Black Harvest Film Festival 2018
August 4 - 30, 2018
From August 4 through 30, the Gene Siskel Film Center welcomes one and all to our 24th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival, a month-long celebration of the stories, dreams, history, and legacy of African Americans and the African diaspora, as interpreted by independent filmmakers from around the U.S. and abroad. Filmmaker appearances are the pride and joy of Black Harvest, so join us for the festival's many enlightening post-film discussions with directors, producers, writers, and cast members. Cheer on filmmakers in the early stages of promising careers and savor the insights of those with a seasoned perspective.
The festival opens on Saturday, August 4, with the shorts program A Black Harvest Feast. LeeAnn Trotter of NBC 5 Chicago hosts a show that includes presentation of the Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in Community Leadership to Pemon Rami and Maséqua Myers. Immediately after the show, the audience is invited to a reception across the street at the Joffrey Tower.
Our closing night on Thursday, August 30, celebrates the 25th anniversary of Rusty Cundieff's savvy rap satire FEAR OF A BLACK HAT, screening in a rare 35mm print. Multi-talented director/writer/actor Cundieff (director of the upcoming Universal release TALES FROM THE HOOD 2) will be present for audience discussion. Filmmaker recipients of the 2019 production grants for the Black Harvest 25th Anniversary Project will be announced at this show.
More than thirty filmmakers are scheduled to be present for discussion at screenings throughout the festival, with additional pending. Special events include a personal appearance by former talk show host Dick Cavett, discussing his 53-year friendship with Muhammad Ali with director Robert S. Bader, at the Sunday, August 5, screening of ALI & CAVETT: THE TALE OF THE TAPES. A special advance screening of David Schalliol's THE AREA (returning to the Film Center for a run September 14-20) provides a searing look at a community's valiant struggle against a railroad's land grab in Chicago's Englewood neighborhood.
Features shot in Chicago also include Logan Hall's sci-fi inflected drama ANIMATOR and Lawrence Lee Wallace's revenge satire PIECES OF DAVID. Documentaries include CHI-TOWN, an exhilarating saga of basketball ambition by Nick Budabin. Pamela Sherrod Anderson's THE G FORCE explores the phenomenon of grandparents challenged to become parents to their grandchildren. David Weathersby's THE COLOR OF ART covers a range of issues surrounding inclusion for artists of color in the Chicago art scene; the screening will include a panel representing artists, collectors, and gallery personnel.
— Barbara Scharres, Director of Programming
The Black Harvest Film Festival is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts; the Illinois Arts Council 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.
Announcing the inaugural Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Black Harvest Film Festival Prize
2018 marks the inaugural endowed Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Black Harvest Film Festival Prize. The prize will be awarded annually to a director of a Black Harvest Film Festival short film, chosen by a prestigious jury. Click here to learn more.
All films in the festival are eligible for the Black Harvest Audience Award; ballots available in our lobby.
Download a PDF of the festival schedule
Purchase a Black Harvest festival pass!
Opening Night Celebration:
A Black Harvest Feast
2018, Various directors, USA, 70 min.
- Sat, Aug 4th 7:00pm
Please note — Theater 1 seating is now SOLD OUT! Remaining tickets for the Opening Night film program will be seated in Theater 2. Note: theater 2 is now SOLD OUT as well!
Join Master of Ceremonies LeeAnn Trotter of NBC 5 Chicago for the opening night celebration. This year's Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in Community Leadership will be presented to Pemon Rami, filmmaker and former Director of Education and Public Programs for the DuSable Museum of African American History; and Maséqua Myers, curator, teacher, and Executive Director of the South Side Community Arts Center. Immediately following the show A Black Harvest Feast, the audience is invited to join our celebrity guests for a reception at Joffrey Tower (10 E. Randolph St.), home of the Joffrey Ballet Chicago.
This year's "harvest" merits a celebration; enjoy a sneak preview of the festival's bountiful creativity through these four short films: Sanicole's Chicago-set father-daughter drama TRAINING WHEELS (2018, 15 min.); Derek Dow's Juneteenth relationship showdown SHOTGUN WEDDING (2018, 19 min.); Praheme's comic chronicle of a hookup with staying power STUCK (2018, 17 min.); and Shayla Racquel's evocative drama RIVERMENT (2018, 19 min.), in which family activism comes full circle. (BS, MR)
2018, Derek Dow, USA, 19 min. With Lina Green, Thomas Hobson.
Juneteenth becomes a day of showdown for a couple reaching a critical turning point in their relationship. (BS)
2018, Praheme, USA, 17 min. With Javicia Leslie, Hari Williams.
A comically impulsive hookup turns out to have staying power for the surprised lovers. (BS)
2018, Shayla Racquel, USA, 19 min. With Diane Powell, Nicolette Ali Wright.
A family's tradition of activism comes full circle, but not without triggering fears on the part of the older generation. (BS)
Ali & Cavett: The Tale Of The Tapes
2018, Robert S. Bader, USA, 95 min.
