Black film fest celebrates diversity

By Gerald V. Paul

Fabienne Colas, Toronto Black Film Festival founder, chats with Katie Uhlmann at the Carlton Cinema as the 2015 festival lineup was revealed, including Black History Month showings in February. Gerald V. Paul Photo
Fabienne Colas, Toronto Black Film Festival founder, chats with Katie Uhlmann at the Carlton Cinema as the 2015 festival lineup was revealed, including Black History Month showings in February.
Gerald V. Paul Photo

Told by the powers that be that she was incapable of making it in movies in Canada, leading Haitian actress Fabienne Colas founded the Montreal International Black Film Festival and later the Toronto Black Film Festival, this year with a focus on Black History Month.

Colas, president and founder of both festivals, recalled for The Camera how she started the Montreal festival 10 years ago, adding Toronto three years ago.

“It’s been three years since the Fabienne Colas Foundation successfully launched the first edition of the Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF). Thanks to your enthusiastic support, we’re proud to host another year celebrating diversity within the Black communities through powerful films, a community program and exciting special events.”

Referring to the Toronto festival’s celebration of Black History Month from Feb. 10 to 15, Colas noted that “greater knowledge leads to greater understanding.

“TBFF is glad to celebrate diversity within the Black communities through films that matter. Films illuminate, entertain and invite audiences to see the world from another person’s experience. In connecting Black films with viewers of all colours and ethnic origins we recognize the differences that make us unique and celebrate the shared values that bring us together.

“Coming together through art allows members of all cultural communities to better understand one another,” Colas said.

Colas said her vision is for films that are “cool, International, independent, politically incorrect and eye-opening. TBFF, is about discovery and diversity. TBFF brings you the most outstanding and most powerful Black films while creating a space to debate major cultural, social and socio-economic issues.”

As her mission, she added that “we are dedicated to giving unique voices in cinema the opportunity to give audiences with new ways of looking at the world. We are dynamic, refreshing and audacious festival, whose ambition is to encourage the development of the independent film industry and to promote more films highlighting the reality of Black people and communities around the globe.”

Colas noted major Hollywood stars have graced her Black Film Festival in Montreal and she has plans for the continuation of this caliber of excellence in Toronto.  “This diversity of mega stars is part of the distinctiveness with us and the others.

“It’s a real privilege to have such loyal partners as the Shaw Family and Global News. Their tremendous support not only allow us to have two very successful past editions, but they enable us to come back with a stronger format showcasing more independent artists from Canada and abroad.

“Thanks to Ward Smith and his amazing team for supporting and celebrating diversity through The Toronto Black Film Festival.”

Colas said that with devoted volunteers, the support of passionate film lovers, an enthusiastic media and committed filmmakers, the TBFF, team will continue to challenge conventions and push the envelope.

This year, she said, 38 of the best films on Black realities from around the globe – most of which are Ontario premieres – will be shown. The festival opens at the Isabel Bader Theatre with the award-winning film Manos Sucias (Dirty Hands) by Josef Wladyka and executive produced by Spike Lee.

“We are thrilled to be presenting a spotlight on the Blaxploitation genre with films, a tribute, a discussion  and a 70’s party in collaboration with Fantasia International Film Festival as well as the Black Actors in Hollywood, Then and Now panel discussion, featuring several big names in the industry.”

Also showing and expected to be a major attraction will be Aidependence: The Many Ills of the NGO System by award-winning photojournalist  Alice Smeets-Belgiumn.

The film’s title is a reference to that fact that after many years of receiving a considerable amount of foreign aid, Haiti remains an impoverished and fragile state. There are more NGO’s in Haiti than any other country.

This year, the festival will pay tribute to to Blaxploitation icon Fred ‘The Hammer’ Williamson and Hollywood legend Bill Cobbs. They will be the first to receive an honorary award from TBFF.

Smith, senior director, news and station operations, eastern region, extended greetings. “Global News is thrilled to be partnering with the Toronto Black Film Festival once again. We’ve been part of the festival since it first came to Toronto three years ago and we’re happy to see that it keeps growing bigger each year.”

He praised Colas and her team’s passion for arts and culture, bringing an exciting season of dynamic films from around the world “to our own backyard.”

Smith said Global looks forward to the social, political and cultural stories that will be told during the 2015 festival and “we look forward to continue building on our relationship with the festival and its audience.”

More TBFF information is available at 416-688-7208 or

Gerald V. Paul
Gerald V. Paul