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.
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.
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.
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 BRIAN, 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 festival consultant Sergio Mims, our Black Harvest Community Council, and the many filmmakers who help make this festival possible.
Purchase a Black Harvest festival pass!
SPECIAL OFF-SITE SCREENINGS!
THE BEST OF THE BLACK HARVEST FILM FESTIVAL — JUNE 28 - JULY 29
Join us for highlights from last year's Black Harvest Film Festival at Chicago Public Library branches.
Floyd Norman: An Animated Life
2016, Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkey, USA, 94 min.
- Sat, Aug 26th 3:15pm
"As joyful as its subject...irresistibly charming." — Otkay Ehe Kozak, The Playlist
Floyd Norman is a one-man living embodiment of animation history over the last 60 years. Inspired by a childhood screening of DUMBO, he became in 1956 the first African American animator at Disney, where he was mentored by the legendary Nine Old Men, worked under Walt himself, and contributed to such classics as MARY POPPINS and THE JUNGLE BOOK. Departing Disney to co-found an all-black animation company (whose creations included the funky choo-choo that opened "Soul Train"), Norman later worked on Fat Albert and Scooby-Doo for Hanna-Barbera before returning to the Mouse House and Pixar projects such as TOY STORY 2 and MONSTERS, INC. Forced to retire at age 65, he unretired himself by continuing to hang around the studio as a consultant, kibitzer, and mentor to appreciative young animators. This affectionate portrait captures the scope of Norman's achievements and the radiance of the man himself. (MR) FF
Subject Floyd Norman and co-director Michael Fiore are scheduled to appear for audience discussion. Special thanks to Diane & Victor Hoskins and Eleva Singleton for their support in making this memorable event happen.
Opening Night Celebration:
A Black Harvest Feast
2016-17, Various directors, USA, 77 min.
- Sat, Aug 5th 7:30pm
Join Masters of Ceremonies Felicia Middlebrooks, morning co-anchor, WBBM Newsradio/CBS, and Christian Farr, general assignment reporter, NBC 5 Chicago, for the opening night celebration honoring Donnie Smith, Executive Director of Donda’s House Inc., and Che “Rhymefest” Smith, Creative Director of Donda’s House Inc., with this year’s Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in Community Leadership. Immediately following the show "A Black Harvest Feast," the audience is invited to join our celebrity guests for a reception sponsored by MIllerCoors at Joffrey Tower (10 E. Randolph St.), home of the Joffrey Ballet Chicago.
This year’s “harvest” is bountiful: enjoy a sneak preview of the festival’s diversity through these four short films: Derek Dow’s sibling-rivalry comedy MAMA, I MADE IT; Nathan Hale Williams and Jennia Fredrique Aponte’s thought-provoking romantic drama 90 DAYS; Shahari Moore’s Gwendolyn Brooks tribute BROOKS PEOPLE; and Patrick James Thomas’s touching coming-of-age drama CUT MY HAIR, BARBER. (BS, MR)
Filmmakers Derek Dow, Nathan Hale Williams, Jennia Fredrique Aponte, Sol Aponte, Shahari Moore, Patrick James Thomas, and selected members of their casts and crews are scheduled to be present.
Special admission price 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.
Shorts Program: Family Matters
2016-17, Various directors, USA, 90 min.
- Sun, Aug 6th 3:00pm
Family can make us laugh, cry, and grow; six perceptive filmmakers see it all in these shorts: LETTER TO MY SON by Austin Julian Davis (2017, 6 min.); THE BOOTS by Leah Cohen-Mays (2016, 12 min.); HOLD ON by Christine Turner (2017, 9 min.); MAMA, I MADE IT by Derek Dow (2017, 13 min.); A MATTER OF PREJUDICE by Sandra Lince (2016, 24 min.); and CUT MY HAIR, BARBER by Patrick James Thomas (2017, 24 min.). ProRes and DCP digital. FF
Director Austin Julian Davis and supervising producer Daryle Brown of LETTER TO MY SON; director Sandra Lince and actress Gboungué Clamoungou of A MATTER OF PREJUDICE; director Patrick James Thomas and cast and crew members of CUT MY HAIR, BARBER, and director Leah Cohen-Mays of THE BOOTS are scheduled to appear for audience discussion.
Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities
2017, Stanley Nelson, USA, 84 min.
- Sun, Aug 6th 5:30pm
- Mon, Aug 7th 8:00pm
"A robust and stirring capsule history." — Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter
A leading chronicler of African American history, documentarian Nelson follows up his hit BLACK PANTHERS by tackling an important subject that has never been adequately treated on film before. Ever since the end of slavery, access to higher education has been essential to African Americans' ability to compete in mainstream society — hence, the crucial role of historically black colleges and universities to provide the opportunity, relevance, and security often lacking elsewhere. Nelson provides a fascinating overview of the embattled and illustrious history of HBCUs, covering such topics as the post-Civil War "contraband schools;" the opposed educational visions of Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. DuBois; the Golden Age of the 1930s-1940s; the activist 1960s; and the recent challenges faced by a still thriving institution. DCP digital. (MR) FF
Margaret Caples, Executive Director of the Community Film Workshop and co-founder of Diverse Voices in Docs, will receive the Gene Siskel Film Center Legacy Award before the 5:30 screening on Sunday. The audience is invited to a post-screening reception sponsored by Premier Melon Express Catering & Events.
2015, Desmond Faison, USA, 117 min. With Deji LaRay, Tracey Dukes.
- Tue, Aug 8th 8:00pm
- Wed, Aug 9th 8:30pm
Superb performances all around are a standout feature of this thriller, honing in on the precarious balance of power in a volatile friendship that was forged on the dangerous streets of childhood. Drug dealers Thurgood “T” Jacobs (LaRay), the soft-spoken brains of the operation, and Lazarus (Dukes), his dangerously unpredictable sidekick, feel the heat of lethal business competition, even as their partnership begins to fray through jealousy and the ever-present memory that T owes Lazarus his life. Set in the days leading up to T’s thirtieth birthday, the story evolves as a psychological thriller when attraction to a woman springs a mental trap for both men, with fateful consequences. DCP digital. (BS)
Director Desmond Faison is scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.
Shorts Program: Women of Color
2016-17, Various directors, USA, 85 min.
- Wed, Aug 9th 6:00pm
- Thu, Aug 10th 8:15pm
Seekers, lovers, and survivors, women of color are the heroines of these five shorts: SUPERMOM by Jason Honeycutt (2016, 15 min.); THE PLURAL OF BLOOD by Mary-Lyn Chambers (2017, 20 min.); THE FIRST STONE by Kaisan Rei (2016, 15 min.); IN THE SPOTLIGHT by Will Robbins (2017, 19 min.); and ON THE VERGE OF MOTION by Maisha R. Carter (2016, 16 min.). ProRes and DCP digital.
Director Will Robbins of IN THE SPOTLIGHT); director Maisha R. Carter of ON THE VERGE OF MOTION; and director Mary-Lyn Chambers and producer Monica Lawson of THE PLURAL OF BLOOD are scheduled to appear for audience discussion on Wednesday.
The Wednesday screening is a Movie Club event.
Whitney: Can I Be Me
2016, Nick Broomfield and Rudi Dolezal, UK/USA, 100 min.
- Fri, Aug 11th 8:30pm
- Sat, Aug 12th 6:00pm
"It just has a story to tell, and it does that incredibly compellingly. CAN I BE ME gets us to know Whitney Houston, to feel her pain and grace and dizzying spiritual rifts, in a way we haven’t before." — Owen Gleiberman, Variety
Documentary filmmaker/provocateur Broomfield (KURT & COURTNEY, BIGGIE AND TUPAC) employs restraint and insight to fashion this haunting, compassionate portrait of the pop songstress, capturing both the glory of her talent and the pressures that led to her drug-related demise at age 48. Benefitting from its unauthorized status and incorporating startlingly candid, previously unseen footage from Houston's turning-point 1999 tour, WHITNEY: CAN I BE ME reveals the devastating effect on Houston of being booed as a "sellout" at the 1989 Soul Train Music Awards; the blind eye turned to her addictions by many in her inner circle; the strains of her stormy marriage to Bobby Brown; the suppression of her bisexuality; and the regrettable termination of her longtime relationship with childhood friend, reliable confidante, and rumored lover Robyn Crawford. DCP digital. (MR)
2017, Anton Deshawn, USA, 78 min. With Andre Truss, Brian Smith.
