Actress, film director and festival queen Fabienne Colas tries to take vacations once in a while. She really does. But she never can never seem to make a go of it. She tells the story of one of the last vacations she planned on the island of St. Martin. Third day into her vacation, the actress-producer-festival founder had become bored and restless. She even started to plan film screenings, and booking interviews. And the most shameless thing of all: she organized two packed screenings of Minuit, a film she had directed. Her fiancée, who had accompanied her on the trip, was not amused. He had come to St. Martin to have fun, and here was his future wife acting as if they had never left their home in Montreal.
These days when she leaves for vacations, she leaves DVD screening copies of her films at home. This way, she won’t be a vacation party pooper.
Kreyolicious: How are you doing today?
I feel fantastic and ready to go! I completed the 8th annual Festival Haiti en Folie in Montréal, and it was a complete success with over 100 artists and tens of thousands of festival-goers attending. I couldn’t ask for more. [And then I had to get] ready for the 10th Annual Montreal International Black Film Festival [which took place] from September 23 to 28.
Kreyolicious: When you initially envisioned the film festival, did you think it would take off the way it has?
I never thought the Montreal International Black Film Festival—MIBFF—would go on to becoming the Canada’s biggest black film festival! Thanks to the artists, our team, our volunteers, our partners, the press and the audience! I just had a dream and a passion and I’m more than grateful everyone followed me in that crazy amazing adventure.
Kreyolicious: What are some moments that you cherish and will continue cherish about the Montreal International Black Film Festival?
Definitely several of them. I will never forget the very first edition, when we were called back then: the Montreal Haitian Film Festival. That was when everything started and it encouraged me to move forward. But I will forever remember the moment I welcomed legendary Harry Belafonte who was the very first to receive the MIBFF Humanitarian Award. That was a historical moment for me, for the festival, for our team and for Montreal.
Kreyolicious: As someone who has held the fort on a festival of this magnitude…five festivals actually…what advice would you give to an individual wanting to launch one?
You need a clear vision and a strong reason why you want to create a new festival and that reason cannot be “because you want to make money”! You gotta be prepared to work very hard and you need to have a tough skin, because some people will try to discourage you and you will get lots of no’s at first. And you need a great team that also believes and understand what you’re trying to create! My foundation created and organizes 5 festivals a year in Montreal, Toronto and Port-au-Prince, and they are not for profit: The Montreal International Black Film Festival—MIBFF—the Toronto Black Film Festival—TBFF—Festival Haiti en Folie in Montreal, Festival Fade to Black, Quebec Film Festival in Haiti. We can do them because we are on a mission of spreading and sharing black realities through the most amazing films, concerts, discussions, conferences, plays; and Haitian culture through the best Haiti has to offer culturally. Furthermore, the Fabienne Colas Foundation is dedicated to supporting education in the arts. This, for me, is the biggest reward ever. There is no secret recipe to the success of a festival, but one thing is sure: your festival needs to fill a gap, fulfill a need, and be different from what already exist or way much better than the competition.
Kreyolicious: It’s a lot for one person, You’re also an actress, director and producer. Where do you find time to do all that?
Great time management! But above all, I have a great team and amazing partners I can rely on for help, guidance and advice!
[All images furnished by subject, except photo with Spike Lee…via festival media]