I can’t believe two things: 1) that another year has gone
by, and 2) it’s been 19 years already, but this August, as always in Chicago, at the Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown
Chicago, the 19th Annual Black
Harvest Film Festival will take place from Friday August 2 to Thursday Aug
(Yes it’s always a month long, Longer than even Cannes or Sundance or Toronto)
And during those 19 years that I’ve been personally
involved – since the beginning – I know two things for sure; that 1) in some ways it
gets easier to put to it together, and 2) it gets harder as well.
But I think we have put together a really solid festival
this year, including some films we have profiled several times already here on S&A, such as Jono Oliver’s beautifully moving
feature Home, Chris
Eska’s pre-Civil war set slave drama The
Retrieval, and Sudz Sutherland’s Home
Again with CCH Pounder and Tatyana Ali.
And there are also a couple of world premieres this year, including Katherine Nero’s drama For The Cause, and Kevin Wilmontt’s hysterical satire Destination: Planet Negro.
There will be two special programs as well – Charles Murray’s romantic drama Things Never Said will see both screenings dedicated
to the memory of my deeply beloved friend and the true inspiration throughout my
life, Terry Glover, one of the original
founders of Black Harvest who passed away all too soon last December; and a
special closing night screening of Whoopi
Goldberg’s documentary about comedian Moms
But instead of just listing all the films that will be
screened, all 40 of them, including features documentaries and shorts, why not
take a look for yourself at the complete schedule below:
From August 2 through 29, the Gene Siskel Film Center
presents the crowning event in our summer programming, the “Black Harvest Film Festival,”
now in its 19th amazing year of celebrating the stories, images, and history of
the black experience and the African diaspora.
The harvest of new talent is bountiful, as seen in an
exciting array of narrative features, documentaries, and attention-grabbing
Closing night on August 29 promises to be a provocative
fun-fest when HBO sponsors a sneak preview of Whoopi Goldberg’s directorial
debut, WHOOPI GOLDBERG PRESENTS MOMS MABLEY, followed by our closing nightparty. Additional special events include a tasty
reception sponsored by Real Men Cook preceding the August 16 screening of HOME
AGAIN, and a screening of THINGS NEVER SAID dedicated to the memory of Ebony magazine
editor and writer Terry Glover, who had participated in thefounding of Black
New films by Chicago independent filmmakers are always a
special feature of the festival, and this year they include: FOR THE CAUSE, a legal
drama by Katherine Nero; THE MAN IN THE SILO, a thriller by Phil Donlon; MOUND
BAYOU: JEWEL OF THE DELTA, an engaging documentary by Jon Ross and John H.
Rogers III; and more.
“Action! The Real Deal About Filmmaking: Money, Casting,
Production, and Distribution,” this year’s edition of the ever-popular Black Harvest
panel discussion and DIY workshop, will cover every aspect of production for
the aspiring filmmaker and feature down-to-earth tips and practical information
from our guest producers and directors.
Be there if you’re even thinking about making a film!
Opening Night Celebration
Friday, August 2, 6:45 pm
Join Master of Ceremonies LeeAnn Trotter of NBC 5 Chicago
for the opening night celebration. The
“Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in Community Leadership” will be presented
to Theaster Gates. After the show, the
audience is invited to join our celebrity guests for areception in our
Opening night films!
A Black Harvest Feast
2012-13, Various directors, USA/UK, 64 min.
Friday, August 2, 6:45 pm
Enjoy a sneak preview of the 2013 “harvest” through four
short films.In Martine Jean’s THE SILENT TREATMENT (2013, 9 min.), this romance
may be straight out of a silent movie, but the lady’s intentions are loud and
clear. A family grows in its own unique
way in Steven Caple Jr.’s poignant A DIFFERENT TREE (2013, 15 min.). Painterly special effects make for an
eye-popping look at Zanzibar in Kibwe Tavares’s JONAH (2013, 18 min.). A stressed dad relearns a lesson in love from
his little boy in Ralph K. Scott’s BARBASOL (2012, 22 min.). (BS)
Director Ralph K. Scott (BARBASOL) will be present.