- Fri, Aug 11th 6:15pm
- Tue, Aug 15th 8:15pm
The dialogue has a snappy comic edge in this Chicago-made feature that takes aim at the wacky human drama inside the fictional call center Ora-tel. Marcus Jones (Truss) is the top-performing survey supervisor, and he’s jockeying for a promotion, unaware that dirty tricks and insider connections will seal the deal for his rival. The survey scripts are suddenly peppered with rude queries, and suspicion falls on Marcus. Did he or didn’t he? Director Deshawn excels in creating lively scenes of humorous repartee between Marcus and best buddy Dwayne (Smith), and in comedy asides in which Marcus’s co-workers engage in hilarious non-PC commentary on their fellow workers. ProRes digital. (BS)
Director Anton Deshawn and selected producers and cast members are scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.
Let It Fall: Los Angeles 1982 - 1992
2017, John Ridley, USA, 144 min.
- Sat, Aug 12th 8:00pm
"A full-blooded, multifaceted real-life drama...troubling and illuminating and shattering in its compassion." — Sheri Linden, Hollywood Reporter
A half-dozen documentaries came out this year to mark the 25th anniversary of the Rodney King verdict, but LET IT FALL soon emerged as the one to beat — the most thoughtful, the most artfully told, the most attentive to the human complexity of the events. Director Ridley, best known as the Oscar-winning screenwriter of 12 YEARS A SLAVE and the creator of the acclaimed TV series "American Crime," begins the narrative ten years before the uprising, with the police-chokehold death of James Mincey Jr. Carefully establishing the background and interweaving multiple viewpoints, the film focuses on those with close-up involvement (shopkeepers, police officers, participants, eyewitnesses, jury members, relatives of victims). Their roles in the events are often revealed only gradually, so that they evolve as full-fledged characters rather than mere talking heads. This theatrical version of the film is nearly an hour longer than the one broadcast on TV. DCP digital. (MR)
Director John Ridley is scheduled to appear for audience discussion.
2017, Jonathan Olshefski, USA, 105 min.
- Sat, Aug 12th 3:30pm
- Mon, Aug 14th 8:00pm
“Wonderful…the movie’s power arises from its insistence on how larger forces affect lives, an intersection of the personal and the political.” — Manohla Dargis, The New York Times
A documentary saga that follows the lives of a North Philadelphia family for close to a decade, QUEST conveys the narrative power of a drama but has the truth-telling impact of real life. Love and hope hold together Christopher “Quest” Rainey, his wife Christine (“Ma Quest”), their young daughter PJ, and her adult son William, a single dad, as they make a hard-earned living in a rough neighborhood through odd jobs and Quest’s home-recording studio, a creative hub for the community. The film opens in a time of hope, with Obama’s first presidential campaign, and concludes in the months of Trump’s campaign, with the political arc creating its own narrative in the background as the family is hit by challenges including William’s diagnosis with a brain tumor, and a tragedy that threatens PJ’s life and future. DCP digital. (BS)
I Know a Man... Ashley Bryan
2016, Richard Kane, USA, 74 min.
- Sun, Aug 13th 3:00pm
"I reach for the child in everyone," says Ashley Bryan. Best known as the beloved author and illustrator of over fifty children's books, including such classics as "Beautiful Blackbird" and "Dancing Granny," the prolific Bryan has also created collages, puppets, and stained-glass windows, all deeply rooted in spirituality and the black experience. When this delightful documentary opens with Bryan holding a group of schoolchildren spellbound with a reading of his recent book "Can't Scare Me," the ebullient 92-year-old seems part-child himself, but, as his life story makes clear, he is far from naive. As a stevedore in World War II, he experienced racism in the then-segregated Army and landed on bloody Omaha Beach on D-Day. Deeply troubled by the war, he asked himself, "Could art redeem suffering?" and resolved to spread joy and beauty through his work. ProRes digital. (MR) FF
Shorts Program: Made in Chicago I
2015-17, Various directors, USA, 83 min.
