19th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival
- 19th Annual
- Black Harvest Film Festival
From August 2 through 29, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents the crowning event in our summer programming, the Black Harvest Film Festival, now in its 19th amazing year of celebrating the stories, images, and history of the black experience and the African diaspora. The harvest of new talent is bountiful, as seen in an exciting array of narrative features, documentaries, and attention-grabbing short films. Be sure to check back for ongoing updates on appearances and special events, as many filmmakers will be present for audience discussion. All films are eligible for your vote for the Black Harvest Audience Award; ballots available in our gallery/café.
Get your tickets early for the festival kick-off on August 2, when NBC 5’s LeeAnn Trotter emcees the program A Black Harvest Feast, which includes the presentation of this year’s Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in Community Leadership to acclaimed installation artist Theaster Gates, who is committed to the revitalization of inner city neighborhoods through combined urban planning and art practices.
Closing night on August 29 promises to be a provocative fun-fest when HBO sponsors a sneak preview of Whoopi Goldberg’s directorial debut, WHOOPI GOLDBERG PRESENTS MOMS MABLEY, followed by our closing night party. Additional special events include a tasty reception sponsored by Real Men Cook preceding the August 16 screening of HOME AGAIN, and a screening of THINGS NEVER SAID dedicated to the memory of Ebony magazine editor and writer Terry Glover, who had participated in the founding of Black Harvest.
New films by Chicago independent filmmakers are always a special feature of the festival, and this year they include: FOR THE CAUSE, a legal drama by Katherine Nero; THE MAN IN THE SILO, a thriller by Phil Donlon, featuring star Ernie Hudson in person for Q&A on Friday, August 9; MOUND BAYOU: JEWEL OF THE DELTA, an engaging documentary by Jon Ross and John H. Rogers III; and more.
Action! The Real Deal About Filmmaking: Money, Casting, Production, and Distribution, this year’s edition of the ever-popular Black Harvest panel discussion and DIY workshop, will cover every aspect of production for the aspiring filmmaker and feature down-to-earth tips and practical information from our guest producers and directors. Be there if you’re even thinking about making a film!
Photographs by Rashayla Marie Brown, curated by Gan Kanji Uyeda, will be on exhibit in our gallery/café throughout the festival.
The Black Harvest Film Festival is supported by the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency; and Orbitz. This project is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Art Works. Special thanks to festival consultant Sergio Mims, our Black Harvest Community Council, and to the many filmmakers who help make this festival possible.
Family Friendly Films!
For your convenience, we have designated programs that are Family Friendly with the symbol FF.
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 $50! Please note: The Black Harvest Festival Pass is available in person at our box office only.
This guide details transportation and accommodation suggestions, as well as restaurant offerings including discounts from Rockit Bar & Grill, H Dogs, South Water Kitchen, Trattoria No. 10, and others. We hope you enjoy all that the Black Harvest Film Festival has to offer in 2013!
- Opening night films!
- A Black Harvest Feast
- 2012-13, Various directors, USA/UK, 64 min.
Enjoy a sneak preview of the 2013 “harvest” through four short films. In Martine Jean’s THE SILENT TREATMENT (2013, 9 min.), this romance may be straight out of a silent movie, but the lady’s intentions are loud and clear. A family grows in its own unique way in Steven Caple Jr.’s poignant A DIFFERENT TREE (2013, 15 min.). Painterly special effects make for an eye-popping look at Zanzibar in Kibwe Tavares’s JONAH (2013, 18 min.). A stressed dad relearns a lesson in love from his little boy in Ralph K. Scott’s BARBASOL (2012, 22 min.). (BS) FF
Directors Steven Caple Jr. (A DIFFERENT TREE) and Martine Jean (THE SILENT TREATMENT) will be present.
Special admission prices for this program: 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.
- Closing night film!
- WHOOPI GOLDBERG PRESENTS MOMS MABLEY
- 2013, Whoopi Goldberg, USA, 90 min.
