Black Harvest Film Festival at the Siskel Center

"Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes" screens August 5 and 6 at BHFF

“Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes” screens August 5 and 6 at BHFF

The Midwest’s largest
and longest-running
Black film festival
presents a combined total
of over 60 narrative features,
documentaries, and shorts

The 24th annual Black Harvest Film Festival opens on Saturday, August 4 when filmmakers and VIPs gather to celebrate the presentation of the Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in Community Leadership and shorts program A Black Harvest Feast.

BHFF is the Midwest’s largest- and longest- running Black film festival and the Gene Siskel Film Center’s most vibrant annual showcase featuring provocative films that tell stories, spark lively discussions, and address issues relating to the experiences from the African diaspora.

Black Harvest features Chicago premieres, filmmaker appearances, panel discussions, and special events.

Presented are a combined total of over 60 features, documentaries, and shorts, including a number connected to Chicago, affirming the city’s role as a vital center for independent filmmaking.



Black Harvest supports the Film Center’s ongoing mission to present inclusive and insightful programming.

Recipients of this year’s Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in Community Leadership are Pémon Rami, filmmaker and former Director of Education and Public Programs for the DuSable Museum of African American History, Maséqua Myers, curator, teacher, and Executive Director of the South Side Community Art Center.

Films presented in A Black Harvest Feast are Sanicole’s Chicago-set father-daughter drama Training Wheels; Derek Dow’s Juneteenth relationship showdown Shotgun Wedding; Praheme’s comic chronicle of a hookup with staying power, Stuck; and Shayla Racquel’s evocative drama Riverment, in which family activism comes full circle.

Following the Opening Night program will be a reception for all ticket holders at the Joffrey Tower, located at 10 E. Randolph.



BHFF will close with a 35mm presentation of Fear of a Black Hat (August 30) with director Rusty Cundieff in person.

Fear of a Black Hat is This Is Spinal Tap meets hip-hop and is a deadly accurate satire of rapdom’s early years.

At Closing Night, the recipients of the 2019 Black Harvest Film Festival Short Film Production Grants will be named. These grants are supported thanks to the Joyce Foundation, Chicago Community Trust, and the Illinois Arts Council.

Tickets to Opening Night (August 4) are $25/general admission, $20/students, and $15/Film Center members. Tickets to Closing Night (August 30) are $25 to the VIP reception with Cudieff; otherwise normal ticket prices apply: $11/general admission, $7/students, and $6/Film Center members.

Narrative Features & Documentaries
Ali & Cavett: The Tale of the Tapes (August 5, 6) details the close friendship of over 50 years between the TV talk show host and Muhammad Ali aka “The Greatest,” with director Robert S. Bader in person at both shows and the legendary Dick Cavett in person August 5 only.

Then There Was Joe (August 7, 8) is a highly entertaining blend of comedy and sentiment centering on the clashing of personalities of two Arkansas brothers: straight-laced law student Ben and black sheep miscreant Joe. Appearing in person at both screenings are director/actor Justin Warren and actor Ray Grady.

Based on the 1967 novel of the same name is Green Days by the River (August 10, 16) in which 15-year-old Shellie acquires a surrogate father-figure in the wealthy plantation owner Mr. Gidharee—due to his biological father being seriously ill—and finds himself torn between Gidharee’s seductive daughter Rosalie and the more down-to-earth Joan. Producer Christian C.P. James and production coordinator Kelly James appear in person on August 10.

A Boy, A Girl, A Dream (August 10, 11)—filmed in one continuous take—is a tour-de-force romance following two strangers who meet outside an L.A. nightclub on Election Night 2016: Club promoter Cass (Omari Hardwick) whose filmmaking career has stalled and wannabee DJ and current lawyer Free (Meagan Good). Their journey through the night raises the question: Can a boy and a girl find the strength to pursue their personal dreams in the wake of a nationwide tide of dismay?

Chi-Town (August 10, 13) is a documentary about a South Side basketball hopeful that will bring to mind Hoop Dreams but the significant difference is that this takes place in the gun violence age of The Interrupters. Director Nick Budabin and producer Terry Minogue appear in person at both screenings.

The G Force (August 12, 14) by director Pamela Sherrod Anderson (The Curators of the Dixon School), looks at the rising trend of grandparents stepping in to raise their children’s children. Sherrod Anderson will appear in person at both screenings.

In Jinn (August 12, 14), a lively 17-year-old with a passion for fashion and social media has her world upended when her divorced mother Jape converts to Island, bringing her daughter Summer into the fold by default. Director Nijla Mu’min, actress Zoe Renee, and producer Avril Z. Speaks will appear in person on August 12.

Personal Statement (August 17, 19) is an inspiring documentary following three minority student leaders through their high school senior year as they face personal challenges to college acceptance as well as personally such as having a homeless parent, being biracial, and bullying and harassment due to being on the LGBTQ spectrum. Directors Juliane Dressner and Edwin Martinez (both tentative) will appear in person at both screenings.

Animator (August 17, 21) concerns a young artist who discovers that he has the ability to change the past and direct the future as struggling illustrator Neal 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. Neal manifests success, acclaim, and money, as well as his dark side. Producer/screenwriter Roberta Jones and director Logan Hall will appear in person at both screenings.

The Color of Art (August 18) by David Weathersby is a lively and informative documentary exploring 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 how artists, gallery owners, curators, and collectors sustain the movement. Director Weathersby and Chicago art world figures will appear in person.

Betty: They Say I’m Different (August 19, 20) looks at Betty Davis—who arrived on the scene at a time when the Supremes were looked upon as elegant role models—to unleash a raw funk sound drenched in brazen sexuality, trailblazing for such performers as Madonna, Prince, and Rick James, and releasing such songs as Nasty Gal and He Was a Big Freak. Associate producer Danielle Maggio will appear in person at both screenings.

This One’s for the Ladies (August 21, 22) is all about ladies night featuring good humor, shared sisterhood, and an affirmation of Black female desire in this documentary exploring the unique culture of a New Jersey nightclub featuring African American male strippers for the delectation of an avid female clientele which includes family-focused women as the audience base.

The Area (August 23) is a searing documentary exposing a land grab in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood where the Norfolk Southern Railroad seeks to expand its intermodal freight terminal into an area whose residents have few resources. Director David Schalliol, subject Deborah Payne, and production personnel will appear in person. Note that The Area will return to the Gene Siskel Film Center September 14-20 for a week-long.

Detroit 48202: Conversations Along a Postal Route (August 24, 26) come via Detroit mailman Wendell Watkins who serves as an amiable guide to the rise, fall, and recent resurgence of Black working-class culture in his city, traversing a sprawling zip code of well-maintained homes, abandoned businesses, and acres of vacant lots. Director Pam Sporn will appear in person at both screenings.

Singleville (August 24, 25) is a raucously funny mockumentary that boasts an all-female cast, three bachelorette pals who beat of clutch of contenders to become subjects of a low-budget documentary on single life.

Dark comedy Pieces of David (August 24, 28) by BHFF veteran Lawrence Lee Wallace concerns anti-monogamist David who divides his time between four women. It’s an ideal arrangement until all four unexpectedly show up at the same time resulting in a knife being grabbed, a scuffle ensuing, and David’s demise, leading these four accomplices with the challenge of how to dispose of the corpse. Wallace, cast, and crew members will appear in person at both screenings.

As revealed in the rom-com with a bite, One Bedroom (August 26, 27), breaking up is hard to do, especially when there’s a New York City apartment involved. Nate (director/actor Darien Sills-Evans who’s appeared on such television shows as Superior Donuts and Treme) and Melissa live together in a gentrifying Brooklyn neighborhood. She thinks it’s over, he still has hopes things will work out. Flashbacks include passionate beginnings and the reasons for why their relationship disintegrated. Sills-Evans will appear in person at both screenings.

Shorts Program
International Visions (August 9) features four films telling provocative stories from the UK (We Love Moses), Haiti (Lalo’s House), Senegal/UK (Fallou), and France/Reunion Island (Off Path).

Made in Chicago (August 11, 15) consists of five films featuring home-grown talent: An Ode to Harold, The College Graduate, Training Wheels, The Polyamorist, and Iron Five. Directors Ashley Chrisman (An Ode to Harold), Terry Hines, Jr. (The College Graduate), Sanicole (Training Wheels), Vick Lee (The Polyamorist), and Rino Liberatore (Iron Five) will appear for audience discussion at both screenings.

Noted broadcast personality La Donna Tittle will be honored with the Legacy Award following the August 11 Made in Chicago shorts program. Tentatively scheduled for the August 15 Made in Chicago shorts program is the inaugural presentation of the endowed Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Black Harvest Film Festival Prize. The prize will be awarded annually to a director of a Black Harvest Film Festival short film, chosen by a prestigious jury. Ellen Sandor is Chair of the Gene Siskel Film Center Advisory Board; both she and her husband Richard Sandor also serve on the Board of Governors of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Urban Tales (August 16) features five gritty tales of city life: Iman and the Light Warriors, War Paint, Civic Mind, Good Kidd, and Where the Water Runs. Directors Katrelle N. Kindred (War Paint), Jamari Perry (Good Kidd/tentative), and DuBois Ashong (Where the Water Runs) will appear for audience discussion.

