The Gene Siskel Film Center presents programming in the spirit of the Black Harvest Film Festival all year long!
Life and Nothing More
2017, Antonio Méndez Esparza, USA, 114 min.
"One of the year's most essential films...Like BOYHOOD and MOONLIGHTING before it, here is a film that is committed to doing justice to the drama of everyday life, finding poetry in the familiar."--Peter Debruge, Variety
"A vital, singularly crafted film...speaks volumes about our country's ongoing state of racism, poverty and criminal injustice, without didacticism or pandering."--Gary Goldstein, Los Angeles Times
The recipient of rave reviews and the Independent Spirit John Cassavetes Award, LIFE
AND NOTHING MORE is an impressive successor to the great tradition of hard-headed,
heartfelt social realism practiced by Mike Leigh, Ken Loach, the Dardenne Brothers, and
Charles Burnett. For his second feature, Spanish-born director Esparza immersed himself
in the Northern Florida milieu where he was living, picked local nonprofessionals to play
characters partly based on themselves, and let them improvise around a rough outline.
The result is a searingly authentic story of a struggling African American family: father
in prison, mother working minimum wage while raising a 3-year-old daughter and a 14-
year-old son. The loosely plotted narrative centers on the mother Regina (Regina
Williams in a revelatory performance) and the son Anthony, the former fiercely
(sometimes too fiercely) devoted to keeping Anthony from following in his father's
footsteps, the latter pushed toward the edge when he locks horns with his mother's new
live-in boyfriend. Esparza observes his characters with unsentimental compassion,
carefully linking their personal problems with the pressures of class and color that will
test both their vulnerability and their resilience. DCP digital. (MR)
Strike a Rock
2017, Aliki Saragas, South Africa, 87 min.
In 2012, workers striking for more humane conditions at South Africa’s Lonmin platinum mine are set upon by police, and 37 are massacred. This shocking event mobilized the women of the Marikana community to action in pursuit of justice--a quest related in this inspiring documentary. Primrose and Thumeka, grandmothers and longtime best friends, come to the fore as powerfully respected elders pursuing roles as catalysts bringing together the women of their impoverished makeshift town in the new organization Sikhala Sonke (We Cry Together). Primrose runs for Parliament and wins, taking their concerns national, while Thumeka remains the prime mover locally, addressing the Lonmin company’s massive default on legal obligations to build worker housing and provide a living wage. Now separated by distance and a differing focus of responsibilities, will their combined efforts on behalf of a still-struggling community prevail against the forces arrayed against them? Co-presented with Human Rights Watch, Chicago. ProRes digital. (BS)