Breaking racial and sexual boundaries as a pioneering comic talent, the African-American stand-up comedienne Jackie “Moms” Mabley has long been an icon in the comedy world. First-time director Whoopi Goldberg explores Mabley’s legacy through recently unearthed photography, rediscovered performance footage, and the words of numerous celebrated comedians, entertainers, and historians, including Eddie Murphy, Joan Rivers, Sidney Poitier, Kathy Griffin, Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara. Mabley tackled topics such as gender, sex, and racism, making her one of the first triple X-rated comedians on the comedy circuit. Once billed as “The Funniest Woman in the World,” she performed on stage and in television and film up until her death in 1975. (HBO)
This is a complimentary screening courtesy of HBO. Immediately following the screening, there will be a dessert reception hosted by HBO and the Gene Siskel Film Center.
Tickets for Moms Mabley are now SOLD OUT!
WHOOPI GOLDBERG PRESENTS MOMS MABLEY will air on HBO in November.
Festival panel discussion
- The Real Deal About Filmmaking:
- Money, Casting, Production, and Distribution
Our Black Harvest panel discussion, which annually debates issues relating to black filmmaking, will dissect the process of making a film, from getting the money to casting, production, post-production, and distribution. Black Harvest festival consultant Sergio Mims heads up a panel of filmmakers to include director Katherine Nero (FOR THE CAUSE), Kevin Willmott (DESTINATION: PLANET NEGRO!), and others. The audience is invited to participate with questions in this provocative forum. (BS)
- BABE’S AND RICKY’S INN
- 2013, Ramin Niami, USA, 90 min
“If you don't want to get up and move at some point during this film, go see a doctor.”
—Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
This loving portrait celebrates the legendary South Central L.A. blues club and the indomitable woman who ran it for over 50 years: Laura Mae Gross, better known as “Mama Laura.” Guitar Shorty, Ray Bailey, Deacon Jones, Keb’ Mo’, South Side Slim, Tokyo Mississippi, and many others testify to the club’s profound influence on their music and demonstrate it in rousing performances. As loose and funky as the establishment it depicts, BABE’S AND RICKY’S INN captures the soul of the place more truly than a slicker, more polished documentary might have done. (MR)
- CHARLES LLOYD:
- ARROWS INTO INFINITY
- 2013, Dorothy Darr and Jeffrey Morse, USA, 114 min.
Charismatic, ceaselessly evolving, and constantly crossing boundaries, reed man Charles Lloyd has been in the vanguard of jazz for over 50 years with his unique, flowing yet swinging sound. This intimate portrait, co-directed by his painter/filmmaker wife, conveys the astonishing range of Lloyd’s career, including his Memphis roots; his counterculture crossovers in the 1960s; his Garboesque seclusion in the 1970s; his collaborations with Keith Jarrett, the Beach Boys, Burgess Meredith, Charles Bukowski, Michel Petrucciani, and many more; and the comeback that began in the late 1980s and is still going strong. (MR) FF
WBEZ's Richard Steele will introduce the Sunday screening and lead a Q&A following the show.
Kevin Willmott in person!
- DESTINATION: PLANET NEGRO!
- 2013, Kevin Willmott, USA, 98 min.
- With Danielle Cooper, Tosin Morohunfola
A smart satire that sports a wicked streak of goofball humor, DESTINATION: PLANET NEGRO! has the feel of low-budget 1950s sci-fi, as leaders including W.E.B. DuBois and George Washington Carver kick off a secret plot to solve the “Negro Problem” by way of a rocket ship to Mars. Carrying a crew of three, the spacecraft vaults into a time warp, landing its brave scientists in a present-day Midwestern metropolis, where this comedy takes on the look of a reality show as the astonished adventurers discover unbelievable developments like young men with drooping pants and the election of a black president. (BS)
Director Kevin Willmott and actors Tosin Morohunfola and Danielle Cooper will be present for audience discussion on Friday.
Filmmaker/screenwriter Ytasha L. Womack and author of Post Black: How A New Generation is Redefining African American Identity and the upcoming book Afrofuturism: The World of Black Sci-Fi and Fantasy Culture will introduce the Tuesday screening.
