By Canute Lawrence
Last Friday (August 18), the inaugural gala of the Toronto Pan-Afrikan Film Festival took place at the Oakwood Village Library and Arts Centre. And, what an amazing evening it was! A capacity crowd turned out for a grand evening which started with a reception of hors d’oeuvres and refreshments on the library’s side street, which was blocked off to vehicular traffic.
Following the reception was a fashion show of fabulous African pieces by Fab Boutique, a mother and daughter business which started during the COVID-19 pandemic. The elegant designs ranged from casual to formal wear showcasing vibrant to earth-tone hues.
The film, ‘One of Ours’, directed by Yasmin Mathurin, takes the audience on an emotional journey of a young, Black, Haitian-born man who was adopted by a Heiltsuk family, and was eventually barred from playing in the annual First Nations Basketball Tournament as he did not have Heiltsuk blood, a rule by the first Nations Basketball Federation. Issues of identity, belonging, trauma, feelings of betrayal, and healing are explored in ‘One of Ours’, which was shot over 4 years and which took another 6 months to edit.
There was a vibrant question and answer session after the showing of ‘One of Ours’ followed by a post-reception party with more food and drinks on the house at The Oakwood Hardware restaurant next door to the library.
A total of 8 films were featured during the 3-day festival in the Oakwood Village Library, and Maria A. Shuchka Library auditoriums: Finding The Light directed by Brandon Hayes; Mr. Jane
and Finch directed by Alison Duke; Memento: A South African Adventure directed by Ryan Singh; Subjects of Desire directed by Jennifer Holness; Finding Sally directed by Tamara Mariam Dawit; School To Prison Pipeline directed by Moses Latigo Odida, and Dope Is Death directed by Mia Donovan.
Festival Director Lori Beazer has done a great job, and my prediction is that the Toronto Pan-Afrikan Film Festival is going to be one of the sought-after film festivals in Canada and the Americas in a few years. Torontonians should put the Toronto Pan-Afrikan Film Festival in their annual calendar of ‘must-attend’ summer events.
Carolyn Bennett, Member of Parliament for Toronto-St. Paul’s, attended the gala along with other community leaders and change-makers. The Toronto Pan-Afrikan Film Festival is funded by A City of Toronto Cultural Hotspot Signature Project and the City of Toronto.