A Decade of Growth with the Montreal International Black Film Festival

Spike Lee Spike Lee

The tenth annual Montreal International Black Film Festival (MIBFF) kicks off September 23. The world-renowned festival is a celebration of Black cinema and has hosted celebrities such as Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Steadman Graham and, this year, Spike Lee. Though the festival is now considered an important cultural event, its beginnings here in Montreal were very humble.

Fabienne Colas, the founder of the MIBFF, came to Montreal from Haiti in the early 2000s. With her, she carried a VHS copy of a Haitian film she had starred in. Colas’ stop in Montreal was originally intended to be a short visit; her intended destination was Hollywood. Her plans changed when she visited Montreal and fell in love with the city.

Her goal was to have the film she had brought with her shown in a film festival. After the film was rejected from the festival she wanted it to be featured in, she felt let down and humiliated. Instead of letting this hardship hold her back, Colas said to herself, “You’re not going to break me” and she began the Montreal Haitian Film Festival. The initial event was a huge success and has only become more successful and more popular in the years since. In 2010, the festival became the Montreal International Black Film Festival. Along with its name change, the vision changed and it become more globally accepting. As Colas says though, “The MIBFF is not a new festival, it’s a continuation.”

When I ask whether she could have ever envisioned the event becoming as big as it has, she says, “Never.” She adds, though, “In Haiti, we think big. I always envisioned something big, just not this big.” This year the festival has changed a little bit; it has a new six-day format as well as many special events throughout. One of these events is called the Youth and Diversity Evening in which five aspiring filmmakers from Black communities in Montreal were each chosen to direct a short documentary based on the theme “Being Black in Montreal.” This event will take place on September 25th at 9:00. Another special event is, of course, Spike Lee’s visit on September 24th at 7:00. The evening will be a tribute to Lee and there will be a screening of his 2014 film Da Sweet Blood of Jesus.

The Montreal International Black Film Festival is taking place from September 23 to September 28, 2014. You can find tickets as well as more information here.