Carrying it with Us: Documenting Black Histories for the Future
Join Open Forum curator/moderator Kerry-Ann James in a special conversation with Selwyn Jacob, producer, and director of over 50 National Film Board films, Sylvia D. Hamilton, a Nova Scotian award-winning documentary filmmaker and writer, and Jennifer Holness, a documentary filmmaker, producer, and writer for a motivating discussion on archiving Black life in Canada through documentary film. This intimate conversation will remind us of the power and richness of Black history, presence, and future.
Sylvia D. Hamilton is a Nova Scotian filmmaker, writer and artist raised in Beechville, a community established in Nova Scotia, by free Black Refugee-Survivors from the War of 1812. Her films include Black Mother Black Daughter, Speak It: From the Heart of Black Nova Scotia, Portia White: Think on Me and The Little Black School House, among others. They have been broadcast in Canada and screened at festivals at home and abroad and are widely used in schools and universities. Her poetry book, And I Alone Escaped to Tell You was short-listed for a 2015 League of Canadian Poets Award. and was a finalist for the Nova Scotia Masterworks Award. =Excavation/Here We Are Here, her multi-media installation, has been shown at galleries and museums in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. In 1990 she co-created New Initiatives in Film (NIF), a program within the National Film Board’s Studio D, to provide filmmaking opportunities for women of colour and Indigenous women filmmakers. She chaired the Board of the Women’s Television Network Foundation (WIMF) as well as many arts-related juries. She’s held memberships and board/committee positions in a variety of local and national organizations including the Documentary Organization of Canada (DOC) and the Canada Council’s Racial Equity Committee.
Hamilton’s recognitions include a Gemini Award, the CBC Television Pioneer Award and three honorary degrees. She holds a BA from Acadia University and an MA from Dalhousie University. She has taught at Mount Saint Vincent and Acadia Universities and has lectured at universities across Canada. She recently retired as Roger’s Chair in Communications at the University of King’s College School of Journalism in Halifax and was named an Inglis Professor. The University established an award for Black/African Canadian students in her name which will be awarded annually to five students. She is the 2019 recipient of the Governor General’s History Award for Popular Media, and the 2021 DOC Institute’s Luminary Award. – Photo by: Adams Photography
Jennifer Holness writes, produces, and directs and often on the same project! She is the first Black woman in Canada to win a CSA (Gemini) for best writing and is the 2021 Indiescreen Producer of the Year award-winner. Jen loves to make documentary films and she recently directed her first feature documentary, Subjects of Desire, about Black women, and beauty. The film had its world premiere at SXSW, followed by Hot Docs where it was a Top Ten Audience Favourite. The film will air on Starz in the US and TVO on February 1st 2022. Subjects of Desire was selected as a TIFF Top Ten Film. Jen also produced Stateless (2020 Hot Doc’s Special Jury Prize). Her dramatic features Home Again and Love, Sex and Eating the Bones have won numerous festival awards, including the Best First Canadian Feature Award at TIFF. Her TV documentaries include, Speakers For The Dead (CBC), Badge of Pride (CBC & PBS), Brick By Brick (Omni), Yin Yin Jade Love (TVO). She created the TV series, Shoot The Messenger and the multiple award winning mini-series, Guns for CBC where she won a shared Canadian Screen Award for Best Writing. Jen is a key part of numerous committees including the chair of the Black Screen Office and co-chair of CISF. She’s a CMPA board member and chair of the REDIAC Action Committee for the organization. Jen has also co-created the 4-part doc series BLK: An Origin Story for History which will premiere February 26, 2022.
Selwyn Jacob joined the National Film Board’s BC & Yukon Studio in 1997 and went on to produce over 50 NFB films. His many credits include Crazywater, directed by Inuvialuit filmmaker Dennis Allen; Hue: A Matter of Colour, directed by Vic Sarin; Mighty Jerome, written and directed by Charles Officer; and the digital interactive app Circa 1948, by Vancouver artist Stan Douglas. Jacob’s most recent feature documentary credits include Mina Shum’s Ninth Floor, about the infamous Sir George Williams Riot of 1969 that was selected to TIFF’s 2015 annual top ten list of best Canadian films, and Baljit Sangra’s Because We Are Girls, exploring the impact of sexual abuse on a conservative Indo-Canadian family living in small-town British Columbia. Selwyn retired from the NFB in June, 2019, and his last production was Now Is The Time, directed by Haida filmmaker, Christopher Auchter. Selwyn has since returned to the private sector as an independent Producer/Director.