Black Films and Talent at 2012 Toronto Film Festival
Black Films and Talent at 2012 Toronto Film Festival
Posted by Wilson Morales
September 6, 2012
Source: The Blackhouse Foundation
The 2012 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) starts today and during the 10 day fest will present over 24 short and feature-length films with black directors, content and/or cast.
Films that should merit interest include Shola Lynch’s Free Angela & All Political Prisoners and Spike Lee’s Bad 25. Ava DuVernay’s Middle of Nowhere, which has played at other festivals since its premiere at Sundance make its international premiere here.
Here’s a lineup of the films
North American Premieres
Bad 25 – Documentary Feature
Directed By: Spike Lee
For those who remember the time, the 1980s were the Age of MJ. With its string of irresistible number one hits and landmark videos, the 1982 album Thriller cemented the formidably talented Michael Jackson’s status as the King of Pop. But it was Jackson’s 1987 follow-up Bad that shifted his image and style toward something tougher, leaner, and more mature. A revolutionary turning point for the musician, Bad was a sensation in its own right, yielding a number of timeless megahits as well as the memorable video for its title cut, directed by none other than Martin Scorsese. Appropriately, this new documentary celebrating the album’s silver anniversary is helmed by another New York–based cinematic visionary: Spike Lee.
The Paper Boy – Narrative Feature
Directed By: Lee Daniels
Cast includes Zac Efron, Matthew McConaughey, Nicole Kidman, John Cusack, David Oyelowo.
An adaptation of the Peter Dexter novel, the film is about the brother (Zac Efron) of an investigative reporter at the Miami Times (Matthew McConaughey) who tries to help him free a possibly-innocent man on death row (John Cusack). Then things go a bit sour when Efron falls in love with a lady who Cusack’s character’s been writing to from inside the prison (Nicole Kidman).
Middle of Nowhere – Narrative Feature
Directed By: Ava DuVenay
Cast includes Emayatzy Corinealdi, David Oyelowo, Omari Hardwick, Lorraine Toussaint, Edwina Findley, Sharon Lawrence
Writer-director Ava DuVernay received the Best Director prize at Sundance this year for this, her elegant and emotionally complex second feature, which revolves around a pressing and troubling question: How does a woman not lose herself when everything around her is falling away?
The relationship in Middle of Nowhere is defined by forced separation, and how Ruby (Emayatzy Corinealdi) adapts when her husband Derek (Omari Hardwick) is sentenced to eight years in prison. Dropping out of medical school to manage her strained marriage is merely the beginning of a new life and new identity molded by hardship.
Festival Gala Presentation
Free Angela & All Political Prisoners – Documentary Feature
Directed By: Shola Lynch
Exec produced by Will Smith and Jay-Z
Few American lives encapsulate the tumult and triumph of the civil rights movement as much as that of author, educator and radical activist Angela Davis. Her wide range of admirers extends to include Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith. A professor at UCLA, an open member of the Communist Party and an associate of the Black Panthers, Davis possessed an incendiary cocktail of attributes that made her the establishment’s worst nightmare: not only was she educated, fiercely intelligent and fearlessly outspoken, she was also a socialist, an African-American and a woman. It’s an understatement to say that not everyone in the U.S. was ready for Angela Davis — and some in fact did their utmost to put her behind bars forever. Free Angela & All Political Prisoners is the gripping story of how Davis became an international icon of social revolution and progressive politics.
Short Cuts Canada
CanoeJacked (C) – Narrative Short
Directed By: Jonathan Williams
In this hilariously Canadianized take on the prison-break flick, two escaped convicts flee through the woods while being chased by a policeman. Luckily, they happen upon a canoe by the side of the river — but its nudist owner is far from eager to give it up. With bullets flying after them, the trio has no choice but to form an unusual alliance.
100 Musicians – Narrative Short
Directed By: Charles Officer
City politics enters the bedroom as a couple quarrels over what they believe they heard on the radio. Is the mayor planning to hire 100 musicians, or is it 100 policemen? Charles Officer confronts our civic cynicism and optimism in this concisely constructed drama that is a timely reflection of Toronto’s current state of affairs.
