By TOM GODFREY
A documentary called The Journey, about the cultural transformation of a downtown neighbourhood, was a hit at the 12th Annual Regent Park Film Festival that wrapped up last week.
The 15-minute film that was directed by Richard Fung, focused on artists in his Regent Park community as it underwent rapid transformation. It also examined how growing up in the once notorious area affected their outlook on life.
Fung, who is a graduate of Humber College, is garnering some acclaim and has won awards for Best Broadcast at the Cannes 2008 Real Ideas Studio Program and a Grand Jury Prize at the 2009 Slamdance Film Festival.
The short film was among eight features and 27 shorts screened at the popular festival, which was held from November 19 to 22. There were also workshops, talk backs, and panels focusing on filmmaking and community activism.
This year Cameron Bailey, the artistic director of the Toronto International Film Festival, and Abenaki First Nations filmmaker, Alanis Obomsawin, kicked off the event.
Obomsawin’s most recent film Trick or Treaty? follows the journey of Indigenous people in their quest for justice as they seek to establish a dialogue with the Canadian government.
Festival interim director, Elana Trainoff, said more than 2,000 area students had an opportunity to see the films and engage in question and answer sessions.
“Being a community film festival, we are so delighted to see that the community is coming out to support their filmmakers,” Trainoff told Share. “The festival is popular and has grown from three days into a four day festival.”
She said two films, Black Men Loving and Intersections, were commissioned by the festival and received good reviews from audiences.
Black Men Loving is a 20-minute documentary directed by Toronto’s Ella Cooper, which focused on African-American activists involved in the fight to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland.
Intersections, at eight minutes in length, was produced and directed by youth from the Regent Park and Lawrence Heights communities and tells the story of two teenagers.
Another talked about film was Hope Heights, which was directed by Calgary native, Marc Magnusson and looks at the struggle by residents of the Lawrence Heights area to reclaim their community.
“Hope prevails in a Toronto community that seeks to challenge and redefine its image created by various episodes of violence,” the 40-minute film promised. “Within the struggles and hardships, there are breakthroughs and successes.”
There was something different this year with a 98-minute foreign film, Wadjda, which was directed by Saudi Arabia’s first female director, Haifaa Al Mansour and looks at female empowerment.
Al Mansour’s award-winning 2005 documentary, Women Without Shadows, sparked much controversy in her native Saudi Arabia when released.
Other popular films included Québékoisie, in which filmmakers Mélanie Carrier and Olivier Higgins travelled by bike across Quebec in search of stories of Indigenous peoples.
Another eye-opener was Apostle’s Manoeuvre, directed by Brian Harley of the U.K., which looked at a young man’s relationship with his father.
A general crowd favourite was Rhymes for Young Ghouls, by native filmmaker Jeff Barnaby, which tells a story of a 15-year-old growing up on a Red Crow reservation in 1976.
Getting good reviews was El Palacio, which was directed by Mexican-born director, Nicolas Pereda and looked at the lives of Mexican women in a small village.
Also well received was Hailstorm, a 14-minute drama by Guinean-born filmmaker, John Virtue, who had another short, Framed, screened at the Cannes Film Festival.
Then there was Blow Out, a 10-minute gritty family drama by director Anthony Swan.
The festival was created in 2003 by a group of community residents and volunteers to bring Regent Park residents high quality films that resonate with their experiences, organizers said.
It claims to be Toronto’s only free-of-charge multicultural community film festival, dedicated to showcasing works relevant to inner-city communities across the GTA.