The Gene Siskel Film Center presents programming in the spirit of the Black Harvest Film Festival all year long!
Thomasine & Bushrod
1974, Gordon Parks Jr., USA, 95 min. With Max Julien, Vonetta McGee.
- Fri, Sep 21st 3:45pm
- Tue, Sep 25th 6:00pm
"Negroes don't do that. Negroes sing and dance and steal chickens. They don't rob banks." So says an astonished white bystander in this nearly forgotten memento of the outlaw spirit that infiltrated American cinema in the post-BONNIE AND CLYDE era. Actor-writer Julien (THE MACK) and director Parks (SUPER FLY) brought a blaxploitation background to this revisionist western that upsets racial and gender stereotypes as well as genre conventions. Automobiles replace horses in 1911 Texas, where bounty hunter Thomasine (McGee) and outlaw Bushrod (Julien) join forces to pull off a series of daring bank robberies while eluding the rabidly vengeful Sheriff Bogardie (George Murdock). Glynn Turman's colorful turn as a jive-talking Jamaican gunslinger adds to the film's freewheeling pastiche of genres and eras. 35mm archival print. (MR)
I Am Not A Witch
2017, Rungano Nyoni, UK/France/Germany, 93 min. With Margaret Mulubwa, Henry B.J. Phiri.
- Fri, Sep 28th 4:15pm
- Fri, Sep 28th 6:15pm
- Sat, Sep 29th 7:45pm
- Sun, Sep 30th 3:00pm
- Tue, Oct 2nd 6:00pm
- Wed, Oct 3rd 8:15pm
- Thu, Oct 4th 8:15pm
"One of the obvious breakouts of the year: exactly the kind of young work - brash, committed, and narratively unpredictable - that film festivals are supposed to champion." - Steve Macfarlane, Slant
"Beautiful and strange…it's rare and exhilarating that a new filmmaker arrives on the scene so sure of herself and so willing to take bold, counter-intuitive chances." - Jessica Kiang, Variety
A mute little orphan girl with wise knowing eyes wanders into a Zambian village and is declared a witch by frightened locals. She is quickly cast in the dual roles of scapegoat and magic charm in this entrancing tale based in part on African superstition and mythology. Nine-year-old Shula (Mulubwa) is sent to a witch camp, where abandoned older women accused of dabbling in the supernatural are forced to live a sideshow life, on display to tourists and tethered by long streamers meant to keep them from flying away or from changing into goats. In a biting satire on patriarchy, first-time feature director Nyoni blends misogynist folk traditions into a magic realist fantasy filled with humor, haunting imagery, and irony, as the child is dressed and painted in a fanciful costume and exploited by a corrupt official who rents her out to cast spells for cash. In English, Bemba, and Nyanja with English subtitles. DCP digital widescreen. (BS)
Daughters of the Dust
1991, Julie Dash, USA, 112 min. With Alva Rogers, Bahni Turpin.
- Sat, Sep 29th 3:00pm
- Tue, Oct 2nd 6:00pm
"Distinctive, original…every image, every moment is a full creation…Dash is one of the heroines of the modern cinema." - Richard Brody, New Yorker
A work of breathtaking beauty and haunting cultural resonance, this landmark independent production was the first film by an African American woman to receive theatrical distribution in the U.S. On a summer day in 1902, a large African American family descended from slaves gathers for one last picnic in their Sea Island home on the eve of their move North. The knowledge and mystical traditions of the clan's West African heritage are manifest in the women of the family, from the matriarch Nana to the unborn baby girl in her granddaughter's womb, as the family confronts the conflicts and challenges of a new century. In English and Gullah dialect with English subtitles. DCP digital. (BS)
Steffani Jemison: Sensus Plenior
2008-18, Steffani Jemison, USA, ca. 60 min.
- Thu, Oct 4th 6:00pm
Steffani Jemison's multimedia projects draw upon Black vernacular culture to produce new modes of expression and models for community. She presents a selection of audio works alongside her latest video, SENSUS PLENIOR (2017). Latin for "fuller meaning," SENSUS PLENIOR (2017) explores language and gesture through the ecstatic choreography of ordained minister Susan Webb and the Master Mime Ministry of Harlem. Jemison explores similar themes in the ongoing music and performance series RECITATIF, which uses Solresol, a utopian 19th-century musical language, to reinterpret Black popular and political music. Through Solresol's unique structure, Jemison forges alternative ways for understanding history, culture, and everyday life. Multiple formats. (Amy Beste)
Betty: They Say I'm Different
2017, Phil Cox, USA, 56 min.
