22nd Black Harvest Film Festival
August 5 - September 1
From August 5 through September 1, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents the 22nd Annual Black Harvest Film Festival, celebrating the best in contemporary independent filmmaking exploring the stories, images, heritage, and history of the black experience in the U.S. and around the world. Encounters with filmmakers are the festival’s pride and joy, and this year we present more filmmaker appearances than ever, with more than forty scheduled as we go to press.
The big 22 calls for a double-whammy opening, and we’ve got ‘em for you! On Friday, August 5, join us for ACTIVATE’s pre-opening street party SEE, followed by a celebratory 9:30 pm screening of PURPLE RAIN.
On Saturday, August 6, NBC 5 Chicago’s LeeAnn Trotter MCs A Black Harvest Feast with special guests and an exciting homecoming reunion of "Black Harvest" filmmakers past and present. Immediately after the show, the audience is invited to a reception across the street at the Joffrey Ballet studios.
Our September 1 closing night features directors Frank Dawson and Abby Ginzberg with their provocative documentary AGENTS OF CHANGE, on the transformative effects of black student activism in the Sixties and Seventies. The closing night party, sponsored by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, follows the screening.
All films are eligible for the Black Harvest Audience Award; ballots available in our lobby. Be sure to check back for added appearances and special events.
Feature films with a Chicago connection are prominent in the schedule. MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE, the long-awaited in-depth profile of the great African American poet and activist by Chicagoans Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn-Whack premieres on August 27, as a festival preview prior to our September theatrical run of the film. Former Chicagoan Seckeita Lewis returns to her hometown with the audacious Civil Rights-era comedy JERICO, with a personal appearance by actress Irma P. Hall.
Features shot in and around Chicago include: SUNSHINE DAY and THIS IS NOT CHIRAQ, both directed by Lawrence Lee Wallace; WALK ALL NIGHT: A DRUM BEAT JOURNEY by Mallory Sohmer and Kate Benzschawel; and David Steiner’s SAVING BARBARA SIZEMORE. Tod Lending’s ALL THE DIFFERENCE follows two young men pursuing dreams of college against formidable odds.
We have music! Screenings of TEAR THE ROOF OFF: THE UNTOLD STORY OF PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC (August 12 and 13) feature personal appearances by some of the iconic band’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame musicians. THE CAGED BIRD: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF FLORENCE B. PRICE tells the little-known story of a composer with a Chicago connection. Chicago radio host and music critic Richard Steele will be honored with the Gene Siskel Film Center’s Legacy Award at the August 17 screening of SOUND OF REDEMPTION: THE FRANK MORGAN STORY.
The challenges of love and marriage are seen through a unique lens in DARK SEED by China L Colston, another former Chicagoan; in Crosby Tatum’s CONFUSED…BY LOVE; and in LOVE ISN’T ENOUGH by Saquan Jones and Erin Ryan. An aggressive hunt for love gets the comic treatment in Tahir Jetter’s HOW TO TELL YOU’RE A DOUCHEBAG.
GORDON PARKS ELEMENTARY, the new documentary by Black Harvest alum and writer of Spike Lee’s CHI-RAQ, Kevin Willmott, premieres on August 14. CLASS DIVIDE, a gripping look at the fallout from gentrification in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood screens as a Movie Club program courtesy of HBO Documentary Films on August 23. On August 27, we welcome back to Chicago Zeinabu irene Davis, one of the founding advisors to Black Harvest, to premiere SPIRITS OF REBELLION: BLACK FILM FROM UCLA. Also screening that weekend are Davis’s 1999 film COMPENSATION, and a new digital restoration of Charles Burnett’s TO SLEEP WITH ANGER.— Barbara Scharres, Director of Programming
The Black Harvest Film Festival is supported by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Special thanks to festival consultant Sergio Mims, our Black Harvest Community Council, and to the many filmmakers who help make this festival possible.
FESTIVAL PARTNERS: DuSable Museum, Chicago Reader, WVON 1690 AM, CIMMFest, Midwest Independent Film Festival
Purchase a Black Harvest festival pass!
Six movies for less than the price of five, plus a free small popcorn with each film. Turn in your pass at the end of the festival for a $5 discount on a Gene Siskel Film Center membership. A $92 value for $55!
Best of the Black Harvest Film Festival in the Chicago Public Libraries
Our ongoing partnership with the Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Tribune Foundation brings Black Harvest’s fascinating assortment of films to an even larger audience in Chicago's neighborhoods. Spread the word!
- See past films for FREE and have a chance at winning tickets for the 2016 Black Harvest Film Festival.
- Enjoy post-film discussions with filmmakers & FREE refreshments.
Black Harvest Pre-Opening Party
& PURPLE RAIN screening!
