Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 15th 2016 Contents B11
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Living partly in the Ugandan capital
of Kampala where she runs a film
school, the Indian-born filmmaker
Mira Nair is regularly surrounded by
lives she rarely sees reflected back by
"The dignity of everyday life---the
beauty of it, the attitude of it---is what
I live around," says Nair. "And it is never
on screen and it is certainly never asso-
ciated with Africa. If we see Africa at
all, it is always used as a backdrop---
a big blob of a continent rather than
a specific street or a country or a place."
Nair premiered her upcoming Disney
film Queen of Katwe, about a chess
prodigy who rose from the slums of
Uganda, at the Toronto International
Film Festival over the weekend. But she
was far from the only filmmaker at the
festival focused on capturing lives and
faces that have had to fight for their
place on the big screen.
A rich crop of racially diverse films
is poised to disrupt two straight years
of overwhelmingly white Academy
Awards. But there s a larger groundswell
"The creators have taken it upon
themselves to create these stories," says
Barry Jenkins, whose coming-of-age
tale Moonlight has been one of the
most acclaimed films of the festival.
"The point is all these men and
women of colour and different sexu-
alities are now saying: I m tired of this.
There s no reason I should be voiceless.
I m going to take the incentive to tell
these stories. "
Jenkins Moonlight, a lyrical portrait
of a gay black kid growing up poor in
Miami, like most of the other films due
this fall, was conceived long before the
Oscar diversity crisis.
The same is true for Nate Parker s
The Birth of a Nation, about Nat Turn-
er s slave rebellion, which was hailed
as the antidote Hollywood needed. Yet
the film arrived at Toronto overshad-
owed by a rape case from Parker s past
and its prospects are very much in
But there are many other films rush-
ing forward, propelled by an urgency
to tell stories about people that have
seldom felt Hollywood s lens on them.
Theodore Melfi s Hidden Figures,
which is due out in early January but
is widely expected to get an awards
push, is about a trio of African-Amer-
ican mathematicians whose work was
integral to NASA in the early 1960s.
The film, crowd-pleasing and comical,
was previewed in Toronto. It stars
Octavia Spencer, Taraji P Henson and
Janelle Monae, all of whom were visibly
moved at an event for the movie.
"People come up to me and they re
like, Oh, Oscars! Everybody wants to
put on that pressure," said Henson. "I
don t accept that pressure. I ll let you
all say it. But what I was most con-
cerned about was if (the NASA math-
ematician Katherine Johnson) would
be proud, because she s still alive."
Loving, directed by Jeff Nichols, stars
Ruth Negga and Joel Edgerton as Mil-
dred and Richard Loving, whose inter-
racial marriage got them exiled from
Virginia and eventually led to the
Supreme Court s landmark 1967 ruling
Loving v Virginia. Having already pre-
miered at the Cannes Film Festival,
Loving---a patiently told tale of steadfast
love---is very much on a potential
But it isn t the only interracial mar-
riage movie at Toronto. David Oyelowo,
who also stars in Queen of Katwe,
debuted Amma Asante s A United
Kingdom, in which Oyelowo plays the
Botswana royal Seretse Khama. His
marriage to Ruth Williams (Rosamund
Pike) sparked outrage both in the UK
and his African tribe.
"It s very exciting and partly because
so many of these films have been made
by people of colour. That s a shift," said
"A few years ago that had people of
colour in central roles but they were
still being made predominantly by white
Oyelowo s lack of a nomination for
his performance as Martin Luther King
Jr. in 2014 s Selma was a flashpoint in
the backlash against the Oscars. Earlier
this year, partly to combat what some
called the Academy of Motion Pictures
institutional biases, Academy president
Cheryl Boone Isaacs led changes to the
group s bylaws intended to diversify
"The thing I m encouraged by is we
are no longer just talking about diversity,
we re doing diversity," said Oyelowo.
"I really commend the Academy for
the changes that are being instituted.
I think we all agree the Academy is not
the reason for a lack of diversity or
inclusion in film, but it has been in the
past another outward show of some of
the problems from a representation
point of view in the industry."
This year s nominees will, of course,
be keenly watched. Will the results be
Antoine Fuqua, who directed Denzel
Washington s Oscar-winning perform-
ance in Training Day says there are
more important things to worry about.
He premiered his The Magnificent
Seven as the opening film at Toronto.
The film boasts a diverse cast Fuqua
intended as an updating of the histor-
ically homogenous Western.
"Focus on your work. Don t whine
about whether that film didn t work
out, or people didn t accept you or
nominate you for that movie," said
"You should already be on to your
next one. You have to go: Well, OK,
they didn t acknowledge me on that.
Maybe it was a colour thing. Maybe it
wasn t. "
"The Academy Awards is one night,"
he added. "But you ve got the rest of
the year to focus on your work. What
are you going to do next?" (AP)
Long-silent voices speak loudly at Toronto Film Festival
Alex Hibbert, left, and Mahershala Ali in a scene from the film, Moonlight. The film is a poetic coming-of-age
tale told across three chapters about a young, gay, black child growing up in a poor, drug-ridden
neighbourhood of Miami. AP PHOTO
"So many of...films have
been made by people of
colour. That's a shift. A
few years ago that had
people of colour in central
roles but they were still
being made predominantly
by white men."
---David Oyelowo, actor
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