Interview with Chris Strikes, the award-winning director behind “Becoming a Queen”
For the past 16 years, CaribbeanTales International Film Festival has been celebrating the talents of established and emerging filmmakers of Caribbean and African heritage. Each year, the festival showcases an exceptional, multi-ethnic mix of films that represent diverse and shared stories and culture.
For the first time, more than 50% of their programme is directed by Canadian filmmakers and will include talent from 16 other countries. You can access this year’s stellar lineup of films with the purchase of a festival pass, which is available now on the CTFF website.
The festival opens on September 8th with “Becoming a Queen”, a documentary that follows Toronto’s nine-time Queen of Carnival winner Joella Crichton as she strives for an historic tenth win. The Caribbean Camera met with director Chris Strikes to discuss the film and the importance of representation in the Canadian film industry.
Caribbean Camera: The CaribbeanTales Film Festival has been amplifying Black voices in film for 16 years. Historically, the Canadian film industry has been very exclusive of people of colour. Why is it important to share these voices and stories?
Chris Strikes: It’s tremendously important to share Black stories and voices in Canadian film because our stories show our presence within Canadian history. Our stories keep our cultures alive, striving and evolving. Our stories connect to the deepest depths of the life source within us. We are seen and we see us.
CC: The festival will be opening with Becoming a Queen. Tell us more about the film. Why did you choose this story to tell?
Chris Strikes: When I first met Joella back in 2017, I was completely enamoured with her Carnival accomplishments. And because I met Joella through the film world, I learned that so many of Joella’s film and theatre peers didn’t really know much about her involvement in Carnival and King and Queen at the time. Thus, it immediately dawned on me that Joella needed to have her story told. I felt she needed to be celebrated on screen, especially as she was aiming to achieve such a milestone at the time. That’s why I chose to tell this story, and as the story progressed and evolved, I quickly realized that the people around her also needed to be celebrated too – for the immense contributions they make; Kenney Coombs (costume designer), Lou-Ann Crichton (Joella’s mother) and Mischka Crichton. (Joella’s older sister).
CC: What do festivals like CTFF mean for the future of the film industry in Canada?
Chris Strikes: Festivals like CTFF provide a great outlet for Black filmmakers where they might’ve been shut out of other festivals, and promise for a much more diverse future of the film industry in Canada. Many more Black filmmakers will qualify for certain film labs, programs and grants through having had a film screened at CTFF (and similar festivals), that will help further develop their careers, and in turn open many doors of opportunity.
This year’s programme is loaded with award-winning films that will make you laugh, cry, and learn more about the experiences of African and Caribbean people around the globe. The festival includes panel discussions and talkbacks with the film’s directors and stars. Closing night takes place on September 24th in-person at the Carlton Cinema in Toronto along with the live stream showing. It will include screenings of Talk and Buladó as well as the awards ceremony.
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