Closing night film!
WHOOPI GOLDBERG PRESENTS MOMS MABLEY
2013, Whoopi Goldberg, USA, 90 min.
Thursday, August 29, 6:30 pm
Breaking racial and sexual boundaries as a pioneering
comic talent, the African-American stand-up comedienne Jackie “Moms” Mabley has
long been an icon in the comedy world.
First-time director Whoopi Goldberg explores Mabley’s legacy through recently
unearthed photography, rediscovered performance footage, and the words of
numerous celebrated comedians, entertainers, and historians, including Eddie Murphy, Joan Rivers,
Sidney Poitier, Kathy Griffin, Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Jerry
Stiller and Anne Meara. Mabley tackled
topics such as gender, sex, and racism, making her one of the first triple X-rated
comedians on the comedy circuit. Once
billed as “The Funniest Woman in the World,” she performed on stage and in
television and film up until her death in 1975.
This is a complimentary screening courtesy of HBO. Seating is limited; to reserve a seat go to www.homeboxoffice.com/rsvp/mm_chicago
after July 12. WHOOPI GOLDBERG PRESENTS
MOMS MABLEY will air on HBO in November.
Immediately following the screening, there will be a dessert reception
hosted by HBO and the Gene Siskel Film Center.
Festival panel discussion
The Real Deal About Filmmaking: Money, Casting,
Production, and Distribution
Saturday, August 24, 6:00 pm
Our Black Harvest panel discussion, which annually
debates issues relating to black filmmaking, will dissect the process of making
a film, from getting the money to casting, production, post-production,and
distribution. Black Harvest festival
consultant Sergio Mims heads up a panel of filmmakers to include director
Katherine Nero (FOR THE CAUSE) and others.
The audience is invited to participate withquestions in this provocative
“Black Harvest” films
BABE’S AND RICKY’S INN
2013, Ramin Niami, USA, 90 min
Sunday, August 4, 3:15 pm
Monday, August 5, 8:15 pm
“If you don’t want to get up and move at some point during
this film, go see a doctor.”–Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times
This loving portrait celebrates the legendary South
Central L.A. blues club and the indomitable woman who ran it for over 50 years:
Laura Mae Gross, better known as “Mama Laura.”
Guitar Shorty, Ray Bailey, Deacon Jones, Keb’ Mo’, South Side Slim,
Tokyo Mississippi, and many others testify to the club’s profound influence on
their music and demonstrate it in rousing performances. As loose and funky as theestablishment it
depicts, BABE’S AND RICKY’S INN captures the soul of the place more truly than
a slicker, more polished documentary might have done.
ARROWS INTO INFINITY
2013, Dorothy Darr and Jeffrey Morse, USA, 114 min.
Sunday, August 11, 5:00 pm
Monday, August 12, 8:00 pm
Charismatic, ceaselessly evolving, and constantly crossing
boundaries, reed man Charles Lloyd has been in the vanguard of jazz for over 50
years with his unique, flowing yet swinging sound. This intimate portrait, co-directed by his
painter/filmmaker wife, conveys the astonishing range of Lloyd’s career, including
his Memphis roots; his counterculture crossovers in the 1960s; his Garboesque
seclusion in the 1970s; his collaborations with Keith Jarrett, the Beach Boys, Burgess
Meredith, Charles Bukowski, Michel Petrucciani, and many more; and the comeback
that began in the late 1980s and is still going strong.
Kevin Willmott in person!
DESTINATION: PLANET NEGRO!
2013, Kevin Willmott, USA, 98 min.
