Four Films Exploring Black Experiences in Halifax
Being Black in Halifax is a new compilation of four short docs streaming on CBC Gem
New on CBC Gem, the local documentary Being Black in Halifax is a compilation of four short films by emerging directors.
The films came out of the Fabienne Colas Foundation's Being Black in Canada, a mentorship and creation program entirely dedicated to Black filmmakers.
Each one takes a unique look at life in Halifax, exploring topics like belonging, intergenerational trauma, the youth music scene, living with a disability, addiction, and more.
Here's a look at the four films included in the Absolutely Canada series.
Black + Belonging
Black + Belonging by Francesca Ekwuyasi explores the title concept from three different perspectives. Ekwuyasi is a writer and artist from Lagos and living in Halifax, who recently published the novel Butter Honey Pig Bread.
In the short film we meet Liliona Quarmyne, a contemporary African dance artist. Quarmyne is of Ghanian and Filipino heritage, and has lived all over the world. Now based in Halifax, she says "I get more Black the longer I live in Nova Scotia."
We also meet Maje, a hip hop artist from East Preston who now lives in Halifax's North End neighbourhood. He says the community is finally becoming like family, and starting to feel like a second East Preston. But finding that new sense of belonging was hard. "Until I moved from East Preston, I never felt like an outsider. But living in Halifax, it's tough."
Finally, we meet Kate MacDonald, a multi-talented artist and activist. In the short film, MacDonald explores her experience being a Black child adopted by a white family, as well as The Magic Project, a nonprofit she co-created that aims to use art and photography to showcase the brilliance of marginalized communities.
In Normal, director Bradley Bright shares his own compelling story.
Bradley, his sister Amanda, and his father Brad, all live with the same genetic, extremely rare bone disease. Camurati-Engelmann Disease is a skeletal condition characterized by abnormally thick bones in the arms, legs, and skull. The three are the only known persons living with the disease in Canada.
The three also share a sense of humour. "We have our little inside jokes about it," says Bradley. "I like making people laugh," Amanda explains. "Then I feel like they're not looking at me as someone to feel bad for."
The Journey of Self-Love
This short film manages to span several generations of story in only 11 minutes. In The Journey of Self-Love, director Latesha Auger tells her own story of growing up with a mother who is suffering from addiction, and having her own daughter at a young age. She feared she wouldn't be able to break the cycle of trauma.
"And then I brought her home and it just changed everything," she says. "The energy of her presence, of her innocence, of her needing love, of us breaking the cycle in that moment, made everything make sense. She was the glue to our puzzle. And although I wasn't ready, I knew that it would be the kickstart of what we needed."
Latesha went on to finish high school and graduate from NSCC. Now she works with Phoenix and with Halifax Housing Help. And her mom has been sober now for seven years.
"I've had to break the cycle of my generational trauma for three people."
Youth Hiphop and Halifax
Youth Hiphop and Halifax was written and directed by Harmony Adesola, who is a hiphop artist himself in addition to being a filmmaker.
His short film explores why the vibrant youth hiphop scene in a city the size of Halifax struggles to get attention. In the film, Adesola interviews Shay Pitts, Jayden Austin, and Jody Upshaw, all young, local musicians.
Upshaw says one challenge is the lack of all-ages music venues. She'd like to tell her classmates about her performances but too often they're at 19+ venues. "People my age sometimes want to support me, or I want to give people my age the opportunity to support me because I'm not singing songs for old people, I'm singing songs for people who are going through these same experiences."
Pitts says another challenge is sexism in the community. She struggles to get respect—and the mic—from older, male rappers. "I know that I'm capable of doing what the men are doing," Pitts says. "And they're still pushing me out of the way and not passing me the mic and giving me side glances, because they don't want females to succeed in a male-dominated craft. And I find that's a very large issue for girls in Nova Scotia."
Watch All Four Short Films on Gem
For Auger, participating in Being Black in Canada was a dream come true.
"My experience with this program was life changing," she says. "It felt good to tell my story and be a part of the lights, camera, and action but it was also something I've always wanted to do. Since I was a child, I dreamt of being on the big screens and doing something in the film industry, so in a way that dream came true."
You can find six more shorts from emerging Black Canadian filmmakers in Being Black in Toronto, which also came out of the Fabienne Colas Foundation's Being Black in Canada, a mentorship and creation program entirely dedicated to Black filmmakers.
For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.