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

  • Weinstein paid $1M to silence Italian model who accused him of groping: report

    Entertainment CBC News
    Harvey Weinstein paid $1 million US to silence an Italian model who accused him of groping her in 2015 after prosecutors decided not to charge him, and in the 1990s, his brother paid other accusers from his personal bank account, a magazine reported Tuesday. Source
  • Pixar co-founder John Lasseter steps down over 'missteps' with employees

    Entertainment CBC News
    Pixar co-founder and Walt Disney Animation chief John Lasseter is taking a six-month leave of absence citing "missteps" with employees. In a vaguely worded memo obtained by The Associated Press Tuesday, Lasseter says he knows he has made some employees feel disrespected and uncomfortable. Source
  • Pixar co-founder John Lasseter takes leave over 'missteps' with employees

    Entertainment CBC News
    Pixar co-founder and Walt Disney Animation chief John Lasseter is taking a six-month leave of absence citing "missteps" with employees. In a vaguely worded memo obtained by The Associated Press Tuesday, Lasseter says he knows he has made some employees feel disrespected and uncomfortable. Source
  • Disney Animation, Pixar chief John Lasseter taking leave

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Just days before Pixar's "Coco" is set to hit theatres, Pixar co-founder and Walt Disney Animation chief John Lasseter announced he is taking a six-month leave of absence citing "missteps" with employees. Source
  • People with facial differences see their stories reflected in Wonder

    Entertainment CBC News
    When Vanessa Wiens was just 12 years old, she was out walking her dog and someone yelled, "Hey you, ugly ... you should go kill yourself." She did contemplate suicide, being the target of cruel comments in her neighbourhood at least four times a week when she was growing up. Source
  • 'He still feels like Michael from Vancouver:' Junos tap 'guy next door' Bublé as 2018 host

    Entertainment CBC News
    After the curtain fell on the 2016 Juno Awards, producers behind the Canadian music celebration received an effusive call from a devoted fan praising the awards telecast: Michael Bublé. "He said: 'I would love to host again. Source
  • Canadian singer Michael Buble is 2018 Juno Awards host

    Entertainment CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- Canadian singer Michael Buble will be the host the 2018 Juno Awards. Buble had been tapped to host the music awards show last year before he bowed out when his son Noah was diagnosed with cancer. Source
  • Anne Murray donates 40 years of memorabilia to University of Toronto

    Entertainment CBC News
    Anne Murray's decision to downsize led to some good news for her Toronto-based fans: the singer has donated 40 years' worth of memorabilia that can now be viewed at the University of Toronto. Packing up her Toronto home to move into a condo meant having to decide what to do with dozens of boxes of memorabilia, and the school convinced the Nova Scotia-born singer to donate it rather than throw it away. Source
  • CBS News, PBS cut ties to Charlie Rose following sex allegations

    Entertainment CBC News
    CBS News has fired Charlie Rose following sexual misconduct allegations. CBS had earlier suspended Rose following Monday's Washington Post story about him, while both PBS and Bloomberg also halted distribution of his nightly interview show. Source
  • Canadian documentary series 'Hip-Hop Evolution' among International Emmy winners

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- A Canadian documentary series about the history of hip hop was among the winners at the 2017 International Emmy Awards gala Monday night in New York. "Hip-Hop Evolution," which is hosted by rapper Shad and was broadcast on HBO, won in the arts programming category. Source