10 Black or African Films to Catch at the 2023 Vancouver International Film Festival

Add this list of moving Black films to your watch list for this year's VIFF.

September marks the start of many new seasons: not just autumn, but Fashion Season, New Television Season, and of course, Film Fest season… and with it, the return of the Vancouver International Film Festival.

The 42nd edition of VIFF set to screen films across the city in locations including Vancouver Playhouse, Park Theatre, SFU Woodwards and The Rio. The films set to come from revered directors and first-time filmmakers alike, but everything on the schedule features outstanding storytelling.

Among the selection of 138 features and 93 short films curated into special local, glocal and international series, a number of films directed by, about, or starring Black and African talents are set to grace the screen for 2023. Here are 10 can’t-miss Black/African films premiering at VIFF to snag tickets for now.

Goodbye Julia

Set in the moments leading up to the Sudanese succession, this Cannes Un Certain Regard Freedom Prize-winning film tells the story of a complicated friendship between a well-to-do retired singer from the North Mona (Eiman Yousif) and her newly hired maid Southern Julia (Siran Riak). Director Mohamed Kordofani portrays a sensitive and unflinching examination of the fraught relationship between Sudan’s Arab North and non-Arab South. 

Cristo Negro 

Cristo Negro makes its Canadian Premiere at this years VIFF with its spotlighting of Portobelo, Panama’s “rapturous yearly festival” for the worship and reverence of Black Jesus Christ. In this short film, history, religion and colonialism collide with spiritual awakening, miracles and poverty.

Photo: Harley Francis


Element tells the story of a group of young men struggling to make a living in the markets of Abidjan. One day, they decide to step up their hustle and cast a spell in order to make some real money.

Union Street

Union Street documents the history of Vancouver’s Hogan’s Alley, the formerly Black neighbourhood which was destroyed by the construction of the Georgia viaduct in the 1970s. This visual portrait speaks to the legacies of the past, as well as the present moment.

The Tuba Thieves 

In this “vibrant new cinematic experience,” director Alison O’Daniel experiments how the absence of sound affects our experience through the reimagining of closed captions, text placement, font size, colour. The part historical documentary, part poetic video essay film is framed around a string of unsolved tuba thefts in Los Angeles from 2011 to 2013. 

Measures of Men

This Lars Kraume film reaches into Germany’s past in this compelling historical drama. Long before Naziism, racist pseudoscience held sway in the nation: Measures of Men tells the story of Alexander Hoffmann (Leonard Scheicher), a young ethnologist who questions the racism of his discipline as he studies the Herero and Nama peoples brought to his city. Hoffmann has his courage tested when he travels to German South West Africa (GSWA)—modern-day  Namibia and is witness to what has been called the 20th century’s first genocide: the German violence against the Herero and Nama.

Invisible Beauty

In Invisible Beauty, co-directed by Bethann Hardison herself, French documentarian Frédéric Tcheng offers a riveting look at Hardison’s life and legacy. The documentary traces her audacious efforts to challenge the status quo since her breakout as one of the most high-profile Black models in the 1970s. Mixing fascinating archival footage and interviews with fashion icons from multiple eras (Naomi Campbell, Iman, Zendaya), this inspiring documentary balances both retrospective and contemporary perspectives on representation.

Defining Human 

As Earth reaches its environmental breaking point, Mia, a talented black astronaut, must make a difficult decision: to stay with her ailing father, or leave for the unknown potentials of space exploration.

Hair or No Hair

Bel, a young black woman who has been hiding her Alopecia under wigs for years, is one day exposed publicly.

Outside Center

In the Canadian Premiere of Outside Center, we are met with a story of Jamaican-born Desmond Gray finding community via his gay rugby league, navigating life, love, and identity as an immigrant living in Munich, Germany.

See the full schedule and grab tickets at viff.org