Crackin’ Down Hard – Narrative Short
Directed By: Mike Clattenburg
Pimpin’ ain’t easy. Nowhere is this more true than in the middle of the desert, where a young man out to hike and meditate in solitude is confronted with a proposition that might just be too hard to resist. Trailer Park Boys creator Mike Clattenburg’s irreverent sense of humour is showcased in this cautionary and ludicrously funny tale about succumbing to primal urges and the power of suggestion.
With Jeff – Narrative Short
Directed By: Marie-éve Juste
Haitian-Canadian Montreal teenager Nydia spends her days in a monotonous routine: cleaning the house, going to class, reading books of poetry. Wanting to shake up her life, she accepts a motorbike ride from her exciting, mysterious classmate Jeff, and finally discovers the thrill of spontaneity.
Contemporary World Cinema
Home Again – Narrative Feature
Directed By: Sudz Sutherland
Cast includes Tatyana Ali, Lyriq Bent, Stephan James, Richard Chevolleau, C.C.H. Pounder, and Fefe Dobson
Between 1999 and 2001, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United States passed legislation which mandated that any foreign-born person convicted of a criminal offense could be deported to their country of origin. This led to the expulsion and deportation of many who had left those countries virtually in infancy, and had no knowledge of the nations they were being sent back to. The blowback from this policy is the subject of Sudz Sutherland’s gutsy drama Home Again.
Kinshasa Kids – Narrative Feature
Directed By: Marc-Henri Wajnberg
Following on the heels of the hit documentary Benda Bilili, Marc-Henri Wajnberg’s Kinshasa Kids finds another hot band in the Congolese capital, but with two key differences. First, this is a fiction film, though it captures the spirit and texture of Kinshasa as well as any doc. Second, the story here begins from a premise all too common in many parts of Africa: the persecution of children branded as witches.
Burn It Up Djassa – Narrative Feature
Directed By: Lonesome Solo
A raw, noir-tinged urban legend set to the cadence of slam poetry and the beat of street dance, Burn It Up Djassa signals the arrival of an exciting new artistic movement from Africa’s Ivory Coast.
Paradise: Love – Narrative/Documentary Feature
Directed By: Ulrich Seidl
Austria’s perennial provocateur Ulrich Seidl has long shuttled back and forth between documentary and fiction, unconcerned with the conventional divisions between them. Though Paradise: Love, the first installment of a planned trilogy (to be followed by Paradise: Faith and Paradise: Hope) falls on the fiction side of the fence, Seidl’s scenario has a powerful non-fictional resonance as it explores the politically charged issue of sex tourism in the sun-kissed “paradise” of Kenya, where young hustlers will say yes to just about anything if the price is right.
The Great Kilapy – Narrative Feature
Directed By: Zézé Gamboa
In the Angolan language of Kimbundu, kilapy means scheme, fraud, or swindle, and accordingly, The Great Kilapy tells the story of a crooked but irresistible bon vivant who, on the eve of Angolan independence in 1975, pulls off a massive swindle at the expense of the Portuguese colonial administration. Inspired by a real figure, director Zézé Gamboa’s decade-spanning historical drama is a refreshing take on the national liberation story, and turns its conventions upside down with elegance and humour.
Three Kids – Narrative Feature
Directed By: Jonas D’Adesky
The 2010 Haitian earthquake devastated the country’s capital and sent shockwaves around the world. The outpouring of grief and compassion was global, but few from outside the country have seen post-earthquake Haiti in as clear a light as Jonas D’Adesky in his debut film Twa timoun.
Virgin Magarida – Narrative Feature
Directed By: Licínio Azevedo
In 1999, veteran documentarian Licínio Azevedo made The Last Prostitute, a documentary on the “re-education camps” established by the Mozambican government shortly after the country won its independence after five hundred years of Portuguese colonial rule. The purpose of these camps was to develop the proper “revolutionary spirit” in the hearts and minds of women of ill-repute (that is, sex workers) through a harsh program of ideological indoctrination. The astonishing testimonies that Azevedo collected haunted him for years, and led directly to the script for Virgin Margarida(co-authored with Jacques Akchoti).
