of our colleague and friend Ravi Srinivasan. As a programmer, champion for filmmakers, and director of his own hometown film festival in Sarnia, Ravi was known to many for his passion, his generosity and the joy he brought to cinema,” Cameron Bailey, chief executive of TIFF, said in a statement late Sunday.

“For Ravi, who drew on both his Filipino and his Indian immigrant heritage in his work, representation always mattered. It was built into how he viewed films, and how he invited all audiences to engage with the stories on screen that moved them.”

Srinivasan, who grew up in Sarnia, Ont., studied film and English literature at Wilfrid Laurier University and then film and television production at Sheridan College. In addition to his work with TIFF, which he joined in 2013, Srinivasan programmed for Hot Docs and Reel Canada, which produces National Canadian Film Day. After starting at TIFF as a seasonal programming associate, Srinivasan was last year promoted to the full-time role of senior manager for festival programming, focusing on films from South Asia, the Philippines and Canada.

According to an interview he gave with Wilfrid Laurier’s Campus Magazine in 2018, Srinivasan entered the industry with only a passion for cinema – and not a single contact to his name. While trying to secure an internship to fulfill the requirements of his postgraduate program at Sheridan, Srinivasan used the TIFF program guide to cold-call dozens of producers and production houses.

“I didn’t know anyone in the industry, and I had zero contacts,” he said. “You name it, I called it!”

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After finally wrangling a meeting with producer Jennifer Jonas, Srinivasan secured an unpaid internship for her company New Real Films, working in its offices during the day before starting his night-shift gig with the Canadian Opera Company’s call centre. After half a year, New Real hired Srinivasan on a full-time contract, which eventually led to his entry into film-festival programming.

While balancing his programming work with TIFF – in which a typical edition of the annual festival would see him screen 300 films over the course of three months – Srinivasan founded the Sarnia-based South Western International Film Festival (SWIFF) in 2015.

“We’re all consumers of culture, but we’re trying to create creators of culture, and that starts at the grassroots level,” Srinivasan told The Sarnia Journal that year. “We want to help make Sarnia a place where young people can create film.”

Since that inaugural edition, SWIFF has grown to include live concerts, virtual-reality exhibits and an industry summit (with such guests as Room screenwriter Emma Donoghue and iconic Canadian filmmaker Patricia Rozema) alongside its slate of feature- and short-length films.

Meanwhile, Srinivasan’s work at TIFF helped introduce audiences to acclaimed homegrown filmmakers like Sophie Deraspe (2019′s Antigone), Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (2019′s The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open), V.T. Nayani (2022′s This Place), and Shasha Nakhai and Rich Williamson (directors of the Canadian Screen Award-winning 2021 hit Scarborough). He also sat on the board of directors for Toronto’s Regent Park Film Festival and the Future of Film Showcase.

“I was fortunate enough to work with Ravi for nearly a decade,” TIFF’s Bailey said in his statement. “I always appreciated his sharp perspectives on films, but what I loved most was his sense of humour and his generosity to all. Ravi embraced life, movies and people, in all their complexity. We will miss him dearly.”