1984, Albert Magnoli, USA, 111 min. With Prince, Apollonia Kotero.
- Fri, Aug 5th 9:30pm
FROM 5 PM to 10 PM join the "SEE" party, where highlights from the Black Harvest Film Festival will delight and intrigue down the length of Couch Place, the alley just north of the Film Center. Rethink how you see the world around you. CLICK HERE for more information, to RSVP, and to check out the suggested dress code. RSVP includes one complimentary drink ticket per registered attendee (21+). Good for beer or wine. ACTIVATE is an economic development and place-making initiative of Chicago Loop Alliance. Admission to Couch Place is free.
AT 9:30 PM finish off the party with a screening of Prince's immortal classic! Admission is only $5.00!
Revolving around a young musician’s struggle to break away from an abusive father, the film showcases some of Prince's most exuberant songs (including “When Doves Cry,” "Let's Go Crazy," and "Purple Rain") and fierce live-concert footage. Apollonia Kotero is ravishing as the romantic interest, and Morris Day provides lively comic rivalry. Prince won an Oscar for the music score. DCP digital. (Jim Dempsey)
Opening Night Celebration:
A Black Harvest Feast
2014-16, Various directors, USA/France, 75 min.
- Sat, Aug 6th 7:30pm
Join Master of Ceremonies LeeAnn Trotter of NBC 5 Chicago for the opening night celebration, a homecoming event honoring Black Harvest filmmakers past and present.
Enjoy a sneak preview of the 2016 “harvest” through six short films: Maxime Gilbert’s DIME, a short lesson on speaking your mind; Jason Honeycutt's moving drama of a fateful encounter on the streets of Chicago, INTERSECTION; Nicholas Pilarski’s poignant coming-of-age animation, I, DESTINI; William Adams’s date-night comedy, A 3RD FIRST; Maïmouna Doucouré's haunting child's-eye view of marital discord, MAMAN(S); and Derek Dow's peppy paean to Hair Pride, THE BIG CHOP. (BS, MR)
Immediately following the show "A Black Harvest Feast," the audience is invited to join our celebrity guests for a reception at Joffrey Tower (10 E. Randolph St.), home of The Joffrey Ballet Chicago.
OPENING NIGHT GUESTS
Filmmakers William Adams, Derek Dow, Maxime Gilbert, Nick Pilarski, and Destini Riley and will be present.
Special admission prices for this program (includes reception): General Admission $25; Students $20; Members $15. Proceeds from this screening benefit the educational programs of the Gene Siskel Film Center. No free passes, blue tickets, or "Black Harvest" festival passes will be valid for this screening.
All the Difference
2015, Tod Lending, USA, 83 min.
- Sun, Aug 7th 3:00pm
- Mon, Aug 8th 6:00pm
Inspired by Wes Moore's bestseller "The Other Wes Moore," Oscar-nominated director Lending (LEGACY) follows two young black men from Chicago's South Side on a difficult and heroic journey. Krishaun and Robert come from broken families in high-crime neighborhoods where many kids don't expect to live past 18, much less go to college, but it can take only one generation to break the cycle and change a family's future. Robert's mother was murdered by his father, and Krishaun, like his father, joined a gang. Now, bolstered by their education at Chicago's Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men, they aim for college — Krishaun studying criminal justice at Nashville's historically black Fisk University, Robert taking pre-med at predominantly white Lake Forest College. Filmed over five and a half years, the film 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. (MR)
This is a family-friendly film.
AUGUST 7 & 8: Director Tod Lending and cast member Krishaun Branch will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.
Shorts Program: Made in Chicago I
2015-16, Various directors, USA, 86 min.
- Sun, Aug 7th 5:15pm
- Thu, Aug 11th 8:00pm
Five films featuring Chicago talent.
AUGUST 7 & 11: Director Samuel Wofford and actors Aubrey Marquez and Harold Dennis of ROAD TRIP; cinematographer Ashley Mills of PANGAEA; cast members Nia M. Parker and Cheryl Taylor of NIA AND CHERYL; director David J. Miller, producer Michelle De Long, writers Jeffrey M. Jones and Danny Price, and actors Sheila Fortson (Sunday only), Tamarus Harvell (Thursday only), Raphael Hayden, Chris Love, and Marcus Rashad of CROSSROADS will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.
The Big Chop
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. (MR)
Crossroads: Choices and Consequences
2015, David J. Miller, USA, 39 min. With Tamarus Harvell, John Eric Lane.
Discouraged by menial jobs and tempted by easy money, a young man faces a life-changing decision. (MR)
Nia and Cheryl
2016, Weichao Xu, USA, 14 min.
