Films for February: Black History Month, Valentine’s Day, and Pink Shirt Day

Black History Month

February marks Black History Month, and this year it’s more important than ever to recognize the amazing contributions of Black Canadians past and present. We have lots of great Canadian films that will spark classroom discussion and, as always, they’re completely free of charge.

Across the Line 2

ACROSS THE LINE (87 min)

2015. Director: Director X. Writer: Floyd Kane.

Inspired by true events, Across the Line tells the story of Mattie Slaughter, a Black teenaged hockey phenom, who is poised to take the next step on the road to the NHL. As the star of his local team, he’s had to overcome bias and stigma both on his team and in his high school that has a decades-long history of racial hostility. When he starts a relationship with a mixed-race girl in his class who has a White ex-boyfriend, simmering racial tensions boil over, jeopardizing his shot at a hockey career.

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ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE: THE SERGE IBAKA STORY (47 min)

2019. Director: Travis Wood. Writer: Christian J. Cote.

Serge Ibaka, a newly crowned NBA Champion with the Toronto Raptors, journeys home to the Republic of Congo, with the NBA Championship trophy to inspire his community. He has an emotional homecoming in Brazzaville, where he grew up poor and sometimes homeless, having been left by himself after his mother’s death when he was 7 and his father’s imprisonment shortly thereafter. Despite these overwhelming obstacles, he achieved his dream of becoming an NBA Champion and becoming the first person to bring the trophy back to the Congo.

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THE BOOK OF NEGROES (265 min)

2015. Director & Writer: Clement Virgo. Writer: Lawrence Hill.

In 1750, 11-year-old Aminata is kidnapped from her village in West Africa and begins a rich journey through the harrowing ordeal of slavery, the turmoil of the American Revolution and finally to freedom in the British colony of Nova Scotia. Brilliant and determined, Aminata is a remarkable heroine whose unshakeable connection to her African heritage guides her over unimaginable obstacles and ultimately allows her to assume the mantle of leadership for which she is destined.

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THE CARTER EFFECT (70 min)

2017. Director: Sean Menard.

Get ready to feel the “Vinsanity” with this unprecedented look at Vince Carter, the six-foot-six, eight-time NBA All-Star who made waves in Canadian basketball when he joined the Raptors in 1998. This engrossing doc chronicles his role in building the team’s profile and planting Toronto firmly on the world map.

Invisible City

INVISIBLE CITY (75 min)

2009. Director: Hubert Davis.

A powerful documentary set in the public housing project of Toronto’s Regent Park neighbourhood, Invisible City follows two childhood friends, Kendell and Mikey, who face many challenges while growing up in single-parent homes in the inner city.

Oscar-nominated director Davis follows the two young men over three years, setting this intimate portrait against the backdrop of a community in transition: The Regent Park housing projects are about to be torn down, and it is unclear to its residents whether the redevelopment will result in a brighter future for them.

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MR. JANE AND FINCH (45 min)

2019. Director & Writer: Ngardy Conteh George. Writer: Alison Duke.

After decades of working tirelessly to advocate for the Jane and Finch community in Toronto, Winston LaRose decides to run for Toronto City Council at 81 years old. Beloved by those in his neighbourhood – who have affectionately dubbed him “Mr. Jane and Finch” – LaRose’s grassroots campaign gains traction until an unexpected and controversial change to the size of the council doubles his field of competitors and presents an insurmountable challenge.

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THE SKIN WE’RE IN (44 min)

2017. Director: Charles Officer. Click here for special programming.

An urgent exploration of race relations, this documentary from acclaimed director Charles Officer follows award-winning journalist and activist Desmond Cole as he pulls back the curtain on racism in Canada, inviting all Canadians to understand the experience of being in his skin.

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ÂME NOIR (10 min)

2000. Director: Martine Cartrand.

A young boy traces his roots through the stories his grandmother shares with him in this exhilarating voyage through the defining moments of black history.

Camille Turner

CAMILLE TURNER (7 min)

2018. Director: Van Royko.

Performance artist Camille Turner uses her works to explore and expose Canada’s racist history and shines a light on the continuing forms of oppression.

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ICE BREAKERS (15 min)

2019. Director: Sandamini Rankaduwa.

A rising hockey star is introduced to the history of the Black hockey league in Atlantic Canada to inspire him to pursue his dreams in a sport where Black athletes like him remain underrepresented.

