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SEPTEMBER TO REMEMBER: Upcoming Tdot/NYC Events

Hey y’all!

It’s been a minute since I did an “upcoming events” post, but there are so many great things coming up that I just had to share! If you’re in the Toronto/NYC areas, take a peek at what’s going on in the next couple of weeks!

CaribbeanTales International Film Festival – Closing Night + Afterparty

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I recently wrote about this year’s CaribbeanTales Int’l Film Festival, and #CTFF2014 has flown by! This Saturday is the final screening date, with festival awards, a special Q+A with soca queen Alison Hinds, and an afterparty at Hush Lounge!

Celebrating the indigenous populations, Caribbean literature, LGBTQ, and many other facets of Caribbean cinema, #CTFF2014 has again thrived successfully in light of TIFF – the film festival Goliath. If you haven’t yet hit up The Royal Cinema for a screening, catch features tonight, then come back for the closing tomorrow! Get your tickets here!

3 The Hard Way Comedy Show

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If you’re a comedy show lover, you do not want to miss 3 The Hard Way going down at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Saturday! Jay Martin, Trixx, and Jean Paul will be back for another gritty and hilarious comedy show after the first sold-out 3 The Hard Way last year – but this time, they’ve got special guests! Filipino funnymen Keith Pedro, Ron Josol, and Big Norm will also take the stage, so attendees will get two times the comedy in one show! Culture clash + comedy = an awesome night! Get your 3 The Hard Way tickets now!

Secrets Of A Side Hustler

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Last year, I was honoured to be on the panel for an innovative event called Secrets Of A Side Hustler held by my friend Chivon John. The event focused on the perspectives of those of us who are juggling full-time gigs and side hustles – the ups, downs, ins and outs of how to manage it all. This year, Chivon has curated another awesome group of panelists for the 2014 event happening on September 18th! Are you balancing more than one job/passion? Are you thinking of devoting more time to your side hustle dreams after you’ve finished your 9-5? This event is for you! Get more info and tickets here!

The Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show

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The Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show is back for its 9th year, and I’m sure it will NOT disappoint! On September 20th and 21st, tons of natural hair & beauty lovers flock to the event to take in educational workshops, shop from awesome vendors, watch beautiful hair shows, and meet and greet with other people in the community! I’ll be speaking again this year on the 20th, discussing Natural Hair In The Digital Sphere: Blogs, Beauty, & Building Bridges. My talk this year will focus on navigating the digital world of natural hair, and how the digital communities and natural hair professionals can work together to strengthen alliances. Get all the show details and ticket information here!

And for the NYC massive…

Live From The Background w/ Durand Bernarr

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My homegirl Keya Maeesha is hosting yet another dope live show in NYC on September 19th, featuring Durand Bernarr with special guest Domi Jo. The premise of this event is a unique one – background vocalists are the backbones responsible for adding to the lushness and fullness of our favourite tracks, and Live From The Background will bring some of the industry’s finest to the forefront! This is also Keya’s last show until next fall, so whether you’ve never experienced one of her shows, or if you’ve been to ‘em all – this one will be special and you do NOT want to miss it. Get details and tickets here!

#CTFF2014 IS COMING: Win Tickets To The CaribbeanTales Int’l Film Festival!

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As my granny would say, “Idle hands are the Devil’s playground.” If that’s the case, ole Mr. Lucifer is having NO fun with me.

Over the past few months, I’ve reprised my role within the CaribbeanTales International Film Festival, working on film curation, programming, and more for this year’s festival. Three years ago, I sent in an email with fingers crossed, hoping I’d be able to get the opportunity to do something, ANYTHING with the festival, and I came on as a social media volunteer. In 2013 I was asked back as a film juror, and this year, I’m stompin’ with the big dawgs on the festival team! There’s another post in here around the idea of taking risks, asking for what you want, and watching things grow as you pay your dues – but I may save that for another day. On THIS day, I want to give you the scoop on #CTFF2014, and give one lucky reader the chance to win a pair of tickets to the festival’s opening gala on September 3rd!

Running from September 3-13, the CaribbeanTales International Film Festival is the David in the David and Goliath structure of Toronto film festivals. CTFF runs alongside TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival), which is simultaneously a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because CTFF and TIFF partner strategically for various programs like the CaribbeanTales Incubator – a mentorship program for Caribbean filmmakers. It’s a curse because media coverage sways like a tidal wave over TIFF, leaving CTFF to reach out to niche audiences that would be interested in its films. Jamaicans say “wi likkle but wi tallawah” (“we’re small but mighty”), and that phrase undoubtedly fits perfectly with CTFF.