Katherine Nero in person!
- FOR THE CAUSE
- 2013, Katherine Nero, USA, 80 min.
- With Charlette Speigner, Shariba Rivers
Family melodrama and political history strike sparks in Chicago native and Northwestern grad Nero’s explosive first film. Mirai Scott (Speigner), a tightly wound lawyer, reluctantly agrees to defend her estranged father (Eugene Parker) on a first-degree murder charge, much to the dismay of her embittered mother. Mirai’s investigation stirs up skeletons from her parents’ Black Panther days, setting past and present on a collision course. The volatile Speigner and the softspoken Parker complement each other beautifully in their prison-set confrontations. (MR)
Director Katherine Nero will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.
Eric Haywood in person!
- FOUR OF HEARTS
- 2013, Eric Haywood, USA, 99 min.
- With Darrin DeWitt Henson, Nadine Ellis
The seven-year itch arrives early for young marrieds April and Derrick in this comedy-drama that makes character development key as the pair come to the realization that the spark has been missing in their bedroom for quite some time. Friends Christy and Matt move into the adjoining townhouse, and camaraderie takes a sexy turn when it develops that the new neighbors are secret swingers. Variety might be the spice of life, but can April and Derrick handle this hot recipe for modern marriage? (BS)
Media personality and host Art "Chat Daddy" Sims and director Eric Haywood will be present for audience discussion at the Saturday screening, followed by sensual spoken word by Melodyinmypoem and Mz. Jae in the theater.
Jono Oliver in person!
- 2013, Jono Oliver, USA, 112 min.
- With Gbenga Akinnagbe, Tawny Cypress
Beginning with an electrifying chase through the streets of Brooklyn, HOME is a powerful drama about a desperate man’s struggle to find a haven. Jack, a 33-year-old mental patient, is due to leave the institution, but first he has to overcome a series of daunting obstacles, including money, crime, and inner demons. Working in the realist/humanist vein of the Dardenne Brothers and Charles Burnett, first-time writer-director Oliver makes effective use of urban locations, but the heart of this character-driven drama is the acting, featuring an intense lead performance by Akinnagbe (“Chris Partlow” in “The Wire”) and a strong supporting cast that includes Joe Morton (THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET), Danny Hoch (BAMBOOZLED), and James McDaniel (“Detroit 1-8-7”). (MR)
Director Jono Oliver will be present for audience discussion on Sunday.
Real Men Cook will host another reception for ticketholders at 7:30pm on Monday, August 26. The featured caterer will be Nathaniel Pendleton of Traditions Catering Service..
- HOME AGAIN
- 2012, Sudz Sutherland, Canada, 104 min.
- With Tatyana Ali, CCH Pounder
“Polished and energetic.”
—Dennis Harvey, Variety
“Infused with reggae rhythms, rude-boy dialects and flamboyant atmosphere of the Kingston ghetto.”
—Brian D. Johnson, Maclean’s
Director Sudz Sutherland (LOVE, SEX AND EATING THE BONES) puts a human face on immigration issues with three rousing interlinked stories. Marva (Ali), a Canadian widow and mother of two, unknowingly transported contraband for a boyfriend; Everton, an upper-crust London schoolboy, was arrested with a few joints; tough guy Dunston has a minor criminal record in New York but resolves to go straight. Although none of the three has seen Jamaica since they were toddlers, all are deported and left to make their way on the mean streets of Kingston without family, friends, or resources. (BS)
On Friday, Real Men Cook host a pre-film reception in our gallery/café beginning at 7:30 pm. Real Men Cook will feature Geoffrey Bassett providing dessert. Note: valid ticket to the screening is required for entry to the reception.
Special guests in person Sunday!
- IN OUR HEADS
- ABOUT OUR HAIR
- 2012, Hemamset Angaza, USA, 79 min.