- Sun, Aug 5th 5:00pm
- Mon, Aug 6th 8:00pm
"There was a time in my life when I felt that Muhammad Ali was my best friend. I don't mean a worshipped-from-afar friend, but a worshipped-from-'anear' one." - Dick Cavett
A close friendship of 53 years between champion fighter Muhammad Ali, aka The Greatest, and talk show host Dick Cavett is detailed in this warm, revealing documentary that resonates with their frank discussions ranging from Ali's fights with Liston, Frazier, and Foreman, to incendiary issues including race, religion, and war - topics that remain as current as they were in the course of Ali's 1969-75 Dick Cavett Show appearances. Extended archival clips from the show form the core of ALI & CAVETT, and create a touching and affectionate portrait, enhanced by additional interviews with figures including the Rev. Al Sharpton, Ilyasah Shabazz, Clarence Taylor, Juan Williams, biographer Thomas Hauser, and more. DCP digital. (BS) FF
Then There Was Joe
2018, Justin Warren, USA, 102 min. With Ray Grady, Justin Warren, James "Butch" Warren.
"Appealingly genuine…There's enough entertaining stuff here to suggest that this crowd-funded production will pay off in a promising future." - Michael Rechtshaffen, Los Angeles Times
This highly entertaining blend of raucous comedy and heartfelt sentiment centers on the clashing personalities of two Arkansas brothers. Law-student Ben is strait-laced stickler who does everything right. Black-sheep older brother Joe is a smooth-talking operator who does everything wrong - most recently, getting arrested for a bungled robbery at a bowling alley filled with schoolchildren. The boys' father, who happens to be a judge, puts Joe in Ben's custody in the hope of bringing the mismatched siblings closer together. It isn't long before Joe's escapades put Ben's bar exam and wedding proposal in jeopardy, as he is drawn into a world of car thieves, prostitutes, and coke dealers. For his feature debut, filmmaker Warren (who plays Ben) based the story on his own relationship with his brother Justin (who collaborated on the screenplay), while casting their real-life father as the judge. Justin was originally supposed to play Joe, but, when he went on the lam, his shoes were ably filled by stand-up comedian Ray Grady, who brings charisma and comic energy to the juicy role of Joe. DCP digital. (MR)
Shorts program: International Visions
2016-2018, Various directors, Various nations, 98 min.
- Thu, Aug 9th 8:00pm
Provocative stories from Africa and the African diaspora open up the world in these four shorts: WE LOVE MOSES (2016, UK, 15 min.) by Dionne Edwards; LALO'S HOUSE (2018, Haiti/USA, 25 min.) by Kelley Kali; FALLOU (2017, Senegal/UK, 30 min.) by Alassane Sy; and OFF PATH (TANGENTE) (2017, France/Reunion Island, 27 min.) by Rida Belghiat. In English, Haitian Creole, French, and Wolof with English subtitles.
We Love Moses
2016, Dionne Edwards, UK, 15 min.
A 12-year-old girl's sexual curiosity fastens on her older brother's friend Moses, but she still has a lot to learn. (MR)
2018, Kelley Kali, Haiti/USA, 25 min.
Two sisters find themselves victims of child trafficking in a disturbing story based on true events. In Haitian Creole with English subtitles. (MR)
2017, Alassane Sy, Senegal/UK, 30 min.
A young Senegalese man in London becomes involved in a terrorist plot. In Wolof and English with English subtitles. (MR)
2017, Rida Belghiat, France, 27 min.
A woman's determination to finish an endurance race on mountainous Reunion Island has a special motivation. In French with English subtitles. (MR)
Green Days By The River
2017, Michael Mooleedhar, Trinidad & Tobago, 102 min. With Sudai Tafari, Anand Lawkaran, Vanessa Bartholomew, Nadia Kandhai.
A Caribbean coming-of-age classic in the tradition of SUGAR CANE ALLEY, Michael Mooleedhar's first feature is adapted from Michael Anthony's acclaimed 1967 novel. Set in 1952, the story centers on the 15-year-old boy Shellie (Tafari), whose poor but closely knit family has recently relocated to a village in the Mayaro region of Trinidad. With his father seriously ill, Shellie acquires a surrogate father-figure in the wealthy plantation-owner Mr. Gidharee (Lawkaran), and he finds himself torn between Gidharee's seductive half-Indian daughter Rosalie (Kandhai) and the more down-to-earth charms of out-of-town girl Joan (Bartholomew). But does Shellie really have a choice, or has a trap been laid for him from the very beginning? GREEN DAYS BY THE RIVER is a rich sensory experience, featuring a lush sense of place, a superb music-laced soundtrack, and vividly colored, beautifully composed cinematography. DCP digital. (MR)
A Boy. A Girl. A Dream
2018, Qasim Basir, USA, 89 min. With Omari Hardwick, Meagan Good.
