Trini-Canadian filmmaker Roger McTair dies

Trinidadian-Canadian writer and filmmaker Roger McTair. -
Trinidadian-Canadian writer and filmmaker Roger McTair. -

Trinidad and Tobago-born, Canadian resident filmmaker and author Roger McTair died on April 15, after being ill for some time. He was a pioneer in the field of documenting black culture in Canada.

Born in Port of Spain on October 7, 1944 McTair moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada, in 1967. He obtained a certificate in TV production in 1980 and a BBA in motion picture studies from Ryerson Polytechnic in 1976. He also studied English literature and film at York University in Toronto.

Actor and producer Rhoma Spencer said McTair, together with his ex-wife filmmaker Claire Prieto (also born in TT), was an early black pioneer, mover and shaker in Canadian filmmaking.

“Over the years he helped shaped a new generation of film and multimedia makers as a faculty member at Seneca College.

"His passing has left an indelible mark on black Canadian arts and culture and he will be sorely missed, especially in these times of the lens that are now focused on BIPOC (black, Indigenous, and people of colour) artists in Canada.

"He paved the way for us by taking all the brunt of injustices meted out to black art-makers in the early days. He stood the course so that we today can prosper,” Spencer said.

McTair worked as a lecturer in media writing in the School of Communications at Seneca College at York University from 1997-2015.

The National Film Board (NFB) of Canada said McTair’s body of work was fundamental to the development of black Canadian arts and culture. His first film was It’s Not an Illness.

It said McTair is credited as director of Some Black Women (1975), now considered the first film ever made by a black Canadian about the perspectives of the black community in Canada. It was produced by Prieto, with whom McTair collaborated on two more films: Different Timbres (1980) and Home to Buxton (1987, co-directed by Prieto).

The board said McTair also directed Children are not the Problem: An Anti-Racist Childcare Strategies Film (1991) and Jennifer Hodge: The Glory and the Pain (1992), as well as two NFB films, Home Feeling: Struggle for a Community (1983) and Journey to Justice (2000), which focus on the experiences and struggles of black Canadians and other marginalised groups in Canada.

According to a profile of McTair by freelance entertainment journalist Ron Fanfair, McTair wrote a diversity column for the Toronto Star for nearly three years before teaming up with Prieto in 1991 to produce Jennifer Hodge: The Glory and the Pain.

My Trouble With Books cover. -

This paid tribute to the life and ground-breaking work of Hodge, whose pioneering projects in the 1980s established the dominant mode in African-Canadian film culture.

“McTair also collaborated with Hodge on Home Feeling: Struggle for a Community, a feature film released in 1983 that examined the tenuous relationship between the police and residents in the Jane-Finch community, and directed Jane Finch Again! four years later,” the NFB sated.

In addition to being a filmmaker, McTair was also a poet and short-story writer. His short story collection, My Trouble With Books: Thirteen works of short fiction, was written with the assistance of his son, Ian Kamau Prieto-McTair. The book was launched at the Theatre Centre in Toronto in May 2018, and at the National Library, Port of Spain, in December 2018.

The publisher's blurb reads: "Set in TT, Toronto, and the tourist fringe of Barbados, the 13 short stories in My Trouble With Books are filled with memories of childhood and adolescence, as well as with snapshots of Roger McTair’s flat, calm, stoic style of writing. These are valuable, humorous, poignant stories, moored in a Caribbean literary aesthetic while also touching on themes of diaspora and exile."

The City of Toronto and Ryerson University both honoured McTair's contributions to arts, education and culture, and the Toronto launch of My Trouble With Books received special documentary TV coverage by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

In 2017, Ryerson launched a scholarship in McTair’s name, as he had been involved in several community initiatives, including the Black Education Project and the Library of Black People’s Literature.

McTair was also a founding member of the Black Filmmakers Foundation in New York, US.


"Trini-Canadian filmmaker Roger McTair dies"

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