Black Harvest Film Festival 2016
August 5 - September 1
From August 5 through September 1, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents the 22nd Annual Black Harvest Film Festival, celebrating the best in contemporary independent filmmaking exploring the stories, images, heritage, and history of the black experience in the U.S. and around the world. Encounters with filmmakers are the festival’s pride and joy, and this year we present more filmmaker appearances than ever, with more than forty scheduled as we go to press.
The big 22 calls for a double-whammy opening, and we’ve got ‘em for you! On Friday, August 5, join us for ACTIVATE’s pre-opening street party SEE, followed by a celebratory 9:30 pm screening of PURPLE RAIN.
On Saturday, August 6, NBC 5 Chicago’s LeeAnn Trotter MCs A Black Harvest Feast with special guests and an exciting homecoming reunion of "Black Harvest" filmmakers past and present. Immediately after the show, the audience is invited to a reception across the street at the Joffrey Ballet studios.
Our September 1 closing night features directors Frank Dawson and Abby Ginzberg with their provocative documentary AGENTS OF CHANGE, on the transformative effects of black student activism in the Sixties and Seventies. The closing night party, sponsored by the Reva and David Logan Foundation, follows the screening.
All films are eligible for the Black Harvest Audience Award; ballots available in our lobby. Be sure to check back for added appearances and special events.
Feature films with a Chicago connection are prominent in the schedule. MAYA ANGELOU: AND STILL I RISE, the long-awaited in-depth profile of the great African American poet and activist by Chicagoans Bob Hercules and Rita Coburn-Whack premieres on August 27, as a festival preview prior to our September theatrical run of the film. Former Chicagoan Seckeita Lewis returns to her hometown with the audacious Civil Rights-era comedy JERICO, with a personal appearance by actress Irma P. Hall.
Features shot in and around Chicago include: SUNSHINE DAY and THIS IS NOT CHIRAQ, both directed by Lawrence Lee Wallace; WALK ALL NIGHT: A DRUM BEAT JOURNEY by Mallory Sohmer and Kate Benzschawel; and David Steiner’s SAVING BARBARA SIZEMORE. Tod Lending’s ALL THE DIFFERENCE follows two young men pursuing dreams of college against formidable odds.
We have music! Screenings of TEAR THE ROOF OFF: THE UNTOLD STORY OF PARLIAMENT FUNKADELIC (August 12 and 13) feature personal appearances by some of the iconic band’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame musicians. THE CAGED BIRD: THE LIFE AND MUSIC OF FLORENCE B. PRICE tells the little-known story of a composer with a Chicago connection. Chicago radio host and music critic Richard Steele will be honored with the Gene Siskel Film Center’s Legacy Award at the August 17 screening of SOUND OF REDEMPTION: THE FRANK MORGAN STORY.
The challenges of love and marriage are seen through a unique lens in DARK SEED by China L Colston, another former Chicagoan; in Crosby Tatum’s CONFUSED…BY LOVE; and in LOVE ISN’T ENOUGH by Saquan Jones and Erin Ryan. An aggressive hunt for love gets the comic treatment in Tahir Jetter’s HOW TO TELL YOU’RE A DOUCHEBAG.
GORDON PARKS ELEMENTARY, the new documentary by Black Harvest alum and writer of Spike Lee’s CHI-RAQ, Kevin Willmott, premieres on August 14. CLASS DIVIDE, a gripping look at the fallout from gentrification in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood screens as a Movie Club program courtesy of HBO Documentary Films on August 23. On August 27, we welcome back to Chicago Zeinabu irene Davis, one of the founding advisors to Black Harvest, to premiere SPIRITS OF REBELLION: BLACK FILM FROM UCLA. Also screening that weekend are Davis’s 1999 film COMPENSATION, and a new digital restoration of Charles Burnett’s TO SLEEP WITH ANGER.— Barbara Scharres, Director of Programming
The Black Harvest Film Festival is supported by the Illinois Arts Council, a state 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.
FESTIVAL PARTNERS: DuSable Museum, Chicago Reader, WVON 1690 AM, CIMMFest, Midwest Independent Film Festival, The South Shore Current
Purchase a Black Harvest festival pass!
Six movies for less than the price of five, plus a free small popcorn with each film. Turn in your pass at the end of the festival for a $5 discount on a Gene Siskel Film Center membership. A $92 value for $55!
Black Harvest Pre-Opening Party
& PURPLE RAIN screening!
1984, Albert Magnoli, USA, 111 min. With Prince, Apollonia Kotero.