- Sun, Aug 13th 5:15pm
- Wed, Aug 16th 8:30pm
Seven films featuring Chicago talent: A NEW DAY IN THE CHI by Austin Julian Davis (2017, 3 min.); JUST CHILL: A DOCUMENTARY PORTRAIT OF ARTIST RON HILL by Brian Chaplin (2015, 7 min.); ROAD TO FREEDOM by Tiffany Addison (2017, 7 min.); BARACKED by Jean Williams (2016, 15 min.); FEAR by Chan C. Smith (2016, 20 min.); FEARLESS by Jasmine Cannon, Branden Hampton, and Yingxu Jane Hao (2016, 17 min.); and A LOVE LETTER TO THE ANCESTORS FROM CHICAGO (2017, 14 min.) by Ytasha L. Womack. ProRes and DCP digital.
Director Jean Williams of BARACKED; director Chan C. Smith, producer Jessica Estelle Huggins, and cast members of FEAR; producer/co-director Yingxu Jane Hao of FEARLESS; director Ytasha L. Womack and cast and crew members of A LOVE LETTER TO THE ANCESTORS FROM CHICAGO are scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings. Director Austin Julian Davis and executive producer/writer Rev. Dr. Otis Moss III of A NEW DAY IN THE CHI are scheduled to appear on Wednesday only.
2017, Nicole Franklin, USA, 72 min. With Chicava Honeychild, Fidel Vicioso.
- Wed, Aug 16th 6:15pm
- Thu, Aug 17th 8:15pm
At first glance, the IT consulting firm at the heart of TITLE VII’s story seems the poster child for a successful minority business, but director Franklin unfolds a tense tale of deceit, double-dealing, and same-race discrimination that lurks beneath the sleek and glossy surface. CEO Hillary Kelsey (Honeychild) is having a bad day that starts with a racially motivated traffic stop. It gets worse when she meets her first job applicant of the day, Darryl (Vicioso), a suave black executive who takes note of the firm’s strange lack of minority employees. Darryl has his own secrets, as do Kelsey and her cohorts, whose conflicts of interest and poisonous agendas threaten a corporate implosion. DCP digital. (BS)
Director Nicole Franklin is scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.
Wilmington On Fire
2015, Christopher Everett, USA, 90 min.
- Thu, Aug 17th 6:00pm
Rosewood has long been infamous, but Wilmington came first and was even more devastating in its effects. In 1898, Wilmington was North Carolina's largest city, with a majority black population, a thriving black middle class, and a biracial Republican-Populist fusion government. On November 10, an armed mob of Democrat-backed white supremacists opened fire on African American neighborhoods, slaughtering dozens and driving thousands out of the city for good. In a five-year passion project that consumed all his resources, director Everett amassed rare photographs, original research, and testimony from historians and descendants of the victims to uncover a shocking event that marked a turning point in the politics of the post-Reconstruction South. ProRes digital. (MR) FF
Shorts Program: Love African American Style
2016-17, Various directors, USA, 96 min.
- Fri, Aug 18th 6:00pm
- Sat, Aug 19th 8:30pm
Six shorts look at the beautiful, daring, and terrifying things we do for love: FEELINGS by Bryce Ray (2017, 8 min.); HEART EYES by Michea Bryant (2017, 7 min.); NIGHT SHIFT by Marshall Tyler (2017, 16 min.); BUSHBABY by Tarik Jackson (2016, 17 min.); CA$HOUT by Mary Moutry and Karim Moutry (2016, 28 min.); and 90 DAYS by Nathan Hale Williams and Jennia Fredrique Aponte (2016, 20 min.). ProRes and DCP digital.
Directors Mary Moutry and Karim Moutry of CA$HOUT; and (tentatively) director Tarik Jackson and producer Jacquin Deleon of BUSHBABY are scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings. Director Bryce Ray, cinematographer Mamadou Bah, and actors Chris Taylor and Corinn Clay of FEELINGS are scheduled to appear on Friday; Taylor and Clay are scheduled to appear on Saturday also.
The Best Thing!
2017, Kyle T. Miller, USA, ca. 100 min. With K.C. Lee, Simeon Henderson.
