Black Harvest Film Festival 2016

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, The South Shore Current
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!


Chicago connection! Filmmakers in person!

Dark Seed

2016, China L. Colston, USA, 89 min. With China L. Colston, David Roberts.


  • Tue, Aug 23rd 8:15pm
  • Wed, Aug 24th 6:15pm

Filmmakers in person!

Shorts Program: Women of Color

2014-16, Various directors, USA, 84 min.


  • Thu, Aug 25th 8:15pm

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
Chicago connection! Filmmakers in person!

Sunshine Day

2015, Lawrence Lee Wallace, USA, 100 min. With Kimberly Washington, Brian C. Green.


  • Fri, Aug 26th 8:15pm
  • Tue, Aug 30th 8:00pm

Zeinabu irene Davis in person!

Spirits of Rebellion: Black Film From UCLA

2016, Zeinabu irene Davis, USA, 100 min.


  • Sat, Aug 27th 3:00pm

LA Rebellion classics! Zeinabu irene Davis in person!


1999, Zeinabu irene Davis, USA, 92 min. With John Jelks, Michelle A. Banks.


  • Sat, Aug 27th 5:30pm
Chicago connection! Filmmakers in person!

Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise

2016, Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn Whack, USA, 114 min.


  • Sat, Aug 27th 8:00pm

Chicago connection! David J. Steiner in person!

Saving Barbara Sizemore

2016, David J. Steiner, USA, 83 min.


  • Sun, Aug 28th 3:00pm
  • Wed, Aug 31st 6:00pm
LA Rebellion classics! Newly restored!

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

Closing night film! Filmmakers in person!

Agents of Change: Black Students and the Transformation of the American University

2016, Frank Dawson and Abby Ginzberg, USA, 66 min


  • Thu, Sep 1st 6:30pm