FROM 5 PM to 10 PM join the "SEE" party, where highlights from the Black Harvest Film Festival will delight and intrigue down the length of Couch Place, the alley just north of the Film Center. Rethink how you see the world around you. CLICK HERE for more information, to RSVP, and to check out the suggested dress code. RSVP includes one complimentary drink ticket per registered attendee (21+). Good for beer or wine. ACTIVATE is an economic development and place-making initiative of Chicago Loop Alliance. Admission to Couch Place is free.
AT 9:30 PM finish off the party with a screening of Prince's immortal classic! Admission is only $5.00!
Revolving around a young musician’s struggle to break away from an abusive father, the film showcases some of Prince's most exuberant songs (including “When Doves Cry,” "Let's Go Crazy," and "Purple Rain") and fierce live-concert footage. Apollonia Kotero is ravishing as the romantic interest, and Morris Day provides lively comic rivalry. Prince won an Oscar for the music score. DCP digital. (Jim Dempsey)
Opening Night Celebration:
A Black Harvest Feast
2014-16, Various directors, USA/France, 75 min.
- Sat, Aug 6th 7:30pm
Join Master of Ceremonies LeeAnn Trotter of NBC 5 Chicago for the opening night celebration, a homecoming event honoring Black Harvest filmmakers past and present.
Enjoy a sneak preview of the 2016 “harvest” through six short films: Maxime Gilbert’s DIME, a short lesson on speaking your mind; Jason Honeycutt's moving drama of a fateful encounter on the streets of Chicago, INTERSECTION; Nicholas Pilarski’s poignant coming-of-age animation, I, DESTINI; William Adams’s date-night comedy, A 3RD FIRST; Maïmouna Doucouré's haunting child's-eye view of marital discord, MAMAN(S); and Derek Dow's peppy paean to Hair Pride, THE BIG CHOP. (BS, MR)
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.
All the Difference
2015, Tod Lending, USA, 83 min.
Inspired by Wes Moore's bestseller "The Other Wes Moore," Oscar-nominated director Lending (LEGACY) follows two young black men from Chicago's South Side on a difficult and heroic journey. Krishaun and Robert come from broken families in high-crime neighborhoods where many kids don't expect to live past 18, much less go to college, but it can take only one generation to break the cycle and change a family's future. Robert's mother was murdered by his father, and Krishaun, like his father, joined a gang. Now, bolstered by their education at Chicago's Urban Prep Charter Academy for Young Men, they aim for college — Krishaun studying criminal justice at Nashville's historically black Fisk University, Robert taking pre-med at predominantly white Lake Forest College. Filmed over five and a half years, the film traces their personal, academic, and financial struggles, as it weighs the factors that make all the difference in their effort to be among the 16% of African American men who graduate from college. (MR)
This is a family-friendly film.
Shorts Program: Made in Chicago I
2015-16, Various directors, USA, 86 min.
- Sun, Aug 7th 5:15pm
- Thu, Aug 11th 8:00pm
Five films featuring Chicago talent.
The Big Chop
2016, Derek Dow, USA, 16 min. With Simone Missick, McKenzie Franklin.
After a lifetime of struggling with nappy hair, a young woman has second thoughts about giving it the chop. (MR)
Crossroads: Choices and Consequences
2015, David J. Miller, USA, 39 min. With Tamarus Harvell, John Eric Lane.
Discouraged by menial jobs and tempted by easy money, a young man faces a life-changing decision. (MR)
Nia and Cheryl
2016, Weichao Xu, USA, 14 min.
The Chicago Multicultural Dance Center is the setting for this documentary about a veteran dance teacher and her daughter, an aspiring ballet student. (MR)
2016, Olivia Peace, USA, 7 min. With Raeghan Keys, Harmony Elise Jones.
Northwestern University student Peace went to New Orleans to film this story of a 6-year-old girl trying to understand Hurricane Katrina. (MR)
2015, Samuel Wofford, USA, 10 min. With Aubrey Marquez, Kristin E. Ellis.
A young man recalls the only three times he spoke with his father, as he anticipates the fourth. (MR)
2015, Crosby Tatum, USA, 71 min. With Keith Mascoll, Jamie Perez.
The one-year marriage of Ferguson, a shy, bespectacled author, and his spendaholic Gucci-gal wife Tiffany seems headed for the rocks. Arriving only steps behind the foreclosure notice on their posh suburban split-level is Ferguson’s high-rolling pal Reggie, with significant other Jo-Jo, who just happens to be Ferguson’s ex-girlfriend. Reggie makes a financial proposition, and the stage is set for games, not strictly limited to Truth or Dare and Spin the Bottle, in this comedy that director Tatum based in part on memories of a family predicament. (BS)
Shorts Program: International Visions
2014-16, Various directors, Various nations, 89 min.
