#OscarsSoWhite transcends borders: Five diverse Canadian films you must see

| February 23, 2016
Photo: flickr/ lincolnblues

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Discussions of diversity -- or the lack thereof -- in Hollywood media have dominated the landscape in the wake of the 2016 Oscar nominations. Social media campaigns like #Oscarssowhite have ignited conversations about representation, recognition and opportunity for non-white actors, directors, writers and producers.

This collective outrage has even prompted the gatekeepers of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to reevaluate and diversify their membership composition. They have committed to doubling the number of women and ethnic minorities members by 2020.

Presently, the average Academy member is a 62-year-old white man according to an Los Angeles Times survey conducted in 2012.

Although Hollywood is currently under fire, the diversity problem within the film industry stretches across the border permeating into the Canadian motion picture landscape.

According to the Canada's Broadcasting Act, Canadian broadcasting should "serve the needs and interests, and reflect the circumstances and aspirations, of Canadian men, women and children, including equal rights, linguistic duality and the multicultural and multiracial nature of Canadian society…"

Yet rarely do we see a true reflection of diversity from the film and television industry.

For example the 2016 Canadian Screen Award film nominees are only slightly more diverse than their American counterparts with only three out of a possible 20 nominations going to non-white actors and actresses -- none of the directors nominated this year were non-white.

So in order to quell some of our homegrown homogeneity here are five Canadian films featuring marginalized communities released in 2015.

1. The Kind Words

Director Shemi Zarhin's latest feature follows the story of three Jewish-Israeli siblings in the search for their Muslim biological father in the wake of their mother's death. The Kind Words was a co-production between Israel and Canada.

 

2. Mina Walking

Mina Walking tells the story of a 12-year-old girl named Mina. She struggles to support her father and grandfather by sewing, cooking, cleaning and selling knick-knacks on the war torn streets of Kabul -- all the while trying to get an education. This is the latest offering by Canadian director and writer Yosef Baraki.

 

3. Driving with Selvi

Driving with Selvi is a Canadian documentary that follows South India's first female taxi driver. Directed by Elisa Paloschi, this film explores themes of personal agency and empowerment as we follow Selvi on a remarkable 10-year journey from child bride to community leader.

 

4. Ninth Floor

Ninth Floor is independent Canadian filmmaker Mena Shum’s first feature length documentary. It explores the Sir George Williams University riots of February 1969 and how a protest against institutional racism transformed into a two week long occupation. Shum is most notably known for her 1994 film Double Happiness.

 

5. Beeba Boys

Directed by Indo-Canadian screenwriter Deepa Mehta, Beeba Boys is a Canadian crime thriller focusing on crime leader Jeet Johar who -- with the help of new recruits -- competes against rival gangs for turf, respect and the continuation of survival in modern day Vancouver.

 

"Look at the faces around you in any big city in Canada. Now turn on a TV series or movie. Is that world appearing on screen?" says D.K. Latta in the Huffington Post.

Representation in film is so important because the medium is a vital tool that can universally humanize a group or shine a light on unexplored narratives. It is a way to show different worlds and different perspectives to audiences that might never otherwise search them out.

Films recognized by major award ceremonies like the Academy Awards are exposed to audiences around the world and winners can experience major boosts in their career.

When people of colour are not included, they lose important opportunities to amplify themselves and the groups they represent while simultaneously validating the alleged industry notion that films written, produced, directed or featuring people of colour are not universally marketable.

A circular logic takes hold in which less films with non-white actors leads to less nominations for non-white actors which validates the idea that films with non-white actors are not wanted, leading to less opportunity for films with non-white actors.

It is important for audiences to support films with diverse casts and crews. It is one way to show that there is a demand for this type of content while that minorities can produce compelling films.

 

TK Matunda is rabble's current podcast intern.

Photo: flickr/ lincolnblues

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