The Black List – The Black Films at TIFF’14

We’ve created a “Black List” for TIFF’14. The list consists of films that feature filmmakers/actors/actresses, and films that have a focus on social issues revolving around a black community.

Girlhood – Contemporary World Cinema

ada119e1ad0a7d897b2077fce2dd4e12With this, her third feature film after the auspicious debut of Water Lilies and the equally compelling Tomboy, Céline Sciamma is turning into a filmmaker of considerable confidence and authority. Bande de filles is a raucous, raw, and tender look at a group of black high-school students living in the tough suburban banlieues (outskirts) of Paris.

Why you should watch this: Coincidentally, under its English-language title, Girlhood suggests a certain kinship with Richard Linklater’s Boyhood – another sensitively observed coming-of-age feature making the festival rounds this year. Though Sciamma’s film speaks to roughly the same audience, the writer-director doesn’t set out to capture the cumulative experience of a prototypical adolescent the way Linklater did. Rather, she resolves to consider the inner lives of characters typically overlooked in French film — namely, the black teens who congregate in shopping centers, subways and courtyards drawing attention as they “kiki” among themselves.
Source: Variety .   View Trailer:

 Top Five – Special Presentation

a0bfd75b0c547842c89556660da6eea4Starring, written and directed by Chris Rock, Top Five tells the story of New York City comedian-turned-film star Andre Allen, whose unexpected encounter with a journalist forces him to confront both the career that made him famous and the life he left behind. Starring Chris Rock, Rosario Dawson, J.B. Smoove, Gabrielle Union, Tracy Morgan, Cedric the Entertainer, Kevin Hart, Jerry Seinfeld, Adam Sandler, Whoopi Goldberg, Sherri Shepherd, Jay Pharoah, Anders Holm and Michael Che. Features music by Questlove.

Why you should watch this: This is not the first Chris Rock directorial film. Rock is one of the few actor/comedian that has turned to directing and made it a success. His cast is filled with some of the best American comedians and for god’s sake, it’s Chris Rock! Nuff said. Go watch it.

 Black and White – GALA

b97e372a10214d21174240b221f77947An attorney (Kevin Costner) struggling to raise his biracial granddaughter after the deaths of his wife and daughter becomes embroiled in a custody battle with the child’s paternal grandmother (Academy Award winner Octavia Spencer).

Why you should watch this: YES…I know. This is a racially charge film directed by a white man (Mike Binder). We’ve heard this argument before with the film The Help and yes Octavia Spencer starred and won an Oscar in that film.  However, what struck me about Black and White was that Hollywood decided not to finance this film. It was Kevin Costner who had to put up the cash. To make matters worse, no distributor is attached thus far. All these elements going against the film make me more curious to see it… hope you are as well.

Murder in Pacot – Masters

b160351fb2ae514a3bcfbf61770f0c52In the aftermath of the 2010 earthquake, a middle-aged Port-au-Prince couple come face-to-face with the stark contradictions of Haitian society when they are forced to rent out their villa to a foreign aid worker and his enterprising local girlfriend.

Why you should watch this: From the first time I saw Lumumba (2000) I was mesmerized by director Raoul Peck as an auteur. Since then, Mr. Peck has directed three more films that were all sublime. Hence, it was quite an honour to programming Sometimes in April (2005) at ReelWorld Film Festival and a few years later have the distinct honour in planning the Moloch Tropical TIFF reception.  His work is far from commercial, but you will come to appreciate his unique directing style.

 The Equalizer – GALA

f8eb27079d02fda772a24e1e03db9730In this hard-edged big-screen adaptation of the cult ’80s TV show from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day), an ex-CIA agent (Denzel Washington) uses his lethal skills to protect an imperilled young woman (Chloë Grace Moretz) from the Russian mob.

Why you should watch this: The team of Washington and Fuqua elevates this story to pop-mythic dimensions. They last worked together on Training Day, which premiered at the Festival in 2001, and here Fuqua once again finds the best frame for Washington’s ability to convey coiled threat. Is there another star who can communicate so much with one word? With just a glance? With the rhythm of his walk?  Yup… it’s all Denzel!     Trailer:

 National Diploma – TIFF Docs

57fa13c2848ead4b99e2af82fb9443e3Director Dieudo Hamadi follows a group of teenagers in his hometown of Kisangani in the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose struggles to pass the state exam that is the key to their future are further complicated by their country’s endemic culture of corruption.

Why you should watch this: Director Hamadi’s mostly handheld cinematography and Rodolphe Molla‘s editing has successfully evoked the youngsters’ vibrant lust for life. Amidst all this, the director also weaves in moments of hilarity which is as comical as it is revealing about the social schisms permeating his home country. For example, the headmaster seen dismissing the students from school is seen later visiting the students at their house and playing the nice papa – a sheen easily debunked when students criticized his coldness, and also the ineffective and incomplete teaching at school. (He said he has always encouraged students to drop by and air grievances about some of the “mercenary” teachers in their midst – a generosity rarely seen in the film’s opening sequences.) Source: THR        Trailer:

 The Good Lie – Special Presentation

7482ab414606c0b2a22e288a50250500In this hotly anticipated, based-on-fact drama from Monsieur Lazhar director Philippe Falardeau, an American woman (Reese Witherspoon) takes four refugees from the Sudanese civil war under her wing.

Why you should watch this: This is Warner Bros’s Oscar hopeful. The film consists of a good cast, relatable story plus an actor and director who are no strangers to the Oscar race.     Trailer:

 Timbuktu – Masters

c1accf39218563edf8962f4d694b229fFollowing the recent jihadist takeover of northern Mali, a proud cattle herder comes into fateful conflict with the fundamentalist rulers of the provincial capital, in this luminous, lyrical and poetic drama from the great African filmmaker Abderrahmane Sissako.

Why you should watch this: Luminous, lyrical, and poetic, Sissako’s Timbuktu accomplishes what only the highest of art can: from the horrors of war, it distills enduring truths. Featuring striking cinematography by Sofiane El Fani, consummate editing by Nadia Ben Rachid, and outstanding performances from its ensemble cast, Timbuktu movingly attests to the human will to resist the terrors and injustices of absolutism.  Coming to TIFF directly from Cannes14.


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