Toronto Film Festival 2016 Selections Featuring and Directed By Black Talent

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TIFF 2016 Films Featuring and Directed By Black Talent
Posted by Wilson Morales

September 7, 2016

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The 2016 Toronto International Film Festival has the strongest lineup ever in terms of films featuring or directed by Black talent. In a year when #oscarsowhite was the topic at the start of the year, that shouldn’t be the case for 2017 as there a number of films playing here that should generate interest for more than one actor and director.

TIFF 2016 Black films

Opening up the festival this year is Antoine Fuqua’s remake of the classic western, The Magnificent Seven. The film reunites him with Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke after 2001’s Training Day. The marks the third outing between Fuqua and Washington, following The Equalizer, which premiered here back in 2014.

In terms of potential Oscar contenders, there’s lot of buzz on a number of films, starting with Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, which just played at Telluride and gained some attention for Mahershala Ali and Naomie Harris. While there’s been controversy surrounding writer-director Nate Parker, let’s look at the art of his film, The Birth of a Nation, which prior to August, was the biggest talk all year and can still make a comeback in the Oscar race if critics can concentrate on the film and nothing else.

Black Actors TIFF 2016

Playing at the festival will be the racial drama Loving, which premiered at Cannes with critical acclaim. Oscar pundits are predicting that Ruth Negga is among the top five for a Best Actress nomination as well as the film itself. David Oyelowo was here last year with the little seen Five Nights In Maine, but this year, he has two films that could generate big buzz. The first is Disney’s Queen of Katwe, which pairs him with Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o and the second is a lead role in A United Kingdom opposite Rosamund Pike. Both films where directed by Mira Nair and Amma Asante respectively. In fact, Oyelowo’s last four films were directed by women when you include Maine’s Maris Curran and Selma’s Ava DuVernay.

With the exception of Draft Day and Gods of Egypt, Chadwick Boseman has mostly been seen in biopics (42, Get On Up) and the comic book film (Captain America: Civil War). Well, he’s coming to the festival with the indie film Message From The King, which hopes to pick up distribution. If it doesn’t play well with critics, he still has another biopic (Marshall) and comic book film (Black Panther) on the horizon.

And finally, Nigeria is making a strong presence at the festival, bringing 8 films as part of the City to City programme. Among the films playing are The Wedding Party (Dir Kemi Adetiba), 93 Days (Dir Steve Gukas), 76 (Dir Izu Ojuku), Oko Asewo (Dir Daniel Oriahi), Okafor’s Law, (Dir Omoni Oboli), The Arbitration (Dir Niyi Akinmolayan), Just Not Married (Dir Uduak Obong Patrick) and Green White Green (Dir Abba Makama).

Here’s a preview of several films that will premiere at the 2016 Toronto Film Festival that are directed by or starring Black talent.

The Magnificent Seven poster 5The Magnificent Seven, directed by Antoine Fuqua and hitting theaters on September 23, 2016.

With the town of Rose Creek under the deadly control of industrialist Bartholomew Bogue (Peter Sarsgaard), the desperate townspeople employ protection from seven outlaws, bounty hunters, gamblers and hired guns — Sam Chisolm (Denzel Washington), Josh Farraday (Chris Pratt), Goodnight Robicheaux (Ethan Hawke), Jack Horne (Vincent D’Onofrio), Billy Rocks (Byung-Hun Lee), Vasquez (Manuel Garcia-Rulfo), and Red Harvest (Martin Sensmeier). As they prepare the town for the violent showdown that they know is coming, these seven mercenaries find themselves fighting for more than money.

The film also stars Haley Bennett, Matt Bomer, Billy Slaughter and Vinnie Jones.

Queen of Katwe poster 2

Disney will have the world premiere for Mira Nair‘s latest film, Queen of Katwe, starring Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, David Oyelowo, and newcomer Madina Nalwanga.

QUEEN OF KATWE is based on the vibrant true story of Phiona Mutesi, a young girl from the streets of rural Uganda who is introduced to the game of chess by Robert Katende, a former missionary and soccer coach, and goes on to become an international chess champion.

For 10-year-old Phiona Mutesi (Nalwanga) and her family, life in the impoverished slum of Katwe in Kampala, Uganda, is a constant struggle. Her mother, Harriet (Nyong’o), is fiercely determined to take care of her family and works tirelessly selling vegetables in the market to make sure her children are fed and have a roof over their heads. When Phiona meets Robert Katende (Oyelowo), a soccer player turned missionary who teaches local children chess, she is captivated. Chess requires a good deal of concentration, strategic thinking and risk taking, all skills which are applicable in everyday life, and Katende hopes to empower youth with the game.

The Birth of a Nation poster 3Making its International Premiere is writer, director, producer and star Nate Parker’s powerful slave drama The Birth of a Nation, which hits theaters nationwide on October 7, 2016.