- Sat, Oct 6th 8:15pm
"A sizzling biopic detailing how [Davis] revolutionized the music landscape for black women." - Patrick Gamble, Little White Lies
Innovator. Icon. Enigma. Born in North Carolina, Betty Davis began writing songs at age 12, entered the New York hipster scene in the 1960s, met and wed Miles Davis, and, in the course of a stormy one-year marriage, steered him in the direction of jazz fusion that would produce the turning-point album "Bitches Brew." After the divorce, she pursued her own career as songwriter and performer. At a time when the elegant polish of the Supremes was the role model, Davis, in such songs as "Nasty Gal" and "If I'm in Luck I Might Get Picked Up," unleashed a raw funk sound drenched with a brazen sexuality that still seems startling. Akin to Angela Davis and Pam Grier as an icon of empowered black womanhood, and a trailblazer for such sexualized performers as Madonna, Prince, and Rick James, Betty was too different for her time. Banned, boycotted, and marginalized, she dropped out of the music world and disappeared into a 35-year seclusion, until filmmaker Cox sought her out in a Pittsburgh suburb and persuaded her to open up for this imaginative portrait of a revolutionary artist. DCP digital. (MR)
Chasing the Blues
2017, Scott Smith, USA, 77 min. With Grant Rosenmeyer, Jon Lovitz, Ronald L. Conner.
- Fri, Oct 12th 2:00pm
- Fri, Oct 12th 8:00pm
- Sat, Oct 13th 6:30pm
- Sun, Oct 14th 5:00pm
- Mon, Oct 15th 6:00pm
- Wed, Oct 17th 8:00pm
"Goofy and high-spirited." - Marilyn Ferdinand, Chicago Reader
"An extremely compelling and darkly comic ride." - Rick Kogan, Chicago Tribune
The 2 PM screening on Friday 10/12 is SOLD OUT!
Made in Chicago, this black-comic caper pays tribute to the city's musical legacy and its blues and bluesmen through a spirited fictional tale of a cursed record, based on a short story by Chicago writer Kevin Guilfoile. On the very day that Alan (Rosenmeyer of THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS), obsessed record collector and convicted felon, is released from prison, he resumes his search for the object that has been the holy grail of his life. Back in 1938, the wanted murderer Jimmy Kane Baldwin walked into a South Side studio and recorded a haunting (and haunted, it turns out) demo, then disappeared. A smarmy Southern lawyer (former SNL star Lovitz), a dotty widow (Anna Maria Horsford of A MADEA CHRISTMAS), and an arch-rival record-store owner (Conner of "Empire" and "The Chi") are among the conmen, musicians, killers, and goofballs who race through a saga that extends from the 1930s to the present, and plays like an urban legend. DCP digital. (BS)
The Color Of Art
2018, David Weathersby, USA, 60 min.
- Sat, Oct 13th 8:15pm
"A glorious feast for the eyes and the soul." - Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times
Director Weathersby, whose survey of the Neo-Soul movement GOT THE LOVE screened at the 2017 BHFF, returns with another account of grass-roots creativity in Chicago's African American community. With a lack of support from academia and the art establishment, black artists have historically struggled for respect and recognition. This lively and informative documentary explores the present-day renaissance of black art in Chicago, centered on neighborhoods such as Bronzeville and organizations such as the South Side Community Arts Center and the Hyde Park Art Center. Diverse and talented artists such as RJ Eldridge, Shyvette Williams, and Jesse Howard are profiled, but, rather than focusing on isolated creators, the film examines the ecosystem of artists, gallery owners, curators, and collectors that sustains the movement. There is a special emphasis on the relationships between artists and collectors, which are especially close and crucial in the black arts movement. ProRes digital. (MR)
2018, Logan Hall, USA, 99 min. With Levenix Riddle, MacKenzie Chinn.
- Sat, Oct 20th 8:15pm
"The supernatural premise dates back at least as far as W.W. Jacobs's 1902 horror story 'The Monkey's Paw,' but screenwriter Roberta Jones wisely pushes her narrative past the confines of genre and into more complicated emotional territory." - J.R. Jones, Chicago Reader
A Faustian premise gets a contemporary twist in present-day Chicago in this sci-fi-inflected tale in which a young artist discovers that he has the ability to change the past and direct the future. Neal (Riddle), struggling in his fledgling career as an illustrator, is taken under the wing of a mysterious animation professor who leads him to harness his talent to the mystical power of West African griots. Success, acclaim, and money arrive with the stroke of a pen, but Neal's new love Tina (Chinn) soon feels the sting of her man's dark side. Power over fate is a two-edged sword examined with a serious regard for the meaning of life and death in a script by Roberta Jones. DCP digital. (BS)
American Revolution 2
1969, The Film Group, USA, 77 min.
