Spike Lee’s Michael Jackson film, a Black Lives Matter documentary, comedies, dramas and shorts on menu at Montreal International Black Film Festival

Singer Michael Jackson in his younger days.

Singer Michael Jackson in his younger days.

The Montreal International Black Film Festival (Sept 28 to Oct 2, 2016) is already underway. (Sorry. Mea culpa that I did not write about it sooner.)

Among the highlights is Spike Lee’s documentary, Michael Jackson’s Journey From Motown To Off The Wall, which will be presented by the director himself on Saturday night at Concordia University.

Spike Lee was a guest of the Montreal International Black Film Festival in 2014 and he's back again this year. That's festival founder Fabienne Colas next to Spike Lee. (Liz Ferguson photo)

Spike Lee was a guest of the Montreal International Black Film Festival in 2014 and he’s back again this year. That’s festival founder Fabienne Colas next to Spike Lee. (Liz Ferguson photo)

Or, you could opt for Sembene! a documentary about the Sengalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene. A favourable review by Matt Zoller Seitz of rogerebert.com says the film makes “the director, who died in 2007, sound not just like a great artist and relentless person, but a figure out of a legend or folktale: an invincible juggernaut of a storyteller; the man who gave voice to African stories that, until the early post-colonial period, had been largely voiceless on film.” “One of the recurring points made by various witnesses is that until Sembene burst onto the scene, images of Africa were mainly about pretty scenery with exotic wildlife that visiting American and English movie stars could have adventures in front of. In other words, the continuation of colonialism through cinema. Sembene did much to counter that tendency, although he never enjoyed the kind of widespread acclaim that other international directors, including Chinese and Japanese masters, have sometimes enjoyed in Western nations.”

A Sunday afternoon screening of the documentary Stay Woke: The Black Lives Matter Movement will be presented by the director Laurens Grant and followed by a panel discussion.

The documentary Poverty Inc. looks at how efforts to help people in other countries often make things worse than they already were A Variety review says the film is ”an easy-to-understand docu-essay with a tough-to-accept message, especially as it implies that some aid organizations may actually be cashing in on their concern.” “The problem, “Poverty Inc.” cautions, is that few pause to think what happens after they’ve written the check, never fathoming that the mere act of giving can actually have have a detrimental effect.” “Poverty Inc. treads a delicate line between condemning NGOs and encouraging otherwise generous-minded souls to think twice about the sort of support they provide to societies in need — the key advantage here being Miller’s solution-oriented focus on the “right” kind of aid.”

In the film Ben & Ara, Joseph Baird plays Ben and Constance Ejuma is Ara.

In the film Ben & Ara, Joseph Baird plays Ben and Constance Ejuma is Ara.

Canadian connection: U.S. actress Constance Ejuma, female lead in the film Ben & Ara, studied theatre at the University of Toronto.

The films mentioned above are just a sampling. The festival is showing shorts and features, comedies, dramas and documentaries. The films were shot in Belgium, France, Martinique, Senegal, the U.S. and elsewhere. In addition to Concordia University, screening venues include Cinema du Parc and the former NFB/ONF cinema on St. Denis.

Tickets can be bought online. Click to consult the Montreal Black Film schedule.

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