Moving Pictures, One Frame at a Time

P.J. Marcellino did not start out as a filmmaker, but he was always a storyteller. Traveling to the northernmost confines of the world as a young reporter at the tender age of 16, he went from school paper to school paper until he became a professional journalist. A travel-happy multi-potentialite, P.J. lived in a dozen countries and worked in many others, moving on from journalist to editor, then publisher, academic researcher, and eventually as a political and communications advisor with international agencies like the African Union and the United Nations. In these institutions, he worked on hard-hitting subjects surrounding human security, forced migration, asylum policies, peace-building and post-conflict development. Just the typical Sunday night dinner conversation…. But the daily grind of politics frustrated him—the stories he was hearing could not be transmitted in spreadsheets and political reports were only read by six people, and then discarded. This is why, at age 35, he grabbed on to an old dream and reinvented himself as a filmmaker.

Taking time off a busy travel schedule, he attended the Documentary Film Institute at Seneca College in Toronto, an intense three-month documentary program aimed at mid-career professionals. The problem was, upon graduation, he had no idea what to do with these new skills. So he did what any adult would do: he went back to what he knew, finding himself working with the Peace and Security Department of the African Union when his employer needed a short film on peacemaking, produced by someone with political skills. What were the odds? Volunteering to spearhead this project, he could not know how much change it would bring about to his life, but something clicked, and nothing would ever be the same. Five years on, with an array of new projects on the table, P.J. is a happy, award-winning filmmaker, a member of the Directors Guild of Canada, and continues to tell stories of humanity in crisis, the stories that really need to be told—but now through the means of moving pictures, which people tend to pay more attention to than politicians.

Creative Team

Pedro Marcellino


PJ Marcellino is an award-winning Toronto producer and director. Earning early-career political stripes as a journalist and later political advisor with international agencies, he reinvented himself as a filmmaker at 35 and did not look back. When They Awake is his latest film.

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