Black Harvest Film Festival 2015
August 8 – September 3
From August 8 through September 3, the Gene Siskel Film Center invites Chicago to celebrate the 21st edition of the Black Harvest Film Festival, exploring the stories, images, heritage, and history of the black experience in the U.S. and around the world through film and video. Talent is the key word in describing Black Harvest: an abundant manifestation of creativity representing emerging filmmakers and established masters alike. Black Harvest most especially promotes dialogue, and we feature many personal appearances for audience discussion.
Opening night on Saturday, August 8, will be a don’t-miss affair, when NBC 5’s LeeAnn Trotter MCs A Black Harvest Feast, which includes the presentation of this year’s Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in Community Leadership to distinguished director, producer, actress, singer, and playwright Jackie Taylor, founder of the Black Ensemble Theater, for her exceptional work in creating educational community outreach programs. Immediately after the show, the audience is invited to a reception across the street at the Joffrey Ballet studios.
Our September 3 closing night will feature director Kiara C. Jones with CHRISTMAS WEDDING BABY, her sparkling romantic comedy about love, rivalry and sisterhood. The closing night party sponsored by Whole Foods Market follows the screening.
Be the first to see a special advance screening of Stanley Nelson’s powerful BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION. Following this sneak preview, we bring the film back for the exclusive Chicago run the week of September 25 through October 1.
Chicago filmmakers are front and center throughout the festival. Ronit Bezalel premieres her documentary 70 ACRES IN CHICAGO: CABRINI GREEN, chronicling the controversial dismantling of the housing project. Derek Grace presents COLLEGE WEEK, detailing an inner-city middle school’s inspiring annual event. Cyrus Dowlatshahi appears with TAKIN’ PLACE, produced by Yvonne Welbon, a documentary on life and lifestyles on Chicago’s South Side. Actor Simeon Henderson (“Chicago PD”) discusses his starring role in JEREMY BROOKS at both screenings
Gun control activist Lucia McBath, mother of murder victim Jordan Davis, appears with 3 ½ MINUTES, TEN BULLETS, a documentary on the trial of her son’s killer; the audience is invited to a reception hosted by the MacArthur Foundation following the August 9 screening. Director Rusty Cundieff and actors Sharon Leal and Barry Shabaka Henley will appear with WHITE WATER, produced by Chicago native Dwayne Johnson-Cochran, a comedy/drama set in a segregated Southern town. Director Nefertite Nguvu will be present for screenings of her romantic drama IN THE MORNING. Additional filmmaker appearances are being added almost daily, so be sure to check back for updates on personal appearances and special events.
Three admission-free special events are designed with the aspiring or beginning filmmaker in mind. The August 9 workshop Legal and Business Pitfalls: Screenplay through Distribution and Fundraising offers step-by-step advice from an entertainment lawyer. On August 22, Action! The Real Deal About Filmmaking: Money, Casting, Production, and Distribution, 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 30 presentation The Realities of Screenwriting will provide valuable tips.
The art exhibit “Body and Soul” curated by Felicia Mings, will be on display in our gallery/café throughout the festival.
All films are eligible for the Black Harvest Audience Award; ballots available in our lobby.
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: Block Thirty Seven, Chicago Public Library, Chicago Reader, DuSable Museum of African American History, iHeartMedia, The Joffrey Ballet, Love Cork Screw, Marilyn's Cafe Society, Midwest Independent Film Festival, nUM yUMMIES, Rome's Joy Catering, Rebuild Foundation/Black Cinema House, Sound of Authority, WVON 1690 AM
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 $50!
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 2015 Black Harvest Film Festival.
- Enjoy post-film discussions with filmmakers & FREE refreshments.
2015, Rusty Cundieff, USA, 84 min. With Sharon Leal, Larenz Tate, Barry Shabaka Henley, Amir and Amari O’Neil.
