Afro-Centric Cinema: the Montreal Black Film Festival

Montreal’s festival celebrating the cinema of the African diaspora runs Sept. 19-30. Check out our guide to some of the big-ticket items and films of interest.

Jennifer Hudson and Terrence Howard play the Mandelas in opening film Winnie

A few years back, local luminary Fabienne Colas’ Haitian film festival was expanded and rebranded as the Montreal Black Film Festival, showing off the cinematic accomplishments of the whole global African diaspora. And the fest, which was a fun but sometimes ramshackle affair in its first few editions, continues to grow, this year boasting some high-profile films and international celebrity guests.

The fest kicks off tonight at the Imperial Theatre (1432 Bleury) with Winnie, a biopic of controversial South African figure Winnie Mandela. Jennifer Hudson plays the title role and Terrence Howard is Nelson Mandela, with Canadian character actors Wendy Crewson and Elias Koteas also on board. Director Darrell Roodt and producer Michael Mosca will be present at the screening.

The biggest name at the fest is undoubtedly legendary singer, actor and activist Harry Belafonte, who’ll be on hand to receive a humanitarian award tonight at the Imperial and will also attend a screening of the documentary Sing Your Song, followed by a talk on Thursday, Sept. 20 at Concordia (room H-110).

Other music-themed docs screening at the fest include The Girls in the Band, a documentary on the history of female jazz singers and musicians, Calypso Rose, the portrait of a famed Trinidad and Tobago calypso singer and Macpherson, which tells the tale of the friendship between legendary local singer-songwriter/poet Félix Leclerc and a Jamaican scientist.

From politics to sports to good old-fashioned drama, there’s plenty more to check out; other highlights of interest include African Negroes, a doc on a South African soccer team that served as a front for political activity in the apartheid era, and Inside Story, the tale of a soccer player infected with HIV.

Next Thursday, Sept. 27, none other than Stedman Graham will be in town to receive a “Career Achievement Award.” In case you were unaware of his activities outside of being Oprah’s main squeeze, Graham is also a noted businessman, philanthropist and lecturer, who will in fact demonstrate his oratory and motivational skills after the award ceremony with his lecture “The Nine-Step Plan for Success.”

The fest closes on Sunday, Sept. 30 with a screening of The Central Park Five, hosted by director Sarah Burns. Some of our older readers may remember the shameful 1989 incident in which a group of black and Latino teens were wrongfully convicted for the sexual assault of a New York jogger, their convictions not overturned until years later. Fresh off a TIFF screening, the doc promises to be both powerful and disturbing. ■


The Montreal Black Film Festival runs Sept. 19-30 at various venues.

Leave a Reply