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

Just Posted

Erin Jackson, the city’s director of corporate services, was appointed acting chief administrative officer for the City of Salmon Arm on June 15, 2021. (Photo contributed)
City of Salmon Arm appoints acting chief administrative officer

Heads of two city department to temporarily fill empty CAO position

The old Dirty Dirt Farm Co-op sign now hangs in the forest behind one of the cabins. (Jim Cooperman photo)
Column: The saga of the Dirty Dirt Farm Co-op

Shuswap Passion by Jim Cooperman

Brook Kosick competes in the barrel racing event at a BC High School Rodeo Association rodeo in Quesnel, which was held from June 11-13, 2021. (Cassidy Dankochik - Black Press)
VIDEO: 14-year-old Salmon Arm rodeo athlete Brook Kosick competes at provincial level

Quesnel rodeo on June 11-13 was first of season for Kosick, who said it meant everything to be back

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Second dose vaccinations accelerating throughout region: Interior Health

To date, more than 675,000 doses have been administered throughout the region

The third and last day of the Walking Our Spirits Home procession, honouring residential school survivors, the ones who never made it home and all those affected by the institutions, began at the Kamloops Indian Residential School on June 11 and stopped on June 13 outside the Adams Lake conference centre near Chase. The third day began about 10.5 kilometres from the centre and when it was complete, a closing ceremony was held. (Martha Wickett - Salmon Arm Observer)
Walking Our Spirits Home from Kamloops provides path to healing

First Nations in and beyond Secwépemc territory join in to honour residential school survivors

Bear wanders Kelowna on June 15. (Michelle Wallace/Facebook)
Bear climbs fence, uses crosswalk in Kelowna

The bear was spotted on Baron Road Wednesday evening

201 First Street West 1980s. Prior revitalization. (Photo from Revelstoke Museum and Archives)
Man who redesigned downtown Revelstoke honoured with lifetime achievement award

Robert Inwood has worked on historical projects across the province

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

The weekly COVID-19 map for June 6 to 12. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees only 5 new cases in last week

The Similkameen Valley went a second week without any new cases

A heart of ribbons is seen on the fence of Highroad Academy along Chilliwack Central Road on Friday, June 4, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Orange Heart Memorial campaign launches in Vernon on National Indigenous Peoples Day

North Okanagan Friendship Center raising funds for bench, mural memorializing 215 discovered in Kamloops

A Heffley Creek peacock caught not one - but two - lifts on a logging truck this month. (Photo submitted)
Heffley Creek-area peacock hops logging trucks in search of love

Peacock hitched two lifts in the past month

The Calgary skyline is seen on Friday, Sept. 15, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
2 deaths from COVID-19 Delta variant in Alberta, 1 patient was fully immunized

Kerry Williamson with Alberta Health Services says the patients likely acquired the virus in the hospital

B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth and Attorney General David Eby attend opening of the first government-run B.C. Cannabis Store, Kamloops, Oct. 19, 2018. (B.C. government)
B.C. government to allow home cannabis delivery starting July 15

Added convenience expected to persuade buyers to ‘go legal’

Most Read