- Fri, Aug 18th 8:30pm
- Tue, Aug 22nd 8:15pm
Shot entirely on Chicago’s South Side, this homegrown comedy features an enjoyably sprawling plot, performances showcasing local talent, and the kind of feel-good sense of community that happens only in dreams. An orphan with an unknown father, an inheritance without an heir, a gold-digger with a taste for vengeance, and the love life of smalltime entrepreneur Justin (Lee) figure in a story that gets to the lively heart of things in Justin’s coffee shop restaurant, where there are no secrets from this nosy neighborhood. Director Miller gives his supporting cast their due, with some standout performances including Simeon Henderson as Justin’s sidekick and court jester, LaToya Dotson as feisty Mother Johnson, who knows where all the bodies are buried, and Joy Fredericks as LaTreese the outspoken waitress. DCP digital. (BS)
Director Kyle T. Miller and selected members of the cast and crew are scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.
Panel: Action! The Real Deal About Filmmaking
- Sat, Aug 19th 3:00pm
Our "Black Harvest" panel discussion annually debates issues relating to black filmmaking. Festival consultant Sergio Mims heads up a panel of filmmakers featured in this year's festival. 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.
90 Minutes of the Fever
2016, Michael Sean Hall, USA, 86 min. With Parker McKenna Posey, Glenn Plummer.
- Sat, Aug 19th 6:00pm
- Sun, Aug 20th 5:15pm
This thriller ups the ante in tension with an apocalyptic plot in a sci-fi vein that transforms an L.A. family’s Sunday evening into a mad and madder melodrama. A controlling father, three kids, the daughter’s Latino boyfriend, and an unhappy wife squabble in the usual way, until the ominous image of a countdown clock on the TV screen preempts the announcement of a lottery jackpot. The evening sky is on fire with eerie lights; explosions and riots erupt in the streets; and martial law is declared. Inside the house, the McGee family splinters, with every dark secret and hidden hatred bursting to the surface. DCP digital. (BS)
Director Michael Sean Hall and actor Glenn Plummer are scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.
Fast Break: The Legendary John McClendon
2016, Kevin Willmott, USA, 57 min.
- Sun, Aug 20th 3:00pm
Director Willmott, who dramatized Wilt Chamberlain's first year at KU in JAYHAWKERS (BHFF, 2014), returns to the hoops with this documentary tribute to "Coach Mac," who has been called the father of modern-day basketball. His innovations such as the fast break and the full-court press revolutionized the game. McClendon was also a pioneer in desegregating the sport, including the legendary 1944 "Secret Game" in which a black team played a white team for the first time. ProRes digital.
Preceded by the short film OLDE E (2016, Xavier Bergin, USA, 15 min.), in which a high school basketball star's bright prospects are dimmed by the envy of his embittered father. (MR)
Producer Milton Katz of FAST BREAK is scheduled to appear for audience discussion.
Shorts Program: Black History — Lost and Found
2016-2017, Various directors, USA, 80 min.
- Mon, Aug 21st 8:00pm
Six thought-provoking films with historical themes: HE WHO DANCES ON WOOD by Jessica Beshir (2017, 6 min.); ROLLING IN THE DEEP by Marcellus Cox (2017, 12 min.); BAYARD & ME by Matt Wolf (2017, 16 min.); THE GOVERNMENT GANG by Reggie Henderson (2017, 19 min.); LAWMAN by Matthew Gentile (2016, 13 min.); and BLACK MAJICK by Terrence Jones (2016, 14 min.). ProRes and DCP digital.
Director Jessica Beshir (tentatively) of HE WHO DANCES ON WOOD; director Reggie Henderson (tentatively) of THE GOVERNMENT GANG; director Matthew Gentile of LAWMAN; and director Terrence Jones of BLACK MAJICK are scheduled to appear for audience discussion.
Shorts Program: Made in Chicago II
2016-17, Various directors, USA, 89 min.
- Sun, Aug 27th 5:00pm
- Tue, Aug 29th 8:15pm
Six more films featuring Chicago talent: THE AUDITION: A LONG ROAD TO STARDOM by Ben J. Moore III (2017, 15 min.); KAYLA'S LIGHT by N. LaQuis Harkins (2016, 10 min.); FROM STATE PRISONER TO STATE PROFESSOR by Joshua Jackson (2017, 11 min.); AN ATRAMENTOUS MIND by Lonnie Edwards and Layne Marie Williams (2017, 10 min.); GOT THE LOVE by David Weathersby (2017, 20 min.); and BROOKS PEOPLE by Shahari Moore (2017, 20 min.).
