Q&A Interview with Sara-Claudia Ligondé

September 25th, 2019 marked the premiere of Being Black in Canada, a documentary film project that was part of the Montreal International Black Film Festival (MIBFF). As stated on the website, the festival was created in 2005 by the Fabienne Colas Foundation and is currently the largest Canadian film festival entirely dedicated to black realities from all four corners of the world. The project featured fifteen short films centered around telling black stories from the perspective of young black Canadian filmmakers based in Montreal, Toronto, and Halifax. The documentary topics range from immigration and identity, to family and mental health. CJLO had the chance to speak with filmmaker and director Sara-Claudia Ligondé about her film “Rest is a Right” – a collaborative project with community activist and poet Shanice Nicole that focuses on the everyday life of a black girl living in Montreal and her struggle with finding rest. 

Hey Sara! I read that you said, “existing can feel like a weight”. Can you explain that? 

Being black in Montreal or anywhere…the world is anti-black and so we’re always going to say it’s one sort of racism, one way or another. Whether it’s Islamophobia, xenophobia…just because we’re different, right? The weight of having society being so anti-black definitely affects my life.

This can affect you in certain places it shouldn’t, right? Certain places where you should be able to find rest? 

For one, yes, the places where I should find rest. However, even outside of [those] places, I should be able to complain about what white people complain about. 

Recounting an experience when she asked a barista for more cream in her coffee and was made to feel as though her manner of asking was inappropriate and even offensive, Sara explains that “this dude basically called me a bitch because I wanted more cream in my coffee; something that I initially paid for.” Expressing any sort of dissatisfaction with life is a threat to white supremacy because they then have to realize that they aren’t treating you fairly. There’s no benefit for them to help you. 

Did any surprises come up during filming? 

I knew that Shanice [Nicole] was wise, and she ended up being wiser [in person]. She was dropping all these bombs of knowledge that only she could have. I’m so grateful that she was a part of this. My time management is not the best and it was somewhat challenging to plan this film and come into my own as a director, but this project helped me hone my skills. That’s definitely one good thing. 

Do you feel as though your film speaks for the majority of black women in Montreal? 

It’s very specific to the person in the film. Shanice has seen terrible subject matter that I personally might not want to subject myself to. The diversity of our lives makes this film what it is. We are really just trying to tell our own stories. At the same time, I do think black women [in general] will relate. We are doing a lot. 

What impact do you want your film to have? 

I want people to check on their strong friends because they might not be as strong as you think. A friend once said that she didn’t think to check in with me because I always seem to be fine, but that is not always the case. I should not have to start crying to be cared for. As Shanice said, if you think that I’m human but you’re not going to take care of my emotions, then you’re clearly not seeing me as a whole person. A real person should be able to express a range of emotions, and I’m not allowed to do that. 

How has the overall experience of the festival been for you? 

It’s amazing. I’m so happy, so grateful. Everyone has been so great. It’s been amazing to see a group come together for black people in the first place. The festival has been good. So so so so good!


Sara went on to express her excitement for the future, a shared sentiment between those who attended this year’s festival. The young filmmakers have dedicated time and effort towards sharing black stories; stories that are relatively unseen. As Sara and the rest of the talented filmmakers set their sights on new projects, one certainly feels hopeful for what is to come in Canadian black cinema.

Akeem Johnson is the co-host of The Kitchen, a show that blends everything from trap music to afrobeat. It plays every Wednesday at 9:00 p.m EST.