17th FIFBM: an edition more relevant than ever
Diversity and representation have been hot topic issues for a long time, in film and elsewhere. The rights of Black people have also long been defended by progressive observers. Still, the Black Lives Matter movement was particularly thriving in 2020, and it feels like everyone is increasingly aware of the importance of this community, its concerns and its demands. As such, the Montreal International Black Film Festival (MIBFF), which is celebrating its 17th edition this year, is more relevant than ever.
In addition to being a cinephile, Fabienne Colas, President and Founder of the MIBFF, clearly wants to make the world a better place and to improve the state of things. The 134 films from 30 countries making up the program of the 2021 edition have been selected for their artistic value, of course, but in many cases, these are also works that might have never been seen by local filmgoers otherwise.
This year’s opening film is Glenn Kaino & Afshin Shahidi’s With Drawn Arms, a documentary about Tommie Smith, an African-American athlete who raised a black-gloved fist during the medal ceremony of the 1968 Olympics, a political statement that was seen around the world and which is remembered to this day — not unlike the more recent kneeling by football player Colin Kaepernick, who appears in the film.
Another promising documentary is Rumba Rules, New Genealogies, an introduction of the rumba scene of Kinshasa in the company of the Sarbati Brigade Orchestra. The film is co-directed by Quebec filmmaker David N. Bernatchez and Congolese photographer Sammy Baloji, a wonderful example of openness and collaboration, directly among the creative team of the project.
One of the fiction films that stands out is undeniably Le Prince oublié by Michel Hazanavicius, a fantasy comedy starring Omar Sy, who is being honoured by the MIBFF this year. Born to a Senegalese father and a Mauritanian mother, this French actor became internationally famous thanks to Éric Toledano & Olivier Nakache’s hit movie Intouchables. He then took on various other roles, including in Hollywood blockbusters (X-Men: Days of Future Past, Jurassic World, Inferno), as well as in the Netflix series Lupin, another major international success. In his own way, Omar Sy also contributes to the acceptance of Black people, by being so well recognized — and beloved — worldwide.
From September 22 to October 3, the Montreal International Black Film Festival is a great opportunity to discover cinema beyond the mainstream. Even though they are not all openly political, every film should awaken something in viewers, consciously or not, because seeing that many Black people in front of and behind the camera can only inspire pride and hope in those recognizing themselves, and give access to different perspectives to others.