Director Ben J. Moore III (tentatively) and producer Samuel Wofford (tentatively) of THE AUDITION; director N. LaQuis Harkins of KAYLA'S LIGHT; director Joshua Jackson, subject/executive producer Najjar Abdul Musawwir, and cast and crew members of FROM STATE PRISONER TO STATE PROFESSOR; co-directors Lonnie Edwards and Layne Marie Williams of AN ATRAMENTOUS MIND; director David Weathersby of GOT THE LOVE; and director Shahari Moore of BROOKS PEOPLE are scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.
The Chicago Way + Blueprint For Bronzeville
- Mon, Aug 28th 8:00pm
- Wed, Aug 30th 8:30pm
THE CHICAGO WAY
2017, Tristan Hanson and Arlen Parsa, USA, 42 min.
With 762 shooting deaths, 2016 was one of the bloodiest years in Chicago history. Written and produced by Tio Hardiman of the Violence Interrupters and Gregg Greer of Freedom First International, the impassioned documentary THE CHICAGO WAY goes into the streets to capture at close range the battle to make Chicago safe, putting us alongside mourners for fallen friends and family members, demonstrators outside a gun shop, protestors confronting Gov. Rauner as he exits an African American church, and paraders for New Era Chicago whipping up community pride. (MR) — WATCH TRAILER
BLUEPRINT FOR BRONZEVILLE
2017, Donald Washington, USA, 48 min.
In 2009, when Chicago made its ill-fated bid to host the 2016 Olympics, with Bronzeville the proposed site of the Olympic Village and a new stadium, the historic neighborhood was in crisis. The demolition of decaying housing projects had left thousands of empty lots that were being filled by high-income housing. The community group Housing Bronzeville, embroiled in a struggle to maintain affordable housing, seized upon the Olympics bid to gain leverage for their cause. This concise and illuminating documentary, with Ronit Bezalel (30 ACRES IN CHICAGO) as Supervising Producer, combines informative history with a stirring account of grass-roots activism. (MR) — WATCH TRAILER
Director Donald Washington of THE CHICAGO WAY and co-directors Tristan Hanson and Arlen Parsa and subject Valencia Hardy of BLUEPRINT FOR BRONZEVILLE are scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.
The Rhythm In Blue
2017, Toni Parker, USA, 96 min. With Jaiden Kane, Jasmine Thomas.
- Wed, Aug 23rd 6:00pm
- Thu, Aug 24th 8:30pm
Based on the novel by Crystal Senter-Brown, this romantic drama revolves around the painful secrets that four characters hold close. Mason (Kane), a successful D.C. attorney with a wedding date looming and cold feet in the offing, makes a hurried trip back to his hometown and inadvertently triggers a tragedy. Mason’s childhood best friend Jasmine (Thomas), his male buddy Jacob, now the town’s squeaky-clean Baptist minister, and Jacob’s upright wife Keisha welcome him with open arms and puzzlement. His friends question Mason’s choices and life direction, but his view of their seeming perfection soon unravels when the skeletons come tumbling out of their closets. ProRes digital. (BS)
Director Toni Parker is scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.
2017, Andrew Rossi, USA, 91 min.
- Wed, Aug 23rd 8:30pm
- Thu, Aug 24th 6:00pm
This documentary portrait focuses on the electrifying performer Okwui Okpokwasili and her acclaimed one-woman show "Bronx Gothic," which New Yorker drama critic Hilton Als called "a tour de force on the order of Toni Morrison’s 'The Bluest Eye,' the author’s seminal text on black girlhood and power." Centering on a series of notes passed between two 11-year-girls in the Bronx in the 1980s, Okpokwasili uses humor, confrontation, and intense physicality to immerse the audience in the often difficult experience of growing up female in a brown body. Offstage encounters with Okpokwasili, her Nigerian immigrant parents, her mentor Ralph Lemon, and audience talk-backs shed light on the mission of this remarkable and courageous artist. DCP digital. (MR)
2016, Tangi Miller, USA, 85 min. With Tangi Miller, Sean Blakemore.
