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A portrait of the first Afro-Canadian Oscar and Emmy nominee filmmaker: Hubert Davis

23 Apr 2010

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Hubert Davis
Photo by Joseph Michael

Hubert Davis grew up in Vancouver BC and was raised by his mother. Davis is a writer and director who earned his BA in Film & Communication at McGill University in 1999. He also studied Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia with screenwriter Peggy Thompson (The Lotus Eaters, Better than Chocolate). Hubert Davis is a filmmaker and a commercial director at Untitled Films. He worked as a Commercial Editor with the edit house Panic&Bob from  2002 until 2005.  His work has been reviewed in various media including publications such as Who’s who in Black Canada (by Dawn P. Williams), Metro newspaper (in French and English), The Vancouver Sun, Sway Magazine, The Globe and Mail, Le Devoir, Canada AM, CTV.ca, etc.

Since his teenage years, Hubert Davis knew that filmmaking was his thing.  “I knew I wanted to be a filmmaker when I was 17.  I saw two films that really had a strong effect on me; Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas” he expressed during our interview.  As an aspiring filmmaker, his first work Hardwood received an Oscar nomination in 2005 for Best Short Documentary and an Emmy in 2006 for Outstanding Cultural and Artistic Programming for his directorial debut.  For this short film, Davis became the first Afro-Canadian in history to earn a nomination for the prestigious Academy Award and for an Emmy.

Mr. Davis learned of his nomination when he clicked on the Academy Awards site in 2005.  He shared how he felt about being the first Afro-Canadian filmmaker nominated for an Oscar and an Emmy for his first documentary.  “ There are so many great African-Canadian filmmakers that came before me – Clement Virgo1, Stephen Williams2, Sudz Sutherland3 just to name a few.  So, it’s a huge honour” he said. Thus he extols filmmakers who paved the way to future directors as himself.

The documentary Hardwood is divided into three movements — "love," "recollection" and "redemption."  Hubert Davis directed, edited and wrote this documentary. Hardwood is a tour de force autobiographical documentary.  The film is based on his father, Mel Davis, a former Harlem Globetrotter and NBA basketball player (in the ‘70s) and their family relationship.  Hardwood explores many themes such as the parallel element of Davis''s childhood fascination with his dad''s celebrity.

Hardwood premiered in 2004 and has been screened at over 30 film festivals. It has gained wide acclaim as well as various awards.  The documentary allows the viewers to understand the dynamics of family, of not having a father or of meeting another sibling later in life.  These are worldwide and boundless issues.  The National Post (Toronto) wrote that Hardwood is “a fascinating and deeply personal documentary about history, hoops and the human heart”.

At first, Davis only hoped to create a documentary about his father’s life (in Hardwood) as a professional basketball player.  Hardwood in the end became a reflection of his family and the courage they showed by sharing their personal stories.  When asked if he had some reservations at the beginning in taking a personal road,  Davis responded:  “ Making Hardwood a personal film was an extremely tough choice. It took a lot of time to get my head around it – but ultimately the decision became about what was going to make the best project”.  Hardwood evoked emotions and became a catalyst for healing, redemption, enlightenment and openness.


1 He did Rude, Love Come Down, etc
2 He directed the ABC-drama series Lost (Williams was also a co-executive producer on this show), the series Soul Food, 21 Jump Street, etc
3 He was involved in episodes of Da Kink In My Hair, Degrassi:  The Next Generation, etc

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