Actors Louis Gossett Jr. (centre) and Matthew Modine (right) are shown in a scene from the film “Foster Boy.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Toronto Black Film Festival MANDATORY CREDIT

Actors Louis Gossett Jr. (centre) and Matthew Modine (right) are shown in a scene from the film “Foster Boy.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Toronto Black Film Festival MANDATORY CREDIT

Toronto Black Film Festival founder says 2021 edition is ‘more significant’ than ever

Founder says she’s had film lovers from around the world express interest in buying tickets this year

For Toronto Black Film Festival founder Fabienne Colas, this year’s edition feels like it’s happening in a different era.

Running now through Sunday online across Canada, the ninth annual movie marathon comes amid Black History Month, the first one since the Black Lives Matter movement of last summer raised global awareness of racial injustice.

“We feel a different vibe,” Colas says. “We feel like people are looking for impact and purpose and meaning in what they decide to support.

“And we’ve seen support — from the audience, to donations, to buying tickets, buying passes and then on social media. So we feel the buzz.”

Colas says she’s had film lovers from around the world express interest in buying tickets for this year’s event, which is being held online due to the pandemic. The festival isn’t available internationally but it is open to audiences across the country, and Colas predicts strong audience numbers audience this year.

“We have never seen that much interest for the festival,” says Colas.

The festival also has an inaugural Public’s Choice Award in several categories, new partners, and a record-high 154 films from 25 countries on offer this year, compared to last year’s 75.

There are also more panel discussions: 11 this year compared to about three last year. The panel chats are available for free on the festival’s Facebook page.

Colas says the festival had close to 2,000 film submissions for this year’s festival — another record.

“I believe it’s because, more than ever, creators need to have their voices heard,” says Colas, who has her own foundation and founded numerous events, including the Montreal International Black Film Festival held online last fall, and the Halifax Black Film Festival, running its fifth edition online from Feb. 23-28.

“One thing I’m happy about is that everybody understood after the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, that ‘Oh my God, we live in a chaotic industry, we need to change that. It’s messy. And there’s no equity.’ So that is good. Great conversations are happening,” she adds.

While Colas feels “enthusiasm on the ground from filmmakers and from the industry,” there’s still a glaring lack of Black representation and resources for Black creators in Canada’s screen industry, and several of the festival’s panel discussions address that issue.

“Local artists, they’re not being funded,” Colas says. “Some of them have tried and tried over and over again, and never got the money. So guess what they do? They stop trying, because they understood that, ‘Some people that look like me don’t get the money. So why keep going?’”

Colas notes it takes a lot of time and energy to apply for funding and fill out all the paperwork.

“They’re busy trying to survive, and working two, three jobs to make it and then they have to take some time trying to be a filmmaker at the same time or a producer,” she says. “And then when you’ve been applying unsuccessfully for years, then you know what? You just gather some friends and say, ‘Hey, help me out here for this film.’ And that doesn’t always make the best film, it doesn’t always make the strongest films, because you don’t have all the resources, because you don’t have money to pay for them.”

Such challenges have been talked about before and now it’s time to look at “concrete actions and solutions, and how do we change the system? How do we make it?” she adds.

“We’re working with the industry to change it. And the industry is willing to help, the industry wants to make it work. So that’s a good sign. But we’re not there yet.”

The festival’s opening-night film was Youssef Delara’s “Foster Boy,” executive produced by basketball star Shaquille O’Neal. Louis Gossett Jr., is among the stars of the drama about the U.S. foster-care system.

The festival will close with Canadian filmmaker Mia Donovan’s documentary “Dope Is Death,” about a holistic drug detoxification program founded in New York’s South Bronx neighbourhood by activists including Mutulu Shakur, stepfather of late hip-hop star Tupac Shakur.

Other Canadian films include the drama “Because We Are” by St Christopher (Saint) Bailey, about a corrupt, white cop who shoots an unarmed black teenager.

The festival also has master classes and chats with talent, including actor Taraji P. Henson and Canadian director Clement Virgo, who are each receiving a Career Achievement Award.

“This is an edition that is more significant, more meaningful, impactful than ever,” Colas says, “because we knew it should be up to the moment, it should rise to the occasion. So that was the mindset with which we developed the whole programming.”

ALSO READ: Most Black Canadians won’t find a stem cell donor in time; this group is working to change that

Online: torontoblackfilm.com/, halifaxblackfilm.com/

Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Black History Month

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Teacher Tracy Dionne’s Grade 2 students at Willoughby Elementary wrote letters to adults about COVID-19. (Special to the Langley Advance Times)
Langley students offer adults COVID advice and encouragement

Willoughby Elementary Grade 2 students wrote letters to adults at the one-year mark of the pandemic

An artist’s rendering of what the Surrey-Langley SkyTrain station would look like at 166th Street in Surrey. (TransLink)
Langley School District has issued a COVID-19 notification for Lynn Fripps Elementary School. (Langley Schools)
COVID-19 exposure recorded at Langley elementary school and No Frills grocer

There are currently five local schools on exposure list

Brookswood Bobcats celebrated their B.C. championship victory at the Langley Events Centre. The Bobcats defeated Richmond’s R.A. McMath Wildcats in the final of the B.C. high school senior girls AAA basketball championships in 2016. Past championship games are being replayed this month online by LEC. (File)
Langley Events Centre takes a look back at some classic basketball championship games

Matchups from past years will be rebroadcast online for free

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. The federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate, start with the vaccination of police officers in internal police vaccination centers. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
B.C. officials to unveil new details of COVID vaccination plan Monday

Seniors and health-care workers who haven’t gotten their shot are next on the list

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen takes part in an update on the COVID pandemic during a press conference in Ottawa on October 27, 2020. The City of Vancouver says it has purchased a former hotel at a major thoroughfare that can house about 65 units to accommodate homeless people. A joint news release by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and city says 2075 Kingsway, Days Inn by Wyndham Vancouver, will be ready for accommodation this November. The Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Ahmed Hussen also announced a $51.5 million Rapid Housing Initiative for Vancouver that is expected to create 135 new affordable homes. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Former Vancouver hotel to be converted to 65 units for homeless people by the fall

The former Days Inn on Kingsway will be ready to house people in November

B.C. Court of Appeal in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Murder conviction upheld in case where Surrey mom was stabbed in front of her kids

Jury in 2017 found Tanpreet Kaur Athwal, aka Sonia Kaur Gill, guilty of first-degree murder in 2007 death of Amanpreet Bahia, 33

Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

Most Read