The Montreal International Black Film Festival begins

Montreal International Black Film Festival. Montreal International Black Film Festival.

The Montreal International Black Film Festival, which is now in its 11th year, is unique on various fronts: it is the only bilingual festival of its kind, it led the way for many such events around Canada (including the Toronto Black Film Festival), and it continues to provide a plurality of black artists a platform to present their work.

The latest edition kicks off on Wednesday with an homage documentary to Maya Angelou, which speaks to the extraordinary life and times of the great Nobel Prize Winning writer. The film Maya Angelou – And Still I Rise directed by Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack, will have its Quebec premiere on Wednesday September 28, 2016 at Cinema Imperial at 7 pm. The filmmakers will be in attendance to present the film.

The festival will also be screening Southside with Youwhich chronicles the summer 1989 afternoon when Barack Obama wooed his future First Lady on an epic first date across Chicago’s South Side. The screening is at 7 pm at Cinema du Parc on September 29, 2016

Be sure to check out the festival’s full line up.

Maya Angelou - Still I Rise.

Maya Angelou – Still I Rise.

Montreal Rampage had the chance to speak to the president and founder of MIBFF Fabienne Colas.

In a city like Montreal, where there are a dozen film festivals, what purpose does a Black Film Festival serve?

The Montreal International Black Film Festival (MIBFF) is the necessary festival in Montreal. It complements all the other festivals in the city and gives a voice and a platform to artists who otherwise would not have been seen or heard here. The MIBFF has been welcoming acclaimed guests such as Harry Belafonte, Danny Glover, Souleymane Cissé, Spike Lee (for the 2nd time this year), Dany Laferrière, Moussa Touré, Paul Haggis, Martin Luther King III and many more. Montreal needs a festival like the MIBFF, which not only showcases and fosters diversity on screen, but also values and celebrates it.

Given the state of race relations in North America, what role does a forum like the MIBFF play in contributing to this discourse?

Greater knowledge leads to greater understanding. Ignorance is the greatest barrier to harmony and love. We need to encourage platforms and opportunities such as the Montreal Black Film Festival so black people can get to share their stories but also, so that non-black people can learn and get educated about other realities that they are not exposed to on a regular basis; stories that don’t necessarily make it to their history books. The sole purpose of this festival is to create a place for sharing, understanding, celebration, encounters. We want people to get out of the festival uplifted, inspired, educated, empowered and entertained.

Now that the Festival has been in existence for over 10 years and the continuous growth that we have seen, where do you want to take the Festival from here?

The sky is the limit! We are honoured to be chosen as a platform for worldwide, international and Canadian premieres, and thrilled to be welcoming the world right here in Montreal. We are proud to host Canada’s largest black film festival in Montreal. Our mission is to spread diversity on screen through the best black films: films that are eye opening and that inspire people to take action for social change. As long as there are great stories out there, we hope to be able to keep on screening them. The sky is really the limit!

Spike Lee will return to the festival for a Q&A on Oct 1st.

Spike Lee will return to the festival for a Q&A on Oct 1st.

Black history in North America and other parts of the world and the arts are not homogenous. Thematically, does your festival actively look to bring to the audience a plurality of cinema by black artists and filmmakers, or is that never a consideration and you have let it evolve on its own?

A little bit of both. We are happy you bring that up. Some people tend to think that there is ONE black community. False! There are black communities all around the globe. Though most may share a similar ethnic origin, their stories, languages, culture and continents vary so much. We are happy to share their similarities but mostly their differences that make each of them so unique.

What is the biggest challenge you face currently and what support are you seeking from the community to help your Festival grow over the next five years?

Money is the number one challenge for the festival. We need more sponsors, more subsidies so we can strengthen the platform and so we can help to showcase more local artists. The audience has been doing its part since day 1. Buying tickets / passes / by-products is what the audience can do to help out. We lack provincial support. No help whatsoever from our own Quebec government, it’s a shame. That prevents us from helping more emerging artists and screening as many artists as we would have wanted. We hope to be able to get their support in the upcoming editions.

The Montreal International Black Film Festival runs from Sept 28 to Oct 2.