Rebelle – Narrative Feature
Directed By: Kim Nguyen
Winner of the Best Actress prize at the Berlin Film Festival, Rebelle is an extraordinary portrait of survival. Director Kim Nguyen spent ten years bringing this story to the screen, basing his script on the stories of actual child soldiers and shooting entirely on location in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. We are introduced to fourteen-year-old Komona (Rachel Mwanza) as she recounts the past two years of her life to her unborn child.
Venus & Serena – Documentary Feature
Directed By: Alex Gibney
Ever since Venus and Serena Williams started playing in tennis tournaments, they’ve provoked strong reactions, from awe and admiration to suspicion and resentment. They’ve been winning championships for over a decade, pushing the limits of longevity in such a demanding sport. How long can they last? In Venus and Serena, we gain unprecedented access into their lives during the most intimidating year of their careers. Over the course of 2011, Venus grappled with an energy-sapping autoimmune disease while Serena battled back from a life-threatening pulmonary embolism. Neither Venus nor Serena let their adversities hold them back. They draw their greatest strength from each other.
The Central Park Five – Documentary Feature
Directed By: Ken Burns, Sarah Burns, and David McMahon
In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers from New York City were arrested and charged for brutally attacking and raping a white female jogger in Central Park. News media swarmed the case, calling it “the crime of the century.” Journalists popularized the term “wilding” to describe a gang activity of randomly assaulting victims. Politicians, pundits and the public rushed to a judgment that carried a barely veiled undertone of racial and class prejudice. Convicted of the crime, the five teenagers spent between five to thirteen years in prison until, in 2002, the shocking news broke: they were innocent. Another man confessed to the crime, with DNA evidence to support his claim.
How to Make Money Selling Drugs – Documentary Feature
Directed By: Matthew Cooke
Stylishly shot and cheekily framed as a subversive educational film, How to Make Money Selling Drugs takes a satirical look at a serious subject. Blending authentic reportage with pop culture references and a video game — like progression from level to level, the film illustrates step-by-step how to create a drug empire, from dealing on the corner to running a major cartel. Slyly, director Matthew Cooke builds a powerful case that drug policy needs rethinking, as current laws foster a violent criminal underworld reminiscent of the Prohibition era.
Iceberg Slim: A Portrait of a Pimp – Documentary Feature
Directed By: Jorge Hinojosa
When Iceberg Slim published Pimp: The Story of My Life in 1969, he launched a potent and unusual literary career, influencing an audience that ranged from artists to street hustlers. The book dazzled with raw language that evoked a life experience different from the worlds of black writers such as James Baldwin or Ralph Ellison. Pimp sold nearly two million copies and was distributed internationally in translation. Slim’s output continued with bestsellers Trick Baby(made into a film), Mama Black Widow (taking on the taboo topic of black homosexuality), and a collection of essaysThe Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim. Yet when Slim died in 1992, much remained unknown about his life and what aspects of his writing were facts versus fiction.
Reincarnated – Documentary Feature
Directed By: Andrew Capper
The scene opens, appropriately, in a cloud of smoke. Processions of Rastafari sing Niyabinghi chants around a roaring bonfire. Amidst the crowd is hip-hop icon Snoop Dogg (née Doggy Dogg), who intones in voiceover: “They want me to rap, but I don’t wanna rap. I’ve been on the top ever since I’ve been in. I got rap songs that will never die. What else can I do in the rap world?” Thus Calvin Broadus, Jr., the artist formerly known as Snoop Dogg, is rechristened Berhane (“The Light”) and adopts the majestic new music-world moniker “Snoop Lion.” In this close-up documentary by Vice Magazine global editor and director Andy Capper, we follow Snoop on his month-long pilgrimage to Jamaica as he embarks on “a journey of reincarnation of self” that is equal parts career reinvention and spiritual reawakening.
