Canadian Producers Plan to Finance More Diverse Films

Loving 2 - H 2016
Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

With buzzy titles like 'The Birth of a Nation' and 'Loving' dealing with issues of race at TIFF, Canadian filmmakers unveiled plans to promote better representation by 2020.

Hollywood's diversity debate has spread to Canada.

In time for the start of the Toronto Film Festival, Canadian indie filmmakers on Thursday revealed they have their own diversity problem on local cinema screens.

"When Canadian films are at their best, they reflect the rich experience and perspectives of the people who make up our diverse nation," Reynolds Mastin, president and CEO of the Canadian Media Producers Association, representing indie producers, said in a statement.

After falling short of that goal, the indie producers and Telefilm Canada, Canada's main film financier, announced they have formed a joint working group to secure a more "representative and diversified" feature film portfolio with the goal to better reflect gender and diversity by 2020.

Both parties stopped short of quantifying the number of diverse characters they want to see onscreen at the local multiplex within five years. "Building a portfolio that better reflects Canadian society is a priority for us," Carolle Brabant, Telefilm's executive director, added in her own statement.

"I'm very pleased to see that the industry is committed to change," she added about a domestic film industry highly dependent on government subsidies and tax breaks to finalize indie film budgets. To promote diversity, Telefilm at the Toronto Film Festival this year will pay tribute to 12 Canadian women in film, including actors, directors and screenwriters, during its Birks Diamond Tribute.

The Canadian industry's drive toward diversity follows the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences unveiling changes in its structure and voting regulations to similarly promote diversity. Canada's diversity debate getting under way here also follows the Toronto festival giving an international premiere to Nate Parker's The Birth of a Nation, about an American slave rebellion, despite recent revelations about the director's past.

Other buzzy titles in Toronto dealing with race relations include writer-director Jeff Nichols' Loving and Amma Asante's A United Kingdom. The Toronto Film Festival, which launches today with a racially diverse cast to promote the opening night film, The Magnificent Seven, continues through Sept. 18.