What I'm Watching at TIFF '18: April Reign
Featuring a short TED Talk on why you need to see Green Book
What I’m Watching asks the friends of the Toronto International Film Festival, both old and new, what films they’re most excited to watch at this year’s Festival.
Today: April Reign — media maven, activist and TIFF Long Take guest.
Number of years attending TIFF:
This will be my first year.
dir. Peter Farrelly
There are a few actors who choose their roles very intentionally, and Mahershala Ali is one of them. I love this idea of him being a concert pianist and having to navigate — both literally and figuratively — the South and what that means during that time period.
The Green Book, the name of the film, is also very famous to African Americans who lived in the ’50s and the ’60s because it literally gave you safe spaces where you could go and be served, where the hotels and restaurants and even gas stations were. Because of the volatile point we are in in this country, it's interesting to be able to look back on the past and reflect on perhaps it not being as far away as we like to think.
My mother used to tell me about the Green Book because she lived in New Jersey, but when our family traveled south, they would have to use the Green Book. You'd have to pack all of your food because you wouldn't know, not all the time, in a particular state, if there would be a place for you to stop. So you would pack your food. You would pack soda bottles. And sometimes you'd have to use those soda bottles to pee because you couldn't even stop at a gas station. It's a very deep story. I'm very interested to see what they do with it.
The National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC — what we belovedly call the Blacksonian — has a display about the Green Book. There's actually one there that you can look through and understand the history.
Green Book plays TIFF September 11 to 13 as part of the Gala Presentations programme.
If Beale Street Could Talk
dir. Barry Jenkins
The marriage of James Baldwin and Barry Jenkins already has me on the edge of my seat. I saw a trailer — I went to the movies not too long ago and the trailer was playing before BlacKkKlansman — and I just love this idea. There's been a rediscovering of James Baldwin, with the recent documentary (I Am Not Your Negro) and now with this film. Plus, it's obviously Barry Jenkins’ first feature film since Moonlight, and I love the way that his mind works. I love the vision that he is able to give us through his storytelling.
If Beale Street Could Talk plays TIFF on September 9 and 10 as part of the Special Presentations programme.
Monsters and Men
dir. Reinaldo Marcus Green
One of the stars is Kelvin Harrison Jr, who I had an opportunity to meet at Sundance and then again at South by Southwest. He was the breakout star at Sundance. He had three films there, and Monsters and Men was one of them. It's just a fantastic depiction of how one incident can affect several different communities that are intertwined. It's like Crash, kind of, but done in a much better way. Crash was like, "Oh, well. Everybody's a little racist or whatever." But I think this one — you know, it's the death of someone right outside of a bodega. I think this one really touches on how it impacts people who may not have known the victim, but who are nonetheless affected by it. And I will go see anything that Kelvin Harrison Jr is in — anything and everything, because I think he's fantastic.
Monsters and Men plays TIFF on September 6, 7, and 14 as part of the Special Presentations programme.
The Hate U Give
dir. George Tillman, Jr.
I've had an opportunity to read the book, and it was fantastic, and I follow (author Angie Thomas) on Twitter. It's just really wonderful to watch this come to life. I remember when she debuted the book, and now, here we are, so many steps further as her movie is coming out. I think it's a great story. Again, very, very timely. I'm incredibly happy for the author to have her vision as a Black woman portrayed on the big screen in this way. So I'm excited for it. And, of course, Amandla Stenberg, who has several projects coming out this year and next. It's great to watch her mature onscreen as well.
The Hate U Give plays TIFF on September 7, 8, 13, and 16 as part of the Gala Presentations programme.
Where Hands Touch
dir. Amma Asante
I'm thrilled to see a female director of colour getting this opportunity. Another film with Amandla Stenberg, which I think is great. I think Amma hasn't gotten the recognition that she deserves, so I truly hope that people will take interest in this film and see the magic that she brings to the screen.
Where Hands Touch plays TIFF on September 9, 10, and 15 as part of the Special Presentations programme.