February is almost over, nicer spring-like temperature is around the corner and a vaccine is on its way, and with it, the possibility we all may be able to be out past 8pm once again. For now, though, there is plenty of Montreal arts and music we can enjoy online.

Let’s get started:

Black History Month Wraps Up

February is also Black History Month and in Montreal that always means plenty of music, film and other artistic performances as well as conferences and panel discussions. The 30th official edition hasn’t let the pandemic slow it down by going virtual and surely won’t be slowing down in its closing weekend.

There is a Nuits d’Afrique concert tonight, there’s a Black Utopia panel discussion tomorrow courtesy of the Massimadi Afro LGBTQ+ Film and Arts Festival and much more.

For details and schedule, please visit MoisHistoireDesNoirs.com

Wake Island Release Nouvelle Vague

Wake Island, the duo composed of producers Philippe Manasseh and Nadim Maghzal, are no strangers to Montreal music fans, ditto for those in New York and Beirut. They offer an “80/90’s electronic esthetic with melodies drawing from their Middle Eastern roots.”

With Nouvelle Vague, the latest single from their album Born to Leave, they are doing something so very Montreal. They are releasing the French version today and plan to release an English version in exactly one month, March 26th.

Here is the tune in French:

Firas Nassiri Releases Music Video for Taksim Featuring Christina Enigma

Montreal electro music fans may know Firas Nassri from the the 2020 GAMIQ ectro EP of the Year winners Beige-à-Coeur. Last January, he released his first solo album La Levantine.

With it, he hopes to “explore the bridges between electronic music and his oriental influences” in a style heavily influenced by his Syrian origins.

Nassiri’s latest single, released today along with a music video, is called Taksim. The lyrics are taken directly from the poem On Death by Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran and recited by Canadian vocalist Christina Enigma.

Here is the video:

Featured Image of Firas Nassiri and Christina Enigma courtesy of Indie Montreal

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

This week we’ve got a film and arts festival dedicated to LGBTQ+ works that highlight members of Black communities, a music video premier from a local alternative folk rock group and a Valentine’s market from the people behind POP Montreal.

Let’s get started:

The Massimadi Afro LGBTQ+ Film and Arts Festival

We’re in the middle of Black History Month and the Massimadi Afro LGBTQ+ Film and Arts Festival is set to return for its 13th edition. This year, the theme is, appropriately, Resistance.

With all that is going on south of the border and around the world, resisting is key. The festival also plans to resist any negative effects COVID might have on their ability to reach audiences by making the entire event free and online.

With seven feature films 23 short films and representation from nine countries, the conversation is sure to continue. There will also be found tables, a comedy show and even speed dating.

The 13th Edition of the Massimadi Afro LGBTQ+ Film and Arts Festival runs February 12 – March 12. For the complete schedule and more info, please visit massimadi.ca

Aquarius Dreams Release Music Video for Flora’s Earthtones

Montreal-based alternative folk rock group Aquarius Dreams released their lastest EP Flora’s Earthtones way back in pre-COVID 2019. While they are planning to go on a “reformative hiatus” and then re-emerge when the pandemic is done, they are first releasing a video for the EP’s titular track this weekend.

Directed by Callum Sheedy, the video “alludes to the degradation of the relationship between humanity and nature, the dance between moral volition and action.” Part of it is also clearly shot on Mount Royal, which always leads to some spectacular visuals.

Puces POP is Back Online for Valentine’s Day

The annual POP Montreal music festival is all set for an in-person edition this fall, but while the curfew and other COVID restrictions are still in effect, their popular Puces POP market has reinvented itself, just in time for Valentine’s Day. They have an online catalogue available until March 1st.

You can buy products from over 70 local artisans. We’re talking body products, clothing, jewelry and much more.

