African Diaspora Cinema @ SFU Library



SFU Library Black History Month 2008 Poster

Black History Month is a time at which we can gather to celebrate achievements and contributions of people throughout the African diaspora. Among these achievements is the long history of film production by African Canadians beginning with the pioneering work of National Film Board documentary filmmakers such as Jennifer Hodge de Silva and Sylvia Hamilton. In 1995 Vancouver based director Hubert Davis was the first African Canadian nominated for an Academy Award for his documentary Hardwood. African Canadian directors have also made their mark in feature film through the works of Clement Virgo and Frances-Anne Solomon. The purpose of this SFU Library display is to highlight a small but significant portion of the African diaspora cinematic work contained within the SFU Library media collection.


How She Move written by Annemarie Morais


Filmed on location in Toronto and Hamilton with a screenplay by award winning York graduate Annemarie Morais and electrifying dance sequences How She Move is bound to make waves internationally. The film opened to critical acclaim at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival and is currently in full release across North America on 1531 screens with an opening weekend box office of $3,957,471. How She Move is set in the Toronto Jane & Finch neighborhood and tells the story of a gifted student, Raya Green who is forced to leave her private school and return home when her parents can no longer afford her tuition, following the death of her sister. Determined to return to her private school, Seaton, Raya soon finds herself drawn back into the world of Step dancing.

Learn more about How She Move and watch the trailer

A Winter Tale directed by Frances-Anne Solomon


Award-winning filmmaker Frances-Anne Solomon will kick off Black History Month with a special screening and reception to launch the Toronto theatrical release of her feature film A Winter Tale. The event will take place on Thursday, Jan. 31 at the Revue Cinema with festivities beginning at 6 p.m. The film has already gained critical acclaim, opening the 2007 Reel World Film Festival, where it took home the award for Outstanding Canadian Feature. Since then it has screened to rave reviews at festivals internationally, including Montreal and Halifax, and most recently opened the highly respected New York African Diaspora Film Festival in Manhattan. A Winter Tale takes place in Toronto’s Parkdale neighborhood and examines the aftermath of a violent and tragic shooting during which a nine-year-old boy is killed by a bullet meant for a notorious drug dealer. Through Solomon’s lens, the audience is given a glimpse at ‘black-on-black’ violence in Toronto’s urban core, as well as the emotional journey of a group of men who must deal with their “Canadian reality”. Jon Sarapong, 2008

Learn more about A Winter Tale and watch the trailer @ Leda Serene Films

Poor Boy’s Game directed by Clement Virgo


Poor Boy’s Game explores the culture of tribalism in Halifax, played out in the story of Donnie Rose (Rossif Sutherland) and George Carvery (Danny Glover), whose son, Charles, Donnie beat into a severe retardation when both boys were 17. Finally released after a troubled stay in prison, Donnie encounters two communities divided by race — exemplified by Charles’ childhood friend, local-hero boxer Ossie Paris (Flex Alexander) and Donnie’s volatile brother Keith (Greg Bryk) — both unwilling to bury the past he helped create and move on.(

Learn more about Poor Boy’s Game and director Clement Virgo’s other feature films at Conquering Lion Pictures

Love Come Down directed by Clement Virgo


Love Come Down the second full length feature film directed by Clement Virgo features the story of an aspiring comic, Neville (Larenz Tate) who is burdened by drug abuse and memories of childhood traumas. Neville and his older half brother Matthew (Martin Cummins), a boxer, are unable to escape from the painful repercussions of their past, which includes their mother serving a prison sentence for killing Neville’s father. Things seem to look up for Neville when he becomes involved with a gifted singer (real-life R&B chanteuse Deborah Cox), but still he must struggle to surmount a family legacy that has resulted in so much anger and emotional ruin. Screened at the 2000 Vancouver International Film Festival, Love Come Down also features renowned actress Sarah Polley in a role as an unconventional nun. (New York Times)

Rude directed by Clement Virgo



The 1995 theatrical release of Rude marked a significant milestone in African Canadian cinematic history as the first full length dramatic feature film directed by an African Canadian. This highly acclaimed debut film from Clement Virgo follows three urban stories simultaneously. The tales of a reluctantly recidivist ex-con, a woman recovering from an abortion and the breakup of her relationship, and a shy boxer who’s bullied into gay-bashing are woven together by the by the central character, a freelance radio deejay. Rude was Clement Virgo’s first feature following his successful short film Save my Lost Nigga Soul (1993), which won prizes for Best Short Film at the 1993 Toronto and Chicago International Film Festivals. Save my Lost Nigga Soul also received a 1994 Genie nomination for Best Canadian Short Film.

Watch the Rude trailer

EMPz 4 Life directed by Allan King & Home Feeling: Struggle for a Community directed by Jennifer Hodge de Silva



Considerations of race as an element of social structure are a critical factor in any analysis of the historic and current issues of systemic discrimination faced by the African Canadian population within the city of Toronto. These issues have been studied and documented in several reports published over the last thirty years most notably the 1992 Report on Race Relations in Ontario authored by Stephen Lewis and the recent Roots of Youth Violence Report, authored by former cabinet minister Alvin Curling and former Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry.

There have also been numerous cinematic explorations of these issues; EMPz 4 Life directed by the late Allan King tells the story of a group of teenagers living in the Malvern area of Scarborough a suburb of Toronto. Shot in cinéma vérité style, EMPz 4 Life documents issues such as institutional racism, economic disenfranchisement, racial profiling and police community relations from a critical perspective, that of the Malvern community which is rarely seen in mainstream Canadian media. Jennifer Hodge de Silva’s Home Feeling: Struggle for a Community directed in the realist style, documents issues such as racism, economic disenfranchisement and police community relations that are still relevant and virtually unchanged since the time of its release in 1983.

Watch Allan King talking about the making of EMPz 4 Life

Watch the EMPz 4 Life trailer

Watch Home Feeling: Struggle for a Community (full feature 57:35)

Learn more about Home Feeling: Struggle for a Community

5 Sides of a Coin directed by Paul Kell


Exploding the myth that Hip-Hop is merely “rap music”, 5 Sides of a Coin is an in-depth look at the worldwide phenomenon of Hip-Hop. Directed by Paul Kell, 5 Sides of a Coin features exclusive interviews with Canadian Hip Hop groups Rascalz and Swollen Members along with interviews and footage of Hip-Hop pioneers, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Jazzy Jay, Gil Scott-Heron, Run DMC, Jurassic 5, De La Soul, Dilated Peoples, Beat Junkies, Q-Bert, Mix Master Mike, The Pharcyde, DJ Spooky and The Stereo MC’s.

Watch the 5 Sides of a Coin Trailer @