Black hair is a subject that comes with its own history, politics, practical issues, and loads of emotional baggage in director Angaza’s illuminating documentary, as testified to by the scores of women who model every conceivable coiffure as they offer insight into their complex relationship with their crowning glory. Going natural vs. conforming to mainstream standards of beauty and “good” hair vs. “bad” hair are only two of the questions debated by interviewees including historian Majora Carter, author Asha Bandele, and Farah Jasmine Griffin, the first black network TV news anchor. (BS) FF
Sunday only: Pre-screening pop-up salon from 3:30 to 5:00 pm featuring Amour Salon, Scoops Hair Mechanics, Ms. Saturday (formerly of Nubian Kinks Salon), and Christian Fields. Post-screening hair panel with Rachel O., Dr. William Yates, Dr. Regina Spellers Sims, Lakeisha Gray-Sewell, Kali Raoul, and moderator Britt Julious!
Saturday night: Date on State!
Tamarat Makonnen in person!
- IN SEARCH OF
- THE BLACK KNIGHT
- 2013, Tamarat Makonnen, USA, 75 min.
Many African American professional women lament the shortage of eligible black men, a provocative subject that comes in for a humorous and thought-provoking exploration in this often-hilarious documentary. Director Makonnen takes his quest from coast to coast, blending commentary by relationship experts, candid street interviews with women and men, and some very entertaining sketch comedy, all providing speculation on the causes and the possible remedies for the scarcity of that elusive black Prince Charming. (BS)
Saturday only: Comedian and Vocalo.org host Brian Babylon and director Tamarat Makonnen in person!
Admission includes Speed Date on State hosted by “Sonny,” created by The Elizabeth Nichole Experience, with goodies provided by Brown Sugar Bakery, following post-screening Q&A.
Director Tamarat Makonnen will also be present for audience discussion on Friday in our café/gallery.
- JAMEL SHABAZZ
- STREET PHOTOGRAPHER
- 2011, Charlie Ahearn, USA, 81 min.
Charlie Ahearn’s 1983 opus WILD STYLE was the definitive document of hip-hop culture. In his first film in over a decade, Ahearn looks back at the movement he helped to put on the map, this time through the eyes of another pioneer, the celebrated Brooklyn-based photographer Jamel Shabazz. Starting in the 1980s, Shabazz captured the styles and attitudes of street life in a series of collaborative, theatrically posed group photographs that have been called “a cornerstone of hip-hop culture.” In the film’s moving climax, as he revisits his old neighborhood, Shabazz discovers that his photographs resonate with the inhabitants as priceless records of bygone icons and those who died too young. Fab 5 Freddie, KRS One, and Jazzy Ivy are among the commentators. (MR)
An Artists Pubic Domain/Cinema Conservancy Release
Ernie Hudson and filmmakers in person!
- THE MAN IN THE SILO
- 2012, Phil Donlon, USA, 55 min.
- With Ernie Hudson, Jane Alderman
Filmed in the Chicago area, THE MAN IN THE SILO is a bold mix of horror, Hitchcock, racial themes, and experimental narrative. Ernie Hudson (“Oz,” GHOSTBUSTERS) delivers a tour-de-force performance as an African American corporate executive haunted by the recent deaths of his wife and child and fearful that he is being squeezed out by his white business associates. With his grip on reality crumbling, he tries to reconstruct the events that have led him to a ruined silo across from a deserted farmhouse. First-time director Donlon is a co-founder of Chicago’s Gilead Theater Company.
(2013, Kibwe Tavares, UK, 18 min.)
A dazzling ecological fable in which the magical appearance of a gigantic fish brings both fortune and ruin to an African coastal town. (MR)
Friday only: Star Ernie Hudson in person!
Pre-screening reception from 6:30 to 8:00 pm catered by Whole Foods Market for all ticket holders.
Director Phil Donlon, producer Steven Ordower, co-writer Christopher Ellis, and actor Christian Stolte will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.
Director Chris Eska in person!
- THE RETRIEVAL
- 2013, Chris Eska, USA, 92 min.
- With Ashton Sanders, Tishuan Scott, Keston John
“Equal parts suspenseful road movie, persuasively detailed period drama and emotionally resonant coming-of-age story, THE RETRIEVAL is an outstanding example of regional indie filmmaking accomplished with limited resources and an abundance of skill.”
