The 2019 Black Harvest Film Festival

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The Gene Siskel
Film Center’s
25th annual
celebration of
African Americans and
the African diaspora
August 3-29

The Gene Siskel Film Center celebrates the stories, dreams, history, and legacy of African Americans and the African diaspora in the 25th edition of the annual Black Harvest Film Festival.

In addition to 50-plus film screenings, there will be discussions with 50-plus filmmakers, events, and award presentations to enhance the overall festival experience. For a complete and most up-to-date schedule, please click here.

 
REEL CHICAGO VISITS THE 2018 BLACK HARVEST FILM FESTIVAL

 

OPENING NIGHT: A Black Harvest Feast (August 3): The festival kicks off with the world premiere of five provocative new shorts by Midwestern filmmakers commissioned by the Gene Siskel Film Center with support from The Joyce Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, and Illinois Arts Council Agency. Films presented are Gian Smith’s percussive look at love’s possibilities in love tap; Derek Dow’s coming-of-age drama GROWING PAINS; Daniel Williams’ look at dads in playground conflict in PLAY DAY; Zarinah Ali’s sensual SEX IS A GOD THING; and Shahari Moore’s poignant comedy CHICAGO GUY. All filmmakers are scheduled to be present. Serving as Mistress of Ceremonies is NBC 5 Chicago’s LeeAnn Trotter. Opening Night sponsor is Chaz Ebert and the Roger & Chaz Ebert Foundation, championing filmmakers of color. Following A Black Harvest Feast film program will be a reception at Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph St., home of the Joffrey Ballet Chicago.

DON’T BE NICE (August 4, 5): This documentary follows the five-member Bowery Slam Poetry Team as they spend the summer of 2016 preparing to compete in the slam poetry nationals in Atlanta. Producer Nikhil Melnechuk and executive producer Melina Brown are scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.

Shorts Program: A Feast of Firsts (August 4): Enjoy five provocative new shorts by Midwestern filmmakers in their world premiere screenings. Films presented are Gian Smith’s percussive look at love’s possibilities in love tap; Derek Dow’s coming-of-age drama GROWING PAINS; Daniel Williams’ look at dads in playground conflict in PLAY DAY; Zarinah Ali’s sensual SEX IS A GOD THING; and Shahari Moore’s poignant comedy CHICAGO GUY. Directors Derek Dow, Gian Smith, and Shahari Moore, producer/actor Rashida KhanBey Miller (LOVE IS A GOD THING), and producer Leonard Smith (love tap) are scheduled to appear for audience discussion.

FATUMA (August 5, 6): A wife and mother defies tradition to protect her daughter from being sold into an arranged marriage in this colorful drama set in Tanzania.

IT MUST SCHWING! THE BLUE NOTE STORY (August 6, 7): This beautifully crafted documentary traces the rise of premier jazz label Blue Note Records.

Shorts Program: Family Matters (August 8): Family changes, challenges, and secrets, stirred with love, characterize these five shorts: NO ME OLVIDARÉ DE TI, BOBBY, BABA SIFON, OUTDOORING, and TWELFTH ROUND. Directors Lila Petrone and producer Nina Spensley (NO ME OLVIDARÉ DE TI) and James Grisom (BOBBY) are tentatively scheduled to appear for audience discussion.

ALWAYS IN SEASON (August 9, 13): The ongoing quest for justice for a Black teenage football star, found hanging from a swing set, is the centerpiece of director Jacqueline Olive’s larger inquiry into lynching in this Sundance award-winning documentary.

AMERICAN AS BEAN PIE (August 9, 10): Formerly a Black Muslim and niece of the late legendary New Orleans musician Allen Toussaint, country/Americana singer Liz Toussaint’s autobiographical first film is an insightful account of her personal and musical evolution. Director Liz Toussaint will appear in person for audience discussion at both screenings. Family Friendly

Special advance screening! PREMATURE (August 9): A transformative summer brings adult choices for Ayanna, headed for college in the fall and navigating an intensely erotic relationship with a handsome, twenty-something music producer.

