Hatian-born actress Fabienne Colas had no problem capturing the movie screen light when she began her career in her home country.
But when the experienced actress moved to Montreal, she quickly noticed there was a vast scarcity of visible minorities in the Canada film industry.
“You cannot find a job in the cinema and movie industry because of your skin colour, or your accent,” Colas said.
Inspired to create positive change for the black community in film, she set out to create Canada’s first black film festival, with the aim of showcasing diversity on all film platforms.
“When we decided to do the first Montreal Black Film Festival, I was very amazed and shocked, happily surprised, to see that we had thousands of people. That means people are craving diversity on screen, people want to see something else, they want to escape, they want to see other stories,” she said.
Now, Colas manages seven black film festivals around the world, including the Halifax Black Film Festival, where the multi-day event wrapped up with a panel discussion on the importance of diversity in the film industry.
“I think media is how we see ourselves. We are seeing how we are reflected, so we are learning about our humanity, we are learning about who we are from our media and from what we’re ingesting,” said Koumbie, a Nova Scotia-born actress, producer and director.
Koumbie believes developing on-screen characters who represent visible minorities is crucial for audience members to connect with the stories.
“When we see well-developed, deep characters, we get to say, oh I don’t have to be this thing, I can be who I am,” Koumbie said.
Both Colas and Koumbie believe it’s important to diversify all roles within the film industry as a whole, not just the actors that appear on-screen.
“I was only focused on acting for a long time because I had never seen a black female director before, so I didn’t know that that was an option for me. So I think stuff like this is so important, to showcase the people who are doing it so that other people can see that it’s possible,” Koumbie said.
© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.