An all Black female-led production team based in Brampton and Toronto are paving the way.
Kelly Fyffe-Marshall’s film Black Bodies has earned a spot at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, beating out thousands of competitors.
“We're one of six Canadian projects in Sundance this year, out of the 118 films they selected, out of thousands that submitted,” she tweeted.
The short-film explores the harsh reality of being Black in the 21st century. It was inspired by a true event that happened to Fyffe-Marshall in 2018.
“We were doing a musical festival in California and leaving our rental property. An elderly white lady saw us and felt like we didn’t belong in the neighbourhood and so called the police. We were detained for breaking and entering,” she said.
The group of friends were surrounded by seven police officers and a helicopter, she added.
“It was a very traumatic incident for me.”
Tired of re-telling her story, she translated the trauma into art.
Black Bodies was directed and written by Fyffe-Marshall, 31, and produced by fellow filmmakers Tamar Bird, 31, and Sasha Leigh Henry, 30.
The short film is just over four minutes long. It premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last year, won the festival’s Changemaker Award, and was included in TIFF’s list of must-see films of 2020.
For these Canadian women of colour, a Sundance invitation was the cherry on top.
“I don’t think that it’s ever been done,” said Henry.
Despite the accolades, Fyffe-Marshall said she was disappointed by the lack of support from Canadian media. She took her frustration to Twitter.
“It's been crickets in Canada, which is wild.”
To her shock, her idol in the industry — Oscar-nominated American director Ava DuVernay — caught wind of the project.
“Looking forward to watching the short film, BLACK BODIES. From Toronto to #Sundance2021, this film from @directedbykells and her beautiful Black Women team of collaborators should make Canada proud. Congratulations, sis,” DuVernay tweeted.
“That’s the filmmaker I look to the most,” Fyffe-Marshall said.
“So, for her to stumble upon this tweet where I’m frustrated about how Canada is treating its artists was amazing - but also, her retweet explained that my tweet was necessary because it wasn’t until she retweeted it and everyone saw it did everyone start to care.”
The women hope to continue breaking barriers in the industry and beyond.
They want Canada to support its many artists, so homegrown talent don’t flee to the United States.
Fyffe-Marshall is working on her first feature film called When Morning Comes.