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 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.


Chicago premieres! Chicago Connection! Filmmakers in person!

Shorts Program: Made in Chicago I

2015-17, Various directors, USA, 83 min.


  • Sun, Aug 13th 5:15pm
  • Wed, Aug 16th 8:30pm
Chicago premiere! Nicole Franklin in person!

Title VII

2017, Nicole Franklin, USA, 72 min. With Chicava Honeychild, Fidel Vicioso.


  • Wed, Aug 16th 6:15pm
  • Thu, Aug 17th 8:15pm

Chicago premiere!

Wilmington On Fire

2015, Christopher Everett, USA, 90 min.


  • Thu, Aug 17th 6:00pm

Chicago premieres! Chicago Connection! Filmmakers in person!

Shorts Program: Love African American Style

2016-17, Various directors, USA, 96 min.


  • Fri, Aug 18th 6:00pm
  • Sat, Aug 19th 8:30pm
World premiere! Chicago Connection! Filmmakers in person!

The Best Thing!

2017, Kyle T. Miller, USA, 96 min. With K.C. Lee, Simeon Henderson.


  • Fri, Aug 18th 8:30pm
  • Tue, Aug 22nd 8:15pm
Chicago premiere! Filmmakers in person!

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


  • Sat, Aug 19th 3:00pm
Free admission! New for 2017!

Black Harvest Marketplace


  • Sat, Aug 19th 1:00pm
Chicago premiere! Milton Katz in person!

Fast Break: The Legendary John McClendon

2016, Kevin Willmott, USA, 57 min.


  • Sun, Aug 20th 3:00pm

Chicago premieres! Filmmakers in person!

Shorts Program: Black History — Lost and Found

2016-2017, Various directors, USA, 80 min.


  • Mon, Aug 21st 8:00pm