"Good and Hardwick are compelling...This is clearly a project with its own aspirations, and it is exciting to watch those actors guide it." - Nick Allen, RogerEbert.com
Filmed in a single continuous take, this tour-de-force romance follows two strangers who meet by chance outside an L.A. nightclub. Cass (Hardwick of "Power") is a club promoter with a stalled career as a filmmaker. Frida aka Free (Good of "Minority Report") wanted to be a deejay but is now a lawyer about to fly back to the Midwest. They get off on the wrong foot, reconnect, Lyft it to a party in the Hollywood Hills, and face their futures in a Sunset Strip diner. The glittering L.A. lightscape and the continuous magic-carpet ride of the camera lend a dreamlike air to the proceedings, but the film counterpoints the couple's romantic bubble with intrusions from the outside world: ignored messages from significant others, a racial incident involving the police, and, most glaringly, the setting of the action on Election Night, 2016. As a nationwide tide of disillusionment rolls in, can a boy and a girl find the strength to take a leap and pursue their personal dreams? DCP digital. (MR)
2018, Nick Budabin, USA, 82 min.
- Fri, Aug 10th 8:30pm
- Mon, Aug 13th 8:00pm
"An intimate and involving portrait...the 82-minute CHI-TOWN compensates for its size by making every shot count." - David Ehrlich, Indiewire
A documentary about a basketball hopeful from a disadvantaged South Side neighborhood is bound to draw comparisons to HOOP DREAMS, but this compelling portrait of former Marshall High star Keifer Sykes carves out its own identity. The film's five-year saga begins with the charismatic Sykes winding up his illustrious high-school career and heading for the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. Only 5'11", Sykes uses dazzling moves and amazing vertical launch to forge a record-breaking career at Green Bay, but the height factor becomes more critical when he tries to break into the NBA. The most significant difference between HOOP DREAMS and CHI-TOWN is that the latter takes place in the age of THE INTERRUPTERS. The contrast between Sykes's sheltered campus life and his violence-plagued hometown neighborhood becomes increasingly acute as friends, teammates, and even his coach are felled by incarceration and gunfire. TV veteran Budabin's superbly edited first feature maintains a propulsive energy while striking a fine balance between exciting court action, intimate character study, and wider social context. DCP digital. (MR) FF
Shorts program: Made in Chicago
2017-2018, Various directors, USA, 90 min.
- Sat, Aug 11th 5:15pm
- Wed, Aug 15th 8:00pm
NOTE: Both screenings are now SOLD OUT!
Five films featuring Chicago talent: AN ODE TO HAROLD (2017, 11 min.) by Ashley Chrisman; THE COLLEGE GRADUATE (2017, 18 min.) by Terry Hines Jr.; TRAINING WHEELS (2018, 15 min.) by Sanicole; THE POLYAMORIST (2018, 24 min.) by Vick Lee; and IRON FIVE (2018, 22 min.) by Rino Liberatore.
An Ode To Harold
2017, Ashley Chrisman, USA, 11 min.
At her father's funeral, a young woman takes an unsentimental look back at their relationship. (MR)
The College Graduate
2017, Terry Hines Jr., USA, 18 min.
Anxieties real and imagined plague a black college student who finds his identity obscured by a series of masks. (MR)
2018, Vick Lee, USA, 24 min.
With two men and one woman eager to bed her, Morgan is determined to pursue her love life on her own terms. (MR)
2018, Rino Liberatore, USA, 22 min.
In 1963, the Loyola basketball team defied racial quotas and went on to play in what many consider the greatest NCAA final in history. (MR)
Black Harvest Marketplace 2018
- Sat, Aug 11th 1:00pm
- Thu, Aug 16th 5:00pm
- Mon, Aug 20th 5:00pm
Free Admission! View and purchase unique items from Black owned businesses from 1 PM to 5 PM. From jewelry and fashion to food and children’s artwork, we’ll have it all!
On Thursday, August 16 and Monday, August 20, we will have two more pop ups to give you another opportunity to support.
On Saturday, August 11, the following vendors will be present starting at 1 PM:
- Black Cat Kitchen
- I Am That Woman Retreat
- Jean Williams
On Thursday, August 16, the following vendors will be present starting at 5 PM:
- The Krafty Chick
- Jean Williams
- Soular Powered
On Monday, August 20, the following vendors will be present starting at 5 PM:
- Black Cat Kitchen
- Dana Todd Pope
- I Am That Woman Retreat
- The Krafty Chick
- Jean Williams
The G Force
2018, Pamela Sherrod Anderson, USA, 58 min.
- Sun, Aug 12th 3:00pm
- Tue, Aug 14th 6:00pm
With the rising trend of grandparents stepping in to raise their children's children when birth parents are unable, director Anderson (THE CURATORS OF DIXON SCHOOL) explores the phenomenon through the challenges, concerns, and joys of two unique Chicago families headed by grandmothers. "Grandma will tell you when you are wrong," declares peppery Ellen Robinson, who dotes with pride on teen grandson Patrick, even as she firmly models old-school values and insists on details like grace before meals. Grandmother Georgeanne Fischetti, who has raised young granddaughter Martha from birth, provides a home filled with warmth and laughter, and a surrogate granddad in her partner Bob. Love is the overriding message, but these loving elder parents also seek advice and peer support, and the film includes a profile of Evanston's Second Chance Grandparent Writing Group, as well as interviews with experts in legal and social services in the field. HDCAM video. (BS) FF