Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Founder of Black Film Fests Says Canada Has Dearth of Roles for People of Colour

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Founder of Black Film Fests Says Canada Has Dearth of Roles for People of Colour

Article excerpt

Black film fest founder on onscreen diversity

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TORONTO - While the Canadian Screen Awards tout a diverse slate of 2016 nominees, there's still a dearth of roles for people of colour in this country, says the founder of the Montreal International Black Film Festival and the Toronto Black Film Festival.

"In the U.S.A., you do have those roles for black people or for African-American people, however you want to call them," says Haitian native Fabienne Colas, pointing to recent films including "Selma" and "Creed."

"Those roles exist, those opportunities are there, but they're not being recognized -- versus in Canada, in a year when you will not have 'The Book of Negroes,' who are they going to nominate in the Canadian Screen Awards?

"That means we don't have those roles.... They don't really exist."

"The Book of Negroes" miniseries has 11 CSA nominations, including acting nods for Lyriq Bent, Aunjanue Ellis and Shailyn Pierre-Dixon.

Those nominations and a few others have some Canadian performers praising the CSAs as being more inclusive than the Oscars in the U.S., where two straight years of all-white acting nominees have prompted backlash and academy changes.

Colas, an actor-director-producer, notes it's an exceptional year at the CSAs.

"What's going to happen next year? What's going to happen after that?" she says.

"If the industry does not continue to make films with people of colour in the lead roles, well, at a certain point in time in Canada ... we won't have any persons of colour to give this nomination to."

She says one solution is to ensure a diverse makeup of committee or jury members at institutions that give grants to filmmakers.

"Unless there's a really relevant reason for you to bring a film that is an all-white cast -- because it's historical -- if you're doing a film in 2016 here in Toronto or in Quebec or in Montreal, it is ridiculous to consider that all characters should be white in Canada today," says Colas. …

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