THE BLOOD IS AT THE DOORSTEP (August 10, 11): This lucid, compelling documentary covers the repercussions of the fatal shooting of Dontre Hamilton, an unarmed Black man by a policeman in Milwaukee. Maria Hamilton and director Erik Ljung are scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.

Shorts Program: Made in Chicago (August 11, 12): Six films featuring Chicago talent: THE SHINE, IN HER WORDS, LOYALTY, IN THE PAINT, SHOOTER, and A SISTERHOOD OF SIGNATURES. Directors Tristian Montgomery (THE SHINE), Latoya Hunter (IN HER WORDS), Ira Childs (LOYALTY; August 11 only), Tommy Sigmon (IN THE PAINT), Ashley Chrisman, Jan Johnson Goldberger (SHOOTER), and Okema “Seven” Gunn (A SISTERHOOD OF SIGNATURES) are scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.

JEZEBEL (August 13, 14): Cash-strapped and living in a shabby Las Vegas motel room, a young woman tremulously embarks on a new career as a “sex cam girl.

Shorts Program: Fantastic Tales (August 14, 15): Six excursions into the realms of horror, fantasy, and science fiction: CORPORATE COFFEE, SATELLITE FLIGHT, NIGHT DINER, DISPEL, and SUICIDE BY SUNLIGHT. Directors Samuel Wofford (CORPORATE COFFEE), Davis Northern (SATELLITE FLIGHT), Khaled Ridgeway (NIGHT DINER), Julian Park (INVINCIBLE BOY), producer Dan Marcus (INVINCIBLE BOY), and (tentative) director Kylie Eaton (DISPEL) are scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.

WHILE I BREATHE, I HOPE (August 16, 20): This documentary provides a candid view of Bakari Sellers’s battle to become the first African American since 1876 to hold statewide office in South Carolina. Director Emily Harrold is scheduled to appear via Skype for audience discussion on Tuesday. Family Friendly

LOST GURL (August 16, 20): This tense urban drama follows young Nola as she becomes involved with suave older drug-dealer. Director Edward J. Wilson and selected cast and crew members are scheduled to be present for audience discussion at both screenings.

Shorts Program: Love African American Style (August 16, 17): Love can be for better or for worse, and in these six shorts, sometimes it’s worse before it’s better: FINDING MR. RIGHT, ‘TIL DEATH, CATCH A GIRL, THE PECK SITUATION, F.A.M., and love tap. Directors David E. Bright, (FINDING MR. RIGHT), LeRon E. Lee (CATCH A GIRL), Anthony E. Williams (F.A.M.), Gian Smith (love tap), and, tentatively, directors Carmen Elly Wilkerson (THE PECK SITUATION) and Asha Flowers (‘TIL DEATH), and producer Leonard Smith (love tap) are scheduled to appear for audience discussion.

Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Black Harvest Film Festival Prize (August 17): Named for and generously underwritten by GSFC Advisory Board Chair Ellen Sandor and her husband Richard, this prize is awarded annually to a director of a Black Harvest Film Festival short film, chosen by a prestigious jury. Last year’s winner and inaugural recipient was LALO’S HOUSE by Kelley Kali. LALO’S HOUSE went on to win the 24th DGA (Directors Guild of America) Student Film Award and a Student Academy Award at the 45th Student Academy Awards. Admission is free but tickets are required.

Panel discussion: New Trends and Strategies in Filmmaking (August 17): Black Harvest consultant Sergio Mims and film industry experts discuss wide-ranging approaches and solutions available to independent filmmakers. Panelists include: director/producer Pamela Sherrod Anderson (THE G FORCE, THE CURATORS OF DIXON SCHOOL); director David Weathersby (THE COLOR OF ART, THEE DEBAUCHERY BALL); and more TBA. Free admission but tickets required; available at box office only on a first-come, first-served basis.

Gene Siskel Film Center Legacy Award (August 18): This year’s recipient of the Gene Siskel Film Center Legacy Award is Sergio Mims, Festival Consultant for Black Harvest since the festival’s inception in 1994. Sergio has served as co-programmer of the festival which is one of the longest-running and most important Black film festivals in the United States and worldwide. Mims will receive the award at the screening of BILL TRAYLOR: CHASING GHOSTS (see below for more information).