With Danielle Cooper, Tosin Morohunfala
Friday, August 23, 8:30 pm
Tuesday, August 27, 8:30 pm
A smart satire that sports a wicked streak of goofball
humor, DESTINATION: PLANET NEGRO! has the feel of low-budget 1950s sci-fi, as leaders
including W.E.B. DuBois and George Washington Carver kick off a secret plot to
solve the “Negro Problem” by way of a rocket ship to Mars. Carrying a crew of three, the spacecraft
vaults into a time warp, landing its brave scientists in a present-day
Midwestern metropolis, where this comedy takes on the look of a reality show as
the astonished adventurers discover unbelievable developments like young men
with drooping pants and the election of a black president.
Director Kevin Willmott will be present for audience
discussion on Friday.
Katherine Nero in person!
FOR THE CAUSE
2013, Katherine Nero, USA, 80 min.
With Charlette Speigner, Shariba Rivers
Saturday, August 3, 8:00 pm
Thursday, August 8, 8:30 pm
Family melodrama and political history strike sparks in
Chicago native and Northwestern grad Nero’s explosive first film. Mirai Scott (Speigner), a tightly wound
lawyer, reluctantly agrees to defend her estranged father (Eugene Parker) on a
first-degree murder charge, much to the dismay of her embittered mother. Mirai’s investigation stirs up skeletons from
her parents’ Black Panther days, setting past andpresent on a collision course. The volatile Speigner and the softspoken
Parker complement each other beautifully in their prison-set
Director Katherine Nero will be present for audience
discussion at both screenings.
Eric Haywood in person!
FOUR OF HEARTS
2013, Eric Haywood, USA, 99 min.
With Darrin DeWitt Henson, Nadine Ellis
Friday, August 23, 6:15 pm
Saturday, August 24, 8:30 pm
The seven-year itch arrives early for young marrieds
April and Derrick in this comedy-drama that makes character development key as
the pair come to the realization that the spark has been missing in their bedroom
for quite some time. Friends Christy and
Matt move into the adjoining townhouse, and camaraderie takes a sexy turn when
it develops that the new neighbors are secret swingers. Variety might be the spice of life, but can
April and Derrick handle this hot recipe for modern marriage?
Director Eric Haywood will be present for audience
discussion at both screenings.
Jono Oliver in person!
2013, Jono Oliver, USA, 112 min.
With Gbenga Akinnagbe, Tawny Cypress
Sunday, August 25, 5:15 pm
Monday, August 26, 8:15 pm
Beginning with an electrifying chase through the streets
of Brooklyn, HOME is a powerful drama about a desperate man’s struggle to find
ahaven. Jack, a 33-year-old mental
patient, is due to leave the institution, but first he has to overcome a series
of daunting obstacles, including money, crime, and inner demons. Working in the realist/humanist vein of the
Dardenne Brothers and Charles Burnett, first-time writer-director Oliver makes
effective use of urban locations, but the heart of this character-driven drama is
the acting, featuring an intense lead performance by Akinnagbe (“Chris Partlow”
in “The Wire”) and a strong supporting cast that includes Joe Morton (THE BROTHER
FROM ANOTHER PLANET), Danny Hoch (BAMBOOZLED), and James McDaniel (“Detroit
Director Jono Oliver will be present for audience
discussion on Sunday.
2012, Sudz Sutherland, Canada, 104 min.
With Tatyana Ali, CCH Pounder
Friday, August 16, 8:30 pm
Wednesday, August 21, 8:15 pm
“Polished and energetic.”–Dennis Harvey, Variety
“Infused with reggae rhythms, rude-boy dialects and
flamboyant atmosphere of the Kingston ghetto.”–Brian D. Johnson, Maclean’s
Director Sudz Sutherland (LOVE, SEX AND EATING THE BONES)
puts a human face on immigration issues with three rousing interlinked stories.
Marva (Ali), a Canadian widow and mother of two, unknowingly transported
contraband for a boyfriend; Everton, an upper-crust London schoolboy, was
arrested with a few joints; tough guy Alton has a minor criminal record in New
York but resolves to go straight.
