Vancouver's Black History Month film screenings span historical works to current contentious issues

    1 of 8 2 of 8

      A number of local screenings for Black History Month will give Vancouverites opportunities to take in and reflect upon historical works and issues as well as a chance to learn more about and discuss recent events.

      Starting on Monday (February 5), Vancity Theatre is presenting its annual Black History Month film series that showcases films from North America and beyond, and this year's program looks to be particularly vibrant and thought-provoking.

      This year's centerpiece will be a theatrical run of Senegal's Félicité.

      Singer Véro Tshanda Beya makes her acting debut in the film as a club singer and single mother living in the Congolese capital of Kinshasa. When her teenage son is caught in a traffic accident, she is forced to race against time to find a way to pay for the operation he needs.


      Another major highlight of the series will provide some perspective upon the current #MeToo movement. 

      Freida Lee Mock's 2013 documentary Anita profiles lawyer and university professor Anita Hill who testified at 1991 hearings that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. 

      The screening will be followed by a panel discussion that will feature Battered Women's Support Services executive director Angela Marie MacDougall and WISH Drop-in Centre Society executive director Mebrat Beyene.

      Black Cop

      Canadian selections include Cory Bowles' 2017 psychodrama Black Cop about a black police officer who becomes conflicted when Black Lives Matter arises to protest law enforcement.

      Also from Canada is Sharon Lewis' 2017 sci-fi feature Brown Girl Begins. On an island near post-apocalyptic Toronto in 2049, a young black teenager is thrust into the role of a priestess who must undergo a possession ritual (that her mother did not survive) to resurrect Caribbean spirits and to ensure the survival of her people.

      Other films in the lineup include Barry Jenkins' Oscar-winning coming-of-age drama Moonlight; Whose Streets?, a documentary about the 2014 fatal shooting of Michael Brown and the subsequent Ferguson protests; and the documentary Tell Them We Are Rising, a look at the role that black universities have played in social movements and the development of community leaders.

      To Sleep With Anger

      There's also Charles Burnett's To Sleep With Anger, which was recently added to the U.S. National Film Registry in December 2017. This 1990 domestic drama stars Danny Glover as a friend of a middle-class Los Angeles family whose his stay with them at their place ignites latent tensions within the home.  

      If you're interested in learning more about Burnett's work, a double-bill at the Cinematheque features two landmark films in U.S. film history: Burnett's Killer of Sheep and Billy Woodberry's Bless Their Little Hearts.

      Burnett's 1978 film debut Killer of Sheep, shot on a minimal budget for Burnett's MFA thesis at UCLA, follows a father living in Los Angeles' Watts ghetto. Although he has become emotionally cauterized by his work at a slaughterhouse and is facing financial challenges, he manages to finds reprieve in the small things in life.

      The U.S. Library of Congress included the film in 1990 as part of the first 50 films chosen for the National Film Registry and the National Society of Film Critics selected it as one of the 100 Essential Films of all time.

      Bless Their Little Hearts

      Billy Woodberry's 1984 neorealist drama Bless Their Little Hearts was written and photographed by Burnett, and it was also set in the same neighbourhood as Killer of Sheep. Moreover, it was also chosen for the U.S. Library of Congress' film registry. Another connection between the films is that actor Kaycee Moore plays the role of a mother in each film. Yet another parallel between the two is that this film was also a UCLA thesis project.

      Woodberry's film, which was part of the African-American new wave movement known as the L.A. Rebellion, delves into the deep impact that unemployment wreaks upon a working-class family.  

      For a full list of films and screening details of Vancity Theatre's BHM series, visit the Vancouver International Film Centre website.

      Details on the screenings of Killer of Sheep and Bless Their Little Hearts can be found at the Cinematheque website.