The Gene Siskel Film Center presents programming in the spirit of the Black Harvest Film Festival all year long!
1980, Bill Gunn, USA, 165 min. With Vertamae Grosvenor, Walter Cotton.
"A nearly forgotten early '80s video epic from the brilliant GANJA AND HESS director Bill Gunn is an unexpected aesthetic marvel and a major rediscovery." - Howard Hampton, Film Comment
"Nothing less than an explosion of the television form...The gritty materiality of PERSONAL PROBLEMS is initially a shock but soon proves to be a font of exaltation." - Chuck Bowen, Slant
Conceived by author/provocateur Ishmael Reed (Mumbo Jumbo) as a two-part "experimental soap opera," PERSONAL PROBLEMS was filmed on 3/4-inch videotape, aired in a couple of cities, and then completely disappeared. Restored from the original camera tapes, it is now available for the first time in nearly forty years, and it has been acclaimed by critics as a landmark work of black independent cinema. The story centers loosely on Johnnie Mae Brown, a Harlem emergency-room nurse involved in an adulterous affair with a jazz musician. But director Gunn's loose, wide-ranging style enlarges her story into a rich mosaic of African American life in New York, with extended set-piece scenes of direct-to-the-camera interviews, hospital crises, hen parties, family quarrels, wakes, musical performances, and political debates. Note: There will be a 15-minute intermission. New 2K DCP digital restoration. (MR)
2017, Warwick Thornton, Australia, 113 min. With Hamilton Morris, Bryan Brown, Sam Neill.
"Thornton wrings from this fable of rough frontier justice a statement from the heart. Australia now has its HIGH NOON." - Nick Dent, Time Out New York
"A searing indictment of frontier racism as remarkable for its sonic restraint as its visual expansiveness." - Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times
Revisiting the racial battlefield of classic westerns both American (especially THE SEARCHERS) and Australian (especially THE CHANT OF JIMMIE BLACKSMITH), SWEET COUNTRY is a riveting, fact-based drama of injustice framed against starkly beautiful widescreen landscapes. Based on real events of the 1920s, the story centers on the pursuit and trial of an Aboriginal farmer who kills a white man in self-defense. Indigenous director Thornton (who also photographed the film) uses the incident to draw a non-simplistic but damning spectrum of a racist society, from the virulent World War I veteran who attacks the accused man to an enlightened but ultimately ineffectual preacher (Neill), with many darker shades of gray in between (including a shrewd riff on the John Wayne image by BREAKER MORANT's Bryan Brown). The film's many powerful scenes include a chilling act of violation conveyed by a gradual gathering of darkness, and an outdoor screening of the pioneer 1906 film THE STORY OF THE KELLY GANG, with the crowd cheering on the bad guys. In English and Arrernte with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. (MR)