Love African American Style (August 17, 18) showcases seven shorts conveying that love is sexy, bold, and sometimes demands a leap of faith: Did It Before, Louisiana 1961, The Jump Off, Sparks, Suitable, Moths & Butterflies, and Stuck. Directors Mamadou Sewa Bah (Did It Before), Bobby Huntley (Louisiana 1961), Tony Ducret (Sparks), and Alfonso Johnson (Moths & Butterflies) are scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.

Family Matters (August 23) show how families come together and pull apart in love and in conflict via six shorts: Brixton Rock, Myself When I Am Real, Bodega, Grace, Still Water Runs Deep, and Riverment. Directors Donna Augustin (Bodega) and Eboni Adams (Grace) are tentatively scheduled to appear for audience discussion.

Women of Color (August 28, 29) demonstrates the strength of women of color in these six shorts: Gladys Brown, Embers, Burning Angel, On Monday of Last Week, Pearl Motel, and Shotgun Wedding. Directors Chad Scarborough (Gladys Brown), Chris Jones (Pearl Motel), and Derek Dow (Shotgun Wedding) are scheduled to appear in person for audience discussion at both screenings. Note that the August 29 program is a Gene Siskel Film Center Movie Club event (see below).

Family Friendly Films
The Area, Chi-Town, The Color of Art, Detroit 48202, The G Force, and Personal Statement. The baseline age to attend a film is six years of age (youth and student tickets are $7) but attendance is at the discretion of parents/guardians.

Special Events
Black Harvest Film Festival Marketplace (August 11) will run from 1 to 5 pm providing the opportunity to view and purchase unique items from Black-owned businesses, including jewelry, fashion, food, and artwork from K-FLEYE, Dana Todd Pope, ReformedSchool, aplomb, Black Cat Kitchen, and Real Men Charities. There will be two additional Pop-Ups on August 16 and 20, both from 5 to 8 pm. Admission to the Marketplace and Pop-Ups is free.

Panel discussion: Action! The Real Deal About Filmmaking (August 25) is a lively debate related to Black filmmaking featuring festival consultant Sergio Mims who heads up a panel of filmmakers, including directors Lawrence Lee Wallace and David Weathersby and producer/writer Roberta Jones. Free admission!

Gene Siskel Film Center Movie Club examines Black Harvest Film Festival Shorts Program Women of Color (Wednesday, August 29). Featured will be six shorts demonstrating the strength of women of color: Gladys Brown, Embers, Burning Angel Dust, On Monday of Last Week, Pearl Motel, and Shotgun Wedding. Facilitator TBA. Each ticket-holder attending the Movie Club post-screening discussion receives a complimentary beverage.

With BHFF being a month-long celebration of Black culture and filmmaking, check frequently as parties and special events are being planned in the days and weeks to come, as well as additional filmmaker appearances not indicated here.

Audience members are encouraged to buy tickets as soon as possible as programs are already selling out. See below towards the end of the press release to learn about how to purchase tickets and ticket prices. Black Harvest Festival Passes are available—$55/general public and $30/Film Center members—for six films and six small popcorns.
To purchase tickets and passes and for more information, visit:

AARP, Allstate, MillerCoors, Southwest Airlines, BMO Harris Bank, NBC 5 Chicago, WTTW, and WBEZ 91.5, with foundation and government support from the National Endowment for the Arts, The Chicago Community Trust, Ellen and Richard Sandor Family Foundation, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, The Illinois Film Office, Illinois Arts Council, and The Joyce Foundation. Special Thanks to Eleva Singleton & Diane & Victor Hoskins and Saltshaker Productions LLC/Felicia Middlebrooks and Anthony Hill. Festival Partners this year are DuSable Museum, Chicago Loop Alliance, WVON 1690 AM, Chicago Symphony Orchestra—African American Network, South Shore Current, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Chef Sara, Majani Soulful Vegan Cuisine, Black Ensemble Theater, Gallery Guichard, Akasuba, Museum of Contemporary Photography, Black Cinema House/Rebuild Foundation, Truth B Told, What U Need Is…, 720 Films, and Chicago Reader.

Send your film news to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton,