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The ReelWorld Film Festival: Ten years of our stories, our talent, our films

23 Feb 2010

ReelWorld

The ReelWorld Film Festival, running from April 7-11, celebrates its 10th anniversary this year. Founded in 2001 by actress Tonya Lee Williams, its mission was and remains to celebrate culturally diverse films and filmmakers. ReelWorld is truly unique in the Canadian film industry; as it reflects the racial diversity and cultural richness of this country. 

Showcasing the films, documentaries, shorts and music videos of both Canadian and international filmmakers, the ReelWorld Film Festival never fails to offer an exciting viewing experience. Certainly, it’s no different on this landmark 10th-year anniversary.

AfroToronto.com has rounded up the following films not to miss this year:

Ursula Rucker: Poet
USA 2008, 30 minutes

Ursula Rucker

Directed by Michael J. Dennis, this 30-minute documentary film sheds light on the poetic and lyrical power of Philadelphia spoken word artist Ursula Rucker.

Following its World Premiere at the 2008 Urbanworld Film Festival in New York City, Ursula Rucker: Poet has become a rightful cinematic heir of the Black Arts Movement.

Through an artful combination of live performances and interviews with her famed collaborators such as Sonia Sanchez, Saul Williams and Gil Scott-Heron, this revealing documentary portrait transcends the bounds of poetry. Ursula Rucker’s brand of poetry is infused with a kind of socio-political urgency that gives voice to a growing womanist tradition. In a hip hop and urban music scene too often characterized by the objectification of black women, her artistry contributes to the evolution of the co-mingling worlds of spoken word, poetry, hip hop and rap.

But for Ursula Rucker, it’s always been about the poetry at the root:

“The poetry is what comes first though, you know, like the chicken and the egg. For me it’s always the poetry and long after I stop doing poetry with music, recording it and performing it, the poetry will still be there.”

Screening:
Sat, April 10th, 2010
4:30 pm
Cineplex Canada Square
Theatre 6
Regular Presentation
[buy ticket]


The Athlete (Atletu)
Ethiopia/Germany/USA 2009, 1 hour, 33 minutes

Abebe Bikila

This film chronicles the epic story of Ethiopian long distance runner Abebe Bikila, who became the first black African to win an Olympic medal at the 1960 Games in Rome. This feat, which he accomplished barefoot, established him as an icon on the African continent.

Symbolically speaking, the Olympic win was even more significant because it happened in the capital of the arrogant former fascist colonial power that had occupied Ethiopia.

Abebe Bikila’s triumph established a new world record for the Olympic marathon at 2 hr. 15 min. When asked afterwards why he ran barefoot, Bikila said: "I wanted the world to know that my country, Ethiopia, has always won with determination and heroism."

In fact, Abebe Bikila was originally an unlikely hero since the member of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie's Imperial Guard was a last-minute addition to his country’s Olympic squad. Because Adidas, who was the shoe sponsor at the 1960 Summer Olympics, had run out of suitable shoes for him, he decided a couple of hours before the race to run barefoot.

The documentary film follows him though his repeat success in the 1964 Olympics and subsequent major setback when, in 1969, he crashed his Wolkswagen Beettle into a ditch and became paralyzed.

The legacy of Abebe Bikila on the enduring domination of East Africa in today’s long distance races worldwide is hard to overlook. Haile Gebrselassie, the multiple Ethiopian winner of Olympic and World Championship titles, has stated:

"In Africa before Bikila, there were no successful runners, and most of us didn't believe there ever would be. Now there are thousands of us, winning races all over the world, setting new standards and breaking records. … If it weren't for him, I would still be a farmer in the hills of Arsi."

Screening:
Sat, April 10th, 2010
6:30 pm
Cineplex Canada Square
Theatre 5
Regular Presentation
[buy ticket]


Why We Laugh: Black Comedians On Black Comedy
USA 2008, 1 hr, 35 minutes

Black comedy

Directed by Robert Townsend and narrated by Angela Bassett, Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy , is a film which asks the question: "How has American society and the black community been impacted by black comedy and how has black comedy been influenced by society over the last 100 years?"

Inspired by comedian Darryl Littleton’s book Black Comedians on Black Comedy: How African-Americans Taught Us to Laugh, the documentary explores the evolution of black comedy all the way back from the "minstrel era" to Def Comedy Jam and beyond.

Leaving no stones unturned, it features interviews with comedic luminaries such as: Bill Cosby, Stanley Crouch, Dick Gregory, Eddie Griffin, Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Mo'Nique, Paul Mooney, Bill Bellamy, Chris Rock, Robert Townsend, George Wallace, and the Wayans brothers. We even get a scholarly take with engaging commentary by the famed Princeton University professor, Cornel West.

We come to realize exactly to what extent comedy has played a role in the political consciousness of black America. Comedy has been a vehicle through which serious matters such as segregation, police brutality and socio-political alienation were dealt with in a satirical and cathartic way.

An official selection of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, the film further examines how the power of comedy has been used, misappropriated and commercialized. We take a look back at the controversial career of Dave Chapelle, who walked away from it all on the basis of his principles and what happens when corporations seek to capitalize on success stories such as Russell Simmons’s Def Comedy Jam and Spike Lee's The Original Kings of Comedy.

Screening:
Sat, April 10th, 2010
7:00 pm
Cineplex Canada Square
Theatre 4
Regular Presentation
[buy ticket]


Other films screening at the ReelWorld Film Festival 2010 recommended by AfroToronto.com are:

4 Our Sons: Rules of Engagement

Screenings:
Sat, April 10th, 2010
2:00 pm
Cineplex Canada Square
Theatre 6
Regular Presentation
[buy ticket]

Sun, April 11th, 2010
11:00 am
Cineplex Canada Square
Theatre 6
Regular Presentation
[buy ticket]


Nollywood Babylon

Screenings:
Fri, April 9th, 2010
3:30 pm
Cineplex Canada Square
Theatre 6
Regular Presentation
[buy ticket]

Sat, April 10th, 2010
3:30 pm
Cineplex Canada Square
Theatre 4
Regular Presentation
[buy ticket]


Counting Headz: South Afrika''s Sistaz in Hip Hop

Screening:
Fri, April 9th, 2010
7:30 pm
Cineplex Canada Square
Theatre 6
Regular Presentation
[buy ticket]


Missing
(short film by local independent filmmaker, writer & producer Sabrina Moella)

Screenings:
Fri, April 9th, 2010
4:00 pm
Cineplex Canada Square
Theatre 4
Regular Presentation
[buy ticket]

Sun, April 11th, 2010
2:30 pm
Cineplex Canada Square
Theatre 5
Regular Presentation
[buy ticket]


The ReelWorld Film Festival runs from April 7th to 11th, 2010. Click here for full festival schedule.

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