Watch two generations of Canadian game-changers discuss the landscape for Black filmmakers in this conversation for the Black Light series. Hot Docs and the DOC Institute invited filmmakers Sylvia D. Hamilton and Tamara Dawit to join Hot Docs industry programmer Julian Carrington for a conversation about Black Canadian film then and now. (Carrington also programs Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema’s For Viola series of which Black Light is a part.) Hamilton and Dawit were previously announced as the recipients of the DOC Luminary Award and the DOC Vanguard Award from the DOC Institute Honours.
Hamilton, who broke ground as a leader during the NFB’s Studio D years with an intersectional approach by creating space for women of colour as the Board created opportunities for women, shared her perspectives on what’s changed and what hasn’t in the years following Studio D. She also illuminates the inspiration behind her short doc Black Mother, Black Daughter, directed with Claire Prieto, which is screening as part of the Black Light series. Black Mother, Black Daughter, like much of Hamilton’s work as a filmmaker, researcher, and advocate, uses film to explore the untold histories of Black communities, particularly Black women, in Canada.
Dawit, meanwhile, offered insights regarding her experience creating the feature doc Finding Sally, which screens in the Black Light series. The filmmaker explained the challenges she encountered while pitching a story set in Ethiopia, which broadcasters didn’t find relevant despite the breadth of Ethiopian-Canadians in Canada. Dawit said this bias inspired her to play a role onscreen in the film and inject a more tangible “Canadian” element—which many Canadian filmmakers telling international stories don’t have to do. Dawit echoed many of Hamilton’s experiences and noted how funders continue to place additional burdens on women who want to step behind the camera.
The conversation also features a frank segment on gatekeepers, programming, and equity. There are notes of optimism, but a need for further change is clear.
Watch the Black Light master class below, and catch Black Mother, Black Daughter; Finding Sally; Hardwood; John Ware Reclaimed; Coming to Voice, and Mighty Jerome for free in this month’s For Viola series.