Although none of the three has seen Jamaica since they were toddlers,
all are deported and left to make their way on the mean streets of Kingston without
family, friends, or resources.
On Friday, Real Men Cook host a pre-film reception in our
gallery/café beginning at 7:30 pm.
Note: valid ticket to the screening is required for entry to the
IN OUR HEADS ABOUT OUR HAIR
2012, Hemamset Angaza, USA, 79 min.
Sunday, August 4, 5:15 pm
Wednesday, August 7, 8:30 pm
Black hair is a subject that comes with its own history,
politics, practical issues, and loads of emotional baggage in director Angaza’s
illuminating documentary, as testified to by the scores of women who model
every conceivable coiffure as they offer insight into their complex
relationship with their crowning glory.
Going natural vs.conforming to mainstream standards of beauty and “good”
hair vs. “bad” hair are only two of the questions debated by interviewees
including historian Majora Carter, author Asha Bandele, and Farah Jasmine Griffin,
the first black network TV news anchor.
Tamarat Makonnen in person!
IN SEARCH OF THE BLACK KNIGHT
2013, Tamarat Makonnen, USA, 75 min.
Friday, August 9, 6:30 pm
Saturday, August 10, 8:15 pm
Many African American professional women lament the
shortage of eligible black men, a provocative subject that comes in for a
humorous and thought-provoking exploration in this often-hilarious documentary.
Director Makonnen takes his quest from coast to coast, blending commentary by
relationship experts, candid street interviews with women and men, and some
very entertaining sketch comedy, all providing speculation on the causes and
the possible remedies for the scarcityof that elusive black Prince Charming
Director Tamarat Makonnen will be present for audience
discussion at both screenings.
JAMEL SHABAZZ STREET PHOTOGRAPHER
2011, Charlie Ahearn, USA, 81 min.
Sunday, August 11, 3:15 pm
Monday, August 12, 6:15 pm
Charlie Ahearn’s 1983 opus WILD STYLE was the definitive
document of hip-hop culture. In his
first film in over a decade, Ahearn looks back at the movement he helped to put
on the map, this time through the eyes of another pioneer, the celebrated
Brooklyn-based photographer Jamel Shabazz.
Starting in the 1980s, Shabazz captured the styles and attitudes of
street life in a series of collaborative, theatrically posed group photographs
that have been called “a cornerstone of hip-hop culture.” In the film’s moving climax, as he revisits
his old neighborhood, Shabazz discovers that his photographs resonate with the
inhabitants as priceless records of bygone icons and those who died too
young. Fab 5 Freddie, KRS One, and Jazzy
Ivy are among the commentators.
Filmmakers in person!
THE MAN IN THE SILO
2012, Phil Donlon, USA, 55 min.
With Ernie Hudson, Jane Alderman
Friday, August 9, 8:15 pm
Wednesday, August 14, 8:15 pm
Filmed in the Chicago area, THE MAN IN THE SILO is a bold
mix of horror, Hitchcock, racial themes, and experimental narrative. Ernie Hudson (“Oz,” GHOSTBUSTERS) delivers a tour-de-force
performance as an African American corporate executive haunted by the recent deaths
of his wife and child and fearful that he is being squeezed out by his white
business associates. With his grip on
reality crumbling, he tries to reconstruct the events that have led him to a
ruined silo across from a deserted farmhouse.
First-time director Donlon is a co-founder of Chicago’s Gilead Theater
Preceded by JONAH (2013, Kibwe Tavares, UK, 18 min.), a
dazzling ecological fable in which the magical appearance of a gigantic fish brings
both fortune and ruin to an African coastal town. (MR)
Director Phil Donlon, producer Steven Ordower, and
co-writer Christopher Ellis will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.
Filmmakers in person!
2013, Chris Eska, USA, 92 min.