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JOE (8 min)

2002. Director: Jill Harras.

An animated tribute to real-life African Canadian hero Joe Fortes, who overcame discrimination and prejudice to become a beloved member of the Vancouver community.

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VIOLA DESMOND IS ON THE MONEY (21 min)

2019. Directors: Pat Jeflyn and Kim Kristy.

Lesley McCurdy discusses her one woman show about unheralded but historically important Black Canadian women, including Viola Desmond, an icon of Canada’s civil rights movement, and the face on the country’s new ten dollar bill.

Valentine’s Day

If you’re looking for a fun Valentine’s Day activity, we’ve got you covered. Our film recommendations for February 14th cover the broad experiences of what love can look like.

Barney's Version

BARNEY’S VERSION (134 min)

2010. Director: Richard J. Lewis. Writers: Michael Konyves, Mordecai Richler (based on his novel).

Barney’s Version follows the story of Barney Panofsky, played by Paul Giamatti in a Golden Globe–winning performance. As he progresses from young adulthood to old age, Barney ricochets from one romantic entanglement to another, trying to keep his outrageous father under control while being pursued by a cop who suspects him of murdering his best friend Boogie. Based on Mordecai Richler’s Giller Prize–winning bestseller of the same name, this rich and hilarious film won seven Genie Awards and was nominated for an Oscar.

Bollywood Hollywood

BOLLYWOOD/HOLLYWOOD (105 min)

2002. Director & Writer: Deepa Mehta.

Set in Toronto and its wealthier suburbs, Bollywood/Hollywood joyfully subverts the romantic conventions of both cultures. Rahul, a rich South Asian Canadian dot-com entrepreneur, is pressured by his mother and grandmother to find a nice Hindu girl to accompany him to the elaborate wedding ceremony of his sister. As a joking way of accommodating them, he hires Sue, a beautiful escort girl, to pretend to be his fiancée. Naturally, the two fall in love, and just as naturally, complications ensue. Incorporating the wild stylistic excesses of Bollywood — the melodrama, the choreography and the music — Mehta allows Indian culture and societal attitudes to play out in Toronto.

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DOUBLE HAPPINESS (87 min)

1995. Director & Writer: Mina Shum.

Jade Li (Sandra Oh), a vivacious Chinese Canadian, wants to become an actress without upsetting her extremely traditional parents. It’s a balancing act that Jade is finding difficult to achieve. Speaking in English, wearing western clothes and going out with non-Asian guys, Jade leads a secret life when she leaves her stuffy but warm domestic scene each day. Things come to a head when Mark, a white Canadian graduate student, insists on turning their casual fling into something more meaningful. It’s a relationship that Jade’s parents would hate. What should she do?

F Word

THE F WORD (102 min)

2013. Director: Michael Dowse. Writer: Elan Mastai.

Wallace is a medical school dropout who’s been burned by bad relationships. Just when all his friends — and even his goofy pal Allan — seem to be finding love, Wallace decides to put romance on hold. Of course, that’s when he meets Chantry, an animator who lives with her longtime boyfriend Ben. The dreaded “f-word” in this contemporary and hilarious romantic comedy is “friendship.” Wallace and Chantry form an instant connection, but are both committed to keeping things platonic, which might prove to be more difficult than either one of them imagined.

Gabrielle

GABRIELLE (104 min)

2013. Director & Writer: Louise Archambault.

Canada’s foreign-language Oscar nominee for 2014, Gabrielle is a bighearted drama about a young woman with Williams syndrome who has a genuine and infectious zest for life. Like most young adults, Gabrielle longs for independence, but when she falls in love with a young man in her choir, both the families and social workers worry that the two won’t be able to handle an adult relationship. As the choir prepares for an important performance, Gabrielle must confront other people’s prejudices with courage and overcome her own limitations.

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THE GRAND SEDUCTION (113 min)

2013. Director: Don McKellar. Writers: Michael Dowse, Ken Scott.

A funny and fresh English-language adaptation of the 2003 Quebecois comedy La grande séduction, this film tells the tale of a small fishing village on Canada’s East Coast that must secure a new doctor in order to keep the community alive.

Iron Road

IRON ROAD (99 min)

2009. Director: David Wu. Writers: Barry Pearson, Raymond Storey.

A tale of forbidden love set against the building of the Canadian railway in the 1880s, Iron Road tells the story of a Chinese woman who disguises herself as a man and persuades the son of a railroad tycoon to hire her onto the explosives crew. Soon, though, she finds herself falling in love with him, and as the physical terrain becomes more dangerous, so does the landscape of the heart.

