TORONTO – The Toronto International Film Festival® announced today that the Belgian film Black won the Dropbox Discovery Programme Filmmaker Award. Black transports the classic Romeo and Juliet tale by taking it to the hard streets of present-day Brussels. The film is the second feature from directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, and their first to premiere in North America.
The jury released this statement about the film:
“We are delighted to announce the winner of the Dropbox Discovery Programme Filmmakers Award is Black. With this award we celebrate a clear cinematic vision, creatively and audaciously realized. Directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah have made a powerful impression upon cinema, with their arresting visual and sonic sensibility placing the loyalties and threats of gang life into sharp relief. A discovery indeed.”
This year’s jury members include: Pia Lundberg, Head of International Department, at the Swedish Film Institute; Alice Tynan, film critic and Marketing Manager, Dropbox and Daniel Guando, US head of Acquisitions, Production, and Development at The Weinstein Company.
Largely cast with youth from Brussels’ African and Moroccan communities, Black electrified festival audiences with its outstanding performances, dynamic pace, gritty authenticity and pulsing hip-hop soundtrack. Lead Martha Canga Antonio has been singled out as an up-and-coming actor to watch. Her performance as the headstrong and conflicted heroine Mavela is her first screen role.
Black is based on the books Black and Back by Flemish writer Dirk Bracke, an in-depth look at gang violence in Belgium. El Arbi and Fallah read the books when they were at film school together and wanted to put these rarely portrayed stories on the screen.
“In Brussels, when you’re Moroccan or you’re black, you have a hard time finding a normal job,” El Arbi explains. “We wanted to make a movie that got into the heads of youth who choose a criminal life because they need somewhere to belong.”
The filmmaking was so immersed in the world in which it was set that, part way through production, one of the actors was arrested, only to be released a couple of hours later. Authenticity was essential for the filmmakers.
“We pulled young people off the street who had the look of the characters,” says Fallah. “After auditioning 450 non-professionals, we selected 16 young people who had never acted on screen before.”
The directors will continue exploring controversial subject matter with their next film project about young men who choose to join the terrorist organization ISIS.
Black was part of the Discovery Programme showcasing 30 outstanding and absorbing feature films, including 16 world premieres, by emerging directors from Canada and around the globe.
Please visit TIFF Festival Page for more info on the film.