With Ashton Sanders, Tishuan Scott, Keston John
Saturday, August 17, 8:15 pm
Sunday, August 18, 5:00 pm
“Equal parts suspenseful road movie, persuasively
detailed period drama and emotionally resonant coming-of-age story, THE
RETRIEVAL is an outstanding example of regional indie filmmaking accomplished
with limited resources and an abundance of skill.”–Joe Leydon, Variety
This provocative, deeply involving second feature by
director Eska (AUGUST EVENING) created a buzz at the SXSW Festival, where
Tishuan Scott won the Best Acting award.
Set on the fringes of the Civil War, the story centers on Will
(Sanders), a 13-year-old black boy who is used by Southern slave-hunters and his
manipulative uncle (John) to lure runaways back to captivity. One such mission sends him up north to entrap
Nate (Scott), a freed slave with a large price on his head. The suspense builds
as Will finds a surrogate father in the proud man whom he is compelled to
betray. Eska makes expert use of
reenactors, Texas landscapes, and occasional digital effects to create a convincing
Civil War background on a tight budget
Director Chris Eska and actor Keston John will be present
for audience discussion at both screenings.
Filmmakers in person!
Black History–Lost and Found
2011-2013, Various directors, USA, 76 min.
Monday, August 26, 6:15 pm
Five thought-provoking films with historical themes: American myth and history loom over a young
black rodeo performer’s dreams of making it to the big time in the evocative documentary
THE ROPER (2012, Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands, USA, 6 min.). In the moving family drama THE DATE (2013,
Vera J. Brooks, USA, 10 min.), a
romantic meeting is interrupted on a fateful date: April 4, 1968. WASTEISM (2013, Marcus Moreno, USA, 12 min.)
gives a “Twilight Zone” twist to a biting parable of rabid racism. Suspense and sacrifice mark OUR RHINELAND (2011,
Faren Humes, USA, 16 min.), an unusual drama of two sisters resisting Nazi
Germany’s policy of sterilizing mixed-race citizens. MOUND BAYOU: JEWEL OF THE
DELTA (2012, Jon Ross and John H. Rogers III, USA, 32 min.) tells the fascinating
history of a once-thriving Mississippi town founded by former slaves.
Co-directors Jon Ross and John H. Rogers III (MOUND
BAYOU) anddirector Marcus Moreno (WASTEISM) will be present for audience discussion.
Dion Strowhorn Sr. in person!
2012-2013, Various directors, USA/UK, 92 min.
Tuesday, August 13, 8:30 pm
Monday, August 19, 8:00 pm
Five films take a walk on the dark side: In JUNIOR (2012, JeffreyElmont, USA, 11
min.), an ordinary coffee-shop meeting between fatherand son takes a harrowing
turn. A posh country estate conceals
the shady dealings of a wealthy Nigerian-British family in 4-1-9 (2012, Alexander
Etseyatse, UK, 16 min.). CHAPTER ONE
(2012, Tony Tambi, USA, 19 min.) gives an interracial twist to a classic noir
set-up ofadultery and murder. A Somalian-born
prostitute receives an unexpected visit in the Georgia-set drama SWEET, SWEET
COUNTRY (2013, Dehanza Rogers, USA, 18 min.).
In the Chicago-set OVER THE EDGE (2013, Dion Strowhorn Sr., USA, 28 min.),
there’s more than meets the eye to the tragic romance that a recently released
mental patient is struggling to overcome.
Director Dion Strowhorn Sr. (OVER THE EDGE) will be
present for audience discussion at both screenings.
Ali Kamanda in person!
2011-13, Various directors, USA/UK, 77 min.
