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A Halifax filmmaker gets a shot at redemption at this year’s Halifax Black Film Festival

Click to play video: 'Halifax Black Film Festival: Being Black in Halifax features filmmaker Tyus McSween' Halifax Black Film Festival: Being Black in Halifax features filmmaker Tyus McSween
We talk with first-time filmmaker Tyus McSween about his new short film 'Washed Up,' which details his life’s ups and downs from an aspiring athlete to years of incarceration and now to film as a form of redemption. – Feb 25, 2022

Halifax artist Tyus McSween is getting a shot at redemption by telling his story through film.

Washed Up is an autobiographical documentary featured at this year’s Halifax Black Film Festival. The short film explores McSween’s journey from childhood hockey dreams to his incarceration as an adult. It features interviews with McSween’s family and friends, their views on his personal struggles and his future as an artist.

In the film, McSween’s grandfather, Parker, reflects on the young athlete’s natural talent for hockey and the adversity he faced as a Black player after failing to make the Hockey Nova Scotia Under-14 program.

“He didn’t even make alternate for it,” he says. “There’s never been a Black player on the provincial teams (that I know of). Now, was that racism? I don’t know. I know what I feel.”

A survey in 2021 found that many Canadians believe hockey has issues concerning racism and inclusion.  Although most people polled said hockey remains an integral part of Canada’s cultural fabric, respondents who identified as a visible minority were twice as likely to say that racism is getting worse when compared with those who are not visible minorities.

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Read more: Many Canadians concerned about misogyny, racism in hockey culture, survey finds

“It was different for me growing up,” McSween says. “It really wasn’t talked about in … many sports with majority white people. It’s not just all bad, but you face a little bit of adversity…. I’m just trying to push through and get to the other side of things.”

After a few years that saw McSween involved in criminal activity and jail time, he knew he needed to move on and find an outlet for his love of art. McSween joined the Being Black in Halifax program, hoping filmmaking could be therapeutic and a way to share his story with the world. The program gives emerging filmmakers an opportunity to address the issue of social integration of people from Black communities in the city through film.

“Throughout this process, we had so many mentors, so many sessions about film and the ways in which we can try and convey these messages and tell these stories,” says Dartmouth filmmaker and Being Black in Halifax participant Guyleigh Johnson.

Read more: Dartmouth author and advocate uses film to start a conversation about mental health

McSween’s experience from the Being Black in Halifax program gave him not only an appreciation for filmmaking but also a chance to reflect on how far he’s come at such a young age.  He wants people who watch his film to be inspired to try new things and never lose hope.

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“Look at your life…. You can always fight through things,” he says. “Everybody has hard times. It’s different for everybody but it’s all about being the best you.”

Washed Up is available to watch during the Halifax Black Film Festival. Tickets for the event are available now through the festival’s website. Audiences attending the virtual festival can enjoy short films, documentaries and full-length feature films from Halifax filmmakers and beyond. There are also virtual panel discussions offered through Halifax Black Film Festival’s Facebook page with topics related to film, media, diversity and equity.

The Halifax Black Film Festival runs from Feb. 24 to 27 and is presented by TD Bank Group in collaboration with Global News. For more information on the festival, visit halifaxblackfilm.com.

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