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11 Films From the African Diaspora to Look Out For At the Toronto International Film Festival

Here are 11 films from the diaspora showing at this year's Toronto International Film Festival.

The 2017 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is just around the corner. The widely attended festival will run from September 7-17, and feature a host of film screenings, workshops, panel discussions, galleries and more.

There are a number of films showing at this year's festival, that we're seriously looking forward to seeing. From dramas to romantic comedies, to documentaries and even westerns, this year's selection offers an eclectic mix of films from actors and filmmakers from across the diaspora.

Below are 11 films to keep an eye out for at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival. Visit TIFF's website for the full lineup.


Directed by Senegalese filmmaker, Alain Gomis, this Kinshasha-set drama tells the story of  a young, independent bar singer searching for a way to save her son after he is hospitalized.

Five Fingers For Marseilles

This South African "neo-western" tells the story of Five Fingers, an outlaw who returns to his small hometown in the Eastern Cape on a quest to restore peace. The film was shot entirely in the Eastern Cape and features a predominantly black cast—it's offers a much needed variation on the classically white film genre.

BOOM FOR REAL The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat

This documentary by Sara Driver, explores the eminent artist's life and work before he reached staggering success in the art world. The film offers commentary on race, sexuality and more as young Basquiat navigates his way through the transformational 1980s New York arts scene.

Grace Jones: Bloodlight and Bami

This documentary, directed by Stephanie Fiennes, examines the singular life and career of Jamaican-born new wave icon Grace Jones. The film was made over the course of a decade. Live clips form her most recent performances are interspersed intimate footage of the singer with her family in Jamaica and during recent studio sessions.

I Am Not a Witch

In her debut feature, Zambian director, Rungano Nyoni, paints the tale of Shula, a young girl sent away to live in a "witch camp" after she is accused of sorcery. The film uses elements of fiction and magical realism to offer social commentary on gender and social ostracism.


Jamaican film director, Clement Virgo's 1995 debut feature film will show during this year's festival. The film is celebrated for its groundbreaking and nuanced depiction of Black Canadian life.


This film chronicles the day-to-day of Liberian anti-illegal logging activist Silas Siakor over the course of 5 years. Filmmakers, Anjali Nayar and Hawa Essuman follow the determined citizen as he advocates for social and environmental reform. His actions helped expose the environmental threats brought on by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf's presidency.

Still Water Runs Deep

This 16-minute short by director Abbesi Akhamie shares a thought-provoking exploration of the dynamics of fatherhood, through the portrait of a Nigerian patriarch dealing with the complications that arise in his family life after his estranged son goes missing.

The Crying Conch

Mauritian director Vincent Toi puts a mythical lens on Haitian history, through a retelling of the 18th century slave revolt that made the island-nation the "First Black Republic."

The Number

In this gritty drama from South African filmmaker Khalo Matabane, a long-time member of one of South Africa's most notorious prison gangs, questions his commitment to the group after witnessing the brutal murder of a young initiate. The harrowing story is based on real events.

The Royal Hibiscus Hotel

This Nollywood rom-com, by Kaduna-born director Ishaya Bako, is about a young restauranteur who returns home to Lagos to work at her parents' hotel only to find that they  plan to sell it. She finds herself in a tangled web of animosity and attraction when she falls for that the successful, eligible bachelor who wants to buy the hotel.

Photo by Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Hugh Masekela's New York City Legacy

A look back at the South African legend's time in New York City and his enduring presence in the Big Apple.

In Questlove's magnificent documentary, Summer of Soul, he captures a forgotten part of Black American music history. But in telling the tale of the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, the longtime musician and first-time filmmaker also captures a part of lost South African music history too.

Among the line-up of blossoming all-stars who played the Harlem festival, from a 19-year-old Stevie Wonder to a transcendent Mavis Staples, was a young Hugh Masekela. 30 years old at the time, he was riding the wave of success that came from releasing Grazing in the Grass the year before. To watch Masekela in that moment on that stage is to see him at the height of his time in New York City — a firecracker musician who entertained his audiences as much as he educated them about the political situation in his home country of South Africa.

The legacy Masekela sowed in New York City during the 1960s remains in the walls of the venues where he played, and in the dust of those that are no longer standing. It's in the records he made in studios and jazz clubs, and on the Manhattan streets where he once posed with a giant stuffed zebra for an album cover. It's a legacy that still lives on in tangible form, too, in the Hugh Masekela Heritage Scholarship at the Manhattan School of Music.

The school is the place where Masekela received his education and met some of the people that would go on to be life-long bandmates and friends, from Larry Willis (who, as the story goes, Masekela convinced to give up opera for piano) to Morris Goldberg, Herbie Hancock and Stewart Levine, "his brother and musical compadre," as Mabusha Masekela, Bra Hugh's nephew says.

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