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Film for thought

by The Concordian September 20, 2011

A still from Case Départ, the opening film for this year’s festival.

When most think of slavery, they take their minds back to colonial times, between the 16th and 19th centuries. Perhaps resulting from a lack of dialogue, people often tend to overlook the fact that slavery is still a big issue in many countries around the world today.
The seventh annual Montreal International Black Film Festival is coming with the promise to open our eyes to these issues and provoke thought and dialogue, all with the use of groundbreaking and moving cinematography.
This year, Montrealers can look forward to a selection of 125 films from 35 countries worldwide, as well as many thought provoking exhibitions, public debates, and many other activities aimed towards audiences of all ages.
“Movies are one of the best ways in the world to tell a story and to change things,” said the festival’s spokesperson, Felix Award-winning actor and singer-songwriter Charles Biddle Jr. “They’re very subtle but they act on the subconscious mind [and] will have a way of creating a strong dialogue between people.”
Over the last few years, the festival has developed tremendously in both audience participation
and the quality and variety of films. This year, with a larger selection of films, ranging in genres
from action and comedy to documentary, organizers promise it will be anything but dull.
“Often people tend to stereotype the types of movies which will be shown at a festival like
this, thinking it will be a bunch of documentaries on a certain subject,” said Biddle Jr. “But this
festival is anything but that. These are dramatic stories and action films which are shot with
professional actors and high production values. The quality of cinematography has gone up
tremendously over the years and Montreal should be proud to have a festival of that calibre.”
From the opening film Case Départ, a comedic look at two young black men sent back to
colonial times to experience slavery, to its closing film, I am Slave, which tells the very real story
of Mende Nazer, who was abducted from her home is Sudan and forced into a life of servitude in
the 21st century, there is a large subtext of slavery featured throughout the entire festival.
“What I’d like people to understand is that we’re progressing slowly, but we’re not really making
those significant steps required to make a change in our society if slavery still goes on today,”
explained Biddle Jr. “If I can do my part by creating visibility for that issue then I am honoured
to be the spokesperson for such an event. Things can only change when there is a collective
thought and consciousness of change. I’d like people to open their hearts to other people and
realize we’re all the same.”
This year, the festival will honour Souleymane Cissé, who will receive the lifetime
achievement award on Sept. 27. The award will be presented by author Dany Laferriere. Cissé was the first African filmmaker to receive an award at the Cannes Film Festival. He will be honoured for helping to foster through his films a better understanding of the reality of Black people.

The Montreal International Black Film Festival is taking place from Sept. 22 to Oct. 2. For more information and the full schedule, go to www.montrealblackfilm.com.

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