The CaribbeanTales International Film Festival features films from Caribbean and diasporic filmmakers, highlighting the region as the world’s next hot film industry. The Caribbean has always been mined as an ideal location for Hollywood film, but until recently hasn’t had the infrastructure to stand on its own. That infrastructure is still being built, but CTFF does a major part in highlighting the amazing work being done by filmmakers in the region, and those in the diaspora.

The theme this year is “Our Lens, Our Perspective,” and features films on sub-themes like “Indigenous Caribbean,” “Caribbean Literature,” “Queer Caribbean,” and more. In a day and age where diversity and representation are hot topics in film and media, CTFF provides an outlet to embrace those very elements. If you’re looking for something fresh and off the beaten path when it comes to film, CTFF has got you covered!

We’ll be joined by some special guests this year – soca/calypso legend Sparrow will be in town for the opening gala for an exclusive Q&A and world premiere screening of Geoffrey Dunn’s The Glamour Boyz Again! Sparrow and Superior on the Hilton Rooftop. On the festival’s closing night – named Bajan Invasion –  soca queen Alison Hinds will be here for a Q&A and screening of thriller Too Smart, where she makes her feature film debut. In between opening and closing are a number of incredible screenings – see film lineup (including details on the FREE community screening on August 30th) here, and purchase your tickets (opening gala, closing night, single screening, and all-access festival pass) here!

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All that being said – I’m giving away a pair of tickets to the #CTFF2014 Opening Gala! One lucky reader and a guest will join me and Sparrow at The Royal Cinema on September 3rd at 6pm for the gala held in partnership with the Consulate General of the Republic of Trinidad & Tobago. It’ll be a night to enjoy some delicious food, incredible film, exclusive Q&A with a Caribbean legend, and ring in the festival while rubbing shoulders with major figures in the Caribbean/diasporic film and media industries!

You’ve got two ways to win: 

1. Email me at bee@83toinfinity.com and let me know what your dream Caribbean vacation would look like. Where would you go? What would you do?

2. Tweet this in order to enter for your chance to win!

Either way you choose, you’ll be entered to win! I’ll pick a winner on August 21st – good luck!

Early bird ticket prices end on August 15thget your #CTFF2014 tickets today!

ARTSY FARTSY: Black Nativity Toronto Screening Recap

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Though us Canadians celebrated our Thanksgiving 6 weeks ago, it’s not hard to get caught up in the festivities with my American homies as they prepare for feasts of gratitude this weekend. I know that as soon as the food has settled and the tryptophan has taken hold, it’ll be time to look forward to the Christmas season – and thanks to the good folks at Fox Searchlight, I got a dose of the holiday warm and fuzzies at a Toronto screening of Black Nativity on Monday night!

Starring Jennifer Hudson, Jacob Latimore, Tyrese Gibson, Angela Bassett, and Forest Whitaker, Black Nativity is a modern film adaptation of the classic play by Langston Hughes. Filled with themes of family, struggle, forgiveness, and love, the film centres around the traditional Christian Nativity story. I won’t give away any more, but I will tell you my 5 favourite things about Black Nativity!

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1. Harlem

This summer, I spent a weekend in Harlem for the Blogging While Brown Conference, and fell ALL the way in love. I know there’s nothing new about New York City serving as the backdrop for cinema, but I was giddy as the camera shots panned past spots I ate at, shopped at, hung out at…you get the point. I don’t remember how many times I grabbed HomieLuva’s arm and said, “I went there!” He rolled his eyes, but you know he allowed me my moment. The Harlem shots in the film (and the brownstone where a chunk of the movie took place) were gorgeous.

2. Angela Bassett

I’ve always been a fervent worshipper at the altar of Angela, but my standom exploded this year with her amazing turn as Marie Laveau on American Horror Story: Coven. It was a shift to see her playing a prim and proper preacher’s wife and grandmother in Black Nativity, but she was fierce all the same. I love the diversity of her work, and thought she played this role with the perfect amount of emotion without tipping into ‘corny’ country. She even sang a little bit, and I was surprised to hear that she can carry a note! G’on then, Auntie Angela!

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3. Jacob Latimore

Now, I didn’t know much about this young whippersnapper before coming into the movie, except for the random fact that he’s supposedly the newest member of Mindless Behaviour (don’t ask me how I know this). I admittedly don’t have other work to compare him to, but I really enjoyed his role as Langston, the star of the film. The tough-shelled teen with an immense love for his mother and a desire for more out of life…he did that. His voice is amazing, and he has the makings of a wonderful actor, so it’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here.

4. The Church

Now, I’m not the most church-going person in the world. I wasn’t raised in the church, and only started going when I fell in love with a boy who was. Church still often feels like a foreign place where everyone is speaking a language that I don’t understand, but I’d be lying if I said that my symbolism- and ceremony-loving self didn’t see beauty in it. Given that the film is called Black Nativity, I knew there would be an indelible religious overtone. Sometimes that can be intimidating to me, but the film’s presentation was actually quite lovely. Forest Whitaker played a great preacher (even if his pseudo-Brit accent seemed a bit off for a preacher in Harlem), and I could tell that the majority of the audience was really into it.

