Black Harvest Film Festival 2017

August 5 - 31, 2017

From August 5 through 31, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents the 23rd Annual Black Harvest Film Festival, a vibrant month-long celebration of independent films that tell the stories and explore the images, heritage, and history of the worldwide black experience. Join us for in-depth post-film encounters with filmmakers, as more directors, writers, production personnel, and cast members than ever appear for audience discussion.

OPENING NIGHT

The festival opens on Saturday, August 5, with the enticing shorts program "A Black Harvest Feast." Felicia Middlebrooks of WBBM/CBS and Christian Farr of NBC 5 Chicago host a show that includes presentation of the Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in Community Leadership to Donnie Smith and Che “Rhymefest” Smith. Immediately after the show, the audience is invited to a reception across the street at the Joffrey Ballet studios.

CLOSING NIGHT

Our closing night on Thursday, August 31, is a celebration of the twentieth anniversary of love jones starring Larenz Tate and Nia Long, a Chicago-made romantic comedy-drama. Our screening of an archival 35mm print from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences includes a personal appearance by director Theodore Witcher, a graduate of Columbia College Chicago.

FESTIVAL SCHEDULE

All films are eligible for the Black Harvest Audience Award; ballots available in our lobby. Be sure to regularly check back for added appearances and special events.

More than forty filmmaker appearances are scheduled as we go to press, with more pending. Special events include the presentation of the Gene Siskel Film Center Legacy Award at the August 6 screening of TELL THEM WE ARE RISING to Margaret Caples, executive director of the Community Film Workshop and co-founder of Diverse Voices in Docs. Legendary animator Floyd Norman, the first African American artist hired by Disney, conducts a must-see Master Class on August 26, prior to a screening of the documentary FLOYD NORMAN: AN ANIMATED LIFE, at which he also appears for Q&A with director Michael Fiore.

Features shot in Chicago include comedy-dramas THE BEST THING! by Kyle T. Miller and CALL CENTER by Anton Deshawn. Politics, community issues, and activism on Chicago’s South Side are the vital subjects explored in THE CHICAGO WAY by Donald Washington and BLUEPRINT FOR BRONZEVILLE by Tristan Hanson and Arlen Parsa.

Social issues and activism past and present on a national stage are seen in Stanley Nelson’s TELL THEM WE ARE RISING, Christopher Everett’s WILMINGTON ON FIRE, and Jonathan Olshefski’s QUEST. Renowned screenwriter and producer-director John Ridley appears on August 12 with the screening of LET IT FALL: LOS ANGELES 1982-1992.

Art and artists are featured in films including FLOYD NORMAN: AN ANIMATED LIFE, as well as Richard Kane’s I KNOW A MAN…ASHLEY BRYAN, a profile of the children’s author, illustrator, and puppeteer. An intimate look at the work of writer and performance artist Okwui Okpokwasili is seen in Andrew Rossi’s BRONX GOTHIC. Films with a unique perspective on the music world include Nick Broomfield’s WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME, covering the meteoric career and tragic death of Whitney Houston, and Michael Rubenstone’s ON THE SLY: IN SEARCH OF THE FAMILY STONE.

This year’s selection includes provocative thrillers and dramas, all with filmmakers in person: Desmond Faison’s character-driven KILLING LAZARUS; Michael Sean Hall’s sci-fi-inflected 90 MINUTES OF THE FEVER; and Nicole Franklin’s TITLE VII, a tension-filled drama about corporate same-race discrimination. We have romance: Toni Parker’s THE RHYTHM IN BLUE and Tangi Miller’s DIVA DIARIES, both with filmmakers in person. The legacy of basketball coach and Civil Rights pioneer John McLendon is explored in the documentary FAST BREAK by Kevin Willmott, screenwriter of Spike Lee’s CHI-RAQ.

On August 19, "Action! The Real Deal About Filmmaking," this year’s edition of the ever-popular "Black Harvest" panel and DIY workshop, will cover every aspect of production and feature down-to-earth advice and practical information from our guest producers and directors. The August 27 presentation "The Realities of Screenwriting" will provide valuable tips.

Barbara Scharres, Director of Programming

FF indicates a family-friendly film.


The "Black Harvest Film Festival" is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts; the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Special thanks to the Illinois Film Office, Saltshaker Productions, LLC, festival consultant Sergio Mims, our Black Harvest Community Council, and the many filmmakers who help make this festival possible.

PREVIOUSLY

Chicago premieres! Filmmakers in person!

Opening Night Celebration:

A Black Harvest Feast

2016-17, Various directors, USA, 77 min.

Showtimes:

  • Sat, Aug 5th 7:30pm
Chicago premieres! Chicago Connection! Filmmakers in person!

Shorts Program: Family Matters

2016-17, Various directors, USA, 90 min.

Showtimes:

  • Sun, Aug 6th 3:00pm
Chicago premiere!

Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities

2017, Stanley Nelson, USA, 84 min.

Showtimes:

  • Sun, Aug 6th 5:30pm
  • Mon, Aug 7th 8:00pm

Chicago premiere! Desmond Faison in person!

Killing Lazarus

2015, Desmond Faison, USA, 117 min. With Deji LaRay, Tracey Dukes.

Showtimes:

  • Tue, Aug 8th 8:00pm
  • Wed, Aug 9th 8:30pm

Chicago premieres! Chicago Connection! Filmmakers in person!

Shorts Program: Women of Color

2016-17, Various directors, USA, 85 min.

Showtimes:

  • Wed, Aug 9th 6:00pm
  • Thu, Aug 10th 8:15pm
Chicago premiere! Chicago connection!

Call Center

2017, Anton Deshawn, USA, 78 min. With Andre Truss, Brian Smith.

Showtimes:

  • Fri, Aug 11th 6:15pm
  • Tue, Aug 15th 8:15pm
Chicago premiere!

Whitney: Can I Be Me

2016, Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal, UK/USA, 100 min.

Showtimes:

  • Fri, Aug 11th 8:30pm
  • Sat, Aug 12th 6:00pm

Chicago premiere!

Quest

2017, Jonathan Olshefski, USA, 105 min.

Showtimes:

  • Sat, Aug 12th 3:30pm
  • Mon, Aug 14th 8:00pm

Chicago premiere! John Ridley in person!

Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982 - 1992

2017, John Ridley, USA, 144 min.

Showtimes:

  • Sat, Aug 12th 8:00pm

Chicago premiere!

I Know a Man... Ashley Bryan

2016, Richard Kane, USA, 74 min.

Showtimes:

  • Sun, Aug 13th 3:00pm