4th Annual Toronto Black Film Festival awarding unrecognized talent with publicity

Feb 12, 2016 | Arts

Jelani Grant

The annual Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF) is once again giving people of colour a focused representation in the film industry, proving equality is certainly in progress.

This is the film festival’s fourth year in Toronto. The TBFF website describes the event as an opportunity to discover unrecognized talent and to provide an audience for unique independent filmmakers.

“TBFF showcases the most outstanding and amazing black films while creating a space to debate major cultural, social and socio-economic issues,” TBFF founder Fabienne Colas told Radio Canada International.

The festival came to Toronto in 2013 after eight successful years of the Montreal International Black Film Festival.

Toronto Black Film Festival founder, Fabienne Colas, is hosting in the city for the fourth time.

Toronto Black Film Festival founder, Fabienne Colas, is hosting in the city for the fourth time. (Courtesy Flickr)

Colas told CBC News that Canada lacks roles for black people. “In the U.S.A., you do have those roles for black people or for African-American people,” said the Haitian native, “Those roles exist, those opportunities are there, but they’re not being recognized — versus in Canada, in a year when you will not have The Book of Negroes, who are they going to nominate in the Canadian Screen Awards?”

This year’s controversial Academy Award nominations might support this claim. The only black Oscar winners since 2013 were Common and John Legend, who shared the award for Best Original Song.

On the other hand, The Book of Negroes has a number of nominees in the Canadian Screen Awards such as best supporting actress role, best leading actor role in a drama series and best leading actress role in a drama series.

Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television(ACCT) CEO Helga Stephenson explained to the Toronto Star that they aim for diversity when considering nominees.

“We work hard on diversity at the Academy but we also work hard on diversity as a country. Diversity for a Canadian is not a strange concept. It is who we are and who we always have been and it has been on our screens for a long time,” said Stephenson.

Whether for affirmative action or actual recognition of talent, the ACCT has proved with its nominations there is no shortage of black actors, actresses and filmmakers in Canada.

Programming Directors Emile Castonguay and Joyce Fuerza organized a top 15 list of film & documentary suggestions for the festival. The list includes The Black Panthers: Vanguard of Revolution premiering Friday evening; Brooklyn beginning Saturday at noon; and White Water scheduled to show on Sunday at 3 p.m.

The festival will screen at least 44 films from 20 countries. It will continues through the weekend until Sunday evening.