The Chicago Multicultural Dance Center is the setting for this documentary about a veteran dance teacher and her daughter, an aspiring ballet student. (MR)
2016, Olivia Peace, USA, 7 min. With Raeghan Keys, Harmony Elise Jones.
Northwestern University student Peace went to New Orleans to film this story of a 6-year-old girl trying to understand Hurricane Katrina. (MR)
2015, Samuel Wofford, USA, 10 min. With Aubrey Marquez, Kristin E. Ellis.
A young man recalls the only three times he spoke with his father, as he anticipates the fourth. (MR)
2015, Crosby Tatum, USA, 71 min. With Keith Mascoll, Jamie Perez.
- Mon, Aug 8th 8:15pm
- Wed, Aug 10th 8:15pm
The one-year marriage of Ferguson, a shy, bespectacled author, and his spendaholic Gucci-gal wife Tiffany seems headed for the rocks. Arriving only steps behind the foreclosure notice on their posh suburban split-level is Ferguson’s high-rolling pal Reggie, with significant other Jo-Jo, who just happens to be Ferguson’s ex-girlfriend. Reggie makes a financial proposition, and the stage is set for games, not strictly limited to Truth or Dare and Spin the Bottle, in this comedy that director Tatum based in part on memories of a family predicament. (BS)
AUGUST 8 & 10: Director Crosby Tatum and members of the cast and crew will tentatively be present for audience discussion.
Shorts Program: International Visions
2014-16, Various directors, Various nations, 89 min.
- Tue, Aug 9th 8:15pm
Five shorts from foreign shores highlight new perspectives on black life and culture.
AUGUST 9: Dancer/choreographer Kate Jablonski (DEATH TO LIFE) will be present for audience discussion.
2015, Christa Eka Assam, Cameroon, 22 min. With Christa Eka Assam, Valery Nchifor.
The silence of her friends and neighbors contributes to an abused woman's ordeal. In English. (MR)
Death to Life
2016, Roger Bell, UK, 5 min.
Animation and motion capture combine in this wordless tale of a pregnant woman who seeks the Tree of Life. (MR)
2015, Maimouna Doucouré, France, 24 min. With Sokhna Diallo, Maïmouna Gueye.
When her father brings back a second wife and new baby from Senegal, eight-year-old Aida watches...and schemes. In French with English subtitles. (MR)
2015, Elton de Almeida, Brazil, 22 min. With Lourenço dos Santos, Ju Colombo.
A young São Paulo artist struggles to find his identity between his black heritage and his white adoptive family. In Portuguese with English subtitles. (MR)
2014, Afia Nkrumah, UK, 16 min. With Emeka Sesay-Okokobioko, Kierston Wareing-Tracey.
On the run from the British immigration police, a young African man gets unexpected help from his uncle's ghost and a white neighbor. In Yoruba, Ashanti-Twi, Hausa, Bosnian, and English with English subtitles. (MR)
Time Simply Passes
2015, Ty Flowers, USA, 54 min.
- Wed, Aug 10th 6:00pm
Multiple miscarriages of justice are the focus of this gripping true-crime documentary. In 1967, an African American migrant worker named James Richardson was sentenced to death for poisoning his seven children in Arcadia, Florida. 21 years later, a deathbed confession by an overlooked suspect led to Richardson’s release, but, in 2013, filmmaker Flowers found him living in poverty, thanks to inadequate compensation and exoneration laws. The son of an investigative journalist who had covered the case, Flowers dug deep to piece together a story that is, as he says, “about race, about Florida, about the evolution of small-town justice, about systemic corruption on all levels of government.” (MR)
AUGUST 10: Director Ty Flowers will be present for audience discussion.
Shorts Program: Made in Chicago II
2014-16, Various directors, USA, 83 min.
- Fri, Aug 12th 6:00pm
- Tue, Aug 16th 8:15pm
Five more films featuring Chicago talent.
AUGUST 12 & 13: Director Jonathan Rhodes of HI MOM; director Angela Y. Dugan of JERMAINE; and director Eleva Singleton and cast members of SHINEMEN will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.
2016, Jonathan Rhodes, USA, 11 min. With Jalen Gilbert. Alana Grossman.
An interracial couple's relationship reaches a crisis when his mother comes to visit Chicago. (MR)
2014, Jason Honeycutt, USA, 8 min. With Cedric Young, Tyrone Phillips.
A true event inspired this story of an attempted mugging that has an unexpected outcome. (MR)
2015, Angela Y. Dugan, USA, 21 min. With Church Lockett, Jamal Poindexter.
Gun violence informs this South Side story centering on a father, his son, and a stolen bike. (MR)
2015, Eleva Singleton, USA, 24 min.
