Halifax Black Film Festival to screen works from Canada and around the world this weekend

Alexandra MacLean is an actress and stunt performer, one of the few female stunters in Nova Scotia.  (IMBD - image credit)
Alexandra MacLean is an actress and stunt performer, one of the few female stunters in Nova Scotia. (IMBD - image credit)

To mark Black History Month, filmmakers from across Canada are gathering this weekend for the seventh Halifax Black Film Festival, which kicks off Friday, Feb. 24, and runs through to Sunday, Feb. 26.

This year's lineup features a whopping 70 films by filmmakers from across the globe.

It includes discussion panels on topics including funding for projects, Black and queer representation in media, and networking.

Alexandra MacLean is an African Nova Scotian actor and one of the few female stunt performers in Nova Scotia. She played Fallon in the CBC TV series Diggstown and was recently a stunt performer for actress Iola Evans in the upcoming Hulu mini-series, Washington Black.

MacLean will be speaking at the festival on a panel called the Art of Networking in a post-COVID world at the Halifax Central Library on Saturday morning.

She began working in the film industry 12 years ago and her involvement in various sports helped her move into stunt performing.


"I've done some cool things. I've been on the edge of a cliff. I haven't had to jump off yet, so hopefully, that goes well when I started doing some big falls. But it's been really fun," MacLean told Information Morning Nova Scotia.

To prepare for stunt performing, MacLean does martial arts, gymnastics and trains in both stunt driving and motorcycle riding.

MacLean is also champion for networking in the film industry.

"You don't really realize when you're growing up and hear people say 'You have to network, you have to network' and you kind of just brush it off," she said.

"Basically, just the way I network is, I go onto different sets. I started as a background performer, some people think that's grunt work, but it got me where I am today."

My Type of Hair
My Type of Hair

Her advice for people interested in entering the film industry is to talk to others in the business.

"Make sure you go to different sets and even just watching plays, going to the audience and network afterwards. It really helps you. You never know who you're going to meet, and it can turn into a really cool opportunity for you," she said.

Unfortunately, MacLean told CBC, roles for white actors still dominate the industry which diminishes BIPOC actors' chances of getting roles.

"But there are people out there that are trying to support you, even if you're not the typical mould, like some of the programs I've taken part in," MacLean said.

MacLean found support through Canada's BIPOC TV & Film program, a non-profit advocacy group.

"They're specifically looking for people like me, people of colour, to get their foot in the door into the industry and become writers," she said.

Black women behind the camera

The festival showcases young Black women not only in front of, but behind the camera as well.

Juliet Mawusi is another young woman with an emerging career in the film industry. She is the writer and director of the short film, My Type Of Hair.  She explores the struggles faced by Black women to preserve their natural hair and find the right products for it.

In 2017, Mawusi moved to Nova Scotia from Ghana and discovered that it was impossible to find someone to do her hair. In an interview with Mainstreet Nova Scotia, she said that at the time, cosmetology schools didn't give students the opportunity to learn about Black-textured hair.

"It was just recently that they introduced it into their courses," she told CBC.


From the people she interviewed for the documentary, she realized that Black women experience trauma when faced with this dilemma.

"Most of the women I met at that time, they got forced into learning how to deal with their own hair, and that was my case, I got forced into it," Muwasi said.

She worries that Black women might internalize the idea that their hair is somehow unacceptable.

"I worry so much every single day because I'm in this industry, like in the media industry and in the filming industry, I hear so many stories," she said.

When My Type of Hair premiered in Toronto, an actress told Mawusi that a director told her to straighten her natural hair to fit a role.

"What are you trying to tell her? You're trying to tell her to look like somebody she's not."

Muwasi said she believes the film industry has to recognize individuals.

"I have to be authentic to myself, to my real self. I have to be me. [I] have to show you what I'm made of. You don't have to turn me into somebody else," she said.

My Type of Hair will be screening Saturday evening at Cineplex Park Lane.