Festival preview features Afro-Punk

Members of the York community will get a special preview of the Regent Park Film Festival with the screening of the documentary film Afro-Punk: The “Rock n Roll Nigger” Experience on Friday, Oct. 1, in room 305 Founders College beginning at 2pm.

The 66-minute film by director James Spooner, who will be on hand for a post-screening discussion, explores race identity within the punk scene. The event is being organized by York’s African Studies Program and the Centre for Human Rights & Equity. The Regent Park Film Festival, which runs from Friday to Sunday, is organized by York alumna Chandra Siddan (BEd ’03).

Right: Chandra Siddan, festival director

Afro-Punk looks at the lives of four people committed to the punk rock lifestyle and explores issues such as loneliness, exile, inter-racial dating and black power. Living the dual life of a person of colour in a mostly white community, they find themselves in conflicting situations. The documentary combines interviews from scores of black punk rockers with scenes from the protagonists’ lives. Although they are of different regions, generations, genders and sexual preferences, their stories are the same.

spoonerLeft: James Spooner

Begun in 2003, the festival is organized by a group of cinephiles who believe in the power of cinema to build communities, increase interesting and multicultural relationships and empower individuals. It is dedicated to bringing films relevant to the communities living in Regent Park with an emphasis on films from their countries of origin (South Asia, Africa, Asia and Latin America) as well as films from North America about immigrant diaspora issues which will help the communities envision their present and future in Canada.

Siddan was born in Bangalore, India, where she studied English literature. She studied film making in New York and worked on several short films and a documentary in Germany. She has lived in Toronto since 2000 and continues to write and pursue film projects. On her arrival in Toronto, she was struck by the need for cultural events for new immigrants.

“The perspectives of newcomers to Canada are usually left out in the cold, even in a culturally rich and diverse city like Toronto,” says Siddan. “Immigrants fall back on cultural products from the countries they left behind, none of which address the issues that made them leave their countries in the first place. Here they are confronted by a sophisticated media establishment that sells products, unrealistic fantasies of social mobility and the ‘American way of life’.

“The Regent Park Film Festival is a grassroots attempt to break the sense of alienation and isolation felt by many newcomers. We are bringing multiculturalism into the realm of popular immigrant discourse and a dissemination of thought-provoking ideas through film.”

The festival is free and open to anyone over 18. Friday night’s Youth Program, also free, is open to all ages.

For more information about Siddan, see the April 2004 feature story on The Hindu Web site.