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LE JOURNAL D’AURÉLIE LAFLAMME (108 min)

2010. Director & Writer: Christian Laurence. Writer: India Desjardins (based on her novel).

She’s shy, she’s misunderstood — wait, hold that thought. Who’s that cute boy behind the counter at the pet store? Fourteen-year-old Aurélie Laflamme feels a little alien on this strange planet of ours, so when she makes a new friend, things begin to look up … to the stars, perhaps, where Aurélie imagines she’s from.

Liverpool

LIVERPOOL (113 min)

2012. Director & Writer: Manon Briand.

Émilie is a shy coat-check girl at a club called Liverpool. When a patron overdoses in the club and Émilie attempts to return her jacket, this simple good deed lands her in the middle of a dark conspiracy. Helping her on her journey through Montreal’s shady underworld is computer-whiz Thomas, who has had his eye on her for some time. As the intrepid duo embark on a dangerous journey filled with secrets and intrigue, Thomas, an aspiring journalist, uses social media and technology to help them reveal the truth.

Mambo Italiano

MAMBO ITALIANO (92 min)

2003. Director & Writer: Émile Gaudreault. Writer: Steve Galluccio.

At nearly 30 years of age, Angelo shocks his parents — and the entire community — by brazenly defying tradition: He moves out to live his own life despite not being married. Free at last, he falls in love with his long-lost childhood chum, Nino, and the two move in together. They try to keep their sexuality a secret, while their families worry, suspect and scheme to set them up with nice Italian girls. It’s not easy being Italian and gay, and when the pressures of his double life begin to overwhelm Angelo, his reactions set off an explosively funny chain of surprise revelations, comic reversals and unexpected outcomes.

Maudie

MAUDIE (115 min)

2016. Director: Aisling Walsh. Writer: Sherry White.

The fragile but determined Maudie yearns for independence from her over-protective family and dreams of creating art. When she answers an ad for a housekeeper placed by a reclusive fish seller, she gains more than just the freedom she wanted, as the unlikely pair develops a relationship that is intensely intimate and just as challenging.

A touching and inspiring story about following one’s dreams in spite of life’s obstacles, Maudie is an absolute charmer.

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MENTEUR (111 min)

2019. Director & Writer: Émile Gaudreault. Writer: Eric K. Boulianne.

Simon’s friends and family have had enough of his compulsive lying. They try to stage an intervention for him but he refuses to accept that he has a problem. All of that changes when he wakes up to a bizarre reality where all of his lies and excuses have become true. His boss is a raving drunk, his sister-in-law is in love with him and basically, everything that could go wrong does.

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PASSCHENDAELE (114 min)

2008. Director & Writer: Paul Gross.

This film, which won six Genies, including Best Picture and Best Actor, is set during the height of World War I. Passchendaele tells the story of an important event in Canadian history through the eyes of Sgt. Michael Dunne, a soldier who is wounded in France and returns to his home in Calgary emotionally and physically scarred.

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SABAH (90 min)

2005. Director & Writer: Ruba Nadda.

Sabah, a 40-year-old single immigrant from Syria, swims at the local pool (an activity her brother disapproves of) and one day meets Stephen, a charming man with whom she shares an unexpected spark. The problem is: she’s Muslim and he is not. Keeping the relationship a secret from her traditional family, Sabah decides to step out from her family’s control and allow herself to fall in love.

Trotsky

THE TROTSKY (120 min)

2009. Director & Writer: Jacob Tierney.

Leon Bronstein isn’t an average Montreal high school student. For one thing, he’s convinced that he is the reincarnation of early-20th- century Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky. When Leon starts a hunger strike in a clothing factory owned by his father, he is sent to public school as punishment. Leon sets out to change the world, immediately butting heads with his new principal. Getting his apathetic peers to stand up to the school’s repressive administration proves more difficult than Leon first imagines, leading him to resort to some extreme and often hilarious tactics.

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THE LOG DRIVER’S WALTZ (3 min)

1979. Director: John Weldon.

Kate and Anna McGarrigle sing-along to the tale of a young girl who loves to dance and chooses to marry a dancing log driver over her more well-to-do suitors.

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THE DANISH POET (14 min)

2006. Director: Torill Kove.

In this Oscar-winning short, a young woman tells the story of how the Danish poet Kasper Jørgensen found inspiration and ultimately caused her parents to find one another.

