Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
Michael Barry was born in North Belfast and graduated with a degree in Computer Science from the Ulster of University, Jordanstown. In 1992, Michael immigrated to Canada and began his career in film at Astral Media, working for The Movie Network and Viewers Choice Pay-Per-View brands. Michael has held senior acquisitions, operations, programming and promotions positions at Canada’s largest communications, theatrical exhibition and film festival organisations, including Cineplex Entertainment, Telus Communications, Bell Media and Hot Docs International Film Festival. In 2010, Michael co-founded the Toronto Irish Film Festival (TIRFF). Now in its 10th year, TIRFF celebrates the very best of Irish cinema and promotes the work of Irish filmmakers to the Greater Toronto Irish community and the Toronto film festival public. With sold-out screenings from 2010 to 2019, TIRFF has quickly assumed the role of leading promoter of Irish film within Canada and provides a unique opportunity for the Toronto and Ontario-based Irish diaspora to connect with their home through the magic of cinema.
What, for you, is the importance of our global diaspora and how do you contribute to its success?
For me, personally, it’s always wonderful to bump into someone from Northern Ireland at the various diaspora-focused events in Toronto, there’s always an instant connection! I’m repeatedly struck at how accomplished everyone is in their respective fields. I’m continually reminded of how proud everyone is of their Belfast blood. It’s great to see so many talented and passionate people representing Belfast and Northern Ireland is such a positive way. In terms of contributing to the diaspora, each year at the Toronto Irish Film Festival, the Closing Night Gala is always devoted to Northern Ireland, either through the director’s heritage or via the closing film’s theme. I feel incredibly proud every time I introduce a film that has Northern Ireland at its core. We’re a tribe of incredible storytellers. We’re a place with amazing natural beauty. We’re also a country that’s been through a lot. That’s a potent mix for film and TIRFF will continue to provide an avenue for filmmakers, their characters and their stories.
Tell us how you connect to Belfast:
Over the last 27 years of living in Canada, there hasn’t been a single day that has gone by where I haven’t thought about Belfast in some way. It will always be home. I stay connected to family through phone, email and text. On bad days, I’ll stream Downtown Radio, just to hear the voices! I recently completed the Barry family tree with my father, and found it fascinating to trace back and discover the people that came before me. With my mother’s help, I’ve just completed a Northern Irish Cookbook which features the 100-year old recipes of my great-grandmother. All of these things help keep homesickness to a minimum.
You know you’ve got Belfast heritage when…:
Your bullsh*t filter goes all the way up to 11.