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Stories of Single Black Mothers


Resilience: Stories of Single Black Mothers is an intimate, richly detailed documentary that confronts long-held stereotypes by stepping inside the lives of three real women in the real world.

With honesty, intelligence and humour, Nancy, Simone and Gloria reflect on their experiences of balancing single parenthood, working life, relationships and the fulfilment of their own goals in the context of a society that is often harshly judgemental.  By interweaving these intimate stories, the documentary offers a deeper understanding of the challenges, practical strategies and dreams of three resilient women and, indeed, of many black single mothers in Canada.

“I felt like my world was coming to an end. I had no parents around, no family at all ...  I was still in that feeling where I was trying to figure out who I am.” - Simone

Originally from Trinidad, Simone always dreamed of becoming a lawyer. But at age 19 she already had her first child. The film finds her now unemployed, living on social assistance and raising three children all under the age of ten. But Simone is rounding a turning point. Harnessing her inner strength and ambition, she takes charge of her life and applies to community college to become a paralegal.

“I feel so blessed in my life ... that my children are healthy, and that we have this stability. But it takes a lot to maintain that ... and nobody sees the disarray going on in your head ... ” - Nancy

Funny and charming and from a Jamaican family, Nancy always had an active social life. She is a homeowner with a good job as a social worker and a large supportive extended family.  In her mid-thirties Nancy became pregnant and decided to become a single parent. In the first year after giving birth to twins, she cried nonstop, spent all her savings, and her social life changed dramatically. While Nancy presents a confident front, she grapples with guilt while adjusting her own life plan.

“I think that [single mothers] first have to define who they are, what they want out of life and what they want for their children ... They are not their situation. Their goals are made from who they are and what they want and not from what people say about them.” - Gloria

Originally from the U.S., Gloria was a young single mother in Greenwich Village.  She raised her daughter on meagre resources but with the support of a progressive alternative cultural scene.  She later met her future husband while backpacking through Europe, eventually building a family and a home with him in Canada.  Now a grandmother, Gloria looks back on her experiences with compassion and wisdom. 

Resilience bears witness to the struggles, strengths, complexities and determination of black single mothers who are building rich and rewarding lives for themselves and their families, and serves as a wake-up call to young people setting out on the path toward an exciting but uncertain future.


Lana Lovell - Director

Lana Lovell began directing in earnest five years ago, after years of working as a researcher and producer for the Discovery Channel, CTV News and Kensington Communications Inc.

Lana’s most recent documentary is Resilience: Stories of Single Black mothers. Her other documentary titles include The Incomparable Jackie Richardson, which was completed in 2008 for Bravo Television and received accolades for capturing musical performances, and Underground, the award winning short which premiered at Hot Docs in 2006. Ms. Lovell has also directed for the series Literature Alive and Heart Beat for Bravo Television.

In addition to directing, Lana is active in the documentary community. She is on the board for DOC Toronto and the national board of the Documentary Organization for Canada, where she facilitates workshops on pitching and effective storytelling.

Lana is a Toronto-based documentary filmmaker. She has a degree in anthropology from York University and studied Visual Anthropology at Manchester University.

Lisa Valencia-Svensson  -  Producer

Lisa Valencia-Svensson is a documentary film producer based in Toronto.  Her first film, the short docu-poem Borderless directed by award-winning filmmaker Min Sook Lee, tells the story of undocumented workers inside Canada's borders.  Borderless has been screened at 15 film festivals in Canada, the USA, and Korea.  It was broadcast on Vision TV and found educational distribution in Canada and the USA.  Her second film was the short documentary Sedition on youth and freedom of expression, also directed by Min Sook Lee.  Commissioned by PEN Canada, Sedition has played at film festivals in Canada, the US and the UK.

Since January 2007, Lisa has been working at Storyline Entertainment, where she has just finished producing Resilience: Stories of Single Black Mothers.  She also has a number of documentary projects in development, including The House That Herman Built which was pitched at Hot Docs and the Good Pitch Silverdocs in 2010, and Storage Dreams, an international co-production.

Lisa has a background in finance, community media, and research work.  She plans to continue working on film projects which explore political issues and socially relevant themes, and which encourage audiences to view their world through a constructively critical lens.

Ed Barreveld  -  Executive Producer

Storyline Entertainment CEO and Emmy Award-winning producer Ed Barreveld is one of Canada’s top independent documentary-film professionals. A hands-on producer with 35 years of experience in both financing and the field, Barreveld brings together Canadian and international storytellers, investors, and partners on documentaries that explore underexposed places and perspectives in society and culture.

Iris Ng  -  Director of Photography

Iris Ng is a graduate of Film and Video Production at York University with a background in still photography, visual art and music. She began her cinematography career by shooting her first independent feature film while studying at York and has since worked on narrative, experimental, and documentary films which have been exhibited around the world.

She has collaborated with artists on film pieces and installations including Without Persons by Luis Jacob, Circa 1960 by Chris Curreri, and Purfled Promises by Oliver Husain as well as she directed and shot he short documentary, Point of Departure which has screened at the Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival and Punto de Vista in Pamplona, Spain. Her other recent cinematography credits include, My Toxic Baby by director Min Sook Lee, and Weston Public, a new media documentary by Sarah Sharkey Pearce.

Currently, Iris is working on The Stories We Tell with director Sarah Polley and Defying Destiny with director Giselle Portenier. 

Ricardo Acosta  -  Editor

Ricardo Acosta immigrated to Canada from his native Cuba in 1993.  Before coming to Toronto, he studied and worked with the world renowned Cuban Film Institute in Havana.  For the past twelve years Ricardo has edited both documentary and dramatic films, which have been shown around the world.

His outstanding work has contributed to the making of several award-winning films including: Tiger Spirit directed by Min Sook Lee (Gemini Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program), Shooting Indians, A Journey With Jeffrey Thomas directed by Ali Kazimi (Genie Award nomination for Best Short Documentary); Unbound directed by Claudia Morgado (Berlin Film Festival Award for Best Short Film); Spirits of Havana produced by the NFB (Genie Award nomination for Best Documentary); The Take directed by Naomi Klein and Avi Lewis (Gemini nomination for The Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program & for Best Picture Editing in a Documentary Program or Series); and Runaway Groom directed by Ali Kazimi (Gemini Donald Brittain Award for Best Social/Political Documentary Program).

Ricardo was chosen to be a fellow by the Sundance Institute in 2006 for the Documentary Film Editing and Story Laboratory.

Sanjay Mehta  -  Location Sound Recordist

Sanjay Mehta started his career in recording sound at the age of 15 working for an Oscar winning sound recordist on feature films. Since then his love of sound and travelling has taken him from the sound stages of Toronto to the far corners of the planet working on documentary films. He has won Gemini awards for his work on Primitive Entertainment's McLuhan's Wake and Rhombus Media's  Beethoven's Hair.  Recent travels have taken him to DPRK (North Korea), and the Russian Far East working on Storyline Entertainment's Tiger Spirit.  When not calibrating his ears listening to vinyl records, Sanjay can be found printing photos in the darkroom.

Sammy Yi  -  Location Sound Recordist

Sammy Yi is a freelance sound recordist based out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada for the last 12 years and has been fortunate to be part of many outstanding projects. 

Sammy specializes in recording sound on location for documentaries,  that have included travel all around Budapest, Italy, Japan, Korea, United States as well as Canada.

In addition to documentaries, Sammy has also worked on numerous reality, lifestyle, docu-dramas, corporate videos and features.



Ken Myhr  -  Composer

Ken’s musical life began listening to his father play jazz stride piano and sing barbershop. After a few lessons he taught himself to play electric guitar and spent his early life making a lot of noise whenever and wherever possible. This lead to performing on concert stages worldwide from The Royal Albert Hall to the David Letterman Show. More recently he has created scores for over 90 films including Love, Hate & Propaganda (CBC), Geologic Journey (The Nature of Things), My Toxic Baby (Storyline), Diamond Road (Kensington), earning a Golden Sheaf Award and multiple Gemini Nominations in the process. For more info, go to

Daniel Pellerin  -  Post Production Sound

Daniel Pellerin is one of Canada’s finest recording and re-recording mixer/engineers, sound designers and music supervisors.  He has worked with a who’s who of Canadian filmmakers such as Atom Egoyan, Clement Virgo, James Cameron, Shelley Saywell, Min Sook Lee, Michael Kot, Ron Mann and Bruce MacDonald.  He has been nominated for 10 Genie Awards of which he has won three (Atom Egoyan’s The Sweet Hereafter, Istvan Szabo’s Sunshine and Clement Virgo’s Love Come Down).  He has been nominated for 16 Gemini Awards, for which he has won two (Musicians in Exile and Under the Piano). He has worked extensively with Storyline Entertainment and he was the supervising mixer for Min Sook Lee’s Tiger Spirit.

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I spoke to some amazing black women during the course of making this film. They spoke freely about their lives and had significant insight about being single mothers. All were very open with me but many refused to speak on camera because of the stigma attached to being a black single mother; these women were often well educated with good jobs and status in the community. Which kept bringing me back to the purpose of the film - the desire for discovery and recovery.

The documentary, “Resilience: stories of single black mothers”, is for our young women and men. It has moments of insight and strength, even beauty and is well worth watching for these reasons.

I love the women in this documentary. Simone speaks with bravery and intelligence about the obstacles and stigma she faces as a young woman raising three children alone. Nancy, a mother of twins, who has a successful management career in social work, owns the anxiety and self-consciousness of single parenthood. And Gloria speaking with her experience as a young single mother 40 years ago expresses alarm for teen mothers today.

70% of all black children are being raised in single parent homes. For the aspiring middle-class who believe this statistic has nothing to do with them, think again. Material privilege will not insulate adults or especially children from the direct and indirect ravages of low-self esteem, anxiety, and despair. The impact of single parent households on the majority of black children cannot be disconnected from the community at large.

Storytelling is my method of sharing information about myself, family and community. I hope “Resilience: stories of single black mothers” supports my efforts to reach out to young people in order to help them make healthy choices. I hope you enjoy this documentary, and I encourage you to read the accompanying guide.

Lana Lovell
Writer/ Director

Press & Fests

Sway interviews Director Lana Lovell

I Will Tell International Film Festival - iScreen Room (August 2011)

Africa World Film Festival (May 2011)

Young Mothers Forum (May 2011)

Tropicana Community Services (Mar 2011)

Women Moving Forward Program (Mar 2011)

Ontario Black History Society's Black Interntional Film Festival (Feb 2011)

DOC Night Out (Jan 2011)

African Diaspora International Film Festival (Nov-Dec 2010)

Urban Mediamakers FIlm Festival (Oct 2010)

Mid Atlantic Black Film Festival (Oct 2010)

International Black Film Festival of Nashville (Oct 2010)
Detroit Windsor International Film Festival (Jun 2010)



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