- Fri, Oct 26th 7:45pm
★★★★ "A film every Chicagoan should see…as well edited and as high in technical quality as any cinema verite documentary I've ever seen." - Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times
AMERICAN REVOLUTION 2 begins by documenting the explosive confrontations between the Chicago police and protestors during the 1968 Democratic National Convention. The filmmakers (Howard Alk, Mike Gray, and Bill Cottle) then move from these clashes to a nuanced, compelling, and very timely examination of the unlikely relationship that was developing between the Black Power movement in Chicago and the Young Patriots - a group of impoverished, primarily white residents of the Uptown neighborhood who were beginning to organize around issues of social mobility, police brutality, and income inequity. This new 35mm print is the most recent preservation project of Chicago Film Archives, with the support of the National Film Preservation Foundation and Rebuild Foundation. CFA also commissioned sound artist Adam Sonderberg to create a seven-minute audio prelude piece using archival material from their collections. Preceding the film, it will provide an alternative way to absorb and understand the political and social turmoil that defined Chicago in 1968. (Michelle Puetz)
2018, Nick Budabin, USA, 82 min.
- Sat, Oct 27th 8:15pm
"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. Winner of the Audience Award at the 2018 Black Harvest Film Festival. DCP digital. (MR)
Minding The Gap
2018, Bing Liu, USA, 93 min.
- Fri, Aug 31st 8:00pm
- Sat, Sep 1st 7:45pm
- Sun, Sep 2nd 5:15pm
- Mon, Sep 3rd 3:00pm
- Tue, Sep 4th 7:45pm
- Wed, Sep 5th 6:00pm
- Thu, Sep 6th 8:30pm
- Fri, Sep 7th 2:00pm
- Fri, Sep 7th 8:15pm
- Sat, Sep 8th 8:00pm
- Sun, Sep 9th 5:00pm
- Mon, Sep 10th 6:00pm
- Tue, Sep 11th 8:15pm
- Wed, Sep 12th 6:00pm
- Thu, Sep 13th 8:15pm
★★★★ "It’s one of the strongest achievements of the movie year." — Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
"One of the strongest American documentaries to play Chicago this year." — Ben Sachs, Chicago Reader
"Masterful, momentous...There are few perfect films and fewer that are pure." — Ray Pride, Newcity
Three boys, Zack, Keire, and Bing, come of age on the wrong side of the tracks in Rockford, Illinois, sharing experiences and secrets, but also seeking to forget the bad things that happen at home behind closed doors. Over a period of years, self-taught filmmaker Bing's deft and fluid camera tracks their hours of freedom at the skating park, shares their confidences, and creates a chronicle that addresses with remarkable intimacy the soaring exhilaration of being alive. The boys become young adults before our eyes, struggling with the bewildering new demands of manhood. Zack becomes a father, Keire loses his, and Bing begins to come to terms with the past. DCP digital. (BS)
The Gospel According to André
2017, Kate Novack, USA, 94 min.
"Entertaining doc about perhaps the greatest, most gigantic (in every way) fashionista who ever lived." - David Noh, Film Journal International
"The most essential fashion documentary since BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK." - Glenn Dunks, The Film Experience
This all-encompassing portrait of André Leon Talley - formidable potentate in the world of style, right-hand-man to Vogue's Anna Wintour, and longtime protégé of the legendary editor Diana Vreeland - details his struggle as a gay black man scaling the heights in the elite and once all-white sub-culture of international fashion. A flamboyant presence and expansive raconteur, Talley, who was raised by his grandmother in Durham, NC, credits her sense of propriety and the high style of Southern black church-goers in their Sunday best as the influences that profoundly shaped his world view. Earning an advanced degree in French literature at Brown, he got his foot in the door in New York by answering phones at Warhol's Interview magazine and volunteering for Vreeland's Costume Institute at the Met. As his eye for style made him indispensable, Talley used his power to advocate for black models and designers, as testified by the film's interviews with Naomi Campbell, Sean "Diddy" Combs, Tom Ford, Diana Ross, Karl Lagerfeld, Whoopi Goldberg, and more. DCP digital. (BS)