It is a film festival more necessary now than ever before: the Halifax Black Film Festival is back, celebrating its fifth anniversary during African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia.
Created in 2017 by the Fabienne Colas Foundation, the Halifax Black Film Festival aims to provide an opportunity for filmmakers to shine the spotlight on authentic stories that reflect the realities of Black experiences. It is the fourth Black film festival in Canada created by the foundation.
“It’s important now more than ever to have the Halifax Black Film Festival, especially after the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement,” says the president and founder of the Fabienne Colas Foundation, Fabienne Colas. “More than ever people want to help, they want to be part of conversation… They want to foster solutions, we want to foster togetherness, so this platform is more relevant than before.”
This year’s festival will feature 75 films from 10 different countries and include a new special events series and panel discussions available online due to COVID-19 restrictions. Colas sees the virtual platform as a benefit, highlighting local Black artists to the world.
“This is a record number of films,” Colas says. “Last year we had just around 28 films and it’s thanks to the magic of technology that we can bring that many films this year to celebrate this fifth edition.”
The festival’s free online community panel series will offer in-depth conversations about Black filmmaking, acquiring funding for film projects, depictions of Black youth in media and more. The new special events series will see local filmmakers and Hollywood producers share their insight on the importance of diversity in television and film – both on- and off-screen.
“I was only focused on acting for a long time because I had never seen a Black female director before, so I didn’t know that that was an option for me,” says Nova Scotia-born actress, producer and director Koumbie. “So I think stuff like this is so important, to showcase the people who are doing it so that other people can see that it’s possible.”
“Black artists are the most marginalized group in the artistic industry,” says Colas. “We need strong platforms like the ones from the Halifax Black Film Festival to keep the movement going. By giving that platform, that voice to more Black artists, this is important.”
The festival will also showcase some of Halifax’s emerging Black filmmakers with the premiere of their short films as part of the Being Black in Canada Series, sponsored by Netflix. One of those films is Jim Morrison IV’s Bonecrusher, the story of African Nova Scotian boxing legend Sam Langford.
The festival opens Tuesday, Feb. 23, with Beautie Masvaure Alt’s Shaina, followed by the release of all 75 films available to watch entirely online. It will close with Cheryl Foggo’s John Ware Reclaimed on Sunday, Feb. 28. Participants can buy individual festival tickets or an All Access Pass to watch all 75 films. One All Access Pass can be used by a viewer’s entire household.
“It has been a great ride so far with people from Halifax and Nova Scotia… embracing the movement and supporting these filmmakers and local artists and coming to see international films as well,” Colas says. “By buying a pass or tickets for the films, you are putting your DNA in this movement, you are supporting a lot of Black artists, you are helping to amplify Black voices.”
The Halifax Black Film Festival is presented by TD Bank Group in collaboration with Global News. For more information on the festival, visit halifaxblackfilm.com.