The Gene Siskel Film Center presents programming in the spirit of the Black Harvest Film Festival all year long!
2017, John Trengove, South Africa, 88 min. With Nakhane Touré, Niza Jay.
“A terse ethnographic thriller…nuanced and deeply probing.” — David Ehrlich, Indiewire
“As emotionally and dramatically compelling as any American indie to come out this year. Seek it out on the big screen.” — Eli Fine, The Playlist
Short-listed for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar, this powerful first feature from South Africa uses a traditional manhood ritual as the stage for a complex personal drama and a probing critique of cultural perceptions of masculinity. Young men of the Xhosa ethnic group are subjected to a initiation rite that involves circumcision and a wilderness retreat under the supervision of older caregivers. One of the caregivers, Xolani, uses the yearly ritual as a cover for his closeted (and, in his homophobic culture, potentially dangerous) relationship with the macho family man Vila. The wild card in this ongoing arrangement is Xolani’s new initiate Kwala: rich, urban, sophisticated, comfortably gay, and openly critical of the whole procedure and its linking of manhood with heteronormativity. He quickly figures out Xolani and Vila’s relationship, endangering their secret and, unwittingly, his own safety. In Xhosa, Afrikaans, and English with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. (MR)
Mercury in Retrograde
2017, Michael Glover Smith, USA, 105 min. With Najarra Townsend, Roxane Mesquida.
“A remarkable film.” — Matt Fagerholm, RogerEbert.com
“Beautifully filmed…laser-like scrutiny coupled with artistic sensitivity.” — Debra Davy, Splash Magazines
Three Chicago couples at various stages of their relationships — veteran marrieds Jack and Golda, recently hooked-up Peggy and Wyatt, and longer-term but still uncommitted Isabelle and Richard — come together for a weekend at a woodsy Michigan cabin. The group soon teams up along gender lines, with the men and the women engaging in separate activities, most tellingly on the final evening when, loosened by booze and rain, the women repair to a local bar while the men smokescreen their anxieties behind a discussion of Dashiell Hammett’s mystery novel "The Glass Key." The temporary separation from their respective partners shakes each of the sextet out of their familiar perspectives, accelerating below-the-surface shifts that will have a lasting impact on all of their lives. Chicago-based film critic Smith (White City Cinema) improves upon his impressive first film COOL APOCALYPSE with more polished camerawork and acting (including Alana Arenas of Steppenwolf and French star Roxane Mesquida of FAT GIRL), sharpening his already formidable skills for supremely observant relationship drama. DCP digital widescreen. (MR)