(Toronto) Ongoing strikes by Hollywood actors and writers have garnered much attention at this year’s Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), but members of the Canadian film industry who are Black, Indigenous and visible minorities say the obstacles they face have not been addressed.
Black, Indigenous and visible minority filmmakers and actors say that while they support striking members in Hollywood, they themselves are fighting for visibility and support on this side of the border.
Kelly Fyffe-Marshall, co-founder of Sunflower Studios and director of the film When Morning Comes, points out that the strikes, while important, do not address the issues that lead to the underrepresentation of racialized filmmakers in Canada.
“As far as Canada is concerned, the strike doesn’t exactly help (Black, Indigenous and visible minority) filmmakers,” she said in a phone interview.
“We can’t strike for something as basic as greater visibility, which is a problem. »
According to her, Canada “is not at that stage yet. »
In 2021, Fyffe-Marshall’s short film Black Bodies was selected for the Sundance Film Festival, after winning TIFF’s inaugural Changemaker Prize the previous year. But she noted that no one in the Canadian media seemed to care until American filmmaker Ava DuVernay praised her work in a tweet.
“It was the vote of confidence I needed and with that tweet it gave other people the confidence to cover the film because I had that co-sign,” she said noted.
Canadian actor and filmmaker Henri Pardo, whose French and Creole feature Kanaval premiered at TIFF this year, said it has always been difficult to gain exposure in a country like Canada, which still falls behind when it comes to championing diverse content.
Pardo says he supports the Hollywood strikes, but he says the media’s focus on the lack of celebrities on red carpets at a festival attended by many local filmmakers raises questions.
The filmmaker says black voices have historically not been included in major campaigns such as the second wave of feminist movements in the 1960s and 1970s, and this is often seen in major labor movements as well.
“We must take these groups into account when we deal with union strikes and ensure that the issues of (Black, Indigenous and visible minorities) are heard,” he said.
“Yes, we all want more compensation and protections […] this should be covered, but Canadians (Black, Indigenous and visible minorities) here are also operating under different circumstances and challenges. »
Pardo highlighted the lack of a diverse workforce on most Canadian film sets and the fact that exploring topics such as race and identity are often seen as uncomfortable topics for general audiences.
Jamaican-Canadian musician Mark Clennon, who made his TIFF debut starring in director M. H. Murray’s I Don’t Know Who You Are, hopes the festival can shine a light on these issues.
“The strike is a big protection that comes with being in this industry, period. But there’s also being a black professional in Canada, where different dynamics come into play,” says Clennon, whose film centers on a black queer musician who suffered sexual assault and needs preventative medication against HIV that he cannot afford.
“One of the best things I’ve heard is how unique and interesting the story of a queer black man facing assault is. »