by Nicholas Spillios
For several years the Toronto Film Festival has served as a major review of films in this genre. Due to the number of films reviewed at the Festival which took place September 6-18, the list has been divided into two articles for ease of reading. They are all planned for fall and winter release. Please check your local film theatres for dates and times.
The range of topics this year ranged from a denial of the Holocaust and an acount of the Armenian Genocide to miscegenation to a review of Black American history and slave rebellion to international issues. It was quite an impressive list. All films reported were based on true events – events which have shaped our attitudes towards multiculturalism.
Please read the annotations for these films, make your selections, view them when their release dates are confirmed, learn from them as this reviewer did and apply them at your discretion in your individual situations whether they be community or schools and apply them in discussions to make us a stronger and more knowledgeable multicultural society. As mentioned, other films completing the list will follow.
BIRTH OF A NATION – Based on William Styron’s best seller of several years back, “The Confessions of Nat Turner”, this film is a true account of the 1831 U.S. slave insurrection. In spite of stereotyping white folk as villains and Black Americans as positive role models, the film does provide an accurate account of slavery prior to Lincoln’s proclamation. Superbly acted. and directed.
A UNITED KINGDOM – Sometimes it takes film time to cover such social issues as miscegenation, This film covers the marriage of Seretse Khan, prince of Bechuanaland and Ruth Williams who married against all odds in London, 1947. Conflict erupts when South Africa, a neighbouring country which objects to an interracial couple leading a neighbouring country.
LOVING -A married interracial couple (Mildred/Richard Loving) are arrested in 1958 Virginia for breaking the state’s law which prevents such marriages from taking place. The case is finally ruled in their favor in 1967 by the Supreme Court..Inspiring and moving, the film succeeds in presenting the couple and the law in the context of the times.
CANADA – ABORIGINAL ISSUES
WE CAN’T MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE – This documentary reports on the filing of a human rights complaint charging the federal government with the lack of adequate services for Indigenous children. Shows that the program established to help the children actually prevented them from receiving benefits.
DENIAL – Questions whether the Holocaust actually occurred by documenting the trial of historian Deborah E. Lipstadt. She is sued for libel in Britain by Holocaust denier David Irving for her reporting that he lied. The argument by Deborah’s legal team is masterfully presented. We are mesmerised by the arguments, although we are aware. of the outcome.
THE PROMISE – Reports on the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s refusal to admit its role in the genocide, A medical student leaves his village in Anatolia to study in Ankara but faces the genocide and keeping his promise to marry the girl who provided his dowry which paid for his studies. The Ottoman Empire and the aftermath of the first world war brings strife and suffering to all.
LION – By focussing on loss of family and the search for identity, Lion becomes possibly one of the most inspiring and emotional multicultural films to be viewed in several years. Thousands of children are lost in India. Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire fame is the son who is adopted by a Tasmanian couple but can never forget the brother and the mother he left behind. His successful search via Google Earth makes for an engrossing tale. The film boasts some of the most compelling photographed scenes of India.
QUEEN OF KATWE -A preteen Ugandan girl is a chess prodigy whose skill helps her overcome social, gender and lack of education and ultimately assist her single mother in their life in a shanty town outside of Kampala. Her struggle and finally success makes this a truly inspiring tale.
BARRY -Traces Barack Obama’s early life, specifically his move to Columbia University in 1981 at the age of twenty. His search for his identity during that year is the major focus in the film. He encounters resistance, prejudice and interracial love relationships which impact on his thinking. The year becomes pivotal to his actions later as president and becomes relevant to events in today’s United States.
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO – Black American writer James Baldwin focuses on those Black Americans including Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King whose legacies impacted heavily on race developments in the U.S. They are also the persons who most influenced Baldwin in his writing. Film footage on the Civil Rights and Black Power movements are shown as having relevance to Baldwin particularly the assassination of Evers, Malcolm X, and King.
POWER OF THE PRESS
ALL GOVERNMENTS LIE: TRUTH, DECEPTION AND THE SPIRIT OF I.F. STONE – Journalist Stone became a model leader for others who wrote and reported outside the entrenched establishment. From the 50’s – 70’s Stone published a weekly newsletter in which he exposed government and corporate deception. According to Stone, journalists must begin by exposing how governments lie.
CANADA – HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVES
THOSE WHO MAKE REVOLUTION HALFWAY ONLY DIG THEIR OWN GRAVES – A dramatisation of Quebec’s 2012 revolt in which students rise in objection to an increase in student fees, Borrowing from events, it presents a tale of a terrorist group aiming to create havoc and disruptions in Montreal. Provocative with a film length of three hours rarely seen in a French-Canadian film, it may be a film which demands attention but will be difficult to view.
– Acknowledgement to the Alberta Association For Multicultural Education For Posting of Part 1 and 2 Reports On Films Viewed At The Toronto International Film Festival, 2016