—Joe Leydon, Variety
This provocative, deeply involving second feature by director Eska (AUGUST EVENING) created a buzz at the SXSW Festival, where Tishuan Scott won the Best Acting award. Set on the fringes of the Civil War, the story centers on Will (Sanders), a 13-year-old black boy who is used by Southern slave-hunters and his manipulative uncle (John) to lure runaways back to captivity. One such mission sends him up north to entrap Nate (Scott), a freed slave with a large price on his head. The suspense builds as Will finds a surrogate father in the proud man whom he is compelled to betray. Eska makes expert use of reenactors, Texas landscapes, and occasional digital effects to create a convincing Civil War background on a tight budget. (MR) FF
Director Chris Eska will be present for audience discussion at both screenings. Actor Keston John is unable to appear as previously scheduled. We apologize for any inconvenience.
- Shorts Program
Filmmakers in person!
- Black History—Lost and Found
- 2011-2013, Various directors, USA, 76 min.
Five thought-provoking films with historical themes: American myth and history loom over a young black rodeo performer’s dreams of making it to the big time in the evocative documentary THE ROPER (2012, Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands, USA, 6 min.). In the moving family drama THE DATE (2013, Vera J. Brooks, USA, 10 min.), a romantic meeting is interrupted on a fateful date: April 4, 1968. WASTEISM (2013, Marcus Moreno, USA, 12 min.) gives a “Twilight Zone” twist to a biting parable of rabid racism. Suspense and sacrifice mark OUR RHINELAND (2011, Faren Humes, USA, 16 min.), an unusual drama of two sisters resisting Nazi Germany’s policy of sterilizing mixed-race citizens. MOUND BAYOU: JEWEL OF THE DELTA (2012, Jon Ross and John H. Rogers III, USA, 32 min.) tells the fascinating history of a once-thriving Mississippi town founded by former slaves. (MR)
Co-directors Jon Ross and John H. Rogers III (MOUND BAYOU) and producer Zernul Shackelford Jr. (THE DATE) will be present for audience discussion.
Real Men Cook will host another reception for ticket holders at 7:30pm on Monday, August 26. The featured caterer will be Nathaniel Pendleton of Traditions Catering Service..
- Shorts Program
Filmmakers in person!
- Black Noir
- 2012-2013, Various directors, USA/UK, 92 min.
Five films take a walk on the dark side: In JUNIOR (2012, Jeffrey Elmont, USA, 11 min.), an ordinary coffee-shop meeting between father and son takes a harrowing turn. A posh country estate conceals the shady dealings of a wealthy Nigerian-British family in 4-1-9 (2012, Alexander Etseyatse, UK, 16 min.). CHAPTER ONE (2012, Tony Tambi, USA, 19 min.) gives an interracial twist to a classic noir set-up of adultery and murder. A Somali refugee receives an unexpected visit in the Georgia-set drama SWEET, SWEET COUNTRY (2013, Dehanza Rogers, USA, 18 min.). In the Chicago-set OVER THE EDGE (2013, Dion Strowhorn Sr., USA, 28 min.), there’s more than meets the eye to the tragic romance that a recently released mental patient is struggling to overcome. (MR)
Director Dion Strowhorn Sr. (OVER THE EDGE) will be present for audience discussion at both screenings. Director Tony Tambi (CHAPTER ONE) will be present for Q&A at the Monday show.
- Shorts Program
Ali Kamanda in person!
- International Visions
- 2011-13, Various directors, USA/UK, 77 min.
In Ali Kamanda’s SALAY (2011, Sierra Leone, 44 min.), a bright, pretty village girl, the apple of her widowed father’s eye, naively accepts a shady uncle’s offer of help in order to pursue her dream. Preceded by two shorts: Kibwe Tavares’s Sundance festival favorite JONAH (2013, UK, 18 min.), is a magic-realist impression of Zanzibar composed through eye-popping special effects. In Shaun Escayg’s FISH (2012, Trinidad and Tobago, 15 min.), two homeless cousins run afoul of the underworld while plying their trade as pickpockets in a Port-of-Spain market. (BS)
Director Ali Kamanda (SALAY ) will be present for audience discussion.
