You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Toronto’s Diverse Array of Films From Africa Paint Bigger Picture of Continent

A young Zambian girl banished to a camp for exiled witches, a Congolese singer forced to hustle on the streets of Kinshasa to save her son and an Egyptian imam whose devout lifestyle is thrown into turmoil by the death of Michael Jackson, form part of the rich tapestry of African lives on display in Toronto this year.

The result, according to TIFF Africa and Middle East programmer Kiva Reardon, points to “an abundance of riches” in filmmaking from around the continent.

“The hope is that audiences won’t only respond to the film they’re watching, but find their curiosity piqued and begin to dig deeper into films from the regions,” she says.

Among the highlights will be “Razzia,” acclaimed Moroccan auteur Nabil Ayouch’s kaleidoscopic portrait of five lives touched by a single event on the streets of Casablanca, which world premieres in the fest’s Platform section.

Chadian helmer Mahamat-Saleh Haroun returns to Toronto with “A Season in France,” a moving drama about an African high-school teacher who tries to build a new life in Europe after fleeing his war-torn nation.

South Africa offers a trio of world premieres, with Jenna Bass’ quirky, low-fi, body-swap drama “High Fantasy”; Michael Matthews’ Western-inspired thriller “Five Fingers for Marseilles”; and Khalo Matabane’s hard-knuckled prison drama “The Number.”

Nigeria’s Ishaya Bako premieres his sophomore effort, “The Royal Hibiscus Hotel,” a romantic comedy about an aspiring chef in London who returns to Nigeria to rescue her parents’ struggling hotel.

In “Sheikh Jackson,” which will close the festival’s Special Presentations section, Egypt’s Amr Salama offers a tender and comic portrait of a sheikh gripped by an identity crisis after the death of his childhood idol, Michael Jackson.

Toronto will also host the North American premieres of Franco-Senegalese helmer Alain Gomis’ “Felicité,” which won the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at this year’s Berlinale, and “I Am Not a Witch,” the buzzed-about feature debut by British-Zambian director Rungano Nyoni, which world premiered in the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar in Cannes.

The diverse program highlights the dynamism of the continent’s cinematic landscape, showcasing a “range of genres, voices, visions and styles,” according to Reardon. It also reflects the efforts of contemporary African filmmakers to reimagine the way their continent is depicted on the big screen.

For Ayouch, who was inspired by “Casablanca” in the making of “Razzia,” history has shaped the way generations of moviegoers think of the film’s namesake city. Yet the director notes that not a single frame of the iconic movie was shot in Morocco. Even in Casablanca itself, he says, many residents are unaware that the movie was shot entirely in L.A. With “Razzia,” the helmer had a chance to pay homage to the Hollywood classic, while also capturing the rich urban tableau of the city as “a way of taking back what is ours.”

For Gomis, the “fight for the image” is central to the way Africans understand their place in the world. Across the continent, he notes, African audiences have grown accustomed to seeing Western lives depicted onscreen. “You have this feeling that your life is not real life,” he says. “It’s very violent. We are destroying ourselves.”

With “Felicité,” which follows a fiercely independent Congolese bar singer on a wild journey through the streets of Kinshasa, Gomis wanted to pay homage to the African women “who fight every day and make life possible” for their families.

He offered the film as a tribute, too, to the citizens of Kinshasa, giving them a rare opportunity to see their lives and their city — with all its flawed beauty — portrayed onscreen.

“This film is made for them,” he says, “to say, ‘We are beautiful and we can love ourselves.’’

More Film

  • 'The Dirt' Review: A Mötley Crüe

    Film Review: 'The Dirt'

    A long time ago, the words sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll carried a hint of danger. The lifestyle did, too, but I’m talking about the phrase. It used to sound cool (back around the time the word “cool” sounded cool). But sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll has long since passed into the realm [...]

  • James Newton Howard Danny Elfman

    New Trend in Concert Halls: Original Music by Movie Composers — No Film Required

    Movie and TV composers are in greater demand than ever for, surprisingly, new music for the concert hall. For decades, concert commissions for film composers were few and far between. The increasing popularity of John Williams’ film music, and his visibility as conductor of the Boston Pops in the 1980s and ’90s, led to his [...]

  • Idris Elba Netflix 'Turn Up Charlie'

    Idris Elba in Talks to Join Andy Serkis in 'Mouse Guard'

    Idris Elba is in negotiations to join Andy Serkis and Thomas Brodie-Sangster in Fox’s fantasy-action movie “Mouse Guard” with “Maze Runner’s” Wes Ball directing. Fox is planning a live-action movie through performance capture technology employed in the “Planet of the Apes” films, in which Serkis starred as the ape leader Caesar. David Peterson created, wrote, [...]

  • Zac Efron Amanda Seyfried

    Zac Efron, Amanda Seyfried Join Animated Scooby-Doo Film as Fred and Daphne

    Zac Efron has signed on to voice Fred Jones while Amanda Seyfried will voice Daphne Blake in Warner Bros.’ animated Scooby-Doo feature film “Scoob.” It was revealed earlier this month that Will Forte had been set to voice Norville “Shaggy” Rogers, while Gina Rodriguez would be voicing Velma Dinkley. The mystery-solving teens and their talking [...]

  • 'Staff Only' Review: Cultures And Values

    Film Review: 'Staff Only'

    Marta (Elena Andrada) is 17, from Barcelona and alternately bored and mortified to be on a Christmas vacation to Senegal with her estranged dad, Manel (Sergi López), and annoying little brother, Bruno (Ian Samsó). For her, the freedoms of imminent adulthood, such as the occasional poolside mojito, are tantalizing close but still technically forbidden, rather [...]

  • Rocketman

    Candid 'Rocketman' Dares to Show Elton John as 'Vulnerable,' 'Damaged,' 'Ugly'

    Elton John movie “Rocketman” dares to portray the singer’s personality early in his career to have been, at times, “ugly,” Taron Egerton – who plays the pop star – told an audience at London’s Abbey Road Studios Friday, following a screening of 15 minutes of footage from the film. It is a candid portrayal, showing [...]

  • Ben Affleck

    Ben Affleck's Addiction Drama Set for Awards-Season Release

    Warner Bros. has given Ben Affleck’s untitled addiction drama an awards-season-friendly release date of Oct. 18. The film, which has been known previously as “The Has-Been” and “Torrance,” is directed by Gavin O’Connor and stars Affleck as a former basketball player struggling with addiction, which has led to him losing his wife. As part of [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content