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5. The Music

Black Nativity trailers let me know early on that this was going to be more of a musical than anything else. I’ll be honest – I wasn’t that keen on watching people skip from dialogue to musical solos on the big screen, but thought I’d give it a chance. The voices in the film – Jennifer, Jacob, Tyrese, Mary J. Blige, and guest spots by Luke James and Grace Gibson (Lynn Whitfield’s daughter!) were very well-chosen. Nas also had a couple of prime pieces in the film, threading hip hop throughout in a cool way. My boo, Raphael Saadiq, was the musical director, so as the credits rolled in the first few minutes of the film, I got excited. The music is definitely the star of Black Nativity, and I was pleasantly surprised!

Black Nativity opens in theatres everywhere today, so if you’re in the mood for a feel-good movie that you can see with the family (I don’t remember the last time I saw a movie with HomieLuva and our goddaughter that we all enjoyed), check it out! Major shout-outs to Fox Searchlight for providing me with passes for a few lucky winners – we had a wonderful discussion after the film, and many people are bringing their families back for another viewing this week!

This was a sponsored post, but y’all know I give only the real deal. If you were at the screening, or if you happen to see the film on opening weekend – let me know what you think!

P.S.: The Syndicate. This Saturday. Be there! 

ARTSY FARTSY: Interview With Camille Lauren + Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show Giveaway

Arta Gallery, Distillery District

At Arta Gallery, Distillery District

Sometimes, you’ve just got to say no.

I found myself in a rut with this blog not too long ago – I was getting a lot of requests to either post things on my blog or do blogging favours for other people, but when it came down to it, the other party always fell through. I shunned the idea of partnering with anyone else for a while, then I got an email inviting me to an art gallery event in the Distillery District. I had met one of the featured artists before, and her publicist invited me to the event with the hopes that I would feature her on the blog. I was so ready to send my “thanks, but no thanks” email – but first, I satisfied my curiosity by going to her site.

That “no” turned into a “yes” with the quickness.

Camille ‘Ciel’ Lauren is a Toronto-based, Curacao-born visual artist currently studying at OCAD (Ontario College of Art & Design) – her company Art of Ciel is inspired by sea and sand, a nod to her Caribbean upbringing.  As the Branding Director for the multi-arts production company Spoke N Heard, she was a driving force behind the creation of the Emanate Gallery Exhibit held at Arta Gallery last month. I fell in love with the art on her site – from her commissioned pieces to her inspired artwork to her live event paintings (yes, she will capture your event live and on canvas), I could see the talent and beauty that radiates from her pieces, and couldn’t wait to see them up-close.

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Brown Sugar Steaming by Camille Lauren

NaturalistaGlam by Camille Lauren

NaturalistaGlam by Camille Lauren

I was lucky enough to do a quick interview with Camille where she told me more about her work and inspiration:

On how her love of art was born…

“Art was just my most natural response. It’s been a way to express myself ever since I was 4. When I came to Canada, it was a thing I used even more to…maybe like a shield in my younger years. I was very shy, so if I was moving to a new school, I’d always have my sketchbook – and even if I didn’t make any friends, art was my way to interpret the world. It just continued – in high school I started painting on canvas, and I loved it. ”

On her biggest inspiration…

“My inspiration comes from conversations, stories that I hear from people – they make me want to reach in and depict that. I like to create an eternal moment to share. You can have a feeling about something, and maybe you tell it to someone and they forget. When you paint it, it’s there for everyone to see.”

How she got involved with Spoke N Heard…

“Three years ago, Spoke N Heard’s creator told me about his vision to unite the arts. Over time I found myself doing graphic design and promotion, and then I became the Branding Director. With this show, Celia Wilson (Creative Director & Curator) and I worked really closely to refine the theme, and the team brought it together. We sent out a lot of different artist submission calls on the web, as far as we could go.”

What her 5-10 year plan is with regards to her art…

“I’m starting my own business, Art of Ciel, to reach further with my art. It’s growing into much more than just art, but I’m taking it one step at a time. I’m looking to art merchandising, and clothing embellishments and design – just trying to broaden it out a bit.”

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Camille and I

Camille and I

To say I’m happy I didn’t decline Camille’s invitation is an understatement. Her art really spoke to me with her use of colour, texture, and movement, and it was amazing to see them up-close and personal. It was also wonderful to hear her tell her own story about her inspirations and aspirations – and sidenote: her hair is DOPE. Now…all I have to do is start saving my pennies to get a piece or two!

Check out Camille’s website, and follow her on Twitter – and stay in touch with Spoke N Heard to support amazing art and artists!