"Shoeshine technician" Bill Williams is the focus of this documentary tribute to an often misunderstood profession. (MR)
2016, Sanicole, USA, 19 min. With Kristin Ellis, Church Lockett.
Gifts have unintended consequences in this story of a makeup artist juggling two men in her life. (MR)
Tear the Roof Off: The Untold Story of Parliament Funkadelic
2016, Bobby J. Brown, USA, 58 min.
- Fri, Aug 12th 8:30pm
- Sat, Aug 13th 8:15pm
Filmmaker Brown takes us way behind the scenes historically in this revealing profile of the revolutionary dance-party funk band Parliament Funkadelic, including a hard look at its controversial and autocratic leader George Clinton. From doo-wop roots to the Mothership Connection tour and the eventual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, the music and the over-the-top costumes put the fun in funk. The stories of high life and wild ways are de rigueur for the rock scene, but the meat of this tale is an unraveling saga of Clinton’s ruthless manipulation and exploitation of band members, leaving some of his original collaborators bewildered and betrayed. This program is dedicated to the memory of keyboardist Bernie Worrell (1944-2016). (BS)
AUGUST 12 & 13: Director Bobby J. Brown, plus Dawn Silva, Jeanette Perkins, Billy “Bass” Nelson, and “Shady” Grady Thomas, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame former members of Parliament Funkadelic, will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.
Panel Discussion: Action! The Real Deal About Filmmaking
- Sat, Aug 13th 5:15pm
Our Black Harvest panel discussion annually debates issues relating to black filmmaking. Festival consultant Sergio Mims heads up a panel of filmmakers to include: directors Sandrel “Sanicole” Young (SIDE EFFECTS); Eleva Singleton (SHINEMEN); Bobby J. Brown (TEAR THE ROOF OFF); and Mallory Sohmer and Kate Benzschawel (WALK ALL NIGHT). The audience is invited to participate in this provocative forum.
Free admission. Tickets available at the box office only. Seats available on a first come, first served basis.
Gordon Parks Elementary
2015, Kevin Willmott, USA, 57 min.
- Sun, Aug 14th 3:00pm
BHFF veteran (DESTINATION PLANET NEGRO, JAYHAWKERS) and CHI-RAQ screenwriter Willmott turns a documentary eye on his native Kansas City to explore a crisis situation that is becoming all too common in urban schools. Gordon Parks Elementary School, which serves some of the city's most disadvantaged children, finds itself facing closure because of low test scores. Willmott's intimate portrayal of the school's dynamic principal, dedicated teachers, and challenge-overcoming students (as one educator notes, "Can you imagine your kid doing his homework if he lived in a car?") raises wide-ranging questions about over-reliance on standardized testing and the politicization of education. (MR)
This is a family-friendly film.
AUGUST 14: Director Kevin Willmott will be present for audience discussion. Kevin is a Black Harvest alum with films including DESTINATION PLANET NEGRO and JAYHAWKERS, and is the screenwriter of Spike Lee's CHI-RAQ. He will be joined by Executive Producer Nancy Seelen and Producer Sam Zeff.
Walk All Night: A Drum Beat Journey
2016, Mallory Sohmer and Kate Benzschawel, USA, 86 min
- Sun, Aug 14th 5:00pm
- Mon, Aug 15th 8:00pm
A musical pilgrimage to Senegal illuminates links to their Africa heritage for four Chicago youths, but it also uncovers complex and troubling issues that were not anticipated when filming of this documentary began. Social worker Elilta Tewelde, herself an Eritrean refugee, becomes fascinated by the bucket drummers whom she sees performing on the streets of Chicago’s South Side. She crowd-funds a project to take four teenage drummers on a trip to Senegal to study under master percussionist/griot Medoune Gueye (aka Papa Dame). 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. (MR)
AUGUST 14 & 15: Co-directors Mallory Sohmer and Kate Benzschawel and executive producer/cast member Elilta Tewelde will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.
Love Isn't Enough
2016, Saquan Jones and Erin Ryan, USA, 73 min. With Ashley Bloom, Shadner Ifrene.
- Tue, Aug 16th 6:15pm
- Wed, Aug 17th 8:15pm
An interracial marriage undergoes a trial by fire when a dispute over the Thanksgiving turkey precipitates an emotional look at the very roots of the relationship. In order to achieve cultural veracity, the biracial production team divided responsibilities, with Jones directing Charles (Ifrene), the African American husband, and Ryan directing Amanda (Bloom), his Caucasian wife. Flashbacks point up the sexual chemistry that underlies the couple’s love, but glaring cultural differences come into play, sometimes humorously, when friends and family enter the equation, and a toddler son begs the question of identity anew. (BS)
AUGUST 16 & 17: Co-directors Saquan Jones and Erin Ryan, actors Shadner Ifrene, Ashley Bloom, and Rocky Collins, and camera operator Ryan Schwerzler will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.
