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

Supporters gather during a rally against measures taken by government and health authorities to curb the spread of COVID-19 at the Whistle Stop cafe in Mirror Alta, on Saturday May 8, 2021. The Whistle Stop was shut down by AHS for not complying with COVID-19 rules. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Police hand out tickets to dozens leaving anti-lockdown protest in Alberta

Hundreds gathered outside the Whistle Stop Café in the hamlet of Mirror, Alta.

Oval Race track at Central Alberta Raceway. (Photo Submitted)
Central Alberta Raceways in Rimbey delays opening after health restrictions expand

Central Alberta Raceways had originally planned to open for the season at the end of May

People line up outside an immunization clinic to get their Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine in Edmonton, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. Alberta leads the Prairie provinces in being the first to take COVID-19 vaccine bookings for pre-teens. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta leads Prairie provinces in accepting COVID vaccine bookings for pre-teens

The province begins accepting appointments for kids as young as 12 starting today

Asymptomatic testing will now be available for "priority groups" who are most likely to spread the COVID-19 virus to vulnerable or at-risk populations. File photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS
Winnipeg Jets’ Andrew Copp (9) and Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mike Smith (41) watch an incoming shot during second period NHL action in Winnipeg, Monday, April 26, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Fred Greenslade
‘Very jealous’: Canadian teams can’t take advantage of NHL’s relaxed COVID-19 rules

League eased some tight COVID-19 health and safety protocols over the weekend for fully vaccinated clubs

File photo
Arrest made for armed robbery in Millet, Wetaskiwin RCMP continue to investigate

Wetaskiwin RCMP are investigating an armed robbery took place May 4, 2021 in Millet, Alta.

Dr. Karina Pillay, former mayor of Slave Lake, Alta., is shown at her medical clinic in Calgary on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
10 years later: Former Slave Lake mayor remembers wildfire that burned through town

Alberta announced in 2011 that an unknown arsonist had recklessly or deliberately ignited the forest fire

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman travelling from Alberta found dead in B.C. park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

A caribou grazes on Baffin Island in a 2008 file photo. A last-ditch attempt to save some of Canada’s vanishing caribou herds is a step closer after a scientific review panel’s approval of a plan to permanently pen some animals and breed them to repopulate other herds. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kike Calvo via AP Images
Parks Canada captive caribou breeding proposal gets OK from scientific review panel

Wolf density in Jasper is low enough that the animals would not be expected to be a major threat

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Canada’s chief public health officer is reminding Canadians even those who are fully vaccinated are not immune from transmitting the COVID-19. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s top doctor warns full vaccination does not equal full protection from COVID-19

Post-inoculation, Theresa Tam says the risk of asymptomatic infection and transmission is far lower but not obsolete

Most Read