- Fri, Aug 25th 6:15pm
- Sat, Aug 26th 8:25pm
This frothy romantic comedy goes down easy, featuring a crew of fashionable self-styled “bougie babes,” buff guys, a whole lot of secrets, and humorous and devious takes on love. Sophia (Miller), personal trainer and gym owner, is undisputed queen bee in a tight-knit circle that includes self-centered artist Lisa (Mari Morrow), Alex (Vanessa Williams), not-so-happily married to her high school sweetheart, and Jackie (Laila Odom), just returning from two tours of duty in Afghanistan with PTSD. A sparkling, cocktail-fueled night at the club to welcome Jackie home brings Sophia face to face with her ex-fiancé, just as things are heating up with a new love interest. DCP digital. (BS)
Director/actress Tangi Miller is scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings. Art "Chat Daddy" Sims from WVON 1690AM is scheduled to moderate the discussion on Saturday.
On The Sly: In Search of the Family Stone
2017, Michael Rubenstone, USA, 82 min.
- Fri, Aug 25th 8:30pm
- Sat, Aug 26th 6:00pm
In the early 2000s, out-of-work actor Rubenstone became obsessed with the music of Sly and the Family Stone. He also became curious about the whereabouts of the group's charismatic front man Sly Stone, who had last been seen in public in 1993 and whose seclusion had long been the subject of speculation and dark rumors. Rubenstone's twelve-year quest to track down and interview the elusive Sly is the subject of this entertaining film, which is part autobiography, part history of the legendary funk group, and part detective story, filled with dead ends, near sightings, and tantalizing clues. Michael Wadleigh (who captured the group's epochal Woodstock performance), Bobby Womack, Clive Davis, Paul Shaffer, Dick Cavett, Cornel West, manager David Kapralik, and original Family members are among the witnesses and admirers whom the filmmaker encounters as he follows the trail. DCP digital. (MR)
Director Michael Rubenstone is scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.
Master Class with Floyd Norman
- Sat, Aug 26th 1:00pm
Led by Disney legend Floyd Norman, this unique 90-minute master class covers the history of animation as seen through Mr. Norman's 62-year career spanning Disney, Hanna-Barbera, Pixar, and more. He also will draw for the audience, take questions, and sign autographs. FF
Workshop: The Realities of Screenwriting
- Sat, Sep 2nd 1:00pm
Thinking about writing a screenplay? Get the real scoop on screenwriting in this free workshop conducted by our "Black Harvest" consultant, critic Sergio Mims, and filmmaker Shahari Moore (BROOKS PEOPLE), who have both been there and done that. In this informative session, circa 90 minutes, Mims and Moore reveal what screenwriting books don’t tell you, and why hiring those self-proclaimed writing coaches and gurus is a waste of your time and money. (BS)
Free admission. Tickets available at the box office only. Seats available on a first come, first served basis.
Shorts Program: International Visions
2016, Various directors, Various nations, 102 min.
- Wed, Aug 30th 6:00pm
Provocative stories from Africa and the African diaspora open up the world in these shorts: TYSON! By Rebecca Ocampo (Rwanda/USA, 20 min.); BOXING GIRL by Iman Djionne (Senegal, 27 min.); AND STILL WE WALK ON by Jonathan Millet (ET TOUJOURS NOUS MARCHERONS, France/Belgium, 25 min.); and THE SUIT by Jarryd Coetsee (South Africa, 30 min.). In French, English, Wolof, and various African dialects with English subtitles. ProRes and DCP digital.
Director Rebecca Ocampo of TYSON! and (tentatively) director Jarryd Coetsee of THE SUIT are scheduled to appear for audience discussion.
1997, Theodore Witcher, USA, 110 min. With Larenz Tate, Nia Long.
- Thu, Aug 31st 6:00pm
Free of stereotypes and sexism, this refreshingly mature romance by Columbia College Chicago graduate Theodore Witcher uses Hyde Park and Wicker Park locations (plus a gorgeously misty Buckingham Fountain) to tell the story of a writer (Tate) and a photographer (Long) who meet over a cup of verse at a beat poetry bar and then find that going to bed is easier than sustaining a relationship. We are pleased to present a twentieth anniversary screening of the film with Witcher in person. Archival 35mm print courtesy of Academy Film Archive. (MR)
Writer-director Theodore Witcher is scheduled to appear for audience discussion. Following the show, ticket-holders are invited to a reception sponsored by Tesori Trattoria & Grill and MillerCoors.