In my recent piece about the film versions of Chester
Himes’ characters, NYPD detectives Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger H Jones
(HERE), I mentioned that "A Rage in Harlem" would certainly be counted as one, even though Coffin Ed and Grave Digger are
basically supporting characters and not the leads in the film.
Regardless, director Bill Duke’s 1991 film version of
Himes’ novel is a wonderfully evocative and
entertaining film that somehow hasn’t gotten the kind of fervent love and devotion
that other black films have gotten from that period, such as, "Love Jones" (which is still a mystery to me).
For my money "Harlem" – about a gangster’s girlfriend (Robin
Givens) who runs off to Harlem with a trunk load of gold that everyone is after, and
a nerdy, sad sack (Forest Whitaker) who unwittingly finds himself involved with
Givens, in over his head – is one of best black films made during
the 1990’s. It’s funny, exciting with some truly fascinating characters and wonderful
period detail. And it really captures the strange, vibrant tone and style of
So to introduce or (re-introduce, whatever the case may
be) the film to audiences, there’s going to be a special screening of the film
at this year’s Black Harvest Film Festival in Chicago, on Sunday August 24th, starting at 5:15PM, at the Gene Siskel Film center in downtown Chicago.
And even more special, the director himself, Bill Duke,
will be present through Skype from Los Angeles, to discuss the film and take audience
questions. It’s a film that he has said himself is very special to him, and I
think is his best work as a director.
Here’s the trailer for the film: