GFF is proud to present this second annual focus of film by BIPOC Directors.  These cinematic visions know no bounds in terms of subject matter, style and story. But what holds them together is the desire to bring to the screen perspectives and peoples that have for too long gone unheard and unseen.  For some these films will hold a mirror to their own lives, their friends or their families.  And for others it may provide an insightful glimpse into the issues and lives of others, whether right here in Canada, or half way around the world.


Blood QuantumBlood Quantum
dir. Jeff Barnaby
2019 | Canada | 96 min

The term “blood quantum” refers to a colonial blood measurement system that is used to determine an individual’s Indigenous status, and is criticized as a tool of control and erasure of Indigenous peoples. The words take on even more provocative implications as the title of Jeff Barnaby’s sophomore feature, which grimly depicts an apocalyptic scenario where in an isolated Mi’gmaq community discover they are the only humans immune to a zombie plague. As the citizens of surrounding cities flee to the Mi’gmaq reserve in search of refuge from the outbreak, the community must reckon with whether to let the outsiders in — and thus risk not just the extinction of their tribe but of humanity, period.

 

Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, TheThe body Remembers when the world broke open
dir. Kathleen Hepburn / Elle-Maija Tailfeathers
2019 | Canada / Norway | 105 min

When Áila encounters a young Indigenous woman, barefoot and crying in the rain on the side of a busy street, she soon discovers that this young woman, Rosie, has just escaped a violent assault at the hands of her boyfriend. Áila decides to bring Rosie home with her and over the course of the evening, the two navigate the aftermath of this traumatic event. Inspired by a very real and transformative moment in the co-director Elle-Máijá Tailfeather’s life, THE BODY REMEMBERS WHEN THE WORLD BROKE OPEN weaves an intricately complex, while at the same time very simple, story of a chance encounter between two Indigenous women with drastically different lived experience, navigating the aftermath of domestic abuse.

 

Breaking The SilenceBreaking The Silence
dir. Priscilla Padilla
2020 | Columbia / Bolivia | 83 min

Luz, from the Emberá Chamí Indigenous community in Colombia, left her home territory for Bogotá when she discovered she underwent female genital mutilation at birth. The Emberá is one of the few communities in South America that still carries out the practice, a brutal byproduct of colonialism.

Far from her family, Luz struggles to make her way in the relentless city, until she meets Claudia, a fellow Emberá Chamí and activist. Through the strength of their friendship, Claudia decides to travel to Luz’s home to start a dialogue with other Indigenous women and encourage them to make critical and urgent changes to end the practice of female genital mutilation. Through her intimate approaches to filming, director Priscila Padilla has crafted a deeply sensitive and breathtaking film that follows the women in their journey to break ties with colonialism and recover their ancestral wisdom of body–earth connection.

  • Top 10 Audience Choice favourites at Hot Docs 2020`

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DrivewaysDRIVEWAYS
dir. Andrew Ahn
2019 | United States | 83
 min

Kathy (Golden Globe® Nominee Hong Chau), a single mother, travels with her shy eight-year-old son Cody (newcomer Lucas Jaye) to Kathy’s late sister’s house which they plan to clean and sell. As Kathy realizes how little she knew about her sister, Cody develops an unlikely friendship with Del (Golden Globe®, Tony® winner and acting legend Brian Dennehy), the Korean War vet and widower who lives next door. Over the course of a summer, and with Del’s encouragement, Cody develops the courage to come out of his shell and, along with his mother, finds a new place to call home.

 

Forbidden Reel, The
dir. Ariel Nasr
2020 | Canada | 119
 min

For most of us, Afghanistan is not synonymous with film culture. Ariel Nasr’s documentary sets out to change that: the Afghanistan in The Forbidden Reel is one with a deep, rich history of cinema, ready for rediscovery. This fascinating testament to a relatively unknown creative wellspring includes the incredible story of the Taliban’s efforts to burn the entirety of the country’s “un-Islamic” film history, stashed in original reels at the archives of Afghan Film, a state-sponsored national film body. Rescued from destruction, today these films are being digitized for preservation and distribution, in part through the help of the National Film Board of Canada. Skilfully weaving together film clips, interviews with Afghan directors and visits to the archives, this complex look at Afghan cinema allows for a better understanding of the country’s troubled past and offers a wish for its creative future.

 

Greatest Country in the World, TheThe Greates Country in the World
dir. Ky Nam Le Duc
2019 | Canada | 112
 min

In a province not so distant from ours, now controlled by a far-right government, the borders are closed and immigrants, now under threat, are desperate to get out. A Haitian woman hands over her young son to a thirty-something Quebec man before fleeing. With help from a Vietnamese former refugee, they try to solve the mystery. After Oscillations (FNC 2017), Ky Nam Le Duc here makes further inroads into his quest to diversify our cinematic landscape. A delicately sketched, enigmatic work, chilling in its topicality, where mistrust reigns and love blossoms where you least expect it.

 

Lingua FrancaLINGUA FRANCA
dir. Isabel Sandoval
2019 | United States / Philippines | 89
 min

Olivia (Isabel Sandoval), an undocumented Filipino transwoman, works as a caregiver to Olga (Lynn Cohen), an elderly Russian woman, in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn. When Olivia runs out of options to attain legal status in the US, she becomes romantically involved with Alex (Eamon Farren), Olga’s adult grandson, in the pursuit of a marriage-based green card.

 

Mother-Child (Niña Mamá)
dir. Andrea Testa
2019 | Argentina | 65
 min

In Argentina, every three hours a girl under the age of 15 is forced to give birth. While activists work toward the legalization of safe and free abortion, many young women, often victims of poverty and systemic gender violence, must carry their unwanted pregnancies to term. Shot in the intimacy of a public hospital’s consulting rooms, Andrea Testa’s fly-on-the-wall documentary reveals a few of the stories hidden behind the statistics. Finding the right distance from the teenagers’ faces, which she films in sober black and white, the director observes their interactions with the social workers who try to help them navigate complicated family situations, abusive relationships and the overwhelming realities of young motherhood. Caring and non-judgmental, the staff, who can be heard but not seen, encourage them to imagine a hopeful future despite the fragility of their dreams. – Hot Docs

 

Nolan: Here Nor ThereNolan Here Nor There
dir. Wilfred Dieter
2020 | Canada | 89
 min

Nolan: Here Nor There is the coming-of-age tale of Nolan; a young man growing up on a reserve in the throes of a suicide epidemic. His mother, fearing for his life, sends him to live with family in Ft. Qu’Appelle. While in Ft. Qu’Appelle Nolan meets a quirky girl and a residential school survivor who become unwitting supports as he navigates his personal grief and finds his place in history and the treaty relationship.

 

Premature
dir. Rashaad Ernesto Green
2019 | United States | 89
 min

When 17-year-old aspiring writer Ayanna (Zora Howard) meets an infinitely charming music composer named Isaiah, her world is turned upside down. Wise beyond her years, Ayanna maintains a watchful, guarded exterior that is threatened when she falls hard and fast for him. But it’s not all ballads and poetry; tensions erupt when the couple’s relationship has unintended consequences that Ayanna must confront. In a vibrant and rapidly changing Harlem, it’s Ayanna’s experience that anchors this story of Black love and self-discovery. Howard — who co-wrote the film with director Rashaad Ernesto Green — delivers a powerhouse lead performance as Ayanna. Each moment of vulnerability and tenderness in Howard’s performance feels like a gift, jolting energy and authenticity into the story. Her mostly supportive, sometimes shady, friends punctuate the film with humour and emotional resonance, their dialogue standing out for its authenticity in how youth actually speak. Textured, gritty, and quietly gut-wrenching, Premature will burst your heart open in all the best ways. – Ikoro Hugging-Warner, TIFF

 

Ruthless Souls
dir. Madison Thomas
2019 | Canada | 84
 min

Ruthless Souls follows Jackalope “Jackie” Cambell, a tough as nails Ojibwe artist born and raised in the strange land of Winnipeg, Manitoba. On the one year anniversary of her partner’s tragic death due to complications from gender affirming surgery, she’s back at work, she only drinks and smokes up “on the regular” instead of a “concerning amount daily.” It’s all gotta go up from here, right? Wrong.