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HOW TO BE ALONE (6 min)

2010. Director: Andrea Dorfman.

Narrated by Tanya Davis to beautiful hand-drawn illustrations by Dorfman, Davis’s eloquent poem is full of powerful truths. With over eight million views on YouTube, the film is an online sensation.

Nadine

NADINE (4 min)

2017. Director: Patrick Péris.

Blending live-action and animation, this short tells the story of an imaginative teenager as he debates about the best way to say hello to the cute girl he sees in the library.

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A WORLD OF OUR OWN (9 min)

2018. Director: Morningstar Derosier.

In a twist on futuristic sci-fi, a young woman becomes infatuated with a woman who removes a ubiquitous computer implant that has replaced most forms of communication.

Pink Shirt Day

On February 24th, we are encouraged to don a pink shirt in recognition of our stance against bullying. Because Pink Shirt Day originated in Canada, try connecting your discussion about bullying to one of these Canadian films:

Breakaway

BREAKAWAY (101 min)

2011. Director: Robert Lieberman. Writers: Noel S. Baker, Jeffrey Alan Schechter, Matt Simmons, Vinay Virmani.

Rajveer Singh is struggling to balance the wishes of his traditional Sikh family and his own true passion for hockey. Raj and his friends play only for fun, held back by the prejudice and mockery of other teams as their turban-clad crew steps onto the ice. Enter Coach Dan Winters, and soon the Speedy Singhs are competing in a real tournament, while Raj is falling in love with the coach’s beautiful sister, Melissa.

Citizen Duane

CITIZEN DUANE (90 min)

2006. Director: Michael Mabbott. Writer: Jonathan Sobol.

A quirky comedy with a lot of heart, Citizen Duane tells the tale of Duane Balfour, a teenager with big dreams born into a family of spectacular failures. What starts out as a simple schoolyard rivalry snowballs out of control when Duane decides to run for mayor of his tiny town of Ridgeway. To succeed, he must overcome not only powerful political opponents, but also his own insecurities.

Crazy

C.R.A.Z.Y. (127 min)

2005. Director & Writer: Jean-Marc Vallée. Writer: François Boulay.

A box-office blockbuster and winner of a whopping 11 Genies, C.R.A.Z.Y. is an infectious, entertaining coming-of-age drama. When Zac Beaulieu is born on December 25, 1960, it becomes clear that he is different from his four brothers. He vies desperately for attention and acceptance from both of his parents, but in particular, from his loving and old-fashioned father, Gervais. The film follows Zac over the next 30 years as life takes him on an epic journey to come to grips with his sexual identity.

Fido

FIDO (91 min)

2006. Director & Writer: Andrew Currie. Writers: Robert Chomiak, Dennis Heaton.

Visually captivating, sly and clever, Fido follows the Robinson family, who have been hesitant to get a zombie of their own even though everyone on the block has one. All that changes when Mom buys Fido and the loveable brute becomes young Timmy’s best friend. Fido is a zombie comedy like no other — a funny, satirical and refreshing movie with an all-star cast and a standout performance by Billy Connolly as Fido.

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JEUNE JULIETTE (94 min)

2019. Director & Writer: Anne Émond.

Adolescence is a tough time for a lot of people. Take Juliette: On top of feeling misunderstood by her peers and her own family, she has to deal with her dad’s new bohemian girlfriend, her first crush on her older brother’s friend, and an increasing awareness that people see her as overweight. Good thing she has her best friend, and a precocious young boy whom she babysits to help her sort through the tumult of coming of age.

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MEATBALLS (93 min)

1979. Director: Ivan Reitman. Writers: Len Blum, Dan Goldberg, Janis Allen, Harold Ramis.

Everyone, including Tripper, is sick and tired of perennially losing the Camp Olympics. It’s only by encouraging all campers to try their hardest — including young Rudy, who has self-esteem issues — that Tripper and his troops can hope to emerge triumphant. Full of wacky pranks, lively hijinks and a lot of touching moments, Meatballs is sure to entertain audiences of all ages.

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SNOW (10 min)

2017. Director: Kim Barr.

A young girl who recently immigrated to Canada has mixed feelings about seeing her first snowfall.

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IF I WAS GOD (8 min)

2014. Director: Cordell Barker.

In this darkly whimsical animation from two-time Oscar-nominee Cordell Barker, a student dissecting a frog in his biology class daydreams about omnipotent powers.