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Top 6 Films to Look Out for at the 2021 Toronto Black Film Festival

A movie still from Dope is Death
Courtesy of Toronto Black Film Festival

Black stories matter — and how they’re told on-screen matters just as much. Created back in 2013 by founder Fabienne Colas, the Toronto Black Film Festival is hosted annually in February during Black History Month. It showcases eye-opening and powerful Black films from around the world that open up a real dialogue around social, socio-economic, and cultural issues. This year, the event will take place exclusively online from Feb. 10th to 21st with tickets already on sale.

If you’re looking at the list of films and not sure which ones to watch, here are a few that you may want to consider:

Foster Boy

Directed by Youssef Delara, Foster Boy is a dramatic film that centres around Jamal (Shane Paul McGhie) who has been in a foster care system that has failed him — leading to devastating events. Michael Trainer (Matthew Modine), a successful litigator, is brought in to represent Jamal during his trial and at first, wants nothing to do with the case. Once he realizes that Jamal isn’t looking to settle for compensation, they work together to reveal the injustices and corruption in the foster care system.

Starring: Matthew Modine, Shane Paul McGhie, Lex Scott Davis, Julie Benz, Amy Brenneman, Evan Handler

To learn more about this film and purchase tickets, visit this link.

See also: Systemic racism and ‘Tiger King’ amongst top search trends for 2020 in Canada.

The Special

Directed by Ignacio Márquez, The Special is about a young man named Chúo (Greyber Rengifo) with Down Syndrome who must navigate his way through early adulthood. Standing in the way of his independence is his troubled father.

Starring: Brenda Moreno, Roberto Rodríguez, Carolina Torres, Adolfo Nittoli, Greyber Rengifo, Ruper Vásquez

To learn more about this film and purchase tickets, visit this link.


Dope is Death

Directed by Mia Donovan, Dope is Death is a documentary about Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Tupac Shakur’s stepfather, and how he worked with fellow Black Panthers and the Young Lords to establish the first acupuncture detoxification program in the United States back in 1973.

Starring: Juan Cortez, Maliki Shakur Latine, Pedro Pietri (archive), Cleo Silvers, Felipe Luciano

To learn more about this film and purchase tickets, visit this link.

You may also like: 10 Black Canadians who played a big role in Canadian history.

Mrs. F.

Directed by Chris van der Vorm, Mrs. F. is a documentary set in Makoko, Nigeria, where women are not seen as being part of the community. An activist named Mrs. F. tries to change this narrative by working to unite women through a play called “Hear Word.” The play is a project meant to empower women and highlight the gender inequalities that exist, in order to encourage women to speak up and gain respect in their communities.

To learn more about this film and purchase tickets, visit this link.

Truth to Power: Barbara Lee Speaks For Me

Directed by Abby Ginzberg, Truth to Power: Barbara Lee Speaks For Me is an inspiring documentary about Representative Barbara Lee, a true American civil rights pioneer. She worked as a volunteer for the Black Panther Party and was the lone voice in opposition to authorization of military forces after September 11th. AOC, Alice Walker and Danny Glover are just a few familiar faces in the documentary who share their insights into what makes Lee so outstanding.

Starring: Van Jones, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Alice Walker, Rep. John Lewis, Danny Glover

To learn more about this film and purchase tickets, visit this link.

See also: 12 female leaders who give us hope.



Directed by Michèle Stephenson, Stateless is a documentary about how in 2013, almost 200,000 people were stateless after the Supreme Court in the Dominican Republic denounced anyone with Haitian parents. Rewind back to 1937, tens of thousands of Haitians and Dominicans of Haitian descent were killed on the basis of anti-black racism. Toggling between past and present, the documentary reveals the dangerous climate and hostility between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

To learn more about this film and purchase tickets, visit this link.

For more information about the Toronto Black Film Festival, visit their official site.

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