Montreal International Black Film Festival Brings Black Reality to the Big Screen
This Tuesday, the 10th annual Montreal International Black Film Festival (MIBFF) will once again challenge perspectives and promote diversity in cinemas across the city. The festival will showcase an array of local and independent films, feature an industry conference, and pay tribute to attending filmmaker Spike Lee.
“Black films are hot right now, and we bring the best from around the world,” said Fabienne Colas, MIBFF president and founder. Colas attributed increased awareness of black film to powerful features like 12 Years a Slave and The Butler, which both received widespread acclaim and won countless awards last year. Still, the MIBFF has been promoting black film for a decade.
Colas created the festival in 2005, to fill what she perceived as a void in Montreal’s film festival scene. As an experienced actress, director and producer, Colas was shocked to find that no local cinema or festival would screen her latest film at the time, which presented a deep social reality in Haiti and was widely popular in her home country. “For the first time in my life I felt disappointed” Colas said of the experience. She wondered if a lack of diversity in Montreal cinema was similarly discouraging other filmmakers.
In response, Colas developed the Montreal Haitian Film Festival. The festival ran for three years, before its scope expanded to become the MIBFF. “The role of the festival has always been to provide audiences with access to [black] films…and offer a platform for filmmakers, who would otherwise not be seen or heard,” she said.
The festival will present films from over 30 countries that portray elements of black reality from around the world. This encompasses community portraits, comedy and cultural celebration, as well as historical themes of slavery, racism and freedom. “I hope some viewers will be shocked,” said Colas. “The festival is meant to reveal things that are going on in the world.”
Hope, the festival’s opening film, may do just that. Interweaving themes of exile and immigration, it tells the story of Léonard, a young man from Cameroon, who rescues Hope, a young Nigerian woman, while traversing the Sahara desert. Impacted by violence and severe economic hardship, the two must engage in desperate measures to enable a new life in Europe. The powerful film won the Société des auteurs et compositeurs dramatiques Screenwriting Award at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.
Colas believes that the festival’s line-up will educate, empower and inspire attendees. “Everyone will get something out of the MIBFF. You can’t leave the festival without learning, or feeling something,” she said. Colas is especially excited about the Spike Lee extravaganza, in which the innovative filmmaker will internationally premiere his latest film, Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, and receive a Pioneer Award.
“Spike Lee is coming to town! It should be everyone’s mission to come and meet him,” Colas said. “This festival should appeal to anyone who has considered filmmaking, is an independent film enthusiast, or is a die-hard Spike Lee fan. I look forward to seeing a diverse crowd there.”
The Montreal International Black Film Festival runs from Sept. 23 to Sept. 28. For more information, visit montrealblackfilm.com/.