Toronto Star

Projects in Canada also lack diversity, Colas says


While the Canadian Screen Awards tout a diverse slate of 2016 nominees, there’s still a dearth of roles for people of colour in this country, says the founder of the Montreal Internatio­nal Black Film Festival and the Toronto Black Film Festival.

“In the U.S.A., you do have those roles for black people or for African-American people, however you want to call them,” says Haitian native Fabienne Colas, pointing to recent films, including Selma and Creed.

“Those roles exist, those opportunit­ies are there, but they’re not being recognized — versus in Canada, in a year when you will not have The Book of Negroes, who are they going to nominate in the Canadian Screen Awards?”

The Book of Negroes miniseries has 11 CSA nomination­s, including acting nods for Lyriq Bent, Aunjanue Ellis and Shailyn Pierre-Dixon.

Those nomination­s and a few others have some Canadian performers praising the CSAs as being more inclusive than the Oscars in the United States. where two straight years of all-white acting nominees have prompted backlash and academy changes.

Colas, an actor-director-producer, notes it’s an exceptiona­l year at the CSAs.

“What’s going to happen next year? What’s going to happen after that?” she says.

“If the industry does not continue to make films with people of colour in the lead roles, well, at a certain point in time in Canada . . . we won’t have any persons of colour to give this nomination to.”

She says one solution is to ensure a diverse makeup of committee or jury members at institutio­ns that give grants to filmmakers.

The Toronto Black Film Festival runs Wednesday through Sunday with 44 titles from 20 countries.

Nine of the titles come from Canada.

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