Filmmakers in person!
- Love African American Style
- 2012-13, Various directors, USA, 86 min.
Love is funny, love is soulful, and love is challenging in this evocative program in which emotions of the heart can provoke a tender kiss or a spiteful spat. Films include: ME by Adolfo R. Mora (2013, 4 min.); PROSPECT by Derrick Perry (2012, 12 min.); TEXT TONE by Sandrel “Sanicole” Young (2013, 13 min.); FAUX PAS by Raphael Nash (2013, 21 min.); SOUL MATES by Reginald T. Jackson (2013, 27 min.); and THE SILENT TREATMENT by Martine Jean (2012, 9 min.). (BS)
Directors Raphael Nash (FAUX PAS) and Sandrel Young (TEXT TONE) are scheduled to be present for audience discussion at both screenings. Director Derrick Perry (PROSPECT) will be present at the Thursday show.
- Shorts Program
Filmmakers in person!
- We Are Family
- 2012-13, Various directors, USA/Canada, 85 min.
In this heart-warming program, six directors explore how to be one with your family in good times and trying times while staying true to yourself. Films include: CLEAN TEETH WEDNESDAYS by Catherine Bruhier (2012, 8 min.); DUST by Shane Book (2013, 9 min.); BIG WILLOW by Jared Katsiane (2013, 11 min.); A DIFFERENT TREE by Steven Caple, Jr. (2013, 15 min); BUSTED ON BRIGHAM LANE by Talibah Newman (2012, 20 min.); and BARBASOL by Ralph K. Scott (2012, 22 min.). On Tuesday only, we feature the just-completed short HE DON'T MAKE JUNK by Richard Porter (2013, 11 min.). (BS) FF
At Sunday's screening, actress Allison Augustin (featured on our homepage listing for Black Harvest and the cover of our August Gazette) of CLEAN TEETH WEDNESDAYS, will be introduced to the audience before the show.
At Tuesday's screening, director Richard Porter and editor Alajuwon Reeves of HE DON'T MAKE JUNK will be present for audience discussion.
- 2013, Vandon N. Gibbs, USA, 76 min.
- With Dupree Lewis Jr., Dixie Light
Director Gibbs, whose first feature COMPLEXION played in the 2009 BHFF, turns a withering eye on a largely corrupt, largely white world in this superbly scripted and acted chamber-noir in which three seemingly unrelated plotlines snap together with the finality of a steel trap. The ingredients: a nervous white lawyer, an intimidating black hustler, an enigmatic bargain, an adulterous politician, his suspicious wife, a woman tied to a chair, and a hired killer. Winner for “Best Feature Film: Drama” at Cinequest. (MR)
Director Vandon N. Gibbs will not be present for audience discussion at both screenings as previously announced. We apologize for any inconvenience.
- THINGS NEVER SAID
- 2012, Charles Murray, USA, 112 min.
- With Shanola Hampton, Elimu Nelson
A young poet searches for her true voice and the steely confidence to make it heard in this romantic drama that explores love, ego, and the elusive muse. Kalindra, a regular at open-mic nights at a Los Angeles poetry club, struggles with stage fright, the disapproval of an angry husband, and the wavering support of her fickle best friend. New York beckons as the platform for a new start, but not before Kal’s resolve undergoes a trial by fire, and the advent of new love alters the way she looks at the world through her art. (BS)
These screenings of THINGS NEVER SAID are dedicated to the memory of Terry Glover (1955-2012), Chicago-based Ebony magazine editor and writer, who participated in the founding of the Black Harvest Film Festival.
Kendall Glover, Ms. Glover’s husband, will speak before the Tuesday screening. There will be a pre-screening reception for ticketholders from 7:00 to 8:00 pm catered by Chef Cliff Rome's H-Dogs.
Producer Brian "Skinny B" Lewis will be present at the Tuesday screening. Executive Producer Steven LaBroi will appear at both screenings for audience discussion.