The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize in the U.S. Dramatic Competition.

The film stars Parker, Armie Hammer, Penelope Ann Miller, Jackie Earle Haley, Mark Boone Jr., Colman Domingo, Aunjanue Ellis, Dwight Henry, Aja Naomi King, Esther Scott, Roger Guenveur Smith and Gabrielle Union.

Set against the antebellum South, THE BIRTH OF A NATION follows Nat Turner, a literate slave and preacher, whose financially strained owner, Samuel Turner, accepts an offer to use Nat’s preaching to subdue unruly slaves. As he witnesses countless atrocities – against himself and his fellow slaves – Nat orchestrates an uprising in the hopes of leading his people to freedom.

LOVING_onesheetFocus Features is bring to the festival the upcoming race drama film “Loving,” written & directed by Jeff Nichols, and starring Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as Mildred and Richard Loving, the couple behind the seminal 1967 civil rights case Loving vs. Virginia.

The film, which premiered at the 2016 Cannes International Film Festival, co-stars Michael Shannon, Nick Kroll, Marton Csokas, Jon Bass, and Bill Camp.

Richard and Mildred Loving, an interracial couple, were married in June 1958. As a result, authorities broke into their home, arrested them, and they were sentenced to a year in the state penitentiary. This sentence was suspended on the condition that they be exiled from the state of Virginia. Unbowed, the couple spent the next nine years fighting to get home, together.

Loving will hit theaters this November.

A United KingdomMaking its world premiere at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival before it opens the 60th BFI London Film Festival on Oct. 5. is director Amma Asante’s racial drama A United Kingdom, which stars David Oyelowo and Rosamund Pike in a love story based on the true tale of Seretse Khama and Ruth Williams.

Written by Guy Hibbert, Oyelowo plays Seretse, heir to the African throne of Botswana, who created a sensation in 1948 by engaging in a whirlwind romance in London with Williams, a white English office worker he married in 1949.

British director Amma Asante,

The interracial union was opposed by both their families, as well as the British government, the Tribal elders of Botswana and the apartheid government of South Africa. The couple would not be denied, overcoming huge obstacles to be together. His uncle attempted to depose him, and he ended up being banned from his home country South Africa in 1951 due to its illegal stance on interracial marriage. Their son, Ian Khama, is currently the freely elected president of Botswana.

Asante directed 2014’s period drama Belle that starred Gugu Mbatha-Raw.

Moonlight posterAfter great feedback from its premiere at Telluride, A24 is pleased to bring in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, which stars Naomie Harris, André Holland, Mahershala Ali, Janelle Monáe, Alex R. Hibbert, Jaden Piner, Ashton Sanders, Trevante Rhodes, and Jharrel Jerome.

Based on the play by Tarell McCraney “In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue,” Jenkins wrote and directed the film.

MOONLIGHT is the tender, heartbreaking story of a young man’s struggle to find himself, told across three defining chapters in his life as he experiences the ecstasy, pain, and beauty of falling in love, while grappling with his own sexuality.

Anchored by astonishing performances and the singular vision of filmmaker Barry Jenkins, MOONLIGHT is a groundbreaking exploration of male masculinity—a sensual, intoxicating piece of cinema that uncovers deep truths about the moments that define us, the people who shape us most, and the ache of love that can last a lifetime.

Jean of the Joneses banner

After making its premiere at SXSW followed by a showing at the 2016 LA Film Festival, Canadian director/ writer Stella Meghie will be bringing her feature debut, Jean of the Joneses, home to the Toronto International Film Festival before being shown on TV One in October 23rd.

The film stars Taylour Paige, Sherri Shepherd, Erica Ash, Gloria Reuben, Michelle Hurst, Mamoudou Athie, Francois Arnaud, Anna Hopkins, and Demore Barnes.

Jean of the Jonese pic

To say that twentysomething writer Jean (Taylour Paige) is at a crossroads would be putting it kindly — she really doesn’t know which way she’s headed. A vista of unenticing career prospects opens before her, and her latest relationship has just unceremoniously ended. Chronically self-analyzing, she often hangs out with her two aunts, mother, and grandmother Daphne (Michelle Hurst). The women constantly bicker and judge each other’s life choices, a routine that’s interrupted when the estranged patriarch of the family literally dies on their doorstep.

Jean of the Jonese - Mamoudou Athie

Ray (Mamoudou Athie), the paramedic who takes their 911 call, falls fast for the acerbic Jean. The feeling is more or less mutual, but their potential romance will have to take a back seat to the chaos leading up to the funeral. In a series of sometimes harsh, always-spirited discussions — fuelled by a complex family history, a few drinks, and the occasional toke — the women will do their best to figure themselves out, and to understand each other.

Message From The King poster 2

Making its world premiere as part of the Vanguard selection and seeking distribution is  ‘Message From The King,’ starring Chadwick Boseman, Teresa Palmer, Luke Evans, Tom Felton and Alfred Molina.

Directed by Fabrice Du Welz from a script written by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell, Jacob King (Boseman) is a stranger in a strange land. Rather than basking in the fabled radiance of the City of Angels he drifts, Dante-like, through a sprawling, infernal cityscape of fiercely territorial tribalism and dog-eat-dog savagery. His sister has been killed. He wants answers. And he wants blood.

Evans is a Beverly Hills cosmetic dentist who provides services both legal and illegal and offers to help King find his sister. Palmer plays a mother who turns tricks to support both her drug habit and 6-year-old daughter; while Molina plays a Hollywood producer who has underworld connections and may or may not know where the King’s nephew is.

The Girl With All The Gifts poster

Playing at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival is the horror film, ‘The Girl with All the Gifts,’ which is based on M.R. Carey’s best-selling young adult novel.

Directed by Colm McCarthy from a script by Mike Carey, the film stars Gemma Arterton, Paddy Considine, Glenn Close, Anamaria Marinca, Fisayo Akinade, Anthony Welsh, Dominique Tipper and introducing Sennia Nanua.

Melanie (Sennia Nanua) is a sweet little girl who likes school, loves books, and adores her teacher, Ms. Justineau (Gemma Arterton) most of all. Melanie also happens to be chained to her desk, occasionally muzzled, and kept under lock and key in a high-security cell whenever she’s not in class. That’s because just catching a whiff of human flesh turns her into a ravenous monster.

The Girl with All the Gifts 7

Melanie lives in a military compound with a few other children her age, under the watchful eye of the Sergeant (Paddy Considine), his soldiers, and a cold-hearted scientist, Dr. Caldwell (Glenn Close). Outside the compound, the planet is overrun by “hungries,” people stricken with a fungal infection that destroys their minds and turns them into voracious cannibals. Melanie and her classmates are anomalies: beset by this morbid hunger but otherwise normally functioning. Caldwell believes the children hold the key to a cure, but she won’t know for sure until she’s got their brains in jars. When Melanie is forced to flee the relative comforts of the only home she’s ever known, she starts to understand what she is — and what her true place is in the outside world.

76 poster

’76” is the first all-Nigerian, made in Nigeria movie by Award Winning Director Izu Ojukwu chosen to have its own world premiere at the prestigious 41st Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

“76” Inspired by True Events, Six years after the civil war, a young officer from the middle belt gets entangled in a romantic relationship with a beautiful O-level student from the Southeastern part of Nigeria. Their budding romance is almost ruptured by endless military postings. Now heavily pregnant, her walls crumble when the news of her husband’s involvement in a botched coup attempt hits the headlines. 76’ celebrates the quality of the true African woman by exploring the usually invisible pain of a soldier’s wife; it highlights the enduring Nigerian cultural values of courage, resilience, patience, loyalty, faith and family. It is visually pure, emotionally engaging and amorously therapeutic.

“76” Stars Award Winning Actors Rita Dominic, Ramsey Nouah, Daniel K Daniel, Actor & Reality-Show host Chidi Mokeme, Actor & President of the Actors Guild of Nigeria Ibinabo Fiberesinma as well as well as other Rising Stars.

Daughters of the Dust new posterAlso playing at the festival is Cohen Media Group’s re-release of Julie Dash’s seminal independent film DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, which will hit the big screen in a sparkling new 2k restoration on November 18. It will mark the film’s 25th anniversary.

In 1991, this beautifully evocative tone poem about the lives of a family on a small island near South Carolina at the turn of the century became the first film by an African American woman ever to receive widespread theatrical release. Enriched by John Barnes’ eclectic score and Arthur Jafa’s award-winning cinematography, the film was hailed as one of the most visually and sonically ravishing films in American independent cinema, but it has been increasingly difficult to find in the years that followed.

Julie Dash

“I’m excited about the restoration of Daughters of the Dust being made available to the public,” said Dash. “And delighted to have the opportunity to engage with a new generation of people who have never seen the film.”

DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST is a portrait of the women in Peazant family, who belong to the creole Gullah culture- former slaves living in the coastal Carolinas who have been able to preserve much of their African cultural heritage. As they prepare to migrate, leaving their land and legacy for the promise of the North, conflict and struggles rise to the surface. It unfolds over the course of their final picnic in their current home; saturating the audience with impressionistic colors, African symbolism, Geechee-Gullah rituals, cooking, dialect, and the sound of field cries, all expressing the complex resonances of the Lowcountry lifestyle.

Barry - Devon Terrell

Just a weeks ago, Southside With You hit theaters and that film showed the romance between Barack Obama and Michelle Robinson during their first date. Now comes Barry, directed by Vikram Gandhi and starring Devon Terrell and Anya Taylor-Joy (The Witch) star in this biopic about the young Barack Obama’s college days in New York City.

Twenty-year-old Barry (Terrell) arrives in a New York City where turf wars pervade every milieu, from the basketball courts to the university campus where he is bullied by police on his first night. He starts dating a white woman from his political science class. He attends a party in a Harlem housing project. With his Kenyan father and Kansas-born mother, Barry should be able to slip between racially coded camps. Instead, he feels like he doesn’t belong anywhere.


With BrOTHERHOOD, a gritty tale of an ex-con whose dreams of settling down and going straight run up against the long memories of a crew of old enemies, writer-director-star Noel Clarke completes the British crime-drama trilogy he began with Kidulthood and Adulthood.

Years after the events of AdULTHOOD, Sam Peel (Clarke) has completed a prison sentence for murder, started a family, and tried to put his past behind him. But Uncle Curtis (Cornell John) comes looking to avenge his nephew’s death at Sam’s hands. Sam tries to maintain his peaceful life with Kayla (Shanika Warren-Markland) and their children, but as the threat from his enemy grows, so does the urgency of his need to protect his loved ones.

Nick Cannon

With King of the Dancehall, Nick Cannon makes his feature film directorial debut and stars in this high-energy musical about a young man from Brooklyn who gets caught up in the vibrant Kingston music scene during a visit to Jamaica.

When Tarzan (Cannon) hatches a ganjabased scheme to cover the costs of medical care for his sick mother (Whoopi Goldberg), he has to decamp from his native New York to Kingston, Jamaica. Once on the Caribbean island, he solicits the help of his fast-talking cousin (Busta Rhymes) and makes quick headway in the world of weed. But there’s another, much tougher scene that he’s not prepared for: the dancehall.

Lost amidst the bouncing bodies and grinding hips, Tarzan needs the help of Maya (Kimberly Patterson) to learn the right moves. But when another woman makes her move, Tarzan is faced with the romantic decision of his life, and a choice between two very different lifestyles.

Raoul Peck

Working from the text of James Baldwin’s unfinished final novel, director Raoul Peck (Moloch Tropical, Murder in Pacot) creates a meditation on what it means to be Black in America with the documentary I Am Not Your Negro.

In 1979, James Baldwin wrote a letter to his literary agent describing his new endeavour: the writing of his final book, Remember This House, recounting the lives and successive assassinations of his friends Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

I am Not Your Negro

Baldwin was not able to complete the book before his death, and the unfinished manuscript was entrusted to director Raoul Peck by the writer’s estate.

Built exclusively around Baldwin’s words, Peck’s I Am Not Your Negro delves into the complex legacy of three lives (and deaths) that permanently marked the American social and political landscape.

The Wedding Party poster

Making its World Premiere at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival is the the Nigerian romcom film ‘The Wedding Party,’ which is directed by Kemi Adetiba and stars Banky Wellington, Adesua Etomi, Richard Mofe-Damijo, Iretiola Doyle, Atunyota Akpobome, Sola Sobowale, Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama, and Olusola Abiodun Sobowale.

Art gallery owner Dunni (Adesua Etomi) is the cherished daughter of Bamidele Coker (Atunyota Akpobome, popularly known as Ali Baba) and his wife, Tunuade (Sola Sobowale). When Dunni and her fiancé Dozie (Banky Wellington) elect to marry, the Cokers decide to throw the wedding of the century. Success in Nigeria’s oil industry has given them new wealth, so why not splash out for their only daughter? Besides, their reputation is at stake. While Dozie’s parents, Felix (Richard Mofe-Damijo) and Obianuju Onwuka (Ireti Doyle), believe their son is marrying beneath him, for the sake of tradition they’re willing to leave the big day to the bride’s parents. Barely.

93 Days

Bimbo Akintola, Danny Glover and Somkele Iyamah-Idhalama star in director Steve Gukas’ riveting real-life thriller 93 Days, which centers on health-care workers in Lagos battling the Ebola outbreak of 2014.

When a foreign civil servant lands in Lagos on a flight from Liberia with a high fever, the first, hopeful response is that it’s only malaria. But Dr. Ameyo Adadevoh (Bimbo Akintola) of the First Consultant Hospital knows the man is afflicted with something far more serious. Despite opposition from colleagues, officials, and the man himself, she denies his release. Once the man is confirmed as Nigeria’s index case of the Ebola virus, Adadevoh, her team, the Nigerian government, and the World Health Organization scramble to deal with a potential doomsday scenario.

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