P.S – Don’t forget that I’ll be speaking at the Toronto Natural Hair & Beauty Show this weekend! I’m giving away 2 sets of tickets to the show – one full weekend pass and one Sunday pass. Saturday is all about informative workshops (including mine called ‘Navigating Natural Hair in the Online World’), and Sunday is workshops + vendors + hair and fashion showcase and more! Comment here and let me know why you want to go the TNHBS – bonus points if you follow me on Twitter and tweet me to say that you entered! The winners will be drawn and announced on Friday! 

SAY YES: A Cinematic Gift From Ava DuVernay & Fashion Fair

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Ava DuVernay has done it again. With near impeccable timing in the social media landscape (at least for me), she has offered us another piece of work that flies in the face of other, uh, recent artistic endeavours (Russell Simmons, I’m looking at you).

After giving us The Door - a sleek and lush short film done in partnership with fashion house Miu Miu earlier this year – she has given the world 7 minutes of beauty with Say Yes.

Say Yes was done in partnership with African-American makeup company Fashion Fair, and is a seamless vehicle for showcasing their new lip colour of the same name. “The film explores the power of the affirmative, and the beauty that blossoms from embracing life,” states Fashion Fair. “Sundance award-winning filmmaker, Ava DuVernay worked on this vision of what happens when you welcome the unexpected.”

Welcoming the unexpected is exactly what I did when I pressed play, and in true Ava DuVernay fashion, she gave me my entire life. Something about her work speaks to me as a young Black woman in 2013: feelings I’ve felt, things I’ve experienced, things I’ve wanted to experience. She portrays images of Black women that speak to the woman I am, and gives me versions that I devour, ingest, and try on for size in my waking life. Her works often pique little parts of me that say “have more fun!” or “treat yourself!” or “walk a little taller!” or “love a little harder!” – and in a world that often hurls rocks at Black women to test the theory that we’re strong enough to handle it all, I welcome her artistic alternatives.

Without giving away too much of Say Yes, just know this: it looks like everyone in it said “yes” to everything good in life. The film takes place at a dope house party where dope Black folk are having a dope time. Drinks are flowing, music is bumping, and throughout all the revelry, a gorgeous girl is looking for something…or someone. What she finds is directly related to the ideas of embracing life and welcoming the unexpected.

OK. Enough with the long talkin’ – check out Ava DuVernay’s short Say Yes and let me know what you thought of it.

P.S. – I’m LOVING that Say Yes lip colour on the female lead!

 

ARTSY FARTSY: Caribbean Film Screening With Gems of the Caribbean

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Frances Anne Solomon w/ representatives from Islands of the Caribbean

Last summer, I heard about a Caribbean film festival that was going to be taking place in Toronto. My love of the arts and my unyielding Caribbean pride pushed me to send an email to the media contact, asking if there was any way I – a small, local blogger – could get involved. I wasn’t expecting much of a response, but lo and behold, I received one. From that moment, I started volunteering with the Caribbean Tales Film Festival, and I’m back for another run this year!

A little background: Caribbean Tales Worldwide Distribution is a company founded by filmmaker Frances Anne Solomon, which seeks to celebrate Caribbean film, support Caribbean filmmakers, and build up the Caribbean as a viable and valuable artistic market. A Toronto-based film festival has been part of Caribbean Tales’ offering to the world, and this year marks the 8th annual Caribbean Tales Film Festival.

This weekend marks the kick-off of a new partnership between Caribbean Tales, Islands of the Caribbean (a tourism board conglomerate representing Jamaica, Grenada, Antigua & Barbuda, St . Lucia, and St. Vincent), and the CNE (Canadian National Exhibition). August 17th, 18th, and 30th will be the Gems of the Caribbean Screening Series at the CNE, and it is going to be DOPE. Details were revealed at last month’s Caribbean Tales Media Launch.

“We are delighted to be partnering with the tourism boards as there is a natural fit – they are promoting the Caribbean while we are marketing the brand by telling authentic stories of who we are,” stated Frances Anne Solomon, founder and CEO of CaribbeanTales.

“The Caribbean is more than just sun, sea and sand – it’s about our people, our spirit, our soul, it’s about our story. That’s why visitors are entranced by our islands – that’s why they are in love with our islands and ultimately return to our islands,” says Erica Henry-Jackman, Director of Tourism for the Government of Antigua and Barbuda. “This experience will come alive on film during the Gems of the Caribbean preview nights at the CNE.”

Saturday, August 17th = Jamaica night, featuring various short films and a screening of Marley (which I saw last year and ADORED)

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Sunday, August 18th = Grenada/Antigua & Barbuda night, a.k.a. “Carnival Revelry”, featuring shorts and a screening of Mas Man

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Friday, August 30th = St. Lucia/St. Vincent night, featuring shorts and a screening of Home Again (another film I had the pleasure of seeing)

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All events start at 6:30pm. 

