Two people seen from behind cast in red light from film Rafiki

Photography Courtesy of Regent Park Film Festival

5 must-sees at the 2018 Regent Park Film Festival

This free movie and art showcase features a wide range of community voices—and chances to connect

When people think of film festival season in Toronto, it’s usually TIFF, with its red carpet premieres and celebrity sightings. But for one downtown community, “the season” happens in November. The Regent Park Film Festival, which runs from November 14 to 17, 2018, tells stories about its namesake neighbourhood and introduces people from outside the area to its filmmakers, as well as the issues the community faces.

Regent Park spreads in all directions from Dundas Street East, bordered by Parliament Street to the west and the Don River to the east, and Gerrard Street to the north and Queen Street to the south. While the area is small, its population is large and many residents live in buildings run by Toronto Community Housing Corporation. The neighbourhood is easily one of Toronto’s most diverse, as families from all over Canada and the world call Regent Park home.

Since 2005 the area has been going through a long-term redevelopment project, designed to offer mixed-income housing and more amenities. The result has been a spate of condo and commercial-building construction, which has frequently displaced both residents and small businesses—and affected the community’s opportunities to connect. According to filmmaker Maya Bastian, whose doc Arrival Archives screens this year, the festival is one way everyone can understand the impact of these changes. “The role of community is diminishing in our rapidly gentrifying city, and it is a problem,” she says. “If we are going to move forward as a culture here and examine the issues that face those who are struggling, I think we have to do it together.”

Now in its 16th year, the festival features a wide range of voices and delves into an array of topics, including the ways redevelopment has changed the neighbourhood. In addition to screening films by local and international filmmakers, the festival hosts workshops, panels and exhibitions. The five must-sees below represent the diversity and range of the festival—you don’t want to miss them. All screenings take place at the Daniels Spectrum at 585 Dundas Street East. They’re free, but you’ll want to reserve seats in advance.

A group of women in a crowd from film Rafiki

RAFIKI

This film tells the story of Kena and Ziki, two young women, both daughters of politicians, growing up in Nairobi. Their families are political rivals, and the church is against same-sex marriage, so when they fall in love with each other, they have more than a slight challenge ahead of them. November 17, 8 p.m.

THE BREADWINNER

An animated movie and free breakfast—what more could you ask for on a Saturday morning? The Breadwinner is an adaptation of Deborah Ellis’s bestselling YA novel of the same name. It tells the story of Parvana, an 11-year-old Afghani girl whose father is wrongfully arrested by the Taliban. Some scenes may be frightening for a young audience. November 17; breakfast at 9 a.m., screening at 10 a.m.

HOME MADE VISIBLE

Throughout history, BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) stories and voices have largely been left out of the media. But now, not only are new stories coming out from these perspectives, but also archival materials—both institutional and personal—are being brought to light. This program includes six commissioned short films and an installation that looks at archives and identity. In Portrait of a Zamboni Driver, a Colombian man finds himself driving a Zamboni in a small-town Canadian ice rink, and Arrival Archives shows two families fleeing violence for a new life in Canada, as told through the eyes of multiple generations. A conversation with the filmmakers will follow. November 17, 2:30 p.m.

Scene of New York City street with garbage piled before storefront

ROCK RUBBER 45s

Sneakers, music and basketball—this autobiographical documentary has Bobbito García taking us through what connects them all. A street basketball player, author and hip-hop DJ, García shows us the ins and outs of the lifestyle he’s helped inspire. This film screens with an episode of True North, a nine-episode docu-series about five young local athletes who are trying to make their hoop dreams a reality. November 15, 8:30 p.m.

Two women sitting against wall below shelves with cards and personal items from film Virtual Space Gallery

VIRTUAL SPACE

Some are virtual reality, some are home video—and none requires a reservation. These installations run throughout the festival, with the option to drop by for a few minutes or a few hours. Many projects are mixed media, with a more experimental look at the topics at hand. Be sure to check out Biidaaban: First Light, an interactive exhibit that imagines one possible future for Toronto. The artists use the Indigenous languages Wendat, Kanien’keha (Mohawk) and Anishinaabemowin (Ojibway) and ask us to examine our place among it all. November 14, 4 to 8 p.m.; November 16, 4 to 8 p.m.; November 17, 11 to 8 p.m. 

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