The Secret Disco Revolution – Documentary Feature
Directed By: Jamie Kastner
The Secret Disco Revolution provides a comprehensive overview of disco from its early days at The Loft in NYC to its conquest of radio, its international impact, the fierce backlash against it, and its enduring legacy. It also shuttles nimbly between kitsch and critical analysis, offering intriguing glimpses into the disparity that exists between practitioners and theorists, and between lived experience and cultural artifact. The result is a meticulously researched documentary that is both cheekily fun and intellectually absorbing.
The Walls of Dakar – Documentary Feature
Directed By: Abdoul Aziz Cissé
Dakar is renowned for its prolific art scene and rich visual culture. This year, Senegal witnessed an unprecedented peaceful uprising that was sparked by an emerging generation of artists and journalists rallying in its capital. Senegalese filmmaker Abdoul Aziz Cissé and Wagane Guèye The Walls of Dakar chronicles the city’s recent — and already redacted — history, celebrating the everyday heroes who reinstated democracy in their country.
The We and the I – Narrative Feature
Directed By: Michael Gondry
Teeming with rollicking charm and poignant drama, The We and the I takes a look at the lives of a group of teenagers who ride the same New York City bus route, and how their relationships change and evolve on the last day of school..
9.79 – Documentary Feature
Directed By: Daniel Gordon
In the history of the Olympics, there’s never been a controversy quite like what ensued following the men’s 100-metre race at Seoul in 1988. The match pitted fierce competitors Ben Johnson (Canada) and Carl Lewis (USA) against each other. Lewis was known as a savvy careerist who became an American hero at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Johnson was his chief rival, considered an underdog due to his recovery from a pulled hamstring. In the time of 9.79 seconds, Johnson edged out in front of Lewis to win the Seoul sprint. Instantly, he became a hero across Canada. But that wasn’t the end. Two days later, in a reversal of fortune, the Olympic Committee announced that Johnson had failed a drug test. He lost his medal to Lewis in disgrace.
Notable Black Cast
Disconnect – Narrative Feature
Directed By: Henry Alex Rubin
Just how dangerous is the internet? Beyond the tabloid scare stories, what does it mean to live more and more of our life online? Few films have offered much insight outside of science fiction, but Disconnect explores the all-too-real dangers of how we live now. Cast includes Paula Patton.
Silver Linings Playbook – Narrative Feature
Directed By: David O. Russell
Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) has lost everything — his house, his job, and his wife. He now finds himself living back with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert DeNiro) after spending eight months in a state institution on a plea bargain. Pat is determined to rebuild his life, remain positive and reunite with his wife, despite the challenging circumstances of their separation. All Pat’s parents want is for him to get back on his feet – and to share their family’s obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team. When Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own, things get complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he’ll do something very important for her in return. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and silver linings appear in both of their lives.
This is Tucker’s first film since he starred in 2007′s Rush Hour 3, and his non-Brett Ratner film since appearing in Quentin Tarantino‘s 1997′s Jackie Brown.
Smashed – Narrative Feature
Directed By: James Ponsoldt
When we first meet functioning alcoholic Kate Hannah (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), she’s already close to rock bottom. She takes a shot of whiskey to brace herself for a day of teaching first grade. When she vomits at school, a student asks if she’s pregnant. Desperate to disguise her hangover, she lies and says she is. It’s a deception that could cost her career, but also save her life. Cast Includes Octavia Spencer.
Cloud Atlas – Narrative Feature
Directed By: Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, and Andy Wachowski
David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas was a landmark literary event of the past decade, a globe-spanning, time-tripping puzzle-novel, whose cavalier unruliness belied its intricate design. It was one of those books that instantly elicited the adjective “unfilmable” — but to visionary filmmakers Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run) and Andy and Lana Wachowski (The Matrix), that was less caution than challenge. Spanning continents and millennia and borne aloft on the talents of a top-shelf cast — including Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugo Weaving and Jim Broadbent — this collaboration on Cloud Atlastransforms Mitchell’s dazzling novel into a mind-bending, genre-hopping cinematic experience. No movie this year more deserves the label “epic.” Cast includes Halle Berry.