Jackie finds out that her best friend Rooney has dumped her long time partner Tay. The problem? Tay is Jackie’s only other friend. The three have been each other’s pillars of supports since they were kids growing up in Winnipeg’s often turbulent North End. Jackie was so sure that she had just experienced the worst year of her life, but the year unfolding in front of her might just give it’s predecessor a run for it’s money. Jackie must now navigate the fallout of Rooney and Tay’s relationship while also trying to wrangle her own spiraling mind, especially when the ghosts of the past seem to be lingering

 

Softie
dir. Sam Soko
2020 | Canada / Kenya | 96
 min

Photographer and activist Boniface “Softie” Mwangi prioritizes his family, country and God, but not in that order. Determined to see an end to political corruption and the British-imposed colonial-era tribalism that has divided Kenyans since before the country’s independence, Softie has placed duty to country above all else, to the great frustration of his wife Njeri, mother to their three children. When Softie decides to enter the regional election, telling Njeri only after the decision is made, he raises the stakes and is quickly brought face to face with the consequences. Attempting an honest campaign in a pay-to-play political landscape, Softie is in uncharted territory and is forced to distill his values and morals to their purest form, while grappling with what is truly important. A complex portrait of an honourable man, Softie raises questions about the demands of activism and the intimate costs of social change – Hot Docs

 

To Live to Singto live to sing
dir. Johnny Ma
2019 | Canada / China / France | 105
 min

On the outskirts of Chengdu, a traditional Sichuan opera troupe faces extinction. With their theatre scheduled for demolition, a wave of progress seems poised to wash them away. Fearful of losing her niece (Gan Guidan) to the opportunities presented by the city, their manager (Zhao Xiaoli) searches for a new theatre. But as she finds herself embroiled in the bureaucracy that comes part and parcel with doing business – or performing art – in China, she notices that the more fantastical elements of their opera have started to manifest in mundane reality. – VIFF

 

To the Ends of the Earthto the ends of the world
dir. Kiyoshi Kurosawa
2019 | Japan / Uzbekistan / Qatar | 120
 min

Yoko (Atsuko Maeda in her third collaboration with Kurosawa) is a cautious, introverted, and determined host of a popular TV travel show. On assignment in Uzbekistan — accompanied by her cynical director, a cameraman, an AD, and a local Japanese speaking guide — she searches for a mythical, fish, samples culinary delicacies, and seeks out other wonders in a land that often appears strange and hostile. But everything goes wrong. She’s unable to find the fish, she almost chokes on half-cooked food, and, frustrated by the failed filming, decides to set aside her host duties and take a stroll on her own. Lost in the streets of a foreign city, she finds herself adrift and alone, confronting her fears and hidden aspirations. – TIFF

 

Wolfhouse, The (La casa lobo)
dir. Jaoquin Cocina / Cristobal Leon
2019 | Chile / Germany | 75
 min

Maria, a young woman finds refuge in a house in the south of Chile after escaping from a sect of German religious fanatics. She is welcomed into the home by two pigs, the only inhabitants of the place. Like in a dream, the universe of the house reacts to Maria’s feelings. The animals transform slowly into humans and the house becomes a nightmarish world. Inspired by the actual case of Colonia Dignidad, The Wolf House masquerades as an animated fairy tale produced by the leader of the sect in order to indoctrinate its followers.