Patrons of the Toronto Black Film Festival entering the theatre at Carlton Cinema (Tianna Reno/Ryersonian)

After seven strong years, the Toronto Black Film Festival (TBFF) has made its impact again, throughout the downtown core.

The TBFF was created in 2013 by the Fabienne Colas Foundation. The foundation also launched the Montreal Black Film Festival in 2005. The TBFF is a not-for-profit, professional, artistic organization dedicated to promoting cinema, art and culture in Canada and throughout the world. The festival aims to provide a captivating and essential platform for the unheard voices of black filmmakers, reflecting on great films that celebrate diversity within black communities.

TBFF is for all ages and allows its audience to discover films from around the world. The mission of the festival is to give a voice in cinema to all ethnic backgrounds. What drives this dynamic festivals’ ambition is encouraging the development of independent films and to promote more films on the reality of black people from around the globe.

The festival presented another powerful program this year, showcasing 70 films from 26 countries, such as Germany, Canada, South Africa, Jamaica, Brazil and Puerto Rico. The festival took place over the span of six days running from Feb. 13 to Feb. 18 and presented four world premieres, nine international premieres, one North-American premiere, 30 Canadian premieres and 23 Ontario premieres.

Some of the premieres included the opening film, Ellen: The Ellen Pakkies Story as a Canadian Premiere and based on a true story. As well, the closing film of the festival was the Ontario Premiere of DEAD WOMEN WALKING by Hagar Ben-Asher.

The theatres where you can catch these films are the Isabel Bader Theatre, Carlton Cinema and Jackman Hall (AGO).  

And, for the first time this year, TBFF presented two center pieces: Jorge Navas’ WE ARE THE HEAT (SOMOS CALENTURA), and SPRINTER by Storm Saulter (executive produced by Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith).

Special celebrity appearances took place as Tarana Burke received the TBFF 2019 Social Impact Award, in a tribute to her during the festival, as well,a movie-talk with CNN’s Bakari Sellers, which made for engaging events for those who attended.The festival also offered a “Meet the Filmmakers” panel regarding the film Mr. Jane and Finch, directed by Ngardy Conteh George. Established filmmakers from Canada and abroad spoke about their experience with filmmaking from creation, to financing, production and distribution.

Those who attended the festival expressed their favourite experiences and how it impacted  them being there, via Twitter.

Each night of the festival brought an array of performances at the Art Square Cafe featuring different genres of music and spoken word performances, which represented the Afrocentric community. This year’s lineup was filled with Caribbean Music and African Jazz (Waleed), with featured music artists such as, Afro-Cuban Yosvanii, Quincy Bullen and spoken word artists Luke Reece, Amoya Reé and many more.

A new addition to the festival this year was the TBFF19 Food Experience inside the Carlton Cinema, which offered delicious cuisine from across Africa and the Caribbean. Each day of the festival, a different chef or restaurant featured their specialty cuisine and beverage from their represented country.

TBFF celebrates diversity within black communities through films.  The festival connects black films with viewers of all racial identities and ethnic origins, in order to recognize the differences that make Canadians unique. Art connects us and allows us to come together no matter our cultural background to better understand one another.

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