Kanaval is the story of one young boy’s journey from a small port town on the coast of Haiti in 1975, during the town’s celebrations of carnival, before a traumatic event forces him and his mother to flee to Quebec.




Henri Pardo

Rico (Rayan Dieudonné) is a curious boy, living with his schoolteacher mother Erzulie (Penande Estime) in a small port town on the coast of Haiti in 1975. During an annual celebration, and despite his mother’s warnings of danger, he slips out into the night to witness legends come to life and the masks and costumes of revellers.

We see Kanaval — the Haitian version of Carnival — from the point-of-view of Rico, as a blending together of real and magical moments. Everything is exuberant and fascinating, until he returns home to find his beloved mother being attacked.

Migrating to safety in a small rural town in Quebec, Rico and Erzulie try their best to get accustomed to their new world with the assistance of an older couple that warmly takes them in. While Rico tries to make sense of this snowy province, with hunting, snowmobiling, and racist bullies all around, he’s unable to grasp why his mother, still grappling with her trauma, is becoming distant from him. So he does what many six-year-olds do, and conjures up an imaginary friend, Kana, from Haitian myth, who becomes his guide to figuring out the alien world he’s found himself in.

Anyone who is part of a diaspora and has landed in Canada, or remembers feeling forgotten by the adults in their lives, will connect to this beautiful film about finding a new place to call home.


Official Selection, 2023 Toronto International Film Festival

Content advisory: coarse language, bullying


Fri Sep 08

Scotiabank 14

Fri Sep 08

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Sat Sep 09

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Thu Sep 14

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