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TIFF Noir: Best Black Films to see at TIFF 2014

Some the greatest black films from around the world have premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. The festival often showcases the best in black cinema, with blockbusters, indies, and foreign language films. Last year, Steve McQueen’s 12 Years A Slave had it’s world premiere at the festival, winning the People’s Choice Award and later the Academy Award for Best Picture. While there are chances to see widely-distributed black films like 12 Years A Slave, the festival also offers audiences the chance to see some excellent black films, that seem to disappear once the festival ends. One film that comes to mind is Dee Rees’ 2011 drama Pariah, a great film that only received limited distribution after the festival.

We have compiled the list of our most anticipated black titles screening at TIFF, so that you won’t miss out on what could be some of the best black films of the year. We’ve also included one we’re guessing will be worth skipping.

Beyond the Lights (Special Presentations, USA)

TIFF 2014 Review BEYOND THE LIGHTS

What is it about?
Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Noni, a young R&B superstar. Her lifestyle and stardom is threatened as she falls into a torrid love affair with her new bodyguard Kaz (Nate Parker).

Why we want to see it:
Mbatha-Raw proved herself to be an amazingly strong actress in last year’s Belle. Also, we really admire its director, Gina Prince-Blythewood. With her previous films Love and Basketball and The Secret Life of Bees, Prince-Blythewood showed us that dramas focusing on a black woman can be successful and appeal to wide audiences.


Top Five (Special Presentations, USA)

TIFF 2014 Review TOP FIVE

What is it about?
An actor/comedian sets off to reinvent his career after critics trash his most recent work.

Why we want to see it:
Chris Rock stars in, writes, and directs the film with a cast that includes Rosario Dawson, Kevin Hart, Gabrielle Union, Tracy Morgan, Adam Sandler, Jerry Seinfeld and many more.


Second Coming (Discovery, United Kingdom)

TIFF 2014 Review SECOND COMING

What is it about?
Jackie (Nadine Marshall) is shocked when she learns she is pregnant with her second child. Why is she shocked? She hasn’t slept with her husband (Idris Elba) in months and she hasn’t been with anyone else.

Why we want to see it:
The premise sounds extremely promising, and is certain to raise some conversation during the festival. To be honest, we’d watch Idris Elba in anything, and we’re really hoping this can make up for last year’s Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.


Girlhood (Contemporary World Cinema, France)

TIFF 2014 Review GIRLHOOD

What is it about?
A group of high school students struggle to get by living in a low-income suburb in Paris.

Why we want to see it:
There are many reasons why we want to see the latest film from Céline Sciamma. Sciamma’s first two features, Water Lilies and Tomboy, were fascinating examinations of human sexuality. We’re definitely looking forward to see what she’ll do in Girlhood, as she focuses on a group of girls, instead of only one like in her other films.


Mirage (Contemporary World Cinema, Hungary/Slovakia)

Mirage TIFF

What is it about?
A nameless man (Isaach De Bankolé) stumbles through the Hungarian plains until he settles on a ranch with a group of cowboys and drifters. The man’s identity and intentions remain a mystery.

Why we want to see it:
There’s one main reason why we want to see this film: Isaach De Bankolé. Far too often is De Bankolé playing supporting roles, so we’re glad he’s finally getting the chance to completely lead a film.


BLACK FILM NOT TO WATCH: The Good Lie (Special Presentations, USA)

TIFF 2014 Review GOOD LIE

What is it about?
A white, American woman (Reese Witherspoon) takes a group of Sudanese refugees into her home.

Why we don’t want to see it: Blah, blah, blah, blah, another white guilt movie. Didn’t anyone learn from The Blind Side? Well apparently not, because that film was nominated for Best Picture. We really don’t need any more films about white people swooping in to save black people. Seriously. It’s enough.

Matt Hoffman

Matthew Hoffman is a Toronto-based cinephile who especially enjoys French films and actresses over the age of 50; including but not limited to: Isabelle Huppert, Meryl Streep, and Jacki Weaver.