A veteran photojournalist on the Toronto arts and entertainment scene, Julian Bynoe is a Toronto-based cartoonist, artist and arts blogger. From 1996 to 2014, he was the arts/entertainment editor for the street publication The Outreach Connection, and has had articles featured in Realms Magazine, among others.
Athletic amputees and Clement Virgo mark Afrocentric film fest
Left-right: Bravo TV’s 19-2 actor Adrian Holmes makes a surprise visit to the media conferance for the Toronto Black Film Festival January 20 as founders Fabienne Colas and Emile Castonguay look on.
Toronto Black Film Festival 2016 Preview
Being a cinephile town as it is, Toronto has at least a dozen film festivals mega-big to micro-small and its own film industry to boot. Answering a call to bring more Afrocentric voices onto the screen, the Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF) enters its fourth year with forty-four films, workshops and panels spread over five days February 10 to 14 in four venues, the Isabel Bader Theatre (93 Charles Street West), the Carlton Cinema (20 Carlton Street), Theatre de l’Alliance Française (24 Spadina Road), Art Gallery of Ontario’s Jackman Hall (217 Dundas Street West) and Collège Boréal (1 Yonge Street), as created by founders Fabienne Colas and Emile Castonguay.
“Coinciding with Black History Month (in February), the Toronto Black Film Festival is really proud to host another year of bringing diversity within the black communities through powerful films, exciting panels and special events,” Haitian-born actor/director/producer and festival president Colas opened at the January 20th media conference at the Carlton Cinema, “while giving the bigger voice to artists who, otherwise, would not been heard or not been seen in the city.
“Just like the Montréal International Black Film Festival that we created twelve years ago, that today has become the biggest and largest black film festival in Canada, we’ve always wanted a Toronto film festival to be fun and meaningful with programmes and films from here and abroad that take on important world issues. A festival that presents work that raises questions, that provoke us, that make us smile, that leave us perplexed and at times, shock us.”
Workshops in the TBFF Black Market will have a master class for women filmmakers led by Trey Anthony February 13 “She Saw Herself, Beautiful, Brown and Black” that include a screening of her new short When Black Mothers Don’t Say I love you and panellists Sharon Lewis, Stacy-Ann Buchanan and Hannah Yohannes; a free workshop February 13 on short filmmaking tips “Making Short Films: How and Why?” and a conversation/Q&A with noted Toronto auteur Clement Virgo hosted by Colas includes the screening of the first episode of the CBC miniseries The Book of Negroes on February 14, all at the Carlton Cinema; plus for the first time the festival will have a Audience’s Choice Award on its closing night
As part of the Special American Program and commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the Black Panther Party, twenty films from the United States courtesy of the United States Embassy in Ottawa includes the critically-acclaimed feature documentary on the revolutionary group The Black Panthers: Vanguards of the Revolution (February 11), romantic-comedy indie Somewhere in the Middle (February 14), dramatic thriller The Girl Is In Trouble (February 11), apocalyptical short drama First Date Last Date (February 14) and horror short The Boy (February 12), among others.
South African films provide the opening and closing night galas with the family drama Thina Sobabili (The Two of Us) on February 10 at the Isabel Bader Theatre about two township siblings left on their own after a tragedy that could tear them further apart and the operatic Breathe from the creators of the 2005 Academy Award-nominated Foreign Language film u-Carmen eKhayelitsha, in bringing their adaptation of Puccini’s La bohème on the struggles of the modern-day young in the townships as directed by Mark Dornford-May and the Isango Ensemble, at the Carlton Cinema February 14.
Also from South Africa comes the feminist romantic-drama Ayanda and the Mechanic (February 13) and crime-drama The Boda Boda Thieves (February 12); American filmmaker Kiara C. Jones’ romantic comedy of errors Christmas Wedding Baby (February 11), the Nigerian/British co-production drama Dry (February 13) about a Nigerian-British doctor’s past returning to haunt her on a humanitarian aid trip back to her birthplace; Fear of a Black Hat ’s Rusty Cundieff is back directing the true-story period piece White Water about a young boy in 1963 Alabama’s obsession with a whites-only drinking fountain and his desire to drink from it and sports documentaries Game Face (February 12) about the challenges of being a LGBTQ athlete and The Flying Stars (February 12) on a group of amputee soccer players from Sierra Leone’s double-edged lives of coping with their disability and recovering from the country’s civil war a decade ago that took away their limbs, but not their spirits.
Left-right: A still from the documentary The Flying Stars and Torontonian filmmaker Clement Virgo to make appearances at the sixth annual Toronto Black Film Festival February 10 to 14.