- Tue, Aug 9th 8:15pm
Five shorts from foreign shores highlight new perspectives on black life and culture.
2015, Christa Eka Assam, Cameroon, 22 min. With Christa Eka Assam, Valery Nchifor.
The silence of her friends and neighbors contributes to an abused woman's ordeal. In English. (MR)
Death to Life
2016, Roger Bell, UK, 5 min.
Animation and motion capture combine in this wordless tale of a pregnant woman who seeks the Tree of Life. (MR)
2015, Maimouna Doucouré, France, 21 min. With Sokhna Diallo, Maïmouna Gueye.
When her father brings back a second wife and new baby from Senegal, eight-year-old Aida watches...and schemes. In French with English subtitles. (MR)
2015, Elton de Almeida, Brazil, 22 min. With Lourenço dos Santos, Ju Colombo.
A young São Paulo artist struggles to find his identity between his black heritage and his white adoptive family. In Portuguese with English subtitles. (MR)
2014, Afia Nkrumah, UK, 16 min. With Emeka Sesay-Okokobioko, Kierston Wareing-Tracey.
On the run from the British immigration police, a young African man gets unexpected help from his uncle's ghost and a white neighbor. In Yoruba, Ashanti-Twi, Hausa, Bosnian, and English with English subtitles. (MR)
Time Simply Passes
2015, Ty Flowers, USA, 54 min.
Multiple miscarriages of justice are the focus of this gripping true-crime documentary. In 1967, an African American migrant worker named James Richardson was sentenced to death for poisoning his seven children in Arcadia, Florida. 21 years later, a deathbed confession by an overlooked suspect led to Richardson’s release, but, in 2013, filmmaker Flowers found him living in poverty, thanks to inadequate compensation and exoneration laws. The son of an investigative journalist who had covered the case, Flowers dug deep to piece together a story that is, as he says, “about race, about Florida, about the evolution of small-town justice, about systemic corruption on all levels of government.” (MR)
Shorts Program: Made in Chicago II
2014-16, Various directors, USA, 83 min.
- Fri, Aug 12th 6:00pm
- Tue, Aug 16th 8:15pm
Five more films featuring Chicago talent.
2016, Jonathan Rhodes, USA, 11 min. With Jalen Gilbert. Alana Grossman.
An interracial couple's relationship reaches a crisis when his mother comes to visit Chicago. (MR)
2014, Jason Honeycutt, USA, 8 min. With Cedric Young, Tyrone Phillips.
A true event inspired this story of an attempted mugging that has an unexpected outcome. (MR)
2015, Angela Y. Dugan, USA, 21 min. With Church Lockett, Jamal Poindexter.
Gun violence informs this South Side story centering on a father, his son, and a stolen bike. (MR)
2015, Eleva Singleton, USA, 24 min.
"Shoeshine technician" Bill Williams is the focus of this documentary tribute to an often misunderstood profession. (MR)
2016, Sanicole, USA, 19 min. With Kristin Ellis, Church Lockett.
Gifts have unintended consequences in this story of a makeup artist juggling two men in her life. (MR)
Tear the Roof Off: The Untold Story of Parliament Funkadelic
2016, Bobby J. Brown, USA, 58 min.
Filmmaker Brown takes us way behind the scenes historically in this revealing profile of the revolutionary dance-party funk band Parliament Funkadelic, including a hard look at its controversial and autocratic leader George Clinton. From doo-wop roots to the Mothership Connection tour and the eventual Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, the music and the over-the-top costumes put the fun in funk. The stories of high life and wild ways are de rigueur for the rock scene, but the meat of this tale is an unraveling saga of Clinton’s ruthless manipulation and exploitation of band members, leaving some of his original collaborators bewildered and betrayed. This program is dedicated to the memory of keyboardist Bernie Worrell (1944-2016). (BS)
Panel Discussion: Action! The Real Deal About Filmmaking
- Sat, Aug 13th 5:15pm
Our Black Harvest panel discussion annually debates issues relating to black filmmaking. Writer, actress, and producer N.K. Gutiérrez heads up a panel of filmmakers to include: directors Sandrel “Sanicole” Young (SIDE EFFECTS); Eleva Singleton (SHINEMEN); Bobby J. Brown (TEAR THE ROOF OFF); and Mallory Sohmer and Kate Benzschawel (WALK ALL NIGHT). The audience is invited to participate in this provocative forum.