As Halifax-based filmmaker, actor and producer Koumbie attests, one of the great things about film festivals is the variety of films on view. The Halifax Black Film Festival is no different, with an impressive 73 film line-up offering something for cinephiles and casual viewers alike.
In a study of contrasts between her and fellow filmmaker Israel Ekanem’s Kill Your Masters, Koumbie focuses her lens, alongside real-life partner Taylor Olson, at this year’s festival with the romantic comedy short I Hate You.
Created as part of the Atlantic Canada 48 Hour Film Project in 2020, I Hate You is the story of a couple, played by real-life partners Koumbie and Taylor Olson, having a conversation about getting married.
“The thing about the Halifax Black Film Festival is the wide slate of films, and Israel and our film is a perfect example of the spectrum on the Black experience,” says Koumbie. “This isn’t a Black suffering film, but a light romantic comedy where one of the characters happens to be Black.”
Provided with characters, a prop, a line of dialogue and a choice from two genres from the 48 Hour Film Project organizers, it is then up to each team of filmmakers to create their story on film.
“One of my favourite things is for people who watch [the film] to try and guess what those things are,” says Koumbie.
What she does reveal, however, is that the two purposely chose romantic comedy after losing a child just a few weeks before filming began.
Despite the 48 Hour Film Project being somewhat of a tradition for the two, Koumbie and Olson were unsure about participating again in 2020.
“But we decided we needed something to look forward to, something fun,” says Koumbie. “And when we got our two genres, Taylor and I looked at each other and knew what we didn’t need right now was to make a tragic short film when we were still quite deep in the grieving process.”
A cathartic experience for the two, given what they had just gone through personally, Koumbie says I Hate You holds a special place in her heart.
“Partly because any film that Taylor and I do together when it’s so collaborative is always special to me,” she says. “But with this one, I continued to be so lost for quite a while and was questioning everything. You know, all of those casual light questions that we ask ourselves in difficult times.”
Pushing the pain aside, Koumbie and Olson joined forces with friend and cinematographer Tim Mombourquette and sound person Jacob Comeau to complete the film in the allotted time.
“The four of us just took a day and just had this fun time making this movie,” she says. “And it was silly and creative and very low stakes, and I realized this is the thing that I love and even when I am sadder than I’ve ever been in my life, I can still have this experience, and it can be great.”
While Koumbie and Olson wait to share their film at this year’s festival, they are busy working on another project together as they prepare to begin filming Bystanders, Koumbie’s story of six friends in their twenties who go away for a winter weekend. She has also started training as an intimacy coordinator for the film industry.
“There are things I love about it in how you advocate and how you make sets safer,” she says. “And the idea of setting the tone on film sets is really important to me.”
I Hate You screens as part of the Halifax Black Film Festival’s Narrative Short Program 1. Visit halifaxblackfilm.com for more information.