Sound of Redemption: The Frank Morgan Story
2015, N.C. Heikin, USA, 84 min.
- Wed, Aug 17th 6:00pm
"A fond and forgiving tribute to the man, filled with music that moves beyond happy and sad, and toward something like brilliance." — Ken Jaworowski, The New York Times
For a good portion of the 1960s and 1970s, the man often described as “the greatest living alto sax player” could be heard only if you journeyed to San Quentin to attend one of the legendary concerts by the prison’s all-star jazz band. Prodigiously talented Frank Morgan (who died in 2007) was inspired by the great Charlie Parker, but that inspiration included emulating Parker’s heroin habit, which led to a criminal career ranging from burglary to bank robbery. This candid, moving documentary covers the highs and lows of Morgan’s life (including a remarkable late-life comeback), framed by a tribute concert performed at San Quentin by such admirers as Delfeayo Marsalis, Ron Carter, and Morgan protégé Grace Kelly, whose soaring, heartbreaking rendition of “Over the Rainbow” captures the mixture of triumph and regret that marked a difficult life. (MR)
AUGUST 17: Chicago radio host and music critic Richard Steele will be presented with the Gene Siskel Legacy Award at this screening.
Shorts Program: We Are Family
2015-16, Various directors, USA/UK, 92 min.
- Thu, Aug 18th 8:15pm
The power of family to divide or to make whole is at the center of these shorts.
AUGUST 18: Directors D. Mitry of SHADE OF MUSIC, Richard Turke of WATCH THIS, and (tentatively) Jake Hull of SECOND WORDS will be present for audience discussion.
The Good Son
2015, Tomisin Adepeju, UK, 14 min. With Gbolahan Obisesan, Grace Fitzgerald.
Traditionally minded parents lurch into crisis mode when their London-born only son’s secret girlfriend unexpectedly comes calling. In Yoruba and English with English subtitles. (BS)
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. (BS)
2016, Jake Hull, USA, 11 min. With John Beasley, TammyRa’ Jackson.
An uninvited guest shakes the world of a man who refuses to acknowledge the purpose of her visit. (BS)
Shade of Music
2015, D. Mitry, USA, 27 min. With Malcolm J. West, William Michael Paul.
Two feuding neighbors with opposing tastes in music find an unexpected cure for loneliness when adversity strikes one of them. (BS)
2015, Richard Turke, USA, 26 min. With Harrison Page, Donzaleigh Abernathy.
A broken TV raises the curtain on new drama for an elderly widower set in his ways. (BS)
Shorts Program: Love African American Style
2014-16, Various directors, USA/Canada, 92 min.
- Fri, Aug 19th 6:00pm
- Sat, Aug 20th 8:30pm
Love, our universal obsession, is seen for better and for worse in these shorts.
AUGUST 19 & 20: Director William Adams (Friday only), associate producer Latonya Tureau, and actors Conchedia De Pratto and Lawrence E. Johnson Jr. of A 3RD FIRST; director Alaina L. Lewis and actors Kayann Comeaux and Lamar Barnes of BREAKFAST; Director Gian Smith and producer/actress Nicole Collins of THE ADULTERER; producer/actor N.K. Gutiérrez of THE LAST NEW YEAR; and director Dana Verde of IN BLACK & WHITE will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.
2015, Gian Smith, USA, 15 min. With Gian Smith, Canae White.
A married professor looking for clandestine action meets his match in an understanding student who is more than she seems. (BS)
2016, Nicholas Payne Santos, USA, 8 min. With Amir Royale, Emma Hedrick.
Teen lovers meet for a tryst in the woods and test their bond in a risky game. (BS)
2015, Alaina L. Lewis, USA, 13 min. With K.D. Comeaux, Lamar Barnes.
Allergies comically alter the scenario of a much-anticipated blind date. (BS)
2015, Maxime Gilbert, Canada, 3 min. With Francesca Gosselin, Anaïs Damphousse Joly.
There’s a price to pay for speaking one’s mind in this humorous take on the in-law problem. In French with English subtitles. (BS)
In Black & White
2016, Dana Verde, USA, 20 min. With Kajuana S. Marie, Marishka Phillips.
Semantics are on the menu when an interracial couple’s celebratory dinner party gets heated. (BS)
The Last New Year
2015, Natasha Parker, USA, 15 min. With N.K. Gutiérrez, Adrienne Walker.
Fatal attraction takes on a new meaning in this raunchy girl-talk look at preparations for a date. (BS)
A 3rd First
2016, William Adams, USA, 10 min. With Conchedia De Pratto, Lawrence E. Johnson Jr.
A young lady proposes some unusual activities on the first date. (BS)
2014, Laila Petrone, USA, 8 min. With Deji LaRay, Zara Durrani.
An air of forbidden romance and danger makes a hot assignation all the sweeter for a married man. (BS)
This Is Not Chiraq
2015, Lawrence Lee Wallace and The SpinArtist, USA, 70 min. With Eric Lane, José Santiago, Simeon Henderson.
- Fri, Aug 19th 8:30pm
- Wed, Aug 24th 8:30pm
Chicago becomes a battleground for two gangs looking to dominate the streets in this series pilot that aims to portray a more complex human reality than the controversial CHI-RAQ. “We are living what Spike Lee is trying to sell with his story,” says writer/producer William Pierce. Just home from prison, Marshawn Adams (Lane), the youngest son of a pastor and brother to a police officer (Henderson), signals a new era for the Black Hustlers, a gang in direct conflict with drug-dealing matriarch Kika, whose son Diablo (Santiago) heads the Spanish Angels. The film was shot entirely on Chicago’s South Side with a team combining local acting talent, recent film school grads, and gang members. DCP digital. (BS)
AUGUST 19 & 24: Executive producer Rodger Jackson, director Lawrence Lee Wallace, actors José Santiago, Simeon Henderson, and additional cast and crew will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.
2016, Seckeita Lewis, USA, 98 min. With Brandon Lewis, Anthony Fort, Irma P. Hall.
- Sat, Aug 20th 6:00pm
- Sun, Aug 21st 5:00pm
Set in the Jim Crow South, in a small Mississippi town, and bursting with goofy musical numbers and slapstick, JERICO, the first feature by former Chicagoan Lewis, takes the daring step of creating high comedy from the darker and more violent aspects of segregation. A Klan action over an African American man’s bid for promotion at work leaves a family legacy that the next generation is forced to reckon with on the very day the Civil Rights Act passes. Crazy chases, ruses, redneck villains, romantic missteps, and a black man in white face all keep this plot humming, as two guys just trying to get to work become unintentional heroes on that fateful 1964 morning. (BS)
AUGUST 20 & 21: Director Seckeita Lewis, screenwriter/actor Brandon Lewis, and actor Irma P. Hall will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.
The Caged Bird: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price
2015, James Greeson, USA, 57 min.
- Sun, Aug 21st 3:00pm
This absorbing documentary examines the remarkable life and work of Florence Price, who incorporated spirituals, Juba dances, and other vernacular sources into the classical tradition in the course of a prolific composing career, becoming the first African American woman whose work was performed by a major orchestra. Price established herself as a musical prodigy in Arkansas, until lynchings motivated a relocation to Chicago in 1927. There she became a key figure in the Chicago Black Renaissance, collaborating with the likes of Langston Hughes, Katherine Dunham, and, especially, Marian Anderson, who performed Price's "My Soul's Been Anchored in de Lord" at the climax of her historic 1939 Lincoln Memorial concert. (MR)
This is a family-friendly film.
AUGUST 21: Director James Greeson will be present for audience discussion.
2016, Marc Levin, USA, 74 min.
- Tue, Aug 23rd 6:00pm
"Puts a human face on the issue of income equality … compelling viewing." — Frank Scheck, Hollywood Reporter
"There are no villains here, and everyone gets a say." — Daniel M. Gold, The New York Times
The high price of gentrification is examined in this gripping profile of one intersection in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. On one side of the street, a stone’s throw from the popular High Line, lies an aging public housing project packed with black and Latino families of the working poor. On the other side stands a brand new elite pre-K-12 private school flanked by condos with “bargain” price tags circa ten million. Filmmaker Levin (HARD TIMES: LOST ON LONG ISLAND) focuses on the kids on both sides of the divide, but also listens to parents, teachers, developers, newcomers, and longtime residents of the area, for a complex portrait of classism and urban evolution. Special advance screening courtesy of HBO Documentary Films. (BS)
AUGUST 23: This screening is a Movie Club event, and will be facilitated by producer Daphne Pinkerson and joined by film subject Hyisheem Calier.
2016, China L. Colston, USA, 89 min. With China L. Colston, David Roberts.
- Tue, Aug 23rd 8:15pm
- Wed, Aug 24th 6:15pm
The ticking of her biological clock brings Emon (former Chicagoan Colston), a hard-driving executive in line for a big promotion, to a decision not shared by her amiable husband Idreese (Roberts) in this intimate drama. A guilty secret buried in her past and an unspoken trauma lurking in his bring on a crisis, as the future of their seemingly perfect marriage hangs in the balance. Facing unfinished business with former partners and making peace with actions that cannot be undone become the keys to healing. (BS)
AUGUST 23 & 24: Director China L. Colston, editor/composer Kafele Bandele, and supporting actors Michael Alexis Palmer, Harold Dennis, and Lawrence Lee Wallace will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.
