Founder of black film festivals says Canada lacks roles for people of colour

TORONTO - While the Canadian Screen Awards tout a diverse slate of 2016 nominees, there's still a dearth of roles for people of colour in this country, says the founder of the Montreal International Black Film Festival and the Toronto Black Film Festival.

See Full Article

"In the U.S.A., you do have those roles for black people or for African-American people, however you want to call them," says Haitian native Fabienne Colas, pointing to recent films including "Selma" and "Creed."

"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?

"That means we don't have those roles.... They don't really exist."

"The Book of Negroes" miniseries has 11 CSA nominations, including acting nods for Lyriq Bent, Aunjanue Ellis and Shailyn Pierre-Dixon.

Those nominations and a few others have some Canadian performers praising the CSAs as being more inclusive than the Oscars in the U.S., where two straight years of all-white acting nominees have prompted backlash and academy changes.

Colas, an actor-director-producer, notes it's an exceptional year at the CSAs.

"What's going to happen next year? What's going to happen after that?" she says.

"If the industry does not continue to make films with people of colour in the lead roles, well, at a certain point in time in Canada ... we won't have any persons of colour to give this nomination to."

She says one solution is to ensure a diverse makeup of committee or jury members at institutions that give grants to filmmakers.

"Unless there's a really relevant reason for you to bring a film that is an all-white cast - because it's historical - if you're doing a film in 2016 here in Toronto or in Quebec or in Montreal, it is ridiculous to consider that all characters should be white in Canada today," says Colas.

The Toronto Black Film Festival runs Wednesday through Sunday with 44 titles from 20 countries. Nine of the titles come from Canada.

Clement Virgo, who directed and co-wrote "The Book of Negroes," will be at the fest on Sunday for a Q&A.

Oscar-nominated actress Alfre Woodard will be at the fest on Saturday to receive the inaugural career achievement award. She'll also be at a Q&A for her film "Knucklehead."

Such festivals are still needed, says Woodard, who stars in "Knucklehead" as an abusive mother to an adult son (Gbenga Akinnagbe) with mental health issues.

"If people did not put these festivals on and nurture them over the years and build that kind of relationship with the public, we would never be able to see the brilliant films and the films that you want to argue about, the films that inspire you, freak you out," says Woodard.

That's the very reason Colas founded her festivals, starting with the Montreal one (formerly the Montreal Haitian Film Festival) 12 years ago.

A native of Haiti, she went to Montreal with a copy of her acclaimed film "Barikad," but no festival would screen it. She found that "ridiculous" considering "the Haitian community was and is still the largest black community in Montreal, in Quebec."

Colas then created a Toronto version because it's "the most diverse city in Canada."

"It's all about helping one another to understand one another better," says Colas. "It's all about giving everybody a voice, because when we listen to each other, when we understand, when we get to know each other and we understand each other better and then we get to love each other more.

"We spread the love, there's less fear and then we can relate to everybody's stories."



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • Winnipeg author Katherena Vermette wins $40,000 Amazon.ca First Novel Award

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- Winnipeg writer Katherena Vermette has added to her growing list of accolades with top honours from the Amazon.ca First Novel Award. The award-winning Metis author received the $40,000 grand prize for "The Break" (House of Anansi) at a ceremony held at the Four Seasons Hotel in Toronto on Thursday night. Source
  • 'I'll never be sorry': Dirty Dancing remake viewers might disagree

    Entertainment CBC News
    ABC entered the musical adaptation game with a leap on Wednesday night, but its Dirty Dancing remake landed with a thud with many viewers and critics. Live television and singing and dancing shows are among the more reliable ways to attract viewers in the fractured television landscape, and musicals have increasingly become important dates on the network calendars. Source
  • Taraji P. Henson crashes sports car on film set: report

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Actress Taraji P. Henson was left a little shaken up on the set of her new movie Proud Mary after crashing a Maserati sports car into a fire hydrant. The star was filming a driving scene in Lawrence, Massachusetts on Sunday when she lost control of the expensive motor and slammed into the hydrant, according to TMZ. Source
  • 'The Girl on the Train’ author Paula Hawkins talks new thriller ‘Into the Water’

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    TORONTO — Paula Hawkins scored a literary smash out of the gates after her debut thriller “The Girl on the Train” sold 19 million copies and was adapted into a box office-topping hit film starring Emily Blunt. Source
  • 'The Girl on the Train' author Paula Hawkins dives into thriller 'Into the Water'

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- Paula Hawkins scored a literary smash out of the gates after her debut thriller "The Girl on the Train" sold 19 million copies and was adapted into a box office-topping hit film starring Emily Blunt. Source
  • Simple Plan bassist Desrosiers taking leave to treat depression

    Entertainment CBC News
    Simple Plan bassist David Desrosiers says he's taking a temporary leave from the pop-punk band as he fights depression. The musician posted a message to fans on his Instagram account on Thursday outlining his decision to bow out from the European leg of the band's tour. Source
  • Is nostalgia enough to make Ultra Street Fighter 2 a success?

    Entertainment CBC News
    Street Fighter 2 is one of the most important titles in video game history. Launched in 1992 by Japanese studio Capcom, Street Fighter 2: The World Warrior largely defined the fighting game genre and revitalized arcade gaming. Source
  • How Star Wars ruined Hollywood: The dark side of the space epic's success

    Entertainment CBC News
    Forty years ago today, Star Wars opened in just 43 cinemas. Soon enough, the sci-fi epic was playing hundred of screens and a franchise was born. With time, the Star Wars films earned billions of dollars at the box office and changed the way movies are made. Source
  • Bloodline's Norbert Leo Butz and showrunner Todd A. Kessler talk final season

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    You either loved or hated Bloodline. But most who watched Netflix’s creatively-challenged family thriller-saga about the f---ed-up Rayburn clan all agreed the acting is what the series will be most remembered for. Kyle Chandler was nominated twice for an Emmy Award as Best Lead Dramatic Actor – a hard thing to snag, especially as a relatively new series with mixed reviews and little fanfare and considering it took forever for him to be recognized for his big sleeper hit, Friday Night Lights –…
  • Simple Plan bassist skips European tour as he battles depression

    Entertainment CTV News
    TORONTO -- Simple Plan bassist David Desrosiers says he's taking a temporary leave from the pop-punk band as he fights depression. The musician posted a message to fans on his Instagram account saying he's decided to bow out from the European leg of the band's tour. Source