Around this time every year Toronto is bitten by a film bug named TIFF. Even without all the film festival-related promotions and print media coverage, it is nearly impossible to avoid the second largest international film festival in the world (after Cannes) if you live or work in downtown Toronto. There’s always the block-long ticket line ups at the box office, the paparazzi and stargazers posted outside the Ritz Carlton or Hazleton Lanes in Yorkville waiting for a chance to snipe a celebrity, the official black TIFF Cadillac Escalades zipping the VIPs across the city and the proliferation of muscle bound men in suits with dark shades and ear pieces. The biggest problem we have always had with the Toronto International Film Festival is that it is nearly impossible to pick from more than three hundred films available. In the past few years we have revised our SUPAFRIK selection strategy by adhering to three simple rules: (1) Only watch promising movies that have little chance of ever getting a wide theatrical release. While it’s nice to catch the Black Swans and Rays before the rest of the world, big studio movies are guaranteed a wide release (2)Watch as many movies as we can with African storylines, settings, directors or actors (3) Rule #2 trumps Rule #1.
With that mind, here are some movies that we plan on checking out at TIFF this year:
1. Man On Ground – Set against the backdrop of the outburst of violent xenophobia that engulfed South Africa to in early 2008, this is the story of a Nigerian man, Femi trying to locate his missing brother amidst the chaos. Showing: 6:30pm Monday September 12 at AMC 9, 3pmTuesday September 13 at AMC 9, 9:30pm Saturday September 12 at Isabel Bader Theatre
2. Winnie – Based on the story of South African heroine Winnie Mandela, the casting of African-Americans to play the lead roles in this movie initially raised quite a few eye brows. Here’s to hoping Jennifer Hudson (as Winnie) and Terrence Howard (as Nelson) rise to the occasion and pull off a convincing performance as South Africans. Showing: 9:30pm Friday September 15 at Roy Thomson Hall and 12pm Saturday September 17 at TIFF Lightbox
3. The Education of Auma Obama – A documentary on the U.S. President’s social activist Kenyan half-sister that also explores a myriad of issues from post-colonial identity to feminism while weaving the narrative of the subject’s life story. Showing: 10:15am Sunday September 18 at AMC
Bonus: It would be interesting to see if Machine Gun Preacher manages to rise above the prototypical Western messiah archetype that often dominates hollywood movies set in Africa. Dark Girls promisingly takes on the controversial topic of “pigmentocracy” within the black community but we are curious to see how objectively it goes about delegating “blame” for this phenomenon.
If you have seen or end up seeing any of these movies, feel free to post up a comment and let us know what you thought of our suggestions.