Shorts Program: Women of Color
2014-16, Various directors, USA, 84 min.
- Thu, Aug 25th 8:15pm
Courage and resilience characterizes the African American woman in the face of life’s rough spots in these shorts.
AUGUST 25: Director Bryan Willis of DECISIONS and writer-producer-actor Maria Miller of ME TOO, YOU will be present for audience discussion.
2015, Kevin Maxwell, USA, 22 min. With Latarsha Rose, Joe Holt.
Racism and the violence of an abusive marriage pose twin challenges for the woman who owns a Southern town’s only black business in this period drama based on a true story. (BS)
2016, Bryan Willis, USA, 5 min. With Kim Cee.
With a major life choice looming, a woman has a heart-to-heart talk with her conscience. (BS)
2016, Chelsea Woods, USA, 13 min. With April Grace, Jaquita Ta’le.
The fear of not living up to the expectations of her college student daughter propels a depressed mother into a parallel fantasy life. (BS)
Jamaica T. Jones
2014, Nzinga Kadalie Kemp, USA, 19 min. With Janet E. Dandridge, Mtume Gant.
On the advice of her fortuneteller, the feisty heroine attempts to address her anger issues in this colorful comedy. (BS)
Me Too, You
2016, Travis Williams, USA, 15 min. With Tangara Jones, Ria Miller.
A sister searches for her missing sibling among Manhattan’s homeless, and befriends a troubled woman who can’t stop reliving a tragedy from her past. (BS)
2016, Xavier Burgin, USA, 9 min. With Inger Tudor, Araija DaCosta.
The urgency of a job interview presents a single mom with a desperate choice. (BS)
How to Tell You're a Douchebag
2016, Tahir Jetter, USA, 80 min. With Charles Brice, DeWanda Wise.
- Fri, Aug 26th 6:15pm
- Mon, Aug 29th 8:00pm
"Seems to speak to a continually-budding generation of Twitter-philes that are equal parts socially aware and self-obsessed." — Dan Mecca, The Film Stage
"A welcome change of pace compared to the conventional tripe that comes off Hollywood’s assembly line." — Nick Spake, Flickreel
Ray (Brice), 100% player and lightly employed writer of the blog “Occasionally Dating Black Women,” is begging for comeuppance in this snappy romantic comedy with a knack for just desserts. Ray meets his match in Rochelle (Wise), a fellow writer with a high-powered career and a healthy disdain for his bed-hopping ways. Heartlessness and thoughtlessness make for a lethal cocktail when this cocky would-be suitor, one foot in mouth, lets his finger do the talking by hitting “send” too soon, for a viral reaction he’ll live to regret. (BS)
Note: Includes nudity and sexual activity.
2015, Lawrence Lee Wallace, USA, 100 min. With Kimberly Washington, Brian C. Green.
- Fri, Aug 26th 8:15pm
- Tue, Aug 30th 8:00pm
Based on Chicago author April Tylon-Warren’s novel, this complex and passionate coming-of-age story is set entirely on Chicago’s South Side in the Seventies, where the changing fortunes of families and friendships impact the tumultuous life of a young woman. Attractions, jealousies, breakups, and bonding mark the relationships of a close-knit group of neighborhood teens, until Sunshine (Washington) settles down with Josh (Green), but marriage and motherhood bring challenges that include infidelity, mental illness, addiction, and the escalating violence of the streets. (BS)
AUGUST 26 & 30: Writer/executive producer April Tylon-Warren, director Lawrence Lee Wallace, and actors Brian C. Green and Kimberly Washington will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.
Spirits of Rebellion: Black Film From UCLA
2016, Zeinabu irene Davis, USA, 100 min.
- Sat, Aug 27th 3:00pm
"Davis’ film is not only deeply informative, but hugely inspiring... cultural amnesia and dedicated erasure can make it seem like resistance has been scant and creativity in the face of staggering obstacles a non-starter. SPIRITS proves just how false those notions are." — Ernest Hardy, Crave
“LA Rebellion” is the name given to the important movement that arose in the Ethno-communications Program at UCLA in the late 1960s and that sought to forge an alternative to Hollywood for filmmakers of color. Director Davis, herself a graduate of the program, provides a lively inside look at the diverse group of filmmakers, teachers, and social-historical factors behind the movement, with illuminating excerpts and interviews from such groundbreaking directors as Charles Burnett, Larry Clark, Julie Dash, Jamaa Fanaka, Haile Gerima, Barbara McCullough, and Bill Woodberry. (MR)
This is a family-friendly film.
