Best of Black Harvest Film Festival in the Chicago Public Library 2017

For the past 22 years, the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has presented the Black Harvest Film Festival. It is the Midwest’s largest and longest-running festival dedicated to telling stories of the black experience. 2017 marks the 23rd year of the festival.

For the past five years, in partnership with the Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Tribune Foundation, the Gene Siskel Film Center has shown highlights of previous festivals to create Best of Black Harvest Film Festival in the Chicago Public Library. Now in its sixth year, this summer program invites residents to experience these highlights at Chicago Public Library branches. Attendees will participate in film discussions after each screening, and will have a chance to receive complimentary tickets to this year’s Black Harvest Film Festival at the Gene Siskel Film Center (which takes place August 5 - 31). Refreshments will be provided.

All library screenings are free and open to the public. Seating is first-come first-served, until capacity is reached.

For more information about the program, please contact Keisha Chavers:
Here are Chicago Public Library locations holding Best of Black Harvest Film Festival screenings:

  • Wed, July 5 at 5:30pm • Legler
  • Mon, July 24 at 5:30pm • Wrightwood Ashburn Branch


2016, David J. Steiner, USA, 83 min.

In 2015, the Betty Shabazz-Barbara A. Sizemore Academy in Englewood was one of four charter schools put on the chopping block by Chicago Public Schools. The school fought back, and teacher/filmmaker Steiner captured the struggle in this engaging, persuasive film, which conveys the school’s unique family atmosphere and emphasis on African culture.

Screenings in memory of director David J. Steiner.

Post-film discussion with Diane Silverberg & Jocelyn Mills, principal of Barbara Sizemore on July 5.

  • Tue, July 18 at 5:30pm • Douglass Branch
  • Fri, July 21 at 2pm • Coleman Branch
  • Wed, July 26 at 5:30pm • Legler Branch
  • Sat, July 29 at 2pm • Wrightwood Ashburn Branch


Post-film discussion with director Eleva Singleton of SHINEMEN and Sam Wofford (ROAD TRIP) on July 29.

2015, Nicholas Pilarski & Destini Riley, USA, 14 min.
A young girl struggles to come to terms with the baffling cruelty of the world in light of her brother’s incarceration in this sensitive hand-drawn animation.

2014, Jason Honeycutt, USA, 8 min. With Cedric Young, Tyrone.
A true event inspired this story of an attempted mugging that has an unexpected outcome.

2015, Samuel Wofford, USA. With Aubrey Marquez, Kristin E. Ellis.
A young man recalls the only three times he spoke with his father as he anticipates the fourth.

2015 Eleva Singleton, USA, 24 min.
“Shoeshine technician” Bill Williams is the focus of this documentary tribute to an often misunderstood profession.

2016, Derek Dow, USA, 16 min. With Simone Missick, McKenzie Franklin.
After a lifetime of struggling with nappy hair, a young woman has second thoughts about giving it the chop.

  • Wed, June 28 at 5:30pm • Legler Branch
  • Thu, July 6 at 5:30pm • Douglass Branch
  • Wed, July 12 at 5:30pm • Coleman Branch
  • Sat, July 22 at 2:00pm • Wrightwood Ashburn Branch


2015, Tod Lending, USA, 83 min.

Oscar-nominated director, Lending (LEGACY) follows two young Black men from Chicago’s South Side as they aim for college. Filmed over 5 1⁄2 years, this insightful documentary traces their personal, academic and financial struggles, as it weighs the factors that make all the difference in their effort to be among the 16% of African- American men who graduate from college.

Post-film discussion with Tod Lending (director) on July 12 & Krishaun Branch (film subject) on July 22.

  • Thu, July 13 at 5:30pm • Douglass Branch
  • Tue, July 25 at 2pm • Coleman Branch


2016, Mallory Sohmer & Kate Benzschawel, USA, 86 min.

A musical pilgrimage to Senegal uncovers complex and troubling issues that were not anticipated when filming of this documentary began. Social worker Elilta Tewelde becomes fascinated by the bucket drummers she sees on the streets of Chicago’s South Side. She crowdfunds a project to take four teenage drummers to Senegal to study under master percussionist, Medoune Gueye. But the cultural gulf between South Side and West Africa is not so easily crossed and conflicts arise among Tewelde, the four boys and their Senegalese hosts.

Post-film discussion with Mallory Sohmer & guest on July 13.