6 films exploring Black experiences in Toronto
New compilation of short documentaries now streaming on CBC Gem
New on CBC Gem, the local documentary Being Black in Toronto consists of a compilation of six 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. Through the program, the filmmakers received mentorship and production support from OYA Media Group and the films premiered at the Montreal Black Film Festival before heading to the Toronto Black Film Festival and Halifax Black Film Festival.
Each film takes a unique look at life in Toronto, exploring topics of belonging, identity, coping with loss, artistic expression, family and community struggles.
Here's a look at the six films included in the Absolutely Canadian series.
The Onyx Butterfly directed by Yasmin Evering-Kerr
The Onyx Butterfly follows Jordan as he grapples with the societal pressures of being a Black male dancer in a traditionally white feminine landscape while also struggling against the cultural gender expectations placed upon Black men. The film aims to explore the psychological impact of stereotypes on a Black man who is determined to redefine Black masculinity.
Joseph, Margaret and I by Valerie Amponsah
Initially a film about the filmmaker's parents' immigration journey from Ghana to Canada and how that impacted their life, the film takes on a life of its own and becomes a story of forgiveness and healing of Joseph's substance abuse with his wife Margaret and daughter, Valerie.
Black Sun directed by Adrian Wallace
The film follows Sherri Bonnelli, a white woman who raised and lost her Black son, as she looks to advocate for anti-gun violence through her community activism. We also follow Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, a Black filmmaker, as she aims to shed emotional intelligence through the creation of her first feature, Summer of the Gun, based on one of Toronto's deadliest summers.
YYZ directed by Omolola Ajao
The film YYZ is an intimate portrayal and discussion between that of a Nigerian-Canadian family and their last-born child. For Omolola and her family, their first night in Toronto was spent at Pearson airport – that night full of anticipation, expectation and fear. Looking back at her family's journey, as well as their present and future, this film focuses on the feelings of rootlessness and loss of identity that often accompany immigration.
Tallawah Abroad directed by Sharine Taylor
Little Jamaica, a neighbourhood in Toronto's west end, was a once-thriving hub for Black and Caribbean business owners until the ills of gentrification reared its ugly head. Vernal Small, the owner of the 47-year-old business, Jamall Caribbean Custom Tailor, is now tasked with confronting how the construction of the incoming light rail is shifting the dynamic of his community, changing their future and slowly erasing their presence in the process. Tallawah Abroad aims to discover how Small, residents and other business owners have been affected and how they are preparing themselves for the adjustments on the horizon.
#BLACK directed by Yvano Antonio
Canada's Black youth have a responsibility to lead the next generation, but they are disillusioned by social media. They've made progress, but there's still plenty of work to be done. It's up to them to hold themselves accountable and use social media to their advantage.
You can find four more shorts from emerging Black Canadian filmmakers in Being Black in Halifax, 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.