This year’s marks the 20th anniversary of the late Nelson Mandela becoming South Africa’s first democratically-elected president.
To mark the landmark event, the Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF) is presenting a nine-movie series and a tribute to Mandela through a film retrospective and concert by award-winning Soweto-born singer Lorraine Klaasen who resides in Montreal.
The festival opens on February 11 with the screening of The Forgotten Kingdom at the Isabel Bader Theatre,93 Charles St. W., starting at 7 p.m.
In his directorial debut, Andrew Mudge crafts an intimate tale of a Johannesburg-based man who finds himself drawn to the hardships and mystical beauty of the people and the land he had forgotten – his ancestral home,Lesotho– after reluctantly returning to bury his estranged father.
“This is one of the best Black films out there,” said TBFF founding president Fabienne Colas. “It was co-produced inSouth Africaand as a result it was important for us to open the festival with this film.”
The closing night will feature a tribute to Mandela through a documentary short series – Banished; King of Hearts; Mandela, a Royal Revolutionary and Release Mandela.
Banished explores the social systems and relationships that were created on Robben Island where the Nobel Prize laureate spent 18 of his 27 years in captivity; Mandela is discovered through the women who have been close to him in his life in King of Hearts; Mandela, A Royal Revolutionary follows him through his years as a lawyer and his decision to become a freedom fighter and Release Mandela offers unique footage from Swedish and Dutch archives and interviews with activists and politicians.
The 96-minute film tribute takes place on February 16 at the Carlton Cinema, starting at 7 p.m.
Last year, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) Music commissioned Klaasen to write a song – Now is the Time – to celebrate the life of the first non-Canadian to receive honorary citizenship. He died last month at age 95.
Her concert tribute to Mandela will be held on February 15 at 9 p.m. at the Al Green Theatre,750 Spadina Ave.
A total of 33 feature and short films will be screened during the six-day festival. They include From Above which is a love story based on a James Bird’s screenplay and the closing night film, The Retrieval, that tells the story of a mother and daughter in Liberia who are caught between tradition and modernity when they discover that their nine-year-old was brutally raped.
Olivia Zinnah, the subject of the documentary, died in December 2012 at age 13 as a result of long-term complications suffered from a brutal rape when she was seven years old.
The festival will also feature a master conference – The Nine Step Plan for Success – by entrepreneur and motivational speaker Stedman Graham – Oprah Winfrey’s partner – at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) Lightbox, 350 King St. W. on February 13 starting at 7 p.m. and a movie/discussion with Robert Hillary King who was released from prison in 2001 after 29 years in solitary confinement.
He along with fellow Black Panther members Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace – they were known as the Angola Three – were convicted of killing a prison guard in Angola Prison in Louisiana in 1972. Woodfox is still in prison and Wallace succumbed to liver cancer three days after his release last October.
Following King’s discussion, Hard Time — a film produced by Canadians Ron Harpelle and Kelly Saxberg that focusses on racism and human rights in the American penal system — will be screened at Carlton Cinema on February 16 at 3p.m.
An added attraction this year is a community program featuring a free panel discussion on the impact of spoken word, diversity on screen and soccer’s rising prominence in Canada.
“Last year during the films, people were milling around talking about various issues and concerns,” said the festival promotions and community co-ordinator Darleen Hendrickson. “We thought it would be a good idea to bring together the community in a comfortable space to talk about the three topics that have been chosen.”
The community program takes place on February 16 between 1 and 3 p.m.