BY ALYSSA MAHADEO
The 2016 Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF) started and ended with a bang. With it brought powerful, riveting, masterfully crafted and thought provoking films that each unlocked a different aspect of the realities of Black people and communities around the globe.
Since their inception they have been dedicated to sharing the unique voices in cinema. Their mission is to provide audiences with a fresh new perspective of the world and connect them with an illustration of major cultural, social and socio-economic issues. Every film presented at this year’s festival offered something that spoke to the diversity of the city. Knowing that these independent masterpieces were only here for the week, made them that much more extraordinary as these films are the ones that deserve the privilege of being viewed by the masses. The stories, timelines, inspirations and process behind putting together some of these films depicts many issues that people have yet to address, or haven’t yet been educated on. They bring up concerns that some might have not ever known about if they hadn’t seen a film or discussed it’s beginnings aloud.
The TBFF had their premier opening night at the Isabel Bader Theatre, where guest were invited to come out and experience the heart wrenching story “Thina Sobabili (The Two of Us)” a South African film directed by Earnest Nkosi. The film follows the story of two siblings Thulani and Zanele who live their lives in solidarity with only each other to lean on in times of need. They are victims of circumstance and after escaping tragedy the two of them build a life for themselves in the vibrant Alexandria Township living in less than ideal circumstances. Zanele is young and naïve, while her brother is aggressively overprotective. She yearns to live a different more extravagant life, one where she can be her own woman, find love and escape life in the hood. Their story takes you on a roller coaster of emotions vicariously living the lives of each character, contemplating their thought processes and how they cope with the issues at hand. The desperation of the story translates into raw emotion for the audience and the seriousness of the epidemic they face is a harsh reality to come to terms with. This is not a story with a happy ending, but a beautiful depiction of something very serious, symbolic of what is happening in society today.
The film begs the question, what is being done to prevent this? How many children are coping with the same type of life style, how can we protect them and why haven’t we heard about these issues before? The answer for that is due to the lack of awareness, brought to light by the screenings of these films at the TBFF.
This film was presented by Global News and was the official submission to the 88th Academy Awards, as well as the 73rd Golden Globe Awards in the Best Foreign Language Film category. Unfortunately with much of the controversy surrounding this year’s Oscars tagged #oscarssowhite it’s not much of a surprise it wasn’t considered for that recognition.
Over the course of the festival weekend film goers were able to experience other special events that included a screening of “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution”, the first feature length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party diving straight to the source and presenting a treasure trove of rare archival footage with the voices of people who were there.
Workshops, master classes and movie talks were a new edition to this year’s festivities entitled the TBFF Black Market with the opportunity to hear from local and internationally renowned leaders, experts and visionaries such as award-winning film maker Trey Anthony and Q & A discussions with award-winning director Clement Virgo. Also on the roster was a tribute to actress Alfre Woodard sharing her own experiences as a black actress in film, and the presentation of the 2016 TBFF Career Achievement Award.
This year’s Toronto Black Film Festival was a huge success through the leadership and dedication of festival founder Fabienne Colas. Fabienne and her team of dedicated individuals works harder with every new year to bring only the best and most riveting films from the Black communities around the globe. As co-presenters and sponsors of the Toronto Black Film Festival, the Toronto Caribbean Newspaper would like to thank them for the opportunity and look forward to working with them again next year! The refreshing diversity of the community and celebrations of culture and heritage demonstrates the shared values that bring us together.