War Witch

5 films to see at the Toronto Black Film Festival

The Toronto Black Film Festival is Toronto's newest film festival. Created by the Fabienne Colas Foundation, which also launched the Montreal Black Film Festival in 2005, the Toronto Black Film Festival bills itself as cool, international, independent, politically incorrect and eye-opening. It aims to celebrate diversity in black communities and showcase this through a variety of films from around the world.

This year's inaugural line-up features films from Kenya, France, Germany, Nigeria, South Africa, Denmark, the US and Canada just to name a few. A number of the films included in the program have already made waves in other festivals--including Montreal filmmaker Kim Nguyen's Rebelle (War Witch) which premiered at TIFF and is nominated for an Academy Award for best foreign film.

To keep it simple, here are my top five films to check out at the Toronto Black Film Festival.

Nairobi Half-Life (2012) (Opening Film)

For a young, aspiring actor from the upcountry, Nairobi is the city of dreams, and despite his family's concerns, he decides to pursue his passion in the big city. But when he arrives he soon realizes that things are not always what they seem, and his plans for a better life threaten to be derailed when he is pulled into the world of smalltime crooks.
TIFF Bell Lightbox, Wednesday, February 13, 2013, 7PM $15

Last Flight to Abuja (2012) (Closing Film)

This Obi Emelonye directed flick is based on true events and details the fateful night of the last scheduled Flamingo Airways flight from Lagos to Abuja. It's a Friday night, and the passengers are drawn from many different worlds - young lovers, a corporate party, an elderly couple, a rising sports star - but they are all united by the sense of their impending doom. But one person seems to know something they don't...and this may be the deciding factor on whether or not they all survive the last flight to Abuja.
Royal Cinema, Sunday, February 17, 2013, 7PM, $10

Lost in Africa (2010)

When 11-year-old Simon and his adoptive Danish mother travel to Kenya, the country of his origin, the young boy unexpectedly gets lost in the largest city-slum in Africa when searching for his beloved soccer ball. His trendy clothes clearly mark him as different, and he is soon mugged, which makes him look like any other kid in the slums, and he even finds some friends. But when his mother Susanne offers a reward to get him back, he becomes a hunted boy in the slums and has to rely on his newfound friends to make it out.
Carlton Cinema, Friday, February 15, 2013, 7PM $10

Otelo Burning

Sometimes it's the simplest things that can help you escape. The setting for Sara Blecher's film is South Africa, 1988. Apartheid is raging on, but three Zulu boys have discovered surfing as a way to get away from it all. When Mandela is freed, however, they discover that beneath the surface of their newfound freedom, the old emotions of greed, jealousy and violence still simmer, waiting to erupt.
Royal Cinema, Friday, February 15, 2013 7PM $10

Phone Swap (2012)

In this comedy of errors, Akin, an uptight businessman, and Mary, on her way to solve a family crisis, meet for the first time when they literally run into each other at the airport. In the ensuing mix-up, they mistakenly pick up each other's identical phones, and when each receives a text message indicating destinations, they each find themselves travelling to where the other was supposed to go, without realizing the error until it's too late.
Carlton Cinema, Thursday, February 14, 2013 7PM $10

The Toronto Black Film Festival launches at the TIFF Bell Lightbox (350 King St W.) on February 13, 2013, but screenings will also be held at the Royal Cinema (608 College St) and Carlton Cinema (20 Carlton St) during its five day run. For a full schedule and list of films, as well as to purchase tickets, visit the Toronto Black Film Festival website.

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