Director Mina Shum makes her foray into feature documentary by reopening the file on a watershed moment in Canadian race relations – the infamous Sir George Williams Riot. Over four decades after a group of Caribbean students accused their professor of racism, triggering an explosive student uprising, Shum locates the protagonists and listens as they set the record straight, trying to make peace with the past.
This documentary reveals some of the hidden history of Blacks in Canada. In the 1930s in rural Ontario, a farmer buried the tombstones of a Black cemetery to make way for a potato patch. In the 1980s, descendants of the original settlers, Black and White, came together to restore the cemetery, but there were hidden truths no one wanted to discuss. Deep racial wounds were opened. Scenes of the cemetery excavation, interviews with residents and re-enactments—including one of a baseball game where a broken headstone is used for home plate—add to the film's emotional intensity.
This feature documentary presents a thoughtful and vivid portrait of a community facing imposed relocation. At the centre of the story is a remarkably astute and luminous 12-year-old black girl whose poignant observations about life, the soul, and the power of art give voice to those rarely heard in society. Unarmed Verses is a cinematic rendering of our universal need for self-expression and belonging.
Please note: This film contains explicit language. Viewer discretion is advised.
John Ware Reclaimed follows filmmaker Cheryl Foggo on her quest to re-examine the mythology surrounding John Ware, the Black cowboy who settled in Alberta, Canada, before the turn of the 20th century. Foggo’s research uncovers who this iconic figure might have been, and what his legacy means in terms of anti-Black racism, both past and present.
This feature documentary takes us to the heart of the Jane-Finch "Corridor" in the early 1980s. Covering six square blocks in Toronto's North York, the area readily evokes images of vandalism, high-density subsidized housing, racial tension, despair and crime. By focusing on the lives of several of the residents, many of them black or members of other visible minorities, the film provides a powerful view of a community that, contrary to its popular image, is working towards a more positive future.
This 1996 documentary takes a nostalgic ride through history to present the experiences of Black sleeping-car porters who worked on Canada's railways from the early 1900s through the 1960s. There was a strong sense of pride among these men and they were well-respected by their community. Yet, harsh working conditions prevented them from being promoted to other railway jobs until finally, in 1955, porter Lee Williams took his fight to the union.
Claiming discrimination under the Canada Fair Employment Act, the Black workers won their right to work in other areas. Interviews, archival footage and the music of noted jazz musician Joe Sealy (whose father was a porter) combine to portray a fascinating history that might otherwise have been forgotten.
This documentary features Black women active in politics as well as community, labour and feminist organizing. They share their insights and personal testimonies on the double legacy of racism and sexism, linking their personal struggles with the ongoing battle to end systemic discrimination and violence against women and people of colour.
In their predominantly white high school in Halifax, a group of black students face daily reminders of racism, ranging from abuse (racist graffiti on washroom walls), to exclusion (the omission of black history from textbooks). They work to establish a Cultural Awareness Youth Group, a vehicle for building pride and self-esteem through educational and cultural programs. With help from mentors, they discover the richness of their heritage and learn some of the ways they can begin to effect change.
This animated short tells the story of Seraphim "Joe" Fortes, one of Vancouver's most beloved citizens. Born in the West Indies, Joe Fortes swam in English Bay for over than 30 years. A self-appointed lifeguard at first, he became so famous that the city of Vancouver finally rewarded him with a salary for doing what he loved best. He taught thousands of people to swim and saved over a hundred lives. Yet there were some who did not respect him because of his skin colour. Through his determination, kindness and love for children, Joe helped shift attitudes.
Danny Williams was the charismatic and unflinching Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador from 2003 to 2010. By the time he left office, he had become the most popular—and controversial—Canadian politician of his era.
Laced with humour and revealing back-room anecdotes, Danny is the story of how Williams turned a “have not” into a “have” province. Known as a fighter, Williams famously took on prime ministers and Big Oil to ensure that benefits from the province’s abundant natural resources flowed back to its people. His mantra “no more giveaways” was key to his unprecedented popularity, but pride in his province made Williams a hero to its people.
Monika Delmos's documentary captures a year in the life of two teenage refugees, Joyce and Sallieu, who have left their own countries to make a new life in Ontario. Joyce, 17, left the Democratic Republic of Congo to avoid being forced into prostitution by her family. Sallieu, 16, had witnessed the murder of his mother as a young boy in wartorn Sierra Leone.
Delmos follows them as they bear the normal pressures of being a teenager while simultaneously undergoing the refugee application process. She shows how the guidance and support of a handful of people make a real difference in the day-to-day lives of these children.
Ages 13 to 18
Study Guide - Guide 1
Civics/Citizenship - Human Rights
Diversity - Black Studies
History and Citizenship Education - Civil Rights and Freedoms
Social Studies - Social History
Define systemic racism. What barriers did the student protestors at Sir George Williams University face in Montreal during the 1960s? How did Ninth Floor challenge your notions of justice, civil rights and fair play in Canada? While Prof. Perry Anderson was suspended, he was never found guilty of charges of racism against Black students. What did this protest accomplish in the end? Address how director Mina Shum set up shots when interviewing the now much-older participants of the George Williams protests.