Speaking with the filmmakers of The Flying Stars into what compelled them to document the topic, co-director Allan Tong was inspired by a photo essay in a copy of Sports Illustrated taken by photographer Fiona Abude on these soccer players. “It’s one of those moments where something that just grabs a filmmaker and you have to pursuit it,” he said.
Co-director Ngardy Conteh George furthers her observation on her subject matter. “I think mostly going to Sierra Leone and seeing the reality versus what you see in the media of a country that’s recovering from civil war and seeing the beauty of the people and the strength of their resilience and just the daily pleasures that they enjoy. A lot of (the amputees) do live in poverty, but they still laugh and they still enjoy life.”
“I think the story that grabbed the most was the (team) captain, his name was Borno and was actually a soldier in the civil war in Sierra Leone in the ‘Nineties,” added Tong. “He was amputated, but he came back and raising his own family now in spite of suffering nightmares of that war. The war still exists within his mind and soul, like a lot of the people that survived the war, that’s called PTDS (post-dramatic stress disorder) as we now know.”
“We got a very positive reaction doing the festival circuit,” said George. “Recently we were in Atlanta for the Bronze Lens Film Festival where we won for the Best Documentary Award and we had our New York premiere back in May (2015) at the New York African Film Festival, we had a sold-out crowd there. So we’ve had very, very good warm reception about the film. These guys are amazing when you see them onscreen, so people’s breaths are taken away. Also our cinematographer Colin Akoon did an amazing job capturing these guys and capturing the story so well.”
Tickets now on sale. For information, call 416-888-7208 or visit online: torontoblackfilm.com.
Left-right: The documentary Hustler’s Convention profiling rap legend Jalal Nuriddin and Booker Prize-winning author Marlon James are part of the African Heritage Month festivities around Toronto in February.
African Heritage Month Events Listings 2016
With the forthcoming Toronto Black Film Festival covering the cinematic end of African Heritage Month in February, Harbourfront Centre and the Toronto Public Library picks up the rest of the fulcrum with free and ticketed events from the spoken word to literary matters in focusing on the contributions the African diaspora to the local and national mosaic.
For this year’s Kuumba festivities down by the lakeshore Artport (235 Queen’s Quay West) from February 5 to 7 will look into race politics and the shared African-Canadian experience of “Black Like We,” with forums regarding misogyny in hip-hop hosted by DJ Mel Boogie with a panel featuring rap pioneers Jalal Nuriddin of The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron protégé Malik Al-Nasir among local poets and musicians for “Dispatches from Tomorrow” (February 6) and a youth symposium “Black Youth as an Endangered Species,” hosted by journalist/activist Desmond Cole (February 6).
Also on the roster for the weekend is a music showcase featuring women hip-hop artists Michie Mee, Adria Kain, pHoenix Pagliacci and DJ Mel Boogie (February 7), the all-female comedy show “Black Like She” with funny ladies Keesha Brownie, Zabrina Chevannes, Coko & Daphney and Amani (February 5); a special free advance screening of the documentary Hustler’s Convention with a Q&A featuring Nuriddin and Al-Nasir (February 6) and a live mural project by Shirley Mpagi, Jae Stewart and Adrian Hayles in the Kuumba Lounge all weekend long.
Authors grace the public library system’s various branches with their free The eh List Author Series featuring Canadian authors promoting their latest works. Craig Shreve revisits the Civil Rights-era American Southland regarding a murdered young activist fifty years later and in finding closure in One Night in Mississippi at the Yorkville branch (22 Yorkville Avenue) and poet laureate George Elliot Clarke launches Motorcyclist, a travelogue tale loosely based on his father’s exploits under the guise of one adventurer Carle Black at the Beaches branch (2161 Queen Street East), both on February 11.
Red Jacket by Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize-nominated author Pamela Mordecai on a woman looking for her identity at Victoria Village branch (184 Sloane Avenue) on February 18; Lawrence Hill discussing Café Babanussa at the Parkdale branch (1303 Queen Street West) by the late author Karen Hill on a young woman dealing with life, love and mental health issues in the 1980s February 23 and making a special appearance at the Toronto Reference branch (789 Yonge Street) on February 18 is Jamaican-American novelist Marlon James discussing his 2015 Man Booker Prize-winning fictionalized thriller account behind Bob Marley’s 1975 assassination attempt and its fallout A Brief History of Seven Killings, as interviewed by Toronto International Film Festival Artistic Director Cameron Bailey (rush seats are currently available, as this event is almost fully booked as of this posting).
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