The Flying Stars sells out Toronto premiere

capacity crowd attends Toronto premiere of The Flying Stars documentary

The Flying Stars returned home on Friday evening and played to a packed house at the Toronto Black Film Festival. The Feb. 12 screening marked the Toronto premiere after award-winning screenings across North America.

“Awesome” and “amazing,” Tweeted audience members that included friends and family members of both directors, Allan Tong and Ngardy Conteh George, as well as Kickstarter supporters. Everybody stayed for the 15-minute Q&A with the directors (as well as Anna Musso, the writer/director of the fine fictional short film, Run Fast, that preceded The Flying Stars). 

Ngardy Conteh George & Allan Tong  (photo by Jennifer Campbell)

Allan recounted how he began the film in spring 2008 when he first saw the images of the Sierra Leonean amputee soccer players shot by New York photographer Fiona Aboud, who flew in for the screening.

“What would you say was your biggest challenge?” asked Toronto documentarian Barry Greenwald who had given input to an early cut of the film. “We had a mountain of film,” explained Allan, “several stories, many characters–and it was hard to streamline that into a 65-minute film.” He credited co-editor Tiffany Beaudin, who was in the audience, for knocking the film into shape during a long, difficult process. Similarly, Ngardy called out composer Kobena Acqaa-Harrison also in the packed audience.

Ngardy added that raising the budget was another serious hurdle, since the film was made on a shoestring with money coming in stages over several years. It started with a 2010 Kickstarter campaign (donator Lisa Taylor was in the audience) and proceeded with a prize from Telefilm Canada (also in the audience) at the Pitch This! competition at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival (under the working title, Leone Stars), and later with grants from the Sundance Documentary Institute.

Ngardy added that she is organizing a fundraiser to support the amputees and invited all to attend.

Unfortunately, several people were turned away at the door just moments after the last ticket was sold. One couple actually came back two hours later to congratulate the filmmakers and inquired about a future screening. Allan and Ngardy thanked them for braving the cold and rush hour traffic. They will post information about the next screening here, on Twitter (@FlyingStarsDoc) and on their Facebook page.

Selling out a cinema during the coldest weekend of the year (so far) and NBA All-Star Game activities gripping the city was an accomplishment in itself. Allan and Ngardy were ecstatic over the reception to their film and thank all who came out to their hometown premiere.