The 12th annual Regent Park Film Festival starts today and runs until Saturday. If you’re not familiar with this festival, they’re the only free-of-charge film festival in Toronto that focuses on promoting the talents of local filmmakers, building a strong arts community in Regent Park, and highlights the work of multicultural filmmakers from around the world. All film screenings will be held at the Daniels Spectrum (585 Dundas Street East), and will be accompanied by fascinating talks, workshops, and panels. Here’s a quick roundup of the best things to check out this year.
Emerging Directors Spotlight
RPFF’s top priority is to profile and highlight new filmmakers who bring a wealth of talent with them from a variety of different cultures and orientations. This year’s opening night screening will focus on four directors under 26 years old, and will screen a short film from each. Blow Out (directed by Anthony Swan) details a drunken Truth or Dare game between two siblings in mourning. Hailstorm (directed by John Virtue) is a character study of an eco-terrorist planning to bomb a meat-packing factory. Still (directed by Slater Jewell-Kemker) is the dark tale of a young couple in an abusive relationship hopelessly lost in the winter woods. Finally, in a homage to the transformative community the Regent Park Film Festival is based in, Richard Fung’s short documentary The Journey interviews local artists who reflect on how this community has influenced their work and how important it is to their creative and personal lives. A panel after the screenings will discuss the experience of being an emerging filmmaker in the Canadian industry and their relationship to programmers, producers, distributors, and the international markets. Wednesday, November 19, 7:30 p.m.
The New Black
I’m really excited for The New Black–in the wake of films like The Case Against 8, which document the struggles LGBTQ people face when arguing for political representation and equal rights, it’s great to see this struggle being approached from the perspective of LGBTQ people of colour. The film outlines the journey of African-American queer activists fighting to legalize same-sex marriage in Maryland. By getting an in-depth and thorough look at the trials and tribulations of the activists, the film also explores the root of homophobia in the Black community and the individuals who attempt to redefine the meaning of family despite religious roots. The Talkback panel after the film, which explores racial perspectives and representation in the LGBTQ community, should be similarly fascinating. Thursday, November 20, 6:30-8:45 p.m.
Digital Activism Workshop
Are you a social justice activist who wants to learn how to use the power of film and the digital sphere to let your voice be heard? Attend both sessions of the Regent Park Film Festival’s Digital Activism program. Thursday afternoon’s panel will feature digital activists presenting case students of their recent film projects and discuss how to marry cinematic art with advocacy. The Friday afternoon workshop, led by York University MFA grad students, will be totally hands-on and requires no previous experience in filmmaking. The best part is that all activities are led in small groups of 2-3, ensuring that everyone will be able to ask questions and receive attentive guidance as they learn how to film a demo, interview community activists, and how to visualize a social justice action. After the workshop, your projects will be screened for the group with an in-depth discussion on activism in the digital age. Thursday, November 20, 3:30- 5:30 p.m., and Friday, November 21, 3:30-5:30 p.m.
Rhymes for Young Ghouls
If you missed Jeff Barnaby’s film about a tough 15-year-old rebel living on the Red Crow Mi’gMaq reservation in 1976 at TIFF last year, you can catch it this Friday at RPFF–lucky you! Garnering great reviews at TIFF 2013, the film features an immensely likeable protagonist: Alia is a tough-as-nails punk weed dealer who seeks to one day leave the reservation, but still values holding on to her roots. Wildly stylistic, fast-paced but tender, and as bloody as a Tarantino revenge fantasy, Rhymes for Young Ghouls is totally worth checking out. Friday, November 21, 9-10:45 p.m.
The Breakfast Club: Wadjda
You may have skimmed to the time and date portion of this film–which, yes, is at 9:30 a.m. on a Saturday–but never fear, it comes with a free catered breakfast before the screening! But the film itself looks to be a fascinating and inspiring story from Haifaa Al Mansour, widely-regarded as Saudi Arabia’s first female director. Wadjda is a fun-loving young Saudi girl whose greatest dream is to purchase a green bicycle so she can beat her friend at a race. Facing resistance from her mother and society, Wadjda comes up with all sorts of ingenious schemes to nab her bicycle. Definitely wake up early for this one. Saturday, November 22, 9-11:30 a.m.