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Canadian Press

Screen world in Canada ‘decades behind’ in Black representation, industry members say

TORONTO The Toronto Black Film Festival is hosting a series of panel discussions with a headline that talks about a widespread problem in the industry: Tell Me the Money. Amid a racial bias caused by the assassination of George Floyd’s police last May, awareness seems to have risen, and arts organizations are paying attention to the systematic racism and obstacles faced by Black creators in the Canadian film and TV industry. , says festival president and founder Fabienne Colas. But money does not flow throughout the ecosystem, and there is still a lack of representation on screen and in leading positions behind the scenes, adds Colas. That should change soon, because as the clock strikes, “a lot of white people are making decisions about what will be funded to come out on screen next year, and for two years,” she says. “Billions of dollars are going through this industry, and tens of millions of dollars are being distributed through our public funders, and they do not necessarily go to Black producers and Black filmmakers. That is the problem,” says Colas. As the Colas Festival, which runs online through Sunday, and other screen projects help mark Canada’s Black History Month, those in the country’s art world say last year has been a critical year for in terms of institutions that respond to the call of racism, tokenism. and microaggressions. Several organizations have announced funding for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and Colored People) creators in Canada over the past year. Last summer, for example, Telefilm Canada pledged $ 100,000 a year to set up a Black Screen Office and Bell Media partnered with grassroots organization BIPOC TV & Film. But “the Canadian screen world has a lot to do,” says Amanda Parris, a director, writer and playwright for CBC TV and Radio, behind the monodrama “The Death News”, which is part of the new CBC Gem anthology series. 21 Black Futures “by CBC Arts and Obsidian Theater in Toronto. “I feel like Canada is decades behind when it comes to representing Black stories on screen by Black creators,” says Parris. “It’s really depressing. And I think being so close to the United States and the United Kingdom and seeing the things that are happening there, it’s hard to imagine when the time will come when Canada will see similar stories.” Parris tells director The latest series of five Steve McQueen films “Little Ax” for the BBC and Amazon Prime Video, which tells the story of the Indian West Indian community. “It really hit because there is such a large Caribbean diaspora living here in Canada that still does not have to see their historical stories told by the level of production, the deep nuance of the story, the kind of budget he had clearly, “says Parris. Parris was born in the UK and felt a connection to the material, but also “a certain level of sadness” to the idea that such programming might not be possible here for a while, she says. “I’m so reserved. “I’m confident in the many promises that have been made by so many networks. I’m not sure if they’re going to feel the fire. Honor them when the protests die and things get calmer the same way.” If Canada wants to have a living screen industry, should give everyone access to the same resources, says Colas. “Because otherwise, you’re going to have well-made white films, and then you’ll have, what Black films on a very low budget? “she said. “It doesn’t make sense. So we need a great, well-funded film.” Colas, who also founded city film festivals including Halifax and Montreal, says the Toronto part that is in its ninth edition still does not have all the support it needs from the industry. But some new partners have come on board this year. She also sits on various diversity committees and says “things are going in the right direction”. Parris says she is encouraged by several emerging projects in Canada, including the upcoming CBC series “The Porter,” about railroad workers in the historic Montreal community of Little Burgundy in the 1920s. Director Charles Officer, who directed Parris’ “The Death News,” is working on the series alongside several other Black creators. Then there’s the CBC News debut “Canada Tonight with Ginella Massa” and the new YouTube news program The Brandon Gonez Show, “launched in January by Toronto headline broadcaster, who left CP24 to launch the project Parris says Gonez as well as The Black Academy, recently launched by Toronto fellow actors Shamier Anderson and Stephan James, are among some examples of a change “away from many of these key institutions for Black people by being: “What can we build ourselves?” Anderson says he thinks change is happening, and even leading Canadian broadcasters acknowledge the lack of diversity in their ranks, for example. But “it needs to happen faster,” he adds, putting it appears that the Black Academy is seeking even more funding than those provided by the Canada Media Fund, as it builds its own display and programming of awards. “All of these speeches a speeches and mandates and black squares and hashtags m “I think we should put the money on the table, put the money where your mouth is,” says Anderson. “Setting up a social post just is not enough.” In the world of theater, there is also “a very high awareness, almost panicked about the lack of diversity and lack of representation of Black,” says Obsidian Mumbi Theater artistic director Tindyebwa Otu, who came up with the idea for “21 Black Advent”. . Tindyebwa Otu says the conversation should extend beyond the faces seen on stage to those behind the scenes and on board rooms, so theater companies do not charge any single individual working within a historically white institution to talk about the entire race. The “21 Black Futures” series, she says, is “almost like a catalog of an example of those out there and saying, ‘Look at their work, look at what they have to say, listen to their stories and contact these individuals, ‘so that there will never be an excuse in the future of “I have no idea with whom to contact or with whom to connect” in the future. “” Black History Month gives institutions a convenient opportunity to think about funding and programming for four weeks out of the year, but the big difference is understanding that “Black People are living these lives all year round,” says Tindyebwa Otu. “Good on you who became more aware, but this is an investment, this is our daily life, this is not a moment, this is our reality. This report by The Canadian Press was first published on February 18, 2021. Victoria Ahearn, The Canadian Press

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