Reflection on the diversity conversation

Yasmine Mathurin:

The Canadian film industry is like a pair of suede gloves that was gifted to me, I can’t seem to get myself to actually use it regularly. Not because I don’t like suede or gloves… It’s nice. It does the job and keeps me somewhat warm but, as a newbie filmmaker, I’m not sure how it really fits with my lifestyle yet. I know that the glove works for me when it gets cold, and on occasion I get the urge of rubbing it because it feels soft, but…. I don’t know if my hands really fit. I also don’t see a lot of people that look like me, rocking the gloves.  

Yasmine’s full interview is here

Confusing analogy aside, I finished my first official TIFF season (TIFF’16) with an impression that despite the many interesting and important stories that I saw on screen… I wanted more. I also sigh heavily when I think about the somewhat stifling effect the globalization of American culture has on the Canadian film industry. Case in point — I remember feeling somewhat annoyed at the fact that I had to watch Canadian films, when I wanted to watch Birth of Nation, La La Land, Queen of Katwe, Moonlight and more! But after having a very honest conversation with MIC’s very own Orla, I realized the problem. Canadian culture lives in the shadows of its American neighbour; so by proxy, this dilemma is seen in the film industry. Marva told me that Canadians spend only one to two pennies of their entertainment dollar on watching Canadian content (source)

I left the experience with a lot of questions. Like how can I expect to see better stories on screen, if I don’t go and support the ones that are made here? How can I, as an aspiring filmmaker, expect to build something, if I don’t spend money on the industry itself? But again what money (ahahhahahahahhahahhah)? Does the good story have to come before or after finding funding? To be frank, there were a few Canadian films I struggled to get through… but they were funded, made, and screened at TIFF. 

The MIC  Internship allowed me to attend a number of TIFF industry events including the following:

  •  a screening of the documentary The 4%, Film’s Gender Problem which explored the issues around the gender gap in Hollywood followed by a panel discussion.
  • DIALOGUES The Dream Team: Directors, Casting Directors and Actors 
  • DIALOGUES Unconventional Voices
  • DIALOGUES Nigerian Cinema 2016: At the Forefront

Though I was grateful that the trending conversation around diversity seeped its way throughout the festival, I wondered why it focused mainly on gender and not also on race and intersectional stories and Canadian talent. I left wishing there were more stories that reflected the experiences of Canadian people of colour on screen. I also left happy to have spotted a couple of faces of colour here and there (albeit not as many as I would’ve liked), who were also privy of the conversations happening in the room.

Maybe this simultaneous void and gap is an opportunity for me to find a space in this industry. An opportunity for me to fix the awkward suede glove? What I do know is that this void and gap is the reason why I turn to American content. My current lack of financial means is also why I turn to digital, to streaming services like YouTube and Netflix and other sites that pirate films and shows.  I’m not sorry for my behavior, and I also know I am not alone in thinking and acting like I do. But despite its shortfall, I’m choosing to believe (however delusional or naive I may be) that it will be better…It has to. I’m hungry for stories, and I think I always will be. The stories I watch don’t have to reflect my race or gender or class, all the time but when I experience stories that I do, I am left changed. Stories have a powerful way to validate our human existence, and that’s why I’m still interested being a storyteller. When you find a story that speaks of a facet of the human condition… a story that reveals a quiet secret about you and the people around you, is that not magic? Is that not the point of telling stories?

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