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#GreatMTLer: Meet Fabienne Colas, the unstoppable force behind Montreal’s Black Film Festival

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WATCH ABOVE: The Montreal Black Film Festival kicked off Wednesday for five days of film screenings, workshops and lectures. To coincide with the festival's launch, Jamie Orchard profiles its founder Fabienne Colas, a Great Montrealer – Sep 29, 2016

Fabienne Colas is the heart and soul behind the Montreal International Black Film Festival.

It’s an event that has brought huge movie stars to the city, from Danny Glover to Spike Lee.

Colas is an unstoppable force who loves to showcase her city to the world.

READ MORE: Meet some great Montrealers

“I believe Montreal is the best kept secret. Montreal has this zest, this something that you don’t find anywhere else in the world,” she told Global News.

“I’ve been to many cities some are big and huge and nice, but Montreal has this warmth – this je ne sais quoi that you cannot put your finger on.”

Twelve years after the festival’s debut, Colas has expanded it into a four-city (Montreal, Toronto, New York and Port-au-Prince in Haiti), six-festival event.

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All the same, she admits it all started from humble beginnings.

“When I came here from Haiti more than 10 years ago, I discovered there was no platform for an artist like me because I was an actress and model at the time,” she said.

What started as the Haitian Film Festival quickly became a showcase for black filmmakers and actors of all backgrounds.

READ MORE: #GreatMTLer: Guardian angel Shirley Hunt takes care of those in her community

Now, the event goes beyond celebrating black culture to highlighting the deepest struggles and the biggest success stories.

In 2012, she presented the Humanitarian Award to Harry Belafonte; in 2015, it was awarded to Martin Luther King III.

Colas has also used her platform to give back to the community.

“We decided to launch a program called the Youth Diversity Program, where we decided to help emerging filmmakers to screen their first film,” she told Global News.

Her foundation also offers grants to emerging artists from Haiti who want to study in Montreal.

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“This is, for me, the best way to connect Haiti and Quebec culturally,” she explained.

“I’m the woman of two islands – the island of Haiti and the island of Montreal – so, if we can connect those two I’m just happy.”

In 2015, the province awarded Colas a medal to recognize her efforts in fighting discrimination in Quebec, reminding her why she believes so strongly in her mission.

READ MORE: #GreatMTLer: Do you know a Montrealer doing great things in the community?

“It’s not always easy. I mean, there were times I was in doubt, I was wondering if I had to stop or if it was worthwhile,” Colas told Global News.

“But each time I got back to the vision – the why did you start that – what were you trying to do?’

Colas currently also sits on the Board of Directors for Montreal’s 375th anniversary celebration, which is her way of giving back to the city that has given her so much.

“I believe my story would not have been possible elsewhere because Montreal has this way of welcoming people – this warmth – this open-mindedness. This is just fantastic.”

There are so many Great Montrealers around us. If you know someone who should be profiled as part of Global News’ Greater Montreal campaign, don’t forget to nominate them!

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