The festival is laying the foundation for continuing community and creativity
Creativity and community often go hand in hand. Creativity can help to bring communities together and a sense of community can also help foster creativity. It’s the connection between these two concepts that help to make initiatives such as the Hamilton Black Film Festival possible.
The Hamilton Black Film Festival was founded by author and filmmaker Paize Usiosefe. Usiosefe produced and directed Family and Friends and Yakubu. In 2019, he attended the Toronto International Film Festival as an industry delegate.
Returning to Hamilton after the festival, Usiosefe started to think about his next project and began to develop the idea for what would become the Hamilton Black Film Festival.
On its own, Black films are incredibly important because they are a reminder of presence. They can help Black individuals feel seen as well as foster a sense of community and belonging.
However, festivals such as the Hamilton Black Film Festival are even more important because they carry all the aforementioned ideas forward and create a space for communities and their creativity to occupy.
“Over the years I have been to many festivals. Sometimes I’m there [and] I’m the only Black person in the room. I was thinking about all this. How can we do something where we have the freedom to go there and be happy with your craft? With what you are doing, your artistic creation? Where can you exhibit and say, “This is my place” and “These are my people” and have the confidence to do it,” explained Usiosefe.
Preparations are well under way for the festival which will take place May 28–30, 2021, though whether it will be in person at The Westdale or a virtual event will be determined by public health recommendations closer to the date.
The film festival has been very much a community project, involving a team of dedicated and passionate individuals.
Other community organizations have also come together to support the initiative, including The Westdale and the Lincoln Alexander Centre. Including the larger Hamilton community is particularly important to Usiosefe.
“We want to get everyone involved. This is not just about Black people, it’s not just about people of colour. We are using this to bring everyone together,” said Usiosefe.
Usiosefe also hopes the festival will highlight how much the Black community in Hamilton has accomplished.
“What we want people to take away after the festival is [for them] to see how far we have come [and] how we have come together,” explained Usiosefe.
He also hopes that the festival will raise awareness about the Black community’s creativity and their potential, especially that of the younger generation. Usiosefe strongly believes that students have an important part to play in carrying the festival forward.
“We recommend our students join us because they are going to play a vital role in what we are doing, The society is shifting. This is a new generation and people see things differently,” said Usiosefe.
Usiosefe has plans for the festival to continue as an annual event and hopes it will eventually be recognized with the same regard as other film festivals, such TIFF.
In their preparations for this year’s inaugural festival, Usiosefe and his team have laid a strong foundation, carving out a space for the Black community and their art as well as creating an opportunity for the larger Hamilton community to come together.