The much anticipated second annual Vancouver International Black Film Festival is happening, with its first in-person offering this year, December 16 to 20, 2022. This hybrid event is created by the Fabienne Colas Foundation, co-presented by Canada Media Fund and Global BC. Fabienne, famously known as the Queen of Festivals, is a recipient of the Visionnaire Award from The Legacy Awards, and Canada’s Top 40 Under 40, amongst many others. We chatted with Fabienne to learn more about this year’s event. —Noa Nichol
Hello Fabienne! Please tell us a bit about yourself to start.
By the time I was a teenager, I was already one of the most successful actresses in my native country Haiti. So, Hollywood seemed like the logical, albeit ambitious, next step for me. But along the way, I got sidelined in Montreal. I arrived in Quebec in my early 20s to visit friends and fell in love with the Montreal’s diversity and “joie de vivre.” I was convinced to stay in town and try my luck in Montreal before moving on to Los Angeles. Remember it was 2003, and one of the first things I noticed when watching film and TV in my newly adopted home was that Black people seldom appeared. The industry didn’t seem to reflect the city’s diversity. I thought this could mean one or two things for my career. I would either be in high demand as one of the few actresses of colour available, or producers and casting directors would ignore me because they didn’t know what to do with a Black actor. I could not find auditions for great roles and understood very quickly that I would not have the successful acting career I had hoped to have in Montreal. So, I came up with another plan. I would bring in some Haitian films, including ones, that I starred in, to be screened at a local festival. That was sure to drum up interest in both my acting abilities and Haitian films in general. But I soon discovered that no festivals would screen them. This propelled me to create my own, and two years after landing in Montreal, I launched both the Fabienne Colas Foundation and the Montreal Haitian Film Festival. It eventually became the Montreal International Black Film Festival, the first of 12 festivals that now operate under the banner – Canada’s largest Black Film Festival today. We have also founded events in Brazil, Haiti and New York City.
When and why did you launch the Vancouver International Black Film Festival (VIBFF)? What is your aim/purpose, and what niche/need were/are you aiming to fill?
We launched the first edition of the VIBFF last year on December 9, 2022. Due to the pandemic the festival ran strictly online from December 9 to 12. We knew that it was important for us to be in Vancouver because of the lack of opportunities and platforms for Black filmmakers in the city. It was a natural choice to come and make sure that Vancouver could enjoy a great Black Film Festival and join the movement because it is an inclusive movement. The (VIBFF) is about discovery and Inclusion. VIBFF wants to showcase the most relevant Black films from here and abroad while creating a space to debate major cultural, social and socio-economic issues. Through films and various panels, this hybrid second edition is aimed at the public from all communities as it highlights the talent of creators from diverse backgrounds and makes room for them to reflect on the issues they face.
We hear this year’s festival is a “hybrid” version; can you tell us about the format, and what events/happenings are included?
This year is not only our second edition of the Vancouver International Black Film Festival but one in which we will be both in-person and online! We are very excited!
Can you tell us about some of the short films in the lineup?
Sure! Some of the Short Films in the lineup include the Fabienne Colas Foundation’s award-winning BEING BLACK IN CANADA short film series. Presented by NETFLIX, in collaboration with the National Bank, and supported by Telefilm Canada, the Canada Council for the Arts and various partners. Online presentation. Also, SILENT PARTNER and JUST BREAK AWAY, also only an online presentation.
What are some of the highlights at this year’s festival that you’re personally most looking forward to?
I am looking forward to seeing Vancouver’s beautiful people come out to support the movement, watching some incredible Black films and discovering local black filmmakers. I also look forward to their feedback and reaction to the diverse programming presented during the festival, both in-person and online. A selection of great films by Black filmmakers will be presented and for some, it may be the first time they see these types of films. It is important for us to showcase films on the Black experience so that people can understand and witness the realities and stories of Black communities.