Monday, August 5, 6:15 pm
In Ali Kamanda’s SALAY (2011, Sierra Leone, 44 min.), a
bright, pretty village girl, the apple of her widowed father’s eye, naively
accepts a shady uncle’s offer of help in order to pursue her dream. Preceded by two shorts: Kibwe Tavares’s Sundance festival favorite
JONAH (2013, UK, 18 min.), is a magic-realist impression of Zanzibar composed through
eye-popping special effects. In Shaun
Escayg’s FISH (2012, Trinidad and Tobago, 15 min.), two homeless cousins run
afoul of the underworld while plying their trade as pickpockets in a Port-of-Spain
Director Ali Kamanda (SALAY ) will be present for
Filmmakers in person!
Love African American Style
2012-13, Various directors, USA, 86 min.
Friday, August 16, 6:15 pm,
Thursday, August 22, 8:15 pm
Love is funny, love is soulful, and love is challenging
in this evocative program in which emotions of the heart can provoke a tender kiss
or a spiteful spat. Films include: ME by
Adolfo R. Mora (2013, 4 min.); PROSPECT by Derrick Perry (2012, 12 min.); TEXT
TONE by Sandrel “Sanicole” Young (2013, 13 min.); FAUX PAS by Raphael Nash
(2013, 21 min.); SOUL MATES by Reginald T. Jackson (2013, 27 min.); and THE SILENT
TREATMENT by Martine Jean (2012, 9 min.).
Directors Derrick Perry (PROSPECT) and Sandrel Young
(TEXT TONE) are tentatively scheduled to be present for audience discussion at
Jared Katsiane in person!
We Are Family
2012-13, Various directors, USA/Canada, 85 min.
Sunday, August 25, 3:00 pm
Tuesday, August 27, 6:15 pm
In this heart-warming program, six directors explore how
to be one with your family in good times and trying times while staying true to
yourself. Films include: CLEAN TEETH
WEDNESDAYS by Catherine Bruhier (2012, 8 min.); DUST by Shane Book (2013, 9
min.); BIG WILLOW by Jared Katsiane (2013, 11 min.); A DIFFERENT TREE by Steven
Caple, Jr. (2013, 15 min); BUSTED ON BRIGHAM LANE by Talibah Newman (2012, 20
min.); and BARBASOL by Ralph K. Scott (2012, 22 min.).
Director Jared Katsiane (BIG WILLOW) is tentatively
scheduled to bepresent for audience discussion at both screenings.
Vandon N. Gibbs in person!
2013, Vandon N. Gibbs, USA, 76 min.
With Dupree Lewis Jr., Dixie Light
Wednesday, August 14, 6:15 pm
Thursday, August 15, 8:45 pm
Director Gibbs, whose first feature COMPLEXION played in
the 2009 BHFF, turns a withering eye on a largely corrupt, largely white world in
this superbly scripted and acted chamber-noir in which three seemingly
unrelated plotlines snap together with the finality of a steel trap. The ingredients: a nervous white lawyer, an
intimidating black hustler, an enigmatic bargain, an adulterous politician, his
suspicious wife, a woman tied to a chair, and a hired killer. Winner for “Best Feature Film: Drama” at
Director Vandon N. Gibbs will be present for audience
discussion at both screenings.
THINGS NEVER SAID
2012, Charles Murray, USA, 112 min.
With Shanola Hampton, Elimu Nelson
Tuesday, August 6, 8:15 pm
Wednesday, August 7, 6:15 pm
A young poet searches for her true voice and the steely
confidence to make it heard in this romantic drama that explores love, ego, and
the elusive muse. Kalindra, a regular at
open-mic nights at a Los Angeles poetry club, struggles with stage fright, the
disapproval of an angry husband, and the wavering support of her fickle best
friend. New York beckons as the platform
for a new start, but not before Kal’s resolve undergoes a trial by fire, and
the advent of new love alters the way she looks at the world through her
These screenings of
THINGS NEVER SAID are dedicated to the memory of Terry Glover (1955-2012),
Chicago-based Ebony magazine managing editor and writer, who participated in
the founding of the “Black Harvest Film Festival.” Kendall Glover, Ms. Glover’s husband, will
speak before the Tuesday screening