BILL TRAYLOR: CHASING GHOSTS (August 18, 19): This illuminating documentary captures the remarkable trajectory of self-taught artist Bill Traylor, who was born into slavery and took up drawing while homeless at the age of 85. Director Jeffrey Wolf and producer Jeany Wolf are scheduled to appear at both screenings for audience discussion, moderated by Cleo Wilson, former executive director of Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art. Black Harvest consultant Sergio Mims will be presented with the Gene Siskel Legacy Award at the August 18 screening, after which the audience is invited to a reception in Sergio’s honor in the Gallery/Café. Family Friendly

Shorts Program: Color Me Creative (August 18): Five films celebrating creativity and the imagination: HIPLET: BECAUSE WE CAN, T, BOOK OF DANIEL, AS TOLD TO G/D THYSELF, and R.A.W. TUBA. Directors Addison Wright (HIPLET: BECAUSE WE CAN), Elodie Edjang (BOOK OF DANIEL), and (tentative) Keisha Rae Witherspoon (T) are scheduled to appear for audience discussion.

STRIVE (August 21, 22): A Harlem girl’s dream to get into Yale is met with obstacles when her family begins to disintegrate. Cast and crew members TBA are scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.

Shorts Program: Black History—Lost and Found (August 22): Four thought-provoking films with historical themes: A CIVIL WAR: FOR THE SOUL OF AMERICA, THE GERMAN KING, GIVE, and AN ACT OF TERROR. Directors Khinmay Lwin van der Mee (A CIVIL WAR: FOR THE SOUL OF AMERICA) and Ashley Paige Brim (AN ACT OF TERROR) are both tentatively scheduled to appear for audience discussion.

THEE DEBAUCHERY BALL (August 23, 28): Chicago’s large and thriving house music community is celebrated with flair in this new documentary. Director David Weathersby is scheduled to be present for audience discussion at both screenings.

THE DEBAUCHERY BALL Dance Party (August 23): Join guests for a DJ’d dance party following the Friday screening. Movie ticket is admission to the party.

DEVIL’S PIE—D’ANGELO (August 23, 24): This thoughtful documentary combines show-stopping performances with introspective reflections from neo-Soul singer D’Angelo.

SPRINTER (August 23, 25): A youthful athlete’s future is thrown off course by family dysfunction in this rousing sports drama from Jamaica.

BESSIE COLEMAN, FIRST BLACK AVIATRIX (August 24, 27): This documentary explores the life of Bessie Coleman, the first African American woman to receive a pilot’s license. The following guests are scheduled to appear for audience discussion: Gigi Coleman Brooms, great-niece of Bessie Coleman and CEO/President of Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars; Dr. Christopher Reed, Professor Emeritus of History at Roosevelt University and Resident Historian at the DuSable Museum; Myiti Sengstacke-Rice, CEO/President of Chicago Defender Charities and great-grand-niece of Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founder of the Chicago Defender; Jean-Marc Giboux, director of photography for BESSIE COLEMAN, FIRST BLACK AVIATRIX (August 24 only); Tammera Holmes, President/CEO of the AeroStar Consulting Corporation and winner of the Bessie Coleman Aviation Award (August 24 only). Family Friendly

Gene Siskel Film Center Movie Club examines BESSIE COLEMAN, FIRST BLACK AVIATRIX (August 27). The following guests are scheduled to appear for audience discussion: Gigi Coleman Brooms, great-niece of Bessie Coleman and CEO/President of Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars; Dr. Christopher Reed, Professor Emeritus of History at Roosevelt University and Resident Historian at the DuSable Museum; and Myiti Sengstacke-Rice, CEO/President of Chicago Defender Charities and great-grand-niece of Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founder of the Chicago Defender. Each ticket-holder attending the Movie Club post-screening discussion receives a complimentary beverage.
http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/movieclub
http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/bessie-coleman-first-black-aviatrix

