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

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer COVID cases continue to fall

114 cases in Red Deer, down one from Saturday

Maskwacis Pride crosswalk (Left to right): Montana First Nation Councillor Reggie Rabbit, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Louise Omeasoo, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Shannon Buffalo, Samson Cree Nation Chief Vern Saddleback.
Pride in Maskwacis

The 4th inaugural Maskwacis Pride crosswalk painting took place on Saturday 12, 2020.

Manluk Centre/ Impress
Manluk Centre re-opens to the public

Drop in and registered programs will be available; one-third facility capacity to be followed.

File photo
Leduc RCMP request assistance to identify armed robbery suspect

Leduc RCMP are looking for male responsible for an armed robbery at Super Car and RV Wash in Leduc.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

This undated photo provided by Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails shows a scout donating cookies to firefighters in Rio Rancho, New Mexico, as part of the Hometown Heroes program. As the coronavirus pandemic wore into the spring selling season, many Girl Scout troops nixed their traditional cookie booths for safety reasons. That resulted in millions of boxes of unsold cookies. (Girl Scouts of New Mexico Trails via AP)
Thinner Mints: Girl Scouts have millions of unsold cookies

Since majority of cookies are sold in-person, pandemic made the shortfall expected

In this artist’s sketch, Nathaniel Veltman makes a video court appearance in London, Ont., on June 10, 2021 as Justice of the Peace Robert Seneshen (top left) and lawyer Alayna Jay look on. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Alexandra Newbould
Terror charges laid against London attack suspect

Crown says Nathaniel Veltman’s four counts of first-degree murder constitute an act of terrorism

Most Read