The Toronto International Film Festival which runs Sept. 10-19 with a mix of virtual and in-person screenings, is bringing back its Planet Africa program.
First created in 1995 by Cameron Bailey, who is now TIFF’s co-head and artistic director, the program ran for 10 years with cinema from Africa and the African diaspora.
This year’s revived Planet Africa 25 program will also mark the recent Black Lives Matter uprisings with special events.
Those events include a panel with Bailey and the team that built Planet Africa, and a dance party livestreamed from a secret location.
The dance party will feature DJ Dave Campbell and special guest Mr Akil D from the annual B.L.A.C.K. Ball, which was created by Canadian actors Shamier Anderson and Stephan James.
The four titles in the Planet Africa program include “Akilla’s Escape,” a crime-noir about an urban child-soldier, directed by Canadian filmmaker Charles Officer.
“Downstream to Kinshasa” (“En route pour le milliard”) by Dieudo Hamadi is about a group’s plea for recognition of a bloody June 2000 conflict in Kisangani, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Tommy Oliver’s “40 Years A Prisoner” is “the story of nine people from Philadelphia-based back-to-nature group, MOVE, who were convicted of murdering a police officer they likely didn’t kill.”
And “The Way I See It” by Dawn Porter looks as former U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan through the eyes of renowned photojournalist Pete Souza.
“Planet Africa stands as one of the proudest moments in my career,” Bailey said in a news release last week.
“Twenty-five years ago, I joined with colleagues and friends to launch a festival platform for films from all over the African diaspora. We brought filmmaking legends
together with new talent. We hosted a Planet Africa party that got both Hollywood stars and everyday Black people on the dance floor. We made our dreams for Black creativity real. I hope celebrating that work now can help inspire the next generation.”
Other new films added to the festival include the Canadian documentary “Underplayed” by Stacey Lee.
The story of gender inequality in the electronic music scene will screen at OLG Play Stage at Ontario Place on Sept. 19, followed by a live performance with DJ/producer REZZ, who is in the film.
The Special Events lineup also includes “The Water Man,” a mystical family-friendly adventure directed by acclaimed actor David Oyelowo.
Family fare is also found in the animated film “Wolfwalkers” by Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, about a girl who discovers a surprising world while hunting wolves in Ireland.
Matthew Heineman’s documentary “The Boy from Medellin” profiles Colombian reggaeton musician J Balvin, who will be featured in a talk at the festival.
For “The Truffle Hunters” documentary by Michael Dweck and Gregory Kershaw, a special curated menu from restaurant company Oliver & Bonacini will be available for purchase.
TIFF has also added more “In Conversation With…” virtual star chats. Participants include: filmmakers Claire Denis and Barry Jenkins; filmmaker Ava DuVernay; actress Saoirse Ronan; Montreal filmmaker Barry Levinson and actor Denzel Washington; and DJ D-Nice with music-video director Anthony Mandler.
Other announcements made last week include the lineup of 36 short films and details on TIFF’s annual awards, which will be handed out on Sept. 20.
This year the coveted People’s Choice prize will be chosen through online votes.
There will also be three jury-selected IMDbPro Short Cuts Awards — for best film, best Canadian film, and the Share Her Journey Award for best film by a woman. Winners will each get a bursary of $10,000 and a one-year membership to IMDbPro.
And the Amplify Voices Awards presented by Canada Goose will be presented to the three best feature films by under-represented filmmakers. All feature films in TIFF’s official selection by self-identified BIPOC and Canadian filmmakers are eligible, and the three winners will receive $10,000 each.
TIFF has also announced that the previously announced in-person screening venue Isabel Bader Theatre is no longer available. The venue is on the University of Toronto campus and can no longer be used “due to ever-evolving health precautions necessary for the back-to-school season in September.”