Shorts Program: Women of Color (August 25, 26): Heart, soul, and perseverance are a woman’s essentials in these seven shorts: MAHALIA MELTS IN THE RAIN, IT MUST BE PAPRIKA, MONITA, DEAR INNER CITY, THE PICTURE, ON MOTHER’S DAY, and THE NEW MOTHER. Directors Brianna Clearly (MONITA), Jazmin Bryant (DEAR INNER CITY), Brandon Reese (THE PICTURE), Eleva Singleton (THE NEW MOTHER), and (tentative) Aissa Gueye (IT MUST BE PAPRIKA) are scheduled to be present for audience discussion at both screenings.

Reception: Following the August 25 Women of Color screening will be a champagne and dessert reception celebrating women filmmakers, hosted by Eleva Singleton and the Gene Siskel Film Center.

LAST NIGHT A DJ SAVED MY LIFE (August 27, 28): A popular Atlanta late-night radio DJ sees his life turned upside down after his girlfriend dumps him on-air. Director Damon Jamal and producer/actor Tangi Miller and are tentatively scheduled to appear for audience discussion at both screenings.

CLOSING NIGHT: CROOKLYN (August 29): Celebrating its 25th anniversary is Spike Lee’s episodic, autobiographical narrative that centers on nine-year-old Troy, the only girl in a family of five children coming of age in Brooklyn in the 1970s. 35mm. Screenwriter/actor Joie Lee and star Zelda Harris will appear for audience discussion. After the show, all ticket-holders are invited to a reception sponsored by the Chicago Reader in the Gallery/Café.

With the Black Harvest Film Festival being a month-long celebration of Black culture and filmmaking, check www.siskelfilmcenter.org/bhff25 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, ticket prices and Black Harvest Festival.

Celebrating its 25th anniversary, the Black Harvest Film Festival is 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 50 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. www.siskelfilmcenter.org/bhff25

Sponsors this year are Ebert Co., BMO Harris Bank, Allstate, Southwest Airlines, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, NBC 5 Chicago, WBEZ91.5 / Vocalo91.1, Chicago Reader, The Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Foundation, The Chicago Community Trust, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events, Illinois Arts Council Agency, The Joyce Foundation, and The Illinois Film Office. Special Thanks to Eleva Singleton and Diane and Victor Hoskins. Festival Partners this year are Akasuba, Chicago Symphony Orchestra—African American Network, Creative Cypher, Gallery Guichard, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, Museum of Contemporary Photography, The Richard E. Driehaus Museum, 3rd Annual Silver Room Block Party Film Fest, South Shore Current, The Triibe, Truth B told, and What U Need Is…

 
AUGUST / GENERAL PROGRAMMING
Chicago premiere! In OUR TIME (August 2-8), director Carlos Reygadas plays a poet and bull-rancher in central Mexico, whose wife puts their open relationship at risk when she hides her affair with a ranch hand. Presented as part of Panorama Latinx. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/our-time

Chicago premiere! THE CHAMBERMAID (August 9-15): This patient drama immerses the viewer in the life and routine of a housekeeper at a luxury hotel in Mexico City. Presented as part of Panorama Latinx. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/the-chambermaid

New restoration! JE T’AIME MOI NON PLUS (August 9-15): In his over-the-top cult directorial debut, musical legend Serge Gainsbourg casts his wife Jane Birkin as a waitress who hooks up with a hunky garbage-truck driver. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/je-taime-moi-non-plus

PAVAROTTI (August 9-15): This warm documentary by Ron Howard tells the story of the great Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti, complete with generous performance clips covering the breadth of Pavarotti’s career. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/pavarotti

Chicago premiere! IF THE DANCER DANCES (August 16-22): This documentary offers a fascinating immersion in the behind-the-scenes process of restaging Merce Cunningham’s modern dance masterwork RainForest. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/if-the-dancer-dances

THE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO (August 16-22): A Black squatter displaced by gentrification surreptitiously restores his childhood home in this melancholy portrait of San Francisco and its disappearing underclass. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/the-last-black-man-in-san-francisco

New restoration! OLIVