Chocolate Babies was seemingly lost to the world after a regrettably brief festival run in the late ’90s. Despite its critical acclaim, it did not receive proper distribution until 25 years after its premiere. Now, the film’s themes of racial discrimination and lack of support for those who are most vulnerable feel just as urgent and impactful, if not more so. 

Director Stephen Winter’s daring debut is an entertaining yet fiery political satire that includes a powerful team of sharp-tongued Black drag queens, an HIV-positive Black woman, a trans chanteuse, and a soft-spoken queer Asian activist. Together they stage a series of surprise attacks on New York City’s conservative officials, who are believed to be collecting secret lists of HIV-positive individuals for nefarious purposes. 

The masterminds behind the action include “to-the-death!” diva Max Mo-Freak; his determined sister, Jamela; Larva, sex-crazed with an attitude; Lady Marmalade, a junkie songstress; and Sam, an idealistic young militant (and Max Mo’s lover). Caught up in their extreme methods of activism and self-destructive drug and alcohol binges, the group becomes torn by infighting and begins to lose sight of their mission and loyalty to each other. Will they find the peace and justice they seek?

Occupying the space between fantasy, tragedy, and comedy, the award winning Chocolate Babies is a roller-coaster ride that has been provoking laughter and dialogue since its 1997 premiere.

Chocolate Babies – Wed June 21, 6pm – TIFF Bell Lightbox – 350 King Street West, Toronto

The film is screening as part of TIFF’s Cinematheque New and Restored Programme. This event will feature a Q&A with director Stephen Winter and Nataleah Hunter-Young, followed by a reception in the Main Floor Gallery from 8pm to 10pm with food, beverages, and performances by Devine Darlin and Naomi Leone, plus music by DJ Jelz All attendees with a valid ticket to Chocolate Babies will be admitted. Find more info and tickets here.

The film originally premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and won awards at San Francisco Frameline, SXSW, UrbanWorld and OutFest. Winter’s second feature, Jason and Shirley, received critical acclaim as well, and he also has co-created and directed the Afro-futuristic political satire podcast Adventures in New America, and is the lead writer of the Spotify documentary Sound Barrier: Sylvester, about a trailblazing queer Black disco star.



About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.