An aura of innocence and an immense sense of humor are qualities that director Cundieff (FEAR OF A BLACK HAT) brings to this story of a little boy’s eye-opening encounter with the facts of segregation in his Alabama hometown. Based on the novel by Michael Bandy and Eric Stein, the film charts a curious seven-year-old’s growing obsession with tasting the rare, special water that he believes will flow from the “Whites Only” public drinking fountain. Light-hearted but not lightweight, WHITE WATER creates a lovely panorama of small-town black life against the reality of the 1960s South. Produced by Chicago native Dwayne Johnson-Cochran (BE KNOWN). DCP digital. (BS)
In the Morning
2014, Nefertite Nguvu, USA, 75 min. With De’Adre Aziza, Kim Hill.
“Love is anything but a neat fairytale … very real and well-rendered ... stayed with me well after leaving the theater.”
– Nijla Mumin, Shadow and Act
Love is transformative and in flux in this drama in which relationships and romantic dreams of nine sophisticated friends reach a turning point in the course of one day. IN THE MORNING zeroes in on three sets of lovers reaching a dead end in their journey together, through infidelity, changing expectations, and new opportunities. Writer-director Nguvu brings a poetic lilt to her savvy grownup dialogue, and cinematographer Arthur Jafa (DAUGHTERS OF THE DUST, CROOKLYN) gives Brooklyn settings a dashing look. Winner of the Audience Award for Best Feature at New York’s Urban World Film Festival. DCP digital. (BS)
Shorts Program: Color Me Creative
2013-15, Various directors, USA, 83 min.
- Wed, Aug 19th 8:15pm
Five films celebrate creativity and the imagination.
2013, Mariel Brown, 10 min.
Artist Richard Mark Rawlins recalls how his frustrated father found an outlet by making exquisite wooden toys.
Hands to the Sky
2014, Kimberly Townes, 16 min.
An autistic artist fights for custody of his younger brother in Kimberly Townes’s fact-based drama.
Beyond the Passage
2014, Terrence Jones, 9 min.
A young girl and her grandfather may be the last survivors in a post-apocalyptic world in Terrence Jones’s beguiling BEYOND THE PASSAGE.
2014, Neil Creque Williams, 20 min.
A full-scale musical number highlights this tale of a jazz trumpeter battling epilepsy.
Chi-Voices: A Poetic Film Series
2015, Shiri Burson, 28 min.
In Shiri Burson’s dynamic film, Chicago spoken word artists address a climate of street violence.
Shorts Program: Love African American Style
2014-15, Various directors, USA/UK/Australia, 80 min.
- Fri, Aug 21st 6:15pm
- Sat, Aug 22nd 8:30pm
Five shorts humorously detail pitfalls in the search for that special someone.
2015, Shahari Moore and Christine List, 14 min.
A stunning woman attracts the attention of a persistent admirer (voice by Eamonn Walker of “Chicago Fire”) on a Chicago street corner.
2014, Tim Marshall, UK/Australia, 12 min.
An apparent vision on a pair of swim trunks motivates an elderly woman to pursue the young man of her dreams.
My Name Is Karma
2014, Salina Duplessis, USA, 19 min.
Revenge is sweet when a wronged woman gets a little supernatural assistance.
2015, Damien D. Smith, USA, 17 min.
Jonathan can’t figure why his friends shun his new girlfriend.
Prom Date Blues
2015, Martisse Hill USA, 17 min.
Inviting a girl to the prom calls for stamina in Martisse Hill’s PROM DATE BLUES.
2015, Cyrus Dowlatshahi, USA, 84 min.
Chicago’s South Side is rarely portrayed in the media as a place of beauty and positive energy. Ravishingly photographed, TAKIN’ PLACE colorfully captures the aura of the Washington Park and Englewood neighborhoods from the chaos of a joyous Fourth of July in the streets to girl talk in the intimate confines of a beauty salon. Director Dowlatshahi, whose career encompasses work for Al-Jazeera, National Geographic, and the Discovery Channel, takes a fly-on–the-wall approach to discovering everyday life and culture on the South Side in all its glorious diversity and complexity. DCP digital. (BS)
The August 21 and August 27 screenings are now SOLD OUT.