You can find it all at PucesPop.com

Featured Image: Screenshot from Flora’s Earthtones by Aquarius Dreams

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

Aside from Russia and the American “Bible Belt,” few places in the world have seen such virulent debate (and hate) around the treatment of LGBT people than the East African country of Uganda. Like a nightmarish extension of the colonial battlefield that Africa has long been treated as in the West, the trials and tribulations of Uganda’s sexual minorities have become the focus of global media and political attention. In 2009 Uganda’s parliament started considering a bill that even Stephen Harper’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has called “abhorrent.”

Known as the “Kill the Gays” bill, the proposed legislation would make being gay and HIV positive a criminal offense punishable by death and imprisonment, in addition to numerous new offenses for “aggravated homosexuality” and failing to report “known homosexuals” to police. Currently shelved, the bill hangs over Ugandan LGBTs like a suspended death warrant invoked by conservative religious leaders and the tabloid press. The homophobic furor would lead to the brutal death of prominent activist David Kato, in 2010.

Call me Kuchu, the multi award-winning documentary by US-based filmmakers Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, tracks the small and resilient group of activists for SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda) over almost two years, a process which involved numerous visits, and extended periods of living with one of the film’s participant subjects, Noame. Increasingly embedded in their participants’ lives, the filmmakers would submit testimony to immigration authorities about the risk of being an out queer woman in Uganda, which eventually allowed Naome to claim asylum in Sweden.

Already shown to much acclaim at numerous major film festivals – including Hot Docs and Image + Nation – the heart-rending feature will be screened twice in Montréal, at Cinema Politica on Feb 25 and at the Massimadi Festival of LGBT Afro-Caribbean Film on Wednesday, Feb 27 at Cinéma du Parc.

2012 IDA Documentary Awards at the DGA Hosted by Penn Jillette“The factors feeding into homophobia in Uganda are so complex,” Zouhali-Worrall tells me via Skype from her home in Brooklyn. “It does seem like evangelical leaders have done a lot to inspire it – religious leaders in the Catholic and Anglican Churches have fuelled it.” Souhali-Worrall cautions viewers not to draw conclusions or generalizations about “Africa” or the Global South from watching what her subjects live through in this lightening rod country. “People often want to talk about the situation in Uganda as if it’s a very different and separate type of persecution… While there are probably some aspects of the situation in Uganda that are unique, it seems more helpful to see what’s happening there as an extension of what’s going on all the time in the US, Canada, or Europe.”

Fairfax WrightFor Fairfax Wright, who is based in Los Angeles, “there are so many parallels between homophobia in the US and elsewhere. Even the rhetoric, stretching back to the Harvey Milk days; it’s astounding. It’s the same phrases being thrown around, that [LGBT people] can’t reproduce and therefore they recruit… So many of the tensions at play and the tactics are so similar,” the documentarian says, evincing the journalistic objectivity that is as much a part of the film as the compassionate character treatment for which it has been praised.

“Right now the Anti-Homosexual Bill is brought up by parliamentarians as a political football. The idea of ‘homosexual terror’ is also a convenient way to distract people from more pressing issues in society,” she adds.

Behind the agit-prop and the harrowing political drama lies an elegy to Uganda’s gay rights hero, David Kato, who was beaten to death halfway through principal shooting in 2011.  “We are consumed by these people’s story, perhaps even a little more than we would like to have been,” the documentarians admitted, reflecting on the intimacy with which they treated their film’s subjects, and their responsibility to promote the Ugandan LGBT cause. “Every time the film wins an award we try and remember that David isn’t there for that,” Worrall concludes, certain that the battle for gay rights in Uganda, and elsewhere, is far from over.

Call Me Kuchu @ Cinema Politica, Monday Feb. 25  7 p.m., Concordia University, Room H110, 1455 de Maisonneuve West

For more info: cinemapolitica.org/concordia

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@ Festival Massimadi, Wednesday Feb 27, 6pm discussion (in French) on lesbians and HIV; Screening at 7pm, Cinema du Parc, 3575 av du Parc

www.massimadi.com