You know it’s fall in Toronto when the days get shorter, The Maple Leafs and Raptors return to Scotiabank Arena, and pumpkin spice everything wafts through the air. And now, with its second straight October run, TIFF’s Black Star series at The Lightbox has officially become an autumn staple.
Taking place from October 11 – 17, TIFF’s Black Star lineup celebrates black excellence on the silver screen. This year’s slate of films “tackles everything from the complexity of a family business to the perils of infatuation.” The programming includes movies by Dee Rees, Genevieve Nnaji, and Carl Franklin. Several of these screenings will feature an introduction, post-screening discussion, or Q & A’s with film community staples like Rinaldo Walcott, Sarah-Tai Black, and Dee Rees.
I’ve been lucky enough to see several of these movies, and I’ll confidently say that Black Star 2018 attendees are in for a treat.
Pariah — Dee Rees
Dee Rees’ Pariah is an underseen gem. This movie deserves a place in the conversation alongside sexual awakening movies like Moonlight and Call Me by Your Name. It’s that good. Pariah tells a young woman’s harrowing story as she learns to embrace her sexuality while living in a close-minded household. It’s the sort of film that leaves you hungry to devour everything in the director’s filmography. So please, make it a double feature, and as soon as Pariah ends, go home, log into Netflix, and watch Rees’ last feature, Mudbound. You won’t regret it.
Devil in a Blue Dress – Carl Franklin
Director Carl Franklin’s Devil in a Blue Dress is pure eye-candy. It’s a period piece filled with dapper men and classy dames, vintage cars, and intoxicating production design. But what stands out here is the film’s lead, Easy Rawlins, played by a fine-as-hell Denzel Washington. I know we’re not supposed to objectify people in 2018, but come on. We have peak-Denzel, looking like a gift from the heavens, and this movie practically screams out for a big screen viewing. Washington’s sizzling performance is worth the price of admission, but it comes with a side-dish of Cheadle. That’s pre-Marvel movie Don Cheadle, playing Easy’s devilish sidekick Mouse. That this picture never become a series is one of Hollywood’s great blunders. Watch this film, and then take to Kickstarter and demand a Halloween 2018-style follow up. Let’s make this happen, folks!
Tell Me Sweet Something – Akin Omotoso
A good rom-com with its familiar tropes and uplifting themes is like cinematic comfort food. And Akin Omotoso’s Tell Me Sweet Something hits all the comfortable beats you want from the genre. Shot in Johannesburg, South Africa, the film tells the story of Moratiwa (Nomzamo Mbatha), a one-time writer on the rise who lost her inspiration and now runs a struggling bookstore. Her life takes a turn when she crosses paths with Nat (Maps Maponyane), a charming and successful model who has no use for books. On the surface, they have nothing in common, but we all know how this story goes. The plot may be by the numbers, but the colourful characters, catchy score, and trendy locations will leave a lasting impression.
Black Star Screenings
Thursday, October 11 | 6:15pm
dir. Theodore Witcher
USA 1997 | 104 min. | 14A | English | 35mm
Friday, October 12 | 6:15pm
dir. Dee Rees
USA 2011 | 86 min. | 14A | English | Digital
Featuring an introduction and post-screening discussion with director and screenwriter Dee Rees.
Saturday, October 13 | 6:05pm
Devil in a Blue Dress
dir. Carl Franklin
USA 1995 | 102 min. | 14A | English | Digital
Featuring an introduction and Q&A with programmer Sarah-Tai Black.
Sunday, October 14 | 7:30pm
dir. Genevieve Nnaji
Nigeria 2018 | 95 min. | PG | English, Hausa, Igbo | Digital
Tuesday, October 16 | 6:30pm
Isaac Julien: Territories, The Attendant, and Looking for Langston
dir. Isaac Julien
Territories UK 1984 | 26 min. | 18A | 16mm
The Attendant UK 1993 | 8 min. |18A | 35mm
Looking for Langston UK 1989 | 18A | 45 min. | 16mm
Wednesday, October 17 | 6pm
Tell Me Sweet Something
dir. Akin Omotoso
South Africa 2015 | 90 min. | 14A | English | Digital