AUGUST 27: Director Zeinabu irene Davis will be present for audience discussion.
1999, Zeinabu irene Davis, USA, 92 min. With John Jelks, Michelle A. Banks.
- Sat, Aug 27th 5:30pm
"A small, quiet, enchanting film about characters who endure and prevail and trust themselves… It makes you feel good." — Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
"Beautiful and poignant… deserves the chance to reach the widest audience possible." — Kevin Thomas, Los Angeles Times
Two unique African American love stories, each involving a deaf woman and a hearing man, play out in this moving drama. Inspired by a poem written by Paul Laurence Dunbar, the narrative shares their struggle to overcome racism, disability and discrimination. This important film on African American deaf culture innovatively incorporates silent film techniques such as title cards and vintage photos to make the piece accessible to hearing and deaf viewers alike, and to share the vast possibilities of language and communication. (Description courtesy of Women Make Movies)
AUGUST 27: Director Zeinabu irene Davis will be present for audience discussion.
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise
2016, Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack, USA, 114 min.
- Sat, Aug 27th 8:00pm
The remarkable, daring, and iconic life of poet, writer, and activist Maya Angelou unfolds in this in-depth portrait, which includes a substantial element of storytelling by the artist herself. Angelou brings the resonant cadences of poetry to narrating an entrancing chronicle of a youth shaped by family upheaval, the racism of a small Arkansas town, and early motherhood, as eventually detailed in her first book "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings." Rare footage traces her varied pre-writing career as a nightclub dancer, singer, and star known as “Miss Calypso,” her courage as a political activist, and her transformative friendships with figures including James Baldwin, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X. Interviews include Oprah Winfrey, Common, Alfre Woodard, Cicely Tyson, Quincy Jones, and Angelou’s son Guy Johnson. (BS)
This is a family-friendly film.
AUGUST 27: Co-directors Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack will be present for audience discussion.
Saving Barbara Sizemore
2016, David J. Steiner, USA, 83 min.
- Sun, Aug 28th 3:00pm
- Wed, Aug 31st 6:00pm
The Betty Shabazz-Barbara A. Sizemore Academy has been called "an urban village, an oasis in the heart of Englewood." In 2015, it 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, while documenting its enlistment of high-profile supporters such as Richard Steele and Cornell West, and its deployment of a delegation in a Michael Moore-style crashing of the CPS headquarters. (MR)
This is a family-friendly film.
AUGUST 28 & 31: Director David J. Steiner will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.
To Sleep With Anger
1990, Charles Burnett, USA, 102 min. With Danny Glover, Paul Butler.
- Sun, Aug 28th 5:30pm
- Mon, Aug 29th 6:00pm
"A very entertaining, complex film." — Vincent Canby, The New York Times
"Burnett's acute and sensitive direction is free of hackneyed movie conventions
even something as simple as a hello is said differently from the way you've heard it in any other movie." — Jonathan Rosenbaum, Chicago Reader
Featured in SPRITS OF REBELLION (playing August 27), Charles Burnett was one of the major figures associated with the UCLA-based "LA Rebellion" group. This dark, semi-mystical comedy was too offbeat and unpredictable to succeed at the box office, but its reputation has soared over the years. Danny Glover delivers a sensational performance as Harry Mention, a folkloric Trickster who insinuates himself into a middle-class South Central household and proceeds to spread discord, doubt, and disease. Is he human or demon? And how can his hosts get rid of him? New 4K DCP digital restoration courtesy of Sony Pictures Entertainment. (MR)
Agents of Change: Black Students and the Transformation of the American University
2014, Frank Dawson and Abby Ginzberg, USA, 66 min
- Thu, Sep 1st 6:30pm
"The film’s characters were caught at the crossroads of the civil rights, black power, and anti-Vietnam war movements at a pivotal time in America’s history." — Sojourner Truth Radio
The little-known story of the late-Sixties grassroots struggle that led to the creation of departments of black and ethnic studies at American colleges and universities is told in this documentary focusing on the seminal student revolts at San Francisco State and Cornell. Black students recruited by institutions of higher learning in unprecedented numbers soon found their history and culture reflected nowhere on all-white campuses. Protests and sit-ins evolved into violent armed revolution that startled the nation with images of black students with guns. Filmmakers Dawson and Ginzberg combine the first-person recollections of those who were there with powerful archival footage and photographs for a compelling evocation of history. Winner of Jury and Audience awards at the 2016 Pan-African Film Festival. (BS)
SEPTEMBER 1: Co-directors Frank Dawson and Abby Ginzberg will be present for audience discussion. Ticket-holders are invited to a reception sponsored by the Reva and David Logan Foundation following the show.