Black History Month films: Winston Washington Moxam, music documentaries, and more

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      With Black History Month kicking off on Friday (February 1), opportunities abound for Vancouverites to learn more about black culture and history.

      For cinemagoers, here are a handful of special screenings to check out, with films covering everything from black Canadians to international music documentaries.

      The Cinematheque (formerly the Pacific Cinémathèque) is offering the first collection of works (organized by the Winnipeg Film Group) of the late filmmaker Winston Washington Moxam, a Manitoban filmmaker who addressed racial and social justice in his films.

      The retrospective evening (February 6) is divided into two parts. The first half will offer three shorts, including a documentary of Toronto's homeless ("From the Other Side") and a historical drama about two Second World War African-Canadian soldiers struggling to survive on a deserted island ("Sand").

      In the second half, the historical drama Billy is based on the true story of Billy Bieyoal, a black immigrant who moved to northern Manitoba from the U.S. in 1907.

      (For full details, including screening times and more, visit the Cinematheque website.)

      Meanwhile, Vancity Theatre is presenting five BHM selections throughout the month of February.

      Jeni LeGon: Living in a Great Big Way pays tribute to a woman who not only made Vancouver her home but also was the first black woman to sign a longterm contract with Hollywood. Sadly, LeGon died in December. However, you can learn all about her life, her love of tap dancing, and a slice of Hollywood history at this free event on Monday (February 4). And to add to the evening, the screening will be followed by a performance by Frank Clavin (her longtime companion) and the Moon Glow Swing Band.

      There'll also be the world premiere of Salty Dog Blues (February 7), a documentary about retired mariners of color who lost health benefits that they devoted their lives to securing once their union merged. Filmmakers Alfred J. Santana and Denise Belén Santiago will be in attendance.

      The other remaining selections are music documentaries, including:

      • the Swiss-Canadian coproduction Rocksteady: The Roots of Reggae (February 11), featuring a reunion of Jamaican singers and musicians; 
      • When the Drum is Beating (February 18), about Haitian band Septentrional, which has lasted for over 60 years; 
      • and Soundtrack for a Revolution (February 25), about the civil rights movement in image and song.
      (For full details about these films, visit the Vancity Theatre website.)