Clement Virgo


Jamaican-born, CFC-trained Virgo is one of the most distinctive voices within his generation of thirtysomething Toronto auteurs. Queer-friendly Clement’s early shorts such as Save My Lost Nigga’ Soul (1993, 24) made clear his deftness at intermingling African diasporic thematics with narratives reflecting issues of masculinity and both erotic and consanguineous relations.Rude (1995, 89), the first African-Canadian-directed feature film, was a critical triumph but ran into the usual Canadian “first feature” box office sluggishness. Its four interwoven narratives present inner city characters struggling to prevail against social, economic and cultural constrictions, including Jordan, a gay boxer enacting a stunning coming out process, which infallibly made every audience “lose it,” according to the director. Rinaldo Walcott has argued that Virgo’s effort “to bring a critical discussion of sexuality to black Canadian cinematic representations is mangled” by his inability to be “pedagogical about the ethical relations of race, sexuality and community in a way that does not necessarily produce a victim” (1). But guts is guts, and the decidedly non-victim bashee’s defiance of his “muscle-bound steroid-taking pussy-eating freak” assailants, based on a real life character recollected from Clement’s adolescence, has already ensured the story’s status as one of the most resilient queer film fictions of the decade: “You know what you niggers’ problem is? —no one’s ever come in your mouth.” Virgo’s prizewinning subsequent features, the TV children’s film The Planet of Junior Brown (1999, 91), and Love Come Down (2000, 99), a remake of Saved, continued Virgo’s probing of the faults within masculinity and homosociality in the context of urban black culture. (1) Walcott, Rinaldo. 2003. Black Like Who? Writing Black Canada. 2d ed. Toronto: Insomniac Press.