Films for February: Black History Month

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.

FEATURE FILMS:

Across the Line 2

ACROSS THE LINE (87 min)

(Grades 11 & 12)

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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AKILLA’S ESCAPE (87 min)

(Grades 11 & 12)

2015. Director: Charles Officer. Writer: Charles Officer, Wendy Motion Brathwaite.

Akilla (Williams), a 40-year-old drug dealer, goes on an epic one-night journey to find the gang that ambushed him during a drug deal and stole a major shipment. His only lead is one of the robbers, a teenage gang member he captured named Sheppard (Mpumlwana) who reminds him of his younger self (also played by Mpumlwana). Through glimpses of his childhood, we see the seemingly inescapable vortex of intergenerational violence that Akilla finds himself in. As the story reaches its thrilling climax, it begs the question: what will it take for the cycle to break?

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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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MIGHTY JEROME (75 min)

2010. Director: Charles Officer.

Harry Jerome, a Black Canadian athlete, was the country’s most promising track star during a time of political turmoil and racial conflict when a life-changing leg injury led everyone to believe that his racing days were over. A triumphant story of courage and redemption.

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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.

SHORT FILMS:

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ÂME NOIR (10 min)

(Grades 3-12)

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)

(Grades 9-12)

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.

against all odds

ENVERS ET CONTRE TOUT (AGAINST ALL ODDS) (9 min)

(Grades 9-12)

2020. Director: Kimberley Ann Surin.

Envers et contre tout is a documentary about the continued racism experienced by Black children in hockey. A mother’s description of her child’s current experience with discrimination in his local hockey programme is juxtaposed with an interview with former NHL star Georges Laraque, who overcame his racist peers to beat the odds and realize his dream.

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ICE BREAKERS (15 min)

(Grades 6-12)

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)

(JK – Grade 6)

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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NOEUDS (KNOTS) (9 min)

(Grades 9-12)

2021. Director: Aïcha Morin-Baldé.

Noeuds is a poetic and moving examination of how society views Black women’s hair. Three Montreal women share their experiences of learning to embrace their natural hair, and recount the societal stigmas that they encounter as a result.

the relay

THE RELAY (22 min)

(Grades 7-12)

2021. Director: Kimberley Ann Surin.

25 years after they claimed Canada’s first-ever gold medal in the 4×100 event at the 1996 Olympics, the sprinters from that legendary relay team reflect on how they accomplished it and what it meant to them and to the nation as a whole.

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VIOLA DESMOND IS ON THE MONEY (21 min)

(Grades 9-12)

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.