Gems of the Caribbean will also feature details and information about various Caribbean islands, and includes a rum sampling of the best rums in the region! Entrance to the Gems of the Caribbean screening is included with your ticket to the CNE – order online here!

For an Advance Ticket Discount, visit www.theex.com: Click on ‘guest info’, ‘tickets’ and then ‘group or promo code’ to use the unique online access code CT897794. Purchases can be made using a credit or debit card. Don’t forget to print your tickets at home for entry!

The Caribbean Tales Film Festival officially starts with a gala event and screening at the Harbourfront Centre on September 4th, and runs until the 14th. There will be free community screenings, parties, panel discussions, and amazing Caribbean film – and I’ll keep you all posted on the details!

You can find more information on the Caribbean Tales website, Facebook, and Twitter – the Gems of the Caribbean Screening Series will be held at the International Pavilion, Hall B, Presentation Theatre in the Direct Energy Centre, and more information can be found at booth #3237! See you there! 

ARTSY FARTSY: ‘Home Again’ Film Screening Review

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Murphy’s Law: an adage that states that “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” Sometimes it feels that no matter what we do, life throws us lemon after lemon, knocking over the glasses of lemonade we’ve resigned ourselves to and laughing at us in the process. Other times, the choices we make are the things that steer us headfirst into misfortune. Either way, Murphy’s Law finds its way into our lives at one point or another – and this was one of the unforgettable lessons of Sudz Sutherland’s gripping new film, Home Again.

I was lucky enough to obtain a press pass to the film courtesy of Hungry Eyes Film & Television and G 98.7FM. Home Again opens at select theatres across the GTA, Vancouver, and Montreal this Friday, but I was excited to screen the movie in advance.

Home Alone stars Tatyana Ali, Lyriq Bent, Stephan James, Fefe Dobson, and CCH Pounder as various characters who have their lives changed in Jamaica. Marva (Ali), Dunston (Bent), and Everton (James) are 3 deportees from Toronto, NYC, and London England who all find themselves forced back to a country they all left before the age of 5.

Poor decisions (well-intentioned or otherwise) landed the three back in Jamaica, but Murphy’s Law was what welcomed them with open arms. Home Again unfolds itself in their stories which often intersect in interesting ways, and shows us the lengths that people will go to in order to survive – no matter how many times life tries to knock them down.

The husband-wife team of Sutherland and Jennifer Holness wrote a story that was complex without being too messy, and eye-opening without being too invasive. Each character offered such a multi-dimensional view of family, loyalty, relationships, and the deportation process in general that any one could have had an entire film crafted solely around them. Deportation within the diaspora has become such a common theme that it’s hard to step back and really look at the layout of the process until you’re forced to – and that’s what this movie did for me. I recall some of my father’s friends being deported when I was young, but I absorbed it as something that just happened. You shrug your shoulder, buy a few international phone cards, and move on with life. Home Again exposed the audience to the failures of the system on all sides – the “foreign” country’s unfair deportation practices (usually for low-level crimes), family negligence of proper filing of paperwork, and Jamaica’s lack of support for those who return, unfamiliar and lost in a place that they never knew.

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At many times throughout the film, I wondered if any of our protagonists would have a happy ending. Marva left children behind in Toronto, and her Jamaican family is less than supportive. Dunston hopped from one life of crime in New York to another in Kingston. Everton was the private school-educated young man with a promising future whose naivete affected him the most out of any other character in the film. Needless to say, Home Again overflows with searing reality. In real life, not everyone can have a happy ending, and art definitely imitated life in this case. Gang life, sexual abuse, and drug abuse play as vital roles as any of the characters, but Home Again also has its lighter moments. Themes of love and redemption are strong, and there are crucial comedic moments that add a necessary break from the struggles the main characters face.

I loved the small details in the film as well. Caribbean film usually includes subtitles to assist viewers who can’t catch the fast-moving patois. I often find the subtitles to be jarring – slapped on-screen and sometimes removed too quickly to follow what the character is saying. Sutherland incorporated subtitles that seemed to float across the screen – not taking your attention away, but not leaving you lost in the process. I also loved the nuance used with regards to sex and sexuality in the film. I’m no prude, but I’ve grown weary of the gratuitous sex scenes that I’ve seen in other Caribbean film. I may just be sensitive to reinforcing the hypersexualized stereotypes of Caribbean men and women, but it was refreshing to see sexuality played out in a more subdued (yet equally effective) way. The cinematography was utterly gorgeous – though the film was shot in Trinidad, the arranged settings of Trenchtown, Spanish Town, and other areas of Jamaica were beautiful. My biggest concern was how the actors would pull off authentic Jamaican accents, and I was pleasantly surprised for the most part! My ear could pick out a few actors who were clearly Trinidadian playing Jamaicans, and some other cast members fell flat with a bit of their pronunciation, but overall it was great. In fact, the mixture of Torontonian, New Yorker, Jamaican, and British accents were like musical melodies, and was an audible tie to the diasporic reach of Jamaica, and the Caribbean at large.

