Film festival season is kicking off in Montreal and MIBFF is one of the first in line
Every major film festival has had to start somewhere. Cannes wasn’t always Cannes. The Toronto International Film Festival once attracted 35,000 people, and now attracts over 10 times that number. The Montreal International Black Film Festival has only existed since 2005—during half of which it was known as the Haitian Film Festival—but it has now established itself as an important yearly event and attracts international stars, most notably Spike Lee during last year’s instalment. This year’s program was announced last Wednesday and it’s hard not to agree with its founder, filmmaker Fabienne Colas, when she said it will be the “biggest edition yet.”
This film festival’s unusual focus is on its many events, talks, tributes and exhibits even more than on its screenings, some of which will take place on campus. This year is a symbolic year for the black community, and many events will be devoted to American history. In fact, it’s been 50 years since the Selma march portrayed in last year’s Selma, 50 years since Malcolm X’s assassination and 60 years since Rosa Parks held on to her bus seat in Montgomery, Alabama.
These anniversaries will be marked by the following events: a tribute to Martin Luther King III—Martin Luther King Jr.’s eldest son—will be held on Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. at the Imperial Theatre, and King III will be attending the event; the closing film, The Black Panthers: Vangard of the Revolution is an exploration of the Black Panther Party, with interviews of both supporters and detractors, and will be screened on Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. at Theatre Hall-Concordia; a movie-talk on the power of nonviolence preceded by a screening of Selma and attended among others by Martin Luther King III will take place on Sept. 30 at 7 p.m. at Concordia’s D.B. Clarke Theatre; an exhibit titled We Have a Dream, honouring 25 African-American women who changed the world, will be running from Sept. 30 to Oct. 4 at the former National Film Board of Canada.
The festival isn’t forgetting its Haitian roots either. It’s been five years since the Caribbean country was hit by a powerful earthquake from which it still has not fully recovered. A tribute to Paul Haggis and David Belle will be held on Oct. 2 at Cineplex Quartier Latin at 7 p.m. You may know Haggis as the Oscar-winning Canadian director and screenwriter who delivered 2004’s socially-conscious Crash. What you may not know is that Haggis was one of the first to rush to Haiti after the earthquake, and founded an organization which provides help in education and health care to Haitian youth. You may know David Belle as the French founder of the Parkour discipline, but what you may not know is that Belle founded the Ciné Institute, purportedly Haiti’s only film school. Both Haggis and Belle will attend the tribute, which will be followed by the screening of five films directed by former students of the Institute.
The opening film, Sweet Micky for President, is also about Haiti—it is a documentary on an unlikely presidential candidate, a controversial musician whose campaign is organized by Pras Michel of The Fugees. The screening will take place on Sept. 29 at the Imperial Theatre at 7 p.m. Pras Michel will be attending, and will host a party after the screening.
The Montreal International Black Film Festival runs from Sept. 29 to Oct. 4. The programming can be found on their website: montrealblackfilm.com.