Black Harvest shares a wealth of American culture

Dan Patton and La Donna Tittle at Black Harvest

Dan Patton and La Donna Tittle at Black Harvest

The Siskel Center’s
annual fest makes it clear:
the next big thing
in cinema will come from
the African American

The Black Harvest Film Festival kicked off with an awards ceremony and a four-movie screening at the Siskel Center last Saturday night. It was followed by a reception at the Joffrey Ballet across the street, on the corner of State and Randolph.

Community pride and creative expression galvanized the abundantly joyful and friendly crowd. Men dressed largely in semi-formal elegance. The women favored an assortment of energetic patterns in vibrant colors.

NBC’s LeeAnn Trotter hosted the pre-screening celebration. Filmmaker and former DuSable Museum Director Pemon Rami and his wife, Executive Director of the South Side Community Arts Center, Maséqua Myers, received the Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in Community Leadership.

The evening’s film selection ranged from the father-daughter adventure, Training Wheels, to the “impulsive hookup” comedy Stuck. In between there was the Juneteenth romance, Shotgun Wedding, and the intergenerational family drama, Riverment.

Afterwards, filmmakers and moviegoers hobnobbed with ease. According to most of the guests present, the opening night showcased just a few of the stories that represent the African American community. There are thousands if not millions more to be told.

Actor Eric Lane — who plays Frank the barber in the upcoming Chicago-based Fox drama Rel — wants to see an emphasis on family and togetherness. Film critic Reggie Ponder hopes to see more romance. Riverment director and cowriter (with Israel Daramola) Shayla Racquel intends to extend her modern take on the Civil Rights era into a full-length feature.

Along with recent box office hits like Get Out and Black Panther, Black Harvest makes it clear that the next big thing in cinema will come from the African American community.

Boasting deeper roots than almost every other group in the nation, the Black community shares a collective historical experience while thriving and growing as a group of individuals. In the words of actress / producer NK Gutierrez, “We are not monolithic.”

Indeed. African Americans are doctors and lawyers, artists and teachers, real estate brokers, hair stylists, and radio hosts. They have hopes and dreams as far and wide as the nation itself, and opening night of Black Harvest offered a taste of the wealth that they are working to share with the world.

After interviewing several of the actors, writers, filmmakers, and moviegoers who attended, Reel Chicago was happy to confirm that there’s a lot more to come.

Among them was La Donna Tittle, a veteran actor and radio host who says that she has been working in the industry for “150 years.” Known as “the grandma with a shotgun” on the Showtime hit, The Chi, Tittle will receive the Gene Siskel / Black Harvest Film 2018 Legacy Award on Saturday August 11.

With incomparable grace and contagious enthusiasm, she also agreed to answer a handful of questions from Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton while Staff Writer Joey Filer rolled a camera.

Please check out the interview below, which is the first in a series that we will run during the month-long Black Harvest Film Festival celebration.


Send your film updates to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton,