Montreal International Black Film Festival: Back in black

Back in black

Oscar-nominated Sophie Okonedo portrays Sandra Laing in docudrama Skin
Photo: Courtesy MIBFF

The Montreal International Black Film Festival raises the critical, cultural bar

It is a sign of growth and maturity when a community can turn a lens inwards and objectively criticize itself. This is precisely what is happening at the sixth annual Montreal International Black Film Festival (MIBFF), formerly the Montreal International Haitian Film Festival. The MIBFF expanded its scope when it renamed itself last year, and this year has further expanded to a record 128 films.

The MIBFF also has greater English-language programming, especially notable in three excellent films: Beyond Gay: The Politics of Pride (about gay civil rights worldwide), the Canadian premiere of American Faust: From Condo to Neo-Condi (a damning indictment of Condoleezza Rice and her role in the Iraq war) and Skin, the festival’s critically acclaimed closing night feature film.

Skin is the 2009 biopic about Sandra Laing, the South African woman born to white Afrikaner parents but classified as "coloured" during the apartheid era because she looked black. The docudrama is an unflinching portrait of a black community that has a hard time accepting Laing’s Afrikaner roots. Sandra’s story made headlines worldwide, as did this film when it premiered at last year’s Toronto International Film Festival. Following its premiere in South Africa this past January, director Anthony Fabian will attend the Oct. 3 screening.

Award-winning director Sebastian Doggart’s doc American Faust starts off as a sympathetic portrait of the political rise of Condoleezza Rice, but 20 minutes in, the gloves come off and Rice is quickly portrayed as a power-hungry hawk who keeps her eyes on the prize, no matter the cost. One cannot help but agree by film’s end that Rice is a war criminal.

Bob Christie’s doc Beyond Gay, while primarily examining the gay liberation movement in Eastern Europe, also explores gay civil rights in Brazil and the Caribbean.

All are brave films which, while damning white oppressors – something that is easy to do – also expose negative forces within the black community, something which even today remains difficult to do.

Montreal International Black Film Festival
At various locations, to Oct. 3

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