Arts & Entertainment
2 min

Mpenzi: Black women film fest

Engaging voices

LOVE & WAR. Lalanya Masters and Caryn Ward star in Sarang Song, at the Mpenzi fest.

Politics may be black and white, but love never is. Tarika Miller’s stirring 23-minute dramatic short Sarang Song is one of the highlights of the forthcoming Mpenzi festival of black women filmmakers. Set on an unidentified US university campus in the turbulent early 1970s, black activists protest against the escalating violence by white police officers. The romantic relationship between two women is put to the test as violence threatens to consume them.

With a nod to Angela Davis and her views on the meaning of struggle, the film passionately depicts not only the old maxim that the personal is political, but exposes how politics can overwhelm the personal. The production looks great, has a strong, handsome cast (Lalanya Masters and Caryn Ward star) and the soulful score turns some scenes into near musical numbers. Powerful stuff.

With a festival like Mpenzi, what goes on in front of the screen can be as important as what appears on the screen. “Women of colour can be as expressive as they want,” says program coordinator Annemarie Shrouder. “I love to hear those expressions and the ripple effect they generate in the audience. There is a sense of knowing. Once one woman says what many are thinking out loud, others chime in — this could be a sharp intake of breath, a verbal acknowledgement to something said in the film or a reaction.

“In a society where we are taught to be quiet or are silenced, it’s a great feeling to see and hear people so engaged as an audience and sharing that experience out loud.”

I can’t wait to hear the audience reaction when they see local gal Natalie Wood’s absolutely outrageous short Call Me Daisy, in which a big celebrity seeks political asylum from the US in Canada. But let’s say no more; I don’t want to give anything away. It’s bust-a-gut hilarious.

Queer films in the fest include Desperate For Love, directed by Angel L Brown, an affecting low budget 20-minute drama on the perils and promise of on-line dating, reconnecting with a conniving ex and poetry readings, and the Canadian premiere of Ndim Ndim (It’s Me, It’s Me), an eight-minute South African doc on Funeka Soldaat, an out lesbian and antiabuse activist who chooses to stay in her Xhosa-dominated community.

Other fest offerings include The Hijab, a new doc on multiculturalism produced by Regent Park youth, and an episode from the Literature Alive TV series profiling M NourbeSe Philip, who will also read at the event.