One highlight of the 2022 Toronto International Film Festival was the film Brother, directed by Canadian, Clement Virgo. He was born in Jamaica but grew up in downtown Toronto's Regent Park neighborhood with a single mom who arrived in Canada with four children.
The film was adapted from the book of the same name by author, David Chariandy. The book won the 2017 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize, the 2018 Toronto Book Award and the 2018 Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. In a 2017 interview, on growing up in Scarborough, Chariandy said:
“My experience was the experience of many others: feeling fear. That experience of not doing anything wrong but all of a sudden realizing that the gaze is falling upon you in a different way than others."
“I guess that would be the condition of growing up Black or a visible minority. You grow up being anxious of and fearing those in authority because they can make or break you, and that applies not only to police officers, but you feel the gaze from teachers, from shop owners, security guards and everyday upstanding citizens who just look at you a certain way.”
While the characters experience harsh realities of discrimination, Chariandy, ultimately wanted to tell a story of resilience, creativity, and the work ethic of the people of Scarborough — and capture the city's “life and vitality that you don’t always see in headlines.”
The film, Brother, is a coming of age story set in the early 1990s in Scarborough about two Jamaican Canadian immigrant brothers who are navigating their truth and identities, their family dynamics, and how to find their place in the community. The story see their dreams dashed by the violence and heavy-handed law enforcement of Scarborough.
Brother stars Canadian actor, Lamar Johnson as Michael and British actor, Aaron Pierre, as his older brother, Francis. Johnson, who acted in The Hate U Give and Native Son in 2018, grew up in Scarborough in Toronto's east end and identified with the story as a first-generation Canadian. Director, Virgo in a TIFF interview said he wanted to introduce the world to Scarborough's uniqueness, where working-class immigrant families can succeed in the same way other unique cities do like Brooklyn, Compton in the US, and South London in the UK. Virgo wanted to showcase the richness of a multidimensional and culturally diverse Scarborough, despite the negative stigma city and its visible minority residents received in the 90s from the media. Virgo says,
“I wanted to honour immigrant parents. Scarborough represents the future when you have all these cultures around the world gathered in this place. People will experiment here and try each other’s food. It’s why everybody knows how to use a chopstick in Scarborough.”
Kairyn Potts is an Indigenous Two-Spirit man from the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation. Originally from Edmonton, he lives in Dish With One Spoon Treaty territory in Tkaronto (Toronto). Formerly a social worker, he is an Indigenous youth advocate, motivational speaker, resource developer, content creator, fashion model, actor, and comedian.
In July 2022, Potts and fellow Indigenous Canadian creator, Marika Sila became the hosts for Snapchat's first Canadian Original series called, Reclaimed. The series tackles Indigenous cultural issues from a Gen Z perspective. In the first episode, co-host Potts examines the impact colonization has had on 2SLGBTQ+ Indigenous people’s traditional community roles. It also covers how elders in Indigenous communities can best provide support and help young people gain acceptance as they struggle to find their identity and belonging.
With more than 250k followers on Instagram and TikTok, Potts' videos are a mix of entertainment, education, and awareness, comedy, life skills and lessons, and activism. He told the CBC,
"I've known that Indigenous people were creative my entire life, but it seemed like the public didn't really get a chance to see that."
"It's not a stretch to say that representation, like the kind of representation that's happening on social media for Indigenous young people, is lifesaving. Because, for once, we get to kind of see possibilities."
He made a popular TikTok for Truth and Reconciliation Day to remind Canadians that trauma for Indigenous people is ongoing due to the harm and long-term effects of the Indian Residential School system. Indigenous are among the fastest-growing populations in Canada. 7.7% of children are under 14 yet 53.8% of children placed in foster care were Indigenous according to 2021 data from Statistics Canada.
In another TikTok video, Potts tells the story of a young 7-year-old Indigenous boy being taken away from his family, stripped of his culture, forced to learn Catholicism and abused by his caregivers. Near the end, he reveals the boy's story is not from the Indian residential school system in Canada but is more recent and autobiographical. Potts says,
"That boy in that story I was referring to? That was me. All of that happened in 2000. And it continues to happen today."
His experience of landing in the child and family services system resonated with thousands of people in the video's comments. Indigenous people shared similar stories and non-Indigenous Canadians and Americans expressed shock, dismay, and sadness that Potts and Indigenous youth are still suffering.
Potts' goal as a content creator and role model especially to young people is to educate and entertain. He wants to achieve that through a combination of truth-telling and by bringing Indigenous laughter to his audience. He says,
"Laughter is medicine. Laughter is one of our sacred medicines."
Potts is embracing his online success and that confidence is keeping him busy pursuing other opportunities. He co-founded an Indigenous gaming company called Neechi Clan. He's writing a serialized web series and also working on a feature film. He also wants to help other Indigenous people explore creativity and be able to tell their stories.