This year’s Toronto International Film Festival features several films about the black diasporic experience, with a few profiles of well-known black figures as well as drama and satire. One contribution, A Season in France, tells the story of a man who migrates from the Central African Republic to France, where he falls in love with a white French woman. The film explores the complexities of attempting to start anew in a foreign country while processing the trauma of what led to the move. The protagonist attempts to suppress his history for the sake of his family, but trauma always finds a way to rear its head eventually. Another timely movie is Canada’s Black Cop, a satire about a rogue black policeman who seeks justice for his people. The movie interrogates power structures, oppression and racism.
TIFF also has several worthwhile documentaries to offer. From the US, Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me is a gripping documentary about the legendary, but often misunderstood entertainer. Director Sam Pollard has frequently collaborated with Spike Lee, and is well-equipped to cover such an important figure. The documentary features interviews with Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal and other insiders. It delves much deeper than Davis’ hit songs to examine the man behind the bravado and the many challenges he faced as a black entertainer. Another American documentary, Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart, focuses on Lorraine Hansberry. Hansberry was a queer feminist playwright and activist who is now most well-known for her groundbreaking play A Raisin in the Sun. As an outspoken black artist, she was a close friend of Nina Simone and James Baldwin. However, Hansberry is underrated in comparison. In this film, Hansberry’s contributions and inner life are more deeply explored to demonstrate what an impactful career she truly had.
Other documentaries in the festival include Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami, featuring a vulnerable compilation of footage of the famed Jamaican artist, and The Gospel According to André, a profile of fashion editor André Leon Talley. Lastly, BOOM FOR REAL: the Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat zooms in on Basquiat’s years as a homeless teenager in New York. Each of these films offers a different take on the experience of the black diaspora, from the US to Canada to France. They demonstrate just how many different experiences there truly are, and even viewing just one of these films is sure to teach you something new about the global black community.