Parkdale-set film addresses crime, race relations

chris atchison/metro toronto


Actor Peter Williams stars as a counsellor who starts a support group for black men in the movie A Winter Tale.

A shot rings out on a winter night in Toronto’s gritty Parkdale neighbourhood. It’s intended for a local drug dealer, but imbeds itself in a 10-year-old innocent bystander instead.

While those words could lead off the evening news on any given day, they describe the opening scenes of the new film A Winter Tale from Canadian director Frances-Anne Solomon.

It was in those daily headlines that the director found inspiration for a film about black men discussing their feelings about race relations, gun crime and the difficulties of life in Canada after hearing constant reports about escalating black-on-black violence in this city and across the country.

She penned A Winter Tale with a fictional central character named Gene Wright in mind, a Caribbean-Canadian counsellor who starts a support group for black men in Parkdale to air out frustrations amongst their peers.

Vancouver-based Jamaican-Canadian actor Peter Williams plays Wright in the film.

Williams, now 50, relocated to Ottawa in 1981 with his family at age 24 before moving once again to Toronto where he became acquainted with the neighbourhood which plays such a pivotal role in Solomon’s movie.

Like his character in A Winter Tale, Williams recalls being lured to Canada by former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s promise to establish what he called the “just society.”

But with continuing violence and increasing poverty in urban areas, has that dream fallen by the wayside?

“(Calling Canada) a just society would be over-stating it a little bit, but that’s not to say that it’s not a just society,” Williams tells Metro during a recent interview in a Parkdale pub.

“I think we’re still growing here and what this society offers to us as new Canadians is the chance to contribute to that growth and the opportunity to develop into a just society. I think Canada has a better shot at it than most and I think that most people who end up here arrive with that in mind.”

Solomon pulls no punches in her exploration of racism and the challenges facing black men seeking to earn a living and raise families in Toronto. But rather than aiming for conclusions, she instead focuses her narrative on the challenges members of her community face on a daily basis.

“Amongst the black attitudes exposed at screenings (of A Winter Tale), we find there’s an openness among black men to talk about issues such as black-on-black violence,” Williams says. “That openness we think is key and is the raison d’etre behind A Winter Tale.

“I believe that just the general opening up of our hearts as black men will ... show us there is room for discussion whereas before our defensive natures have hardened us to other perspectives. I think it’ll soften it a bit.”

  • A Winter Tale is playing at the Revue Cinema and opens at Rainbow Cinema, Woodbine on Friday.

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