Home Again had the theatre laughing, gasping, cursing and the screen, and dead silent. The surprises and “did that REALLY just happen?” moments kept us on the edge of our seats and engrossed in the story playing out in front of us. The heartbreaking moments, the difficult-to-watch moments, the moments that gave us respite from the harsh realities of what we were ingesting – it was all laid out in perfect puzzle piece form, with everything eventually coming together to give us one cohesive view. Though Murphy’s Law was prominent for me, Home Again also left me with a strong sense of perseverance and the fact that the next choice you make might just have the power to turn things around. If you’re looking for an amazing film that educates while it emotes and entertains, Home Again is what you need in your life.

 For my Toronto/Vancouver/Montreal peeps, Home Again hits select theatres starting this Friday! PLEASE go out to support on opening weekend, and let the power of Canadian-Caribbean cinema be known! Check the Home Again Facebook page for more details. For my American friends, check the Home Again site to see when the film might be playing in your area. Caribbean cinema is making serious moves – Storm Saulter is seeing big success with the AFFRM-backed release of his film Better Mus Come (which I reviewed last year), so the sky is the limit for Home Again! Definitely let me know what you thought of the film after you see it! 

SISTERHOOD & FRIENDSHIP: The Door By Ava DuVernay & Miu Miu

What do you get when you combine the following:

  • Beautiful cinematography
  • Beautiful Black women
  • Beautiful clothing
  • Beautiful music

and

  • A beautiful storyline?

As I found out last night, you get The Door – an amazing artistic partnership between filmmaker Ava DuVernay and fashion brand Miu Miu.

Ava DuVernay was the first African-American woman to win the Best Director Prize at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival for her film Middle of Nowhere. She collaborated with Miu Miu to create a short film as part of the fashion brand’s “Women’s Tales” series, featuring an awesome showing of Miu Miu clothing – and it is gorgeous. Starring Gabrielle Union, Alfre Woodard, Adepero Oduye, Emayatzy Corinealdi, and Goapele, this 9-minute short uses everything except words to tell a poignant story of sisterhood and self-discovery. This was a lovely yet unexpected visual that gave me something I didn’t know I needed.

Here’s the description from Miu Miu:

The Door, by Ava DuVernay, the fifth Miu Miu Women’s Tale, is a celebration of the transformative power of feminine bonds, and a symbolic story of life change. The symbolic centre of The Door is the front entrance of the protagonist’s home. As she opens it to greet a friend in the powerfully framed opening scenes, she is shrouded in an oblique sadness.

“In the film, characters arrive at the door of a friend in need, bringing something of themselves,” explains director DuVernay. “Eventually, we witness our heroine ready to walk through the door on her own. The door in the film represents a pathway to who we are.”

Clothing is also a symbol of renewal, each change of costume charting our heroine’s emergence from a chrysalis of sadness. In the final scenes, she takes off her ring, pulls on long, black leather gloves, and walks, transformed by the emotive power of the clothing, through the door.

Watch The Door here:

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I may be in a particularly sensitive frame of mind right now, but The Door touched me. It made me think about the themes of friendship and sisterhood, love and loss, and who I would lean on in my time of need.

I have a select few close girlfriends who make my heart sing with their love, sincerity, and support. Friends who make me so proud that I celebrate their successes as fervently as if they were my own. Friends who are down for whatever, whenever, however – and I love them. On the flip side, I’ve also experienced the dreaded girlfriend break-up, which has always felt worse than almost any boyfriend break-up in my life.

I once had a sister-friend who would have been the Adepero/Emayatzy/Goapele to my Gabrielle, if it ever came down to it. And if she was Gabrielle, I undoubtedly would have played any one of the supportive sisters to her. I would have bet my last dollar on those facts – but had I ever made such a deal, I would be broke-pocketed and assed-out right now. One day I may write and vent it out, but today I choose to leave the past in peace. I find myself stepping over the charred remains of that friendship with lessons learned, guards up, and a heart temporarily hardened – but I’ve closed that door, and I’m better for it.

Alfre Woodard looks like an older version of my mother, so I always have a soft spot for her and the maternal vibe that radiates everytime I see her. Her presence in The Door was no different, but this time her representation brought to mind someone other than my mother.

