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Malcolm X film image

Malcolm X

Black History Month: Icons

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“This is a story about the evolution of a man. It’s a spiritual, philosophical, political evolution. My prayer is to illustrate that and have that be some kind of a healing for people.” Denzel Washington

Canadian filmmaker Norman Jewison (In the Heat of the Night) was originally attached to direct this adaptation of Arthur Hailey’s biography, but when Spike Lee suggested in the media that a Black director should do it, Jewison and his producers took a meeting with the Do the Right Thing sensation and became convinced he was right. Denzel Washington – who had played Malcolm on stage ten years before and who had just made Mo Better Blues with Lee – was the ideal choice for the title role, and paints not only a precise portrait of the charismatic leader familiar from newsreels, but a layered, compassionate, conflicted man who finds the strength in Islam to transcend his demons and confront the inequity and racism in America. Lee insisted on an epic canvas and sought to emulate the scope he admired in the films of David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia; The Bridge on the River Kwai). He even hit up Black celebrities (Oprah, Prince, Michael Jordan) for donations when the budget ran out. His efforts and their faith were more than justified. The film stands as a powerful testament to the man and his times.

“One of the great American films not only of the decade but the century… Spike Lee poured everything he had learned about cinema, politics, behavior and culture into one 201-minute Molotov cocktail of epic filmmaking. An eloquent and intimate character study as well as a sweeping portrait of America in the second half of the 20th century.” Jim Hemphill, Indiewire

Spike Lee’s Malcolm X is one of the great screen biographies, celebrating the whole sweep of an American life that began in sorrow and bottomed out on the streets and in prison before its hero reinvented himself. Watching the film, I understood more clearly how we do have the power to change our own lives, how fate doesn’t deal all of the cards. The film is inspirational and educational – and it is also entertaining.

Roger Ebert


Spike Lee


Denzel Washington, Angela Bassett, Delroy Lindo, Spike Lee, Al Freeman Jr, Albert Hall, Theresa Randle, Lonette McKee

Country of Origin






201 min

Book Tickets

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Spike Lee, Marvin Worth


Arnold Perl, Spike Lee


Ernest Dickerson


Barry Alexander Brown

Original Music

Terence Blanchard

Production Design

Wynn Thomas

Art Director

Tom Warren

Catch More Black History Month Programming

Also in Icons

In the Heat of the Night

Sidney Poitier in an indelible role a Philadelphia police detective Virgil Tibbs, pulled in as a murder suspect when changing trains in Mississippi. He allies with bigoted local sheriff (Rod Steiger) to solve the case.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre

The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings

This boisterous comedy about a breakaway barnstorming Black baseball team in the 1930s should be better known. It's an entertaining gloss on one enterprising ball player's resourceful response to segregated leagues, with Star Wars' Billy Dee Williams.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre

Purple Rain

Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to celebrate this thing called Prince. Purple Rain is everything you could want from a rock film, and more - it's sexy, sassy, slick and it captures the young Prince in the raw.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre
Under the Cherry Moon (35mm)
Under the Cherry Moon film image

Under the Cherry Moon (35mm)

Prince is Christopher Tracy, a gigolo on the French Riviera, determined to seduce $50 million heiress Kristin Scott Thomas (!). The pop star's directorial debut is a quirky, fun throwback to old school Hollywood glamour, with knobs on.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre


Viola Davis is immense in Steve McQueen's gripping crime story. When her husband dies in a shootout with Chicago PD, Veronica inherits his $2 million debt to a local mobster, and a notebook with plans to rip-off the vault of a local politico.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre

Black Panther

The most important movie Marvel has made to date, this Black blockbuster is a triumph for Creed director Ryan Coogler and star Chadwick Boseman. After the death of his father, T'Challa returns to the African nation of Wakanda to take his place as king.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre


Dear Jackie (Free Screening)

Henri Pardo's film is a cinematic letter to Jackie Robinson, the first African American player in Major League Baseball and a civil rights activist who broke the colour barrier when he joined the minor-league Montreal Royals in 1946. For a short time, the impossible seemed possible in a segregated North America.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre
James Baldwin Abroad: Istanbul - Paris - London
James Baldwin Abroad film image

James Baldwin Abroad: Istanbul - Paris - London

These three short docs, from 1968 - 1973, offer sharp, piercing glimpses of Baldwin in private and public, sometimes in repose and relaxed but more often holding forth, embroiled in the thorny discourse of racial politics, identity and self expression.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

"This Time It's Personal" Films by Camille Billops & James Hatch (Programme 1)

Trailblazing artist and polymath Camille Billops and her partner James Hatch were courageous independent filmmakers who chronicled the ups and downs of their personal lives and family histories, and found in them the temperature of their times.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

"This Time It's Personal" Films by Camille Billops & James Hatch (Programme 2)

The second programme in our short selection of independent films by Camille Bishops and James Hatch includes what is probably their masterpiece, Finding Christa, a deeply personal film about Camille's relationship with the daughter she gave up for adoption as a child.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

Our Dance of Revolution

Award-winning documentary on the history of Black queer activism in Toronto, on communities that have faced every adversity from invisibility to police brutality.

VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

New Releases


Brown's moving film zeroes in on the descendants of the 110 slaves brought in on the last known slave ship to transport kidnapped Africans to America as human cargo, an illegal shipment undertaken as a bet by a local landowner, Timothy Meaher.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

Saint Omer

Alice Diop’s superb film, based on a notorious case of infanticide from a few years ago, subtly, almost surreptitiously evokes complex ideas and emotions around motherhood, gender, and marginalized communities.

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre VIFF Centre - Studio Theatre

Chien Blanc

Living in LA in 1968, French novelist Romain Gary adopts a stray Alsation, but to his horror discovers it has been trained to attack Blacks. His wife, the actress Jean Seberg argues it must be put down, but Gary insists it can be retrained...

VIFF Centre - Vancity Theatre