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2018 CIFF Award Winner

2018 CIFF Award Winner


Niagara College prof, grad Christopher M. Bessette wins Best Director award

2012 film Trade of Innocents makes a comeback at 2018 CIFF

Niagara-based writer/director Christopher Bessette doesn’t only reach for the stars, he shines among them. The Niagara College Broadcasting graduate and current part-time faculty member was among the star-studded nominees and winners at the second annual Canadian International Faith and Family Film Festival (CIFF) held September 14-16 in Toronto – including Ray Liotta, Ashley Judd, Dennis Quaid, and Mira Sorvino. Bessette attended CIFF with multiple award nominations for his 2012 film Trade of Innocents, and walked away with the Best Director award, while cast member Sorvino also won Best Lead Actress for her role in the film.

Trade of Innocents — which raises awareness of child exploitation through human trafficking – was selected one of the featured films at CIFF and Bessette was invited to participate in a film festival panel alongside Oscar winner Roger Christian (Star Wars) and other industry experts. CIFF festival co-founders and co-directors Jason Barbeck and Rafael Kalamat noted that Bessette was a great asset to CIFF 2018 and that Trade of Innocents was very well received and is creating a lot of awareness. The film’s presence at the festival, they noted, attracted the attention of two foundations dedicated to the cause – Ratanak and Mighty Oaks.

“Rafael Kalamat and myself felt very strongly that this film was important to our festival and needed to shed light on the subject matter,” said Barbeck.  “Christopher’s insight and presence inspired filmmakers and gave his film a new life. As a result, he has made waves from Toronto all the way to Hollywood with social media.” In addition to Bessette’s and Sorvino’s nominations, Trade of Innocents was nominated for Best Picture (which was won by Lions Gate/Mission Pictures feature I Can Only Imagine), and cast member Trieu Tran was nominated for Best Supporting Actor for his role (that award was won by Liotta for The Identical). “This is remarkable and unprecedented,” said Bessette. “Our film had never really seen a release and when I was first contacted by the festival directors that it fit under their Revival qualifications and they suggested I should submit it – suddenly we are nominated, with some very recent big, high-grossing films.”

Bessette said he is grateful for the profile the recent awards have brought to Trade of Innocents, which he wrote and directed. “So many people put in such hard work into this film with passion because the topic deals with human trafficking and the child sex trade that it is too important to go unseen,” he said. In addition to raising awareness about human trafficking, the film itself became an instrument for saving lives. At one of its only public screenings in Canada, it raised $43,000 in one night to rescue girls from the human traffic trade.

Since he graduated from Niagara College in 1984, the long-time Thorold resident has built a career as a multiple-award-winning filmmaker, motion picture writer/director/producer. His international career in the television and film industry has led him across Canada, the U.S., and Europe, as well as to Central America, Russia, and Southeast Asia. In addition to Trade of Innocents (2012), his feature films include and The Enemy God (2008) which he directed, that spans 50 years of an Amazonian tribe. He wrote directed and produced the documentary Niagara: Thunder of the Waters (2016). His novel The Mythamohre was published in 2013. Bessette has won two previous Best Director awards and 10 Best Picture Awards and his work has been seen on screens around the world. In 2012, he was nominated by Niagara College for a Premier’s Award in Creative Arts and Design.

Since 2013, he has been passing on his valuable skills and experience to the next generation of film and television industry professionals at Niagara College as a part-time faculty member. He currently teaches two courses: Dramatic Scriptwriting, and Directing for the Screen. Bessette often tells his students, “Hey, I am just a local guy that went to film school at NC. I had no idea that I would travel in this career throughout Europe into Russia, the deep forbidden zones of the Amazon jungle and into South East Asia.”

“I wrote and directed a movie working with an Academy-Award-winning actress and worked in Hollywood,” he said. “I had no idea any of that would happen when I look back at my 20-year-old self at film school. I was just following my passion.”

For info visit his website at  For information about the Canadian International Faith and Family Film Festival (CIFF) visit  Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree, and advanced level programs as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture, and esthetics. For more information visit

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Christopher Bessette

Christopher M. Bessette is  a multi-award-winning writer, director, producer. He is an author, educator, public speaker and a member of the Director’s Guild of America and the Writer’s Guild of America.Twice honored with a nomination by Niagara College Canada for the prestigious Premier’s Award for outstanding achievements in Creative Arts & Design, Bessette has garnered many accolades at film festivals worldwide, including ten Best Picture, three Best Director, and a Best Screenplay award.

Married to his college sweetheart, he is a proud father of three and grandfather of two. He makes his home in Southern Ontario, Canada living on an acreage deeded to his family by the Crown of England over 200 years ago.

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