New film festival launched in T.O.


Motion pictures produced by African-born filmmakers residing in Canada and the United States will be shown on the opening night of the new Canadian Black Film Festival (CBBF) on September 25 in Toronto.

The Tenant, which won the Best Feature Film award at the inaugural Moving Image Film Festival in Canada last November and was nominated for the Best Film award at the Bite Mango Film Festival in England last year, and The Black Candle which was voted the 2009 Best Documentary at the African World Documentary Film Festival in St. Louis, Missouri, will launch the three-day festival.

Produced by Nigerian-born Lucky Ejim and Jude Idaba, The Tenant tells the story of an African refugee who has 30 days remaining before he’s deported from Canada. After learning of his plight, the refugee’s landlord – who is terminally ill – promises to use his connections as a former Canadian immigration officer to help him on the condition that he can re-unite him with his estranged daughter.

The emerging independent filmmakers’ first feature was screened at the ninth Reel World Film Festival last April.

Zimbabwe-born M.J. Asante, who lives in Philadelphia, produced and directed The Black Candle which is the first ever documentary about Kwanzaa. It was filmed across the U.S., Africa, Europe and the Caribbean and its cast includes Maya Angelou, who narrated the film and wrote poetry for it, and some of the hip-hop industry’s top performers.

The 26-year-old Asante, a creative writing and film professor at Morgan State University, wrote and produced the award-winning 2005 film, 500 Years Later. His father, Molefi Asante, is a professor in the Department of African-American Studies at Temple University and a regular participant in Black-focused academic conferences and events in Toronto.

The opening night’s double bill starts at 6 p.m. with the screening of The Tenant at Ryerson University’s George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre, Room 103, 245 Church St. The Black Candle will be shown at the same venue, starting at 9.30 p.m. The price of admission to each show is $10.

Gad Campbell, who worked at the British Broadcasting Corporation as a director for seven years before moving to Toronto in 2007, said the festival was established to celebrate and highlight films of Black culture, origin or content from the diverse landscapes, countries and continents that represent the fabric of African-Canadian and Diaspora filmmaking.

“When I moved here, I was very disappointed to find there was no platform for Black filmmakers to showcase their work,” he said. “A lot of Black filmmakers that I met since I have been here really pushed me to go ahead and set up an African-Canadian and Black festival.

“We also wanted to give new and up and coming young filmmakers a platform to showcase their work…This is different from the Reel World festival which is primarily for film and video artists from ethno cultural communities. Our event is celebrating African-Canadian and Black works…At the same time, this will complement what Reel World is doing because there is never too much in this industry.”

Tonya Lee Williams, who founded the Reel World Film Festival in 2000, was among the celebrities who attended the CBBF Cinema Noir launch party last Sunday night.

The CBBF is working with the newly-formed AfriCan Resource Foundation to put on the event which will close with a tribute to former Ontario Lieutenant Governor Lincoln Alexander.

“In addition to hosting the Planet Africa awards show, running a TV program and successfully implementing a youth mentorship program in conjunction with a local church, we wanted to put on a heritage festival with film as one of the components,” said Moses Mawa who along with his wife Patricia Bebia co-founded the organization. “As part of the festival, the Saturday (September 26) will be dedicated to the screening of three Africa-themed feature films.”

The festival will also pay tribute to playwright Trey Anthony and feature a youth development program titled “Youth On Camera” and workshops for industry professionals.

Other films to be shown during the festival include the action thriller Jamie and Eddie: Souls of Strife, produced by 24-year-old Ivory Coast-born Carleton University graduate, Pascal Aka.

Aka’s debut film tells the story of a rivalry between two young men at a school for secret agents.

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