Action!: The Real Deal About Filmmaking
- Sat, Aug 22nd 5:30pm
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 directors Kirby Ashley (SIDELINE), Derek Grace (COLLEGE WEEK), and Shahari Moore and Christine List (B LOVE). You’ll want to take notes! The audience is invited to participate with questions in this provocative forum. (BS)
70 Acres in Chicago: Cabrini Green
2015, Ronit Bezalel, USA, 56 min.
All screenings of this film are now SOLD OUT!
This film will return to the Film Center from November 13 – 19.
The filmmakers call it “Chicago’s most hotly contested 70 acres of land.” With its prime central location, Cabrini Green was hailed as a public housing triumph and demonized as an urban disaster. Beginning in 1995, it was demolished, bit and bit, then repackaged as a “mixed income” development, where, unsurprisingly, the former, largely black residents have been marginalized or driven away. Bezalel, who first covered the subject in her celebrated 1999 short VOICES OF CABRINI, spent fifteen years on this eye-opening follow-up, which uses personal stories, expert commentary, and informative history to celebrate the spirit of a unique community and to mourn its betrayal and destruction. DCP digital. (MR)
Shorts Program: Women Of Color
2014-15, Various directors, USA, 90 min.
- Tue, Aug 25th 8:15pm
Female intuition and strength of spirit figure in these five provocative shorts.
2014, Darshon Crudup, 11 min.
A college student and her boyfriend have opposing views after witnessing an incident of police harassment.
2015, Solomon Onita Jr., 15 min.
A mother is desperate to save her young daughter from the trauma of a cruel African ritual.
Lift Every Voice
2014, Dallas Alexis, 21 min.
A disrespected substitute teacher finds an inspired solution to engaging her unruly students.
Didn't I Ask For Tea?
2015, Rahwa Asmerom and Essence Ward, 23 min.
Friends and roommates bond over an exchange of romantic strategies.
2015, Carmen Elly Wilkerson, 20 min.
The morning after an unsupervised party, four teenage girls debate what to do after one of them learns she's a victim of sexual assault.
Christmas Wedding Baby
2014, Kiara C. Jones, USA, 96 min. With Lisa Arrindell Anderson, Stephen Hill.
- Fri, Aug 28th 6:15pm
- Thu, Sep 3rd 6:30pm
“Warm and funny, family-friendly flick…a pleasure watching black women characterized as women, sisters, lovers, mothers, human.”
– Monique A. Williams, Shadow and Act
This romantic comedy takes an endearingly bittersweet approach to bridal jitters, single parenthood, and the joys of sisterhood. Bride-to-be Andrea looks to shine as her family’s princess on her special day, but an upstage may be in the offing due to the ongoing personal drama of sister Lori, soon to give birth; the extracurricular shenanigans of sister Charlotte, a rising star news anchor; and the machinations of momzilla Miranda. When the wedding photographer turns out to be Andrea’s long-lost first love, it’s anything but the icing on the (wedding) cake. Director Jones (BARBASOL) shows off her Jacksonville, Florida, hometown to sparkling advantage. HDCAM video. (BS)
Shorts Program: Made in Chicago II
2015, Various directors, USA, 82 min.
- Fri, Aug 28th 8:30pm
- Wed, Sep 2nd 8:15pm
Four more films featuring Chicago talent.
2015, Francis Polo, 10 min.
A phone-addicted philanderer unwisely accepts a challenge from his fed-up wife.
Away From the Mountain
2015, D’Tura Hale, 10 min.
A father faces an unwelcome truth about his star-athlete son in D’Tura Hale’s intense AWAY FROM THE MOUNTAIN.
2015, Kirby Ashley, 32 min.
The history of chess is given a fascinating black spin.
Standing on Common Ground:
My Spring Break in New Orleans,
Ten Years Later
2015, Evan Allen-Gessesse, 30 min.
Evan Allen-Gessesse returns to the scene of his award-winning Katrina clean-up film.