Film & Theatre: Documentary Films


Aspects of African Canadian Film & Theatre
Film & Theatre | Feature Films | Independent | Documentary | Filmmakers | Playwrights | Theatre Companies

The National Film Board of Canada (NFB)

The following films are a selection from the many NFB films of interest and relevance to African Canadians. The films on this list were chosen because they tell important African-Canadian stories.

In alphabetical order:

Black, Bold and Beautiful (Nadine Valcin - 1999)

Afros, braids or corn-rows--hairstyles have always carried a social message, and few issues cause as many battles between Black parents and their daughters. To "relax" one's hair into straight tresses or to leave it "natural" inevitably raises questions of conformity and rebellion, pride and identity. The film celebrates the bonds formed as women attend to each other's hair, while exploring how everyday grooming matters tap into lively debates on the position of Black people within Canada.

Black Mother Black Daughter (Sylvia Hamilton and Claire Prieto - 1989)

Examines the importance and interdependence of family, church, and the community. Through interviews with women in the Nova Scotia community, the film gives insight into the vital roles of mothers in the community in passing on a powerful oral tradition.

Breakin' In: The Making of a Hip Hop Dancer (Elizabeth St. Philip - 2005)

This documentary follows Linda, Michelle and Tracy - three young Black women as they compete for roles in hip hop music videos. Through their eyes we see how this world has impacted their personal values, their career ambitions and their concepts of beauty and self-image.

Brother 2 Brother (Russell Wyse - 2004)

All you have to do in this life is stay Black and die. That's the advice Corey Lucas, a 21-year-old African Canadian, says he got from his father. But Corey is convinced he can do better. Corey grew up wanting the fancy car, the big house, the great job and a bright future. The film revolves around Corey, now the father of a three-year-old son, as he tries to reconcile his urge to be a hustler with his need to be a responsible father and a supportive partner.

Fields of Endless Day (Terence Macartney-Filgate - 1978)

Provides an account of the early Canadian slave trade and the important role that Canada later played as "the land of freedom" for many runaway slaves from the U.S. after slavery in Canada was abolished.

Hardwood (Hubert Davis - 2005)

The film is a personal journey by director Hubert Davis, the son of former Harlem Globetrotter Mel Davis, who explores how his father's decisions affected his life and those of his extended family.

Home Feeling: Struggle for a Community (Jennifer Hodge / John Kramer - 1983)

Portrays the residents in the Jane-Finch community (Toronto, Ontario) as they seek to achieve a sense of community.

In the Name of the Mother and the Son (Maryse Legagneur - 2005)

The film paints a portrait of life in the Montreal neighbourhood of Saint-Michel for two youths of Haitian origin, whom we follow in their quest for hope and freedom. Not unlike their parents, who had to start from scratch on arriving in Canada, James and Le Voyou both yearn to take wing, each in his own way. The film eloquently decries the prejudice that, even today, plagues young Quebecers of Haitian origin. In French with English subtitles.

Invisible City (Hubert Davis - 2009)

The film follows the story of two boys from the Regent Park neighborhood in Toronto, chronicling their triumphs and struggles crossing into adulthood. Produced over the period of three years, Invisible City is a critical addition to the discourse surrounding issues of race and urban poverty within Canada.

The Journey of Lesra Martin (Cheryl Foggo- 2002)

Lesra Martin was poor, illiterate and struggling on the violent streets of Brooklyn when a chance encounter with a group of Canadians shattered the confines of his life.Pulled from the chaos of the inner city and given a fresh start in Canada, Lesra became a hero when he helped to bring justice to wrongfully imprisoned American boxer Rubin Hurricane Carter. Delving into the intensely personal story beneath the fame, this film brings together intimate interviews with Lesra, his family and friends.

Long Time Comin' (Dionne Brand - 1993)

There is a cultural revolution going on in Canada and Faith Nolan and Grace Channer are on the leading edge. These two African-Canadian lesbian artists give back to art its most urgent meanings--commitment and passion. The film captures their work, their urgency, and their friendship in intimate conversations with both artists.

No Time to Stop (Ellen Klodowsky - 1990)

Reveals the difficult circumstances of educated immigrant women who are forced into low-paying jobs.

Older Stronger Wiser (Claire Prieto - 1989)

Five Black women talk about their lives in rural and urban Canada between the 1920s and 1950s. What emerges is a unique history of Canada's Black people and the legacy of their community elders.

Remember Africville (Shelagh MacKenzie - 1991)

The gripping story of a Black-Canadian community in Halifax, Nova Scotia who were relocated from their homes in Africville in 1964. Personal interviews and powerful testimonies give insight to the Africville experience.

The Road Taken (Selwyn Jacob - 1996)

A nostalgic ride through history, the film documents the experiences of Blacks who worked as sleeping-car porters on Canada's major railways from the early 1900s through the 1960s.

Speak it!: From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia (Sylvia Hamilton - 1992)

Explores young adults' demand that Black culture in Nova Scotia be part of their education. A group of senior high school students question institutionalized racism in the education system, whose curriculum fails to reflect Black history or culture.

For more information see the NFB web site
Also see the York University Library's collection of African Canadian film

Board of Education

Kandalore (Ronald Squire - 1990)

Observes Toronto high school students participating in a week-long racial awareness camp.

Children are not the Problem (Roger McTair - 1991)

Daycare workers, teachers and parents discuss the impact of adult racist behaviour on children. They explore the need for Canada to develop educational programs to help children protect themselves against racism.