We were an unlikely pair. Me – 6ft tall, Black, early twenties, Jamaican-Canadian; her – almost 5ft, White, early sixties, with a shock of red hair and a soft English accent. We worked together in a cosmetics department for a few years, but shared a special Odd Couple-teacher/student kind of friendship. Determining who played what role depended on the lesson at hand, but I definitely think I learned more. The news of her death this weekend shook me harder than I thought it would – sadness mixed with my own phobia of death, then blended with a sense of urgency for more in this fleeting life. The cherry on top of this tragic smoothie? The guilt I felt at continuously putting off sending her an email or making a quick call to see how she was. I’ll email her tomorrow. I’ll give her a call next week. I always thought about her and smiled fondly when I remembered the good old days. I always meant to connect, but never got around to it – and that guilt is a tough pill to swallow. Like the example before, that door is now closed, but I take the lessons and memories and know I am better for them.

Watching The Door when I did, in the particular frame of mind that I did, left me with an all-encompassing feeling of melancholy. It’s a beautiful kind of sorrow though – the kind that makes my breath get caught in my throat, but reminds me that life goes on once I start to breathe smoothly again. Hurt and loss are what they are, but love and sincere friendship can always be found. As in The Door, I remain blessed to be surrounded by women who know my heart and who let me know theirs. I am blessed to have friendships both past and present that bring out my best self. I’m blessed to have the gift of feminine bonds that progress with me through life’s changes, and who’ll walk with me through any door. Thanks to my friends, my sisters, from then and now – I am blessed.

Not sure if Ava DuVernay and Miu Miu would have expected this kind of response to The Door, but there it is! What did you think of The Door? For my ladies, how do you feel about the sisterhoods you have (or have had) in your life?

DOPE READS: Britni Danielle’s Break Out Of Your Box E-Book

When you’re on the track to success and pushing towards your goals and dreams, there’s nothing like having a support group of sincere and likeminded people behind you. Sometimes we’re lucky enough to have family and friends in our corner that push us along, but that isn’t always the case.

Here’s where I’ve found social media has stepped in to save the day. A loooong time ago, I started following writer Britni Danielle on Twitter. I loved the links she posted to her writings, and soaked up the advice she graciously doled out for other aspiring writers and dreamers. When she began mentioning that she was creating a Facebook group called the GOALDiggers (ha!) Project, I made sure I was one of the first to join in. Since then, the GOALDiggers group has served as an awesome sounding board for advice, a place where I can toot my horn, an understanding group where I can vent frustrations, and an environment where I can encourage and help others in their goal attainment as well.

Britni also served as my writing coach for a few sessions, and the knowledge and advice she gave me was priceless. As a writer for publications like Clutch Magazine, JET, Ebony and others, I knew I had to absorb what she had to offer – and her advice has helped me tremendously with my own writing.

In a day and age where people seem to selfishly hoard who they know, what they know, and how they do what they do, Britni is one of the most unselfish and giving success stories I know. While she will humbly say she’s still on her way, I can definitely say she has achieved a level of success many of us will never know – she took charge of her life, created her own lane, and is doing what she loves while taking care of herself and her family. Now, Britni has found a new way to give to those of us who need a push forward with our goals – her new free e-book, Break Out Of Your Box: 5 Steps To Start Following Your Dreams!

As a member of the GOALDiggers Project, I was able to get my hands on a preview copy late last week. I took the time to read and ingest the beautifully written and designed book, and LOVED it.

Want to get a copy for yourself? Click here!

As per Britni’s site, this book covers:

  • How to get clear about your vision
  • How to network with others who will support your dream
  • Why you need to give yourself a concrete deadline
  • How to set measurable goals to achieve your dream
  • How to overcome the need to be perfect
  • Resources to get your started on your journey

I read it, took notes, evaluated what I was currently doing and how I was doing it, and decided to make some tweaks to my game plan based on Britni’s thoughts and examples. At just 30 pages, Break Out Of Your Box is a clear-cut, entertaining, and motivating read that will really start to get your juices flowing and get your wheels turning. Even better – any book that uses a Biggie line as its dedication is good as gold in my eyes!

If you’ve been looking for a way to start making ANY kind of positive change in your life, try Break Out Of Your Box as a guide. Acknowledging that you want better for yourself is the first step – but that self-revelation will be in vain if you don’t start taking the steps towards initiating those improvements! Put Break Out Of Your Box on your must-read list, and get to work! Hey – you can even make it one of your 5 Before 8 and get your day started right ;)

Check out Britni Danielle’s site, and spread the word about her book via social media and email! Have any questions for Britni? Reach out to her via email (Britni@BritniDanielle.com), follow her on Twitter, and check out the GOALDiggers Project Group on Facebook! 

ON WITH THE SHOW: Battle Of The Sexes 2 Recap

BOTS Panel (L-R): Yours Truly, Elle Seon, Lincoln Anthony Blades, and Tosin Bello

Have you ever been asked to do something that you didn’t think you could do – and find out that you actually did BETTER than you could have hoped for? This was my experience at the beginning of the month, when I took part on the panel of Battle Of The Sexes Toronto, created and hosted by Telisha Ng, aka Goddess Intellect.

So, what was I so worried about? Well, I attended the first BOTS Toronto show back in the summer (held after the inaugural show in NYC), and loved it. It was a new kind of event in the city – a classy, sexy, intelligent affair that had attendees coming out in style, ready to debate and discuss issues between men and women. I recapped it in this post, but my major takeaways were that there was much to be said about love, sex, and relationships – and that Torontonians don’t play when they pay for their entertainment. We, the audience, were looking to the panelists to represent for the men and women, so it was definitely on them to come correct.

When Telisha hit me up asking if I’d be on the panel of the upcoming November show, I said yes right away. Immediately afterwards, I wondered what the hell I had just agreed to. I had never been on a panel. I wasn’t the most comfortable with public speaking. I’ve always felt that I’m a better written communicator than verbal. And the biggie: people would be paying money to come and hear what I had to say – and they (especially the ladies) would expect me to represent. I. Was. Shook. However, I had already said yes and wasn’t about to go back on my word – so the nerve-wracking countdown to Battle Of The Sexes 2 was on.

Finally the night had arrived. The venue, House of Moments, was one of Toronto’s hidden gems – a minimalist space adorned with comfy lounge seats, amazing art, and Buddha statues. Appetizers were being passed around, drinks were being served with flair, music was pumping courtesy of Dynamic Vibe Entertainment, and attendees poured in early to take a gander at the vendors in place for the BOTS Pop-up shop. A rum and Coke from the bar and a good amount of chatting with vendors and guests started to get me relaxed and ready for the stage, but there was nothing like that moment when Telisha said, “OK! Time to start!” I downed the rest of that rum and Coke and said to myself, “Here goes nothing!”

The panelists didn’t know exactly what questions would be posed to us throughout the night. The over-arching topic was “Is Monogamy A Myth?”, but I knew that within that topic was a multitude of things that could be discussed. We talked infidelity, the “new role” of side-chicks, interracial dating, polyamory, and the age-old question: are humans meant to be monogamous? Myself and the other panelists, Lincoln Blades, Tosin Bello, and Elle Seon, took turns speaking our truths, inciting controversy, interacting with the audience, and battling each other. As I mentioned before, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get my thoughts out in a cohesive way, but once I cracked my first joke and got laughs, I was good. When I made my first serious point and got applause, I was even better. I realized in the midst of the event that I could do this, that I was doing it, and I was doing it pretty damn well, thank you very much.

Bee’s Top 3 BOTS Moments:

So, a few moments during the show stick out in my mind…

  1. An audience member was commenting on the issue of infidelity in marriage, and stated that she was confident that, if given the opportunity, her married male friends would cheat on their wives with her. Before I could stop myself, I hollered out, “Do you know MY husband?” Hey – he’s got lots of friends, so I had to just double-check if he was part of her equation.
  2. Another audience member made a comment that insinuated that men cheat physically because they are more sexual in nature, vs. women, who are more emotional in nature. I took from his comment that he was implying that men enjoy/need sex more than women, so I grabbed that mic and let him know that “Women like to f*ck too!” I had to apologize to Telisha, because I totally obliterated the ‘no cussin” law as I found out later – but hell. It needed to be said.
  3. Throughout the night, we played to rounds of a game called The Chopping Block, where audience members had to come up and use their best pick-up lines on the panelists. I was given the scenario of working out in the gym, and my suitor had to attempt to pick me up. Somehow, I hoisted my skinny-jeaned and high-heeled leg up on a block on the stage, and gave my best impression of a video girl from Kanye’s Workout Plan video. We won’t talk about how I nearly busted my behind when my gentleman caller just muttered “Let’s go”, and dragged me by my arm out of the venue. Needless to say, the other guy won.

Feedback from the audience members led me to believe that not only had I pulled the “I’m shy and introverted but I’m going to pretend to be a superstar tonight” wool over their eyes, but that we had ALL done an amazing job of representing and giving them their money’s worth. And one thing you don’t mess with is a Torontonian’s money. So I was happy.

It’s so hard to touch on everything we discussed that night, but feel free to check out the review from the woman in charge herself over on Goddess Intellect. Thanks to dope videographers Potential Films, you can take a peek at the exclusive Battle Of The Sexes trailer video! You’ll get to see a lil bit of my workout plan moves too ;)

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Were you at BOTS 2? If so, what did you think of the show? To the major question of the night – do you think monogamy is a myth? All of my American homies, keep in touch via the BOTS site to find out when the show is coming to your city!

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