Maria Belenkova-Buford is an emerging Russian Canadian filmmaker residing in Windsor, Ontario. When Maria immigrated to Canada, she dedicated her time and energy to pursuing a career in accounting. In 2016 she played a supporting role in a student film production, discovering her calling for film directing. Three years later she returned to her Alma Mater, University of Windsor, taking film production classes as part of the Communication, Media and Film Program.
During the lockdown in May 2020, Maria wrote and directed award-winning short film “Creative Breakthrough” premiered online in Windsor as part of Windsor International Film Festival. Maria’s short documentary “Jenny’s Vision” was selected by CBC’s “Windsor Shorts” as part of “Absolutely Canadian” series. It was also selected to be premiered at the Film Festival “Uhvati Film” in Novi Sad, Serbia. Maria’s other short documentary “Самородок – A Craftsman’s Journey” is inspired by her artistic father. It received the ACHF grant from the city of Windsor and was selected for screening at the NHDoc Film Festival in New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
Maria successfully combines her passion for filmmaking with her experience and knowledge in accounting, taxation, and business administration.
What is your role in the ACWR team?
As a Treasurer my role is to provide general financial oversight, and report on the monthly financial statements to the board in collaboration with the Executive Director.
How long have you been a part of ACWR?
I am new to the ACWR’s Board of Directors. I started in July 2021 but it feels as if I was part of this team for a while. Everyone is welcoming, supportive and very friendly.
What made you want to get involved with ACWR?
I’ve been a member of ACWR for a couple of years, keeping an eye on events in our community as well as utilizing resources offered. I wanted to contribute to this wonderful organization and an opportunity to become a part of the Board of Directors team came up. I wasn’t going to miss it!
Are you an artist? Can you tell us about your work?
Even though I am an accountant, I am also an aspiring filmmaker. I discovered my passion for directing and producing a few years ago after I played a supporting role in a student film. Since then I returned back to the University of Windsor taking selected courses with talented filmmakers Mike Stasko, Nick Hector, and Min Bae, just to name a few of my professors. I’ve made several short films that are being screened at different film festivals in Canada, US and Europe. I enjoy documentary style but I don’t limit myself to one genre. I’m exploring different opportunities as they come my way.
Do you have a favourite local artist, arts collective/organization, mural, art space, or creative project in the Windsor region?
I am a fan of WIFF, especially enjoying Mark Boscariol 48hr FlickFest part of it. One of my favourite art spaces is Cafe Amor & Art on Ottawa Street. They opened during the pandemic and almost right away became a hub for the creatives. This is a very unique place in Windsor to discover new artists, hear beautiful music, even poetry while having an aromatic cup of coffee. One of the artists I follow is Kristina Bradt. I’m always surprised and excited to find new angles as I look at her works – installations, murals, paintings and designs.
How has the pandemic changed the way you work?
Filmmaking is a team effort. Meeting in person in the pre-pandemic world was an integral part of creating a film. I prefer to look at pandemic as a “creative constraint” where we all had to find ways to make art within this constraint. Collaborating online, exploring other safe ways to go out and film, reaching out and connecting with professional filmmakers around the world – many of these things became a reality during the pandemic.
What inspires you?
I am always inspired by the creative energy and resilience of artists, musicians, filmmakers, and anyone who keeps looking for new ways to bring beauty into this world. We can choose to complain about the current situation or we can channel this energy into something positive. When I connect with people who have this vibe, I notice how creative ideas start twirling in my head and I immediately want to get back to my ongoing projects or start new ones.
What do you want people to know about ACWR?
ACWR is there not only for the artists, emerging or established, it offers programs and resources to those who are interested in various forms of art in general. If you have a question – reach out! Your inquiry will be promptly answered in the most professional and friendly way. I love how easy it is to be connected with ACWR.