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10 Films Starring People of Color Leads to Watch at TIFF 2019

Another Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is upon us, and with it comes a slew of new and exciting feature films, shorts, documentaries and more to take in. As TIFF always strives for inclusivity and diversity, there are always a plethora of titles to choose from that highlight people of color, and this year is no different. 

For any of you who have the pleasure to attend TIFF this year, here are some of the films featuring people of color that you should see at this year’s festival:

Blood Quantum

A part of TIFF’s famed Midnight Madness lineup, Jeff Barnaby’s Blood Quantum is an unseen take on the zombie apocalypse. In a world that’s been taken over by this disease, an isolated Mi’gmaq is the only place that is immune to this zombie-creating plague. Now the citizens are forced to make a tough decision – do they provide refuge to those who are on the run from the deadly disease, or do they choose to keep their reserve off-limits?

Starring Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Kawenna’Here Devery Jacobs, Michael Greyeyes, Brandon Oakes, William Belleau, Gary Farmer, Forrest Goodluck, Kiowa Gordon, Olivia Scriven, Stonehorse Lone Goeman, and is the festival’s opening Midnight Madness film on Sept. 5th. 


(photo by Eric Branco)

In Chinonye Chukwu’s feature film directorial debut, a death-row prison warden deals with the extreme pressures of her job as it begins to take a psychological toll on her when she has to execute yet another inmate.

Starring Alfre Woodard, Wendell Pierce and Aldis Hodge, Clemency premieres at TIFF on Sept. 13th.


(photo by Parrish Lewis)

Writer/Director Minhal Baig brings her timely coming-of-age story to TIFF with rising star, Geraldine Viswanathan portraying the film’s titular character. As the only child of Pakistani immigrants, Hala must navigate her relationship with her overprotective parents and her desires for independence. 

Also starring Jack Kilmer, Diego Luna, Purbi Joshi and Azad Khan, Hala makes its debut at the festival on Sept. 9th. 


(Courtesy of Focus Features)

Kasi Lemmons is back in the director’s chair as she helms the biopic of famed abolitionist Harriet Tubman. Risking her life on a mission to help and free others from the bonds of slavery using the Underground Railroad, Harriet shows Tubman driven by her visions from God on her quest to save thousands as she brings them to Canada. 

Starring Cynthia Erivo, Janelle Monaé, Leslie Odom Jr. and Joe Alwyn, Harriet has its world premiere at the festival on Sept. 10th. 


(Courtesy of Annapurna Pictures/STX Films)

In Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers, Exotic dancers decide to flip the script on their Wall Street clients after the 2008 financial crisis. With less and less money coming in, Destiny, Ramona, and their comrades decide to embark on a more devious and dangerous quest to make money – despite what it may cost them.

Starring Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Mercedes Ruehl, Cardi B and Lizzo, Hustlers premieres at the festival on Sept. 7th.


(Courtesy of Barunson E&A/CJ Entertainment)

Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival, Bong Joon-ho’s genre-bending tale is about a lower-class family who manage to scheme their way into working for an upper-class family. Described by Bong himself as “a comedy without clowns and a tragedy without villains,” Parasite is definitely one to watch at the festival this year.  

Starring Song Kang-ho, Lee Sun-kyun, Cho Yeo-jeong, Choi Woo-shik, Park So-dam, Lee Jung-eun and Chang Hyae-jin, Parasite premieres at the festival on Sept. 6th. 


(Courtesy of Fable Pictures)

Set in London, England, Rocks is a coming-of-age tale different from ones seen in the past. After her single mother abandons their family, Rocks has to do cope with what she should do, as well as come to terms with the relative normality of her friends lives in juxtaposition to hers.

Starring Bukky Bakray, Kosar Ali, D’angelou Osei Kissiedu, Shaneigha-Monik Greyson, Ruby Stokes, Tawheda Begum, Anastasia Dymitrow, Afi Okaidja and Sarah Niles, Rocks premieres at the Festival on Sept. 5th.

The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open

(Courtesy of Experimental Forest Films)

An act of kindness finds one woman’s life colliding with another’s in this story about domestic violence and humanity, based on one of director’s Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers personal experiences.

Starring Tailfeathers, Violet Nelson, Charlie Hannah, Barbara Eve Harris and Jay Cardinal Villeneuve, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open premieres at the festival on Sept. 8th.

The Obituary of Tunde Johnson

(Courtesy of Zgreen Entertainment)

In Ali LeRoi’s feature debut, the filmmaker highlights the light of a gay African-American teenager after he is murdered at the hands of the police during a traffic stop. However, this is not the end of Tunde’s tale as he is trapped in a tragic time loop which forces him to relive this day in his life over and over again.  

Starring Steven Silver, Spencer Neville and Nicola Peltz, The Obituary of Tunde Johnson is set to premiere at the festival on Sept. 8th.


(Courtesy of A24)

Written and directed by Trey Edward Shults, Waves is a drama that revolves around a family in South Florida as they navigate love, loss, forgiveness and pain in a myriad of ways after a string of tragic events.

Starring Kelvin Harrison Jr, Lucas Hedges, Taylor Russell, Alexa Demie, Neal Huff, Clifton Collins Jr., Renée Elise Goldsberry and Sterling K. Brown, Waves premieres at the festival on Sept. 10th.

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