IndieWire celebrated the directorial debut of “Love and Basketball” icon Sanaa Lathan, “On the Come Up,” on Friday, September 9 at the Toronto International Film Festival. The dinner, presented by Canada Goose and held at Vela in downtown Toronto, brought out the cast, crew, and friends of this coming-of-age story of 16-year-old high schooler Bri (Jamila Gray), who takes the battle rap scene by storm in the fictional Garden Heights.
Lathan’s film is based on the novel by “The Hate U Give” author Angie Thomas, who was also in attendance at the event along with the director, Gray, and fellow cast members Da’Vine Joy Randolph, Miles Gutierrez-Riley, and Michael Cooper Jr., plus musicians Rapsody and Lady London.
At the event, the cast, filmmakers, and attendees enjoyed a step-and-repeat and dinner and conversation following introductory remarks by IndieWire Editor-in-Chief Dana Harris-Bridson.
“The process of making a movie is a constant unfolding. It was a two-year process. I got ready with my collaborators. I had a very clear vision. I was very lucky to surround myself with people who just wanted to fulfill that and uplift it,” Lathan said.
Next up, Lathan returns to working in front of the camera for the Peacock limited series “Best Man: The Final Chapters.” While Lathan said she is unlikely to star in a movie she’s also directing, she said that could change. “I’ll be like those boxers who say they’re retired and then they come back. Directing takes up a different part of your brain.”
Newcomer Gray is someone who, as Harris-Bridson said, “we’re going to be seeing a lot more of” soon. “I know that for a fact. Your performance was truly amazing.”
Harris-Bridson added, “IndieWire is all about championing new voices and creativity. This was one of those films that you don’t get to see that often. You go to films and it’s a bit of a crapshoot. You don’t know what you’re going to always get. Then you see one like this and you think, ‘Oh yeah, that’s why we’re here.’”
“There are a lot of parallels between me and Bri. She’s on her come up as I am on mine. The message of being true to yourself, in my career as an actress, and being true to Bri’s self, is so relevant to me. That was one of my biggest takeaways on set,” Gray said.
Canada Goose has long been a champion of creative voices and in particular for female filmmakers. IndieWire is proud to have them as our partner on the event. See below for photos from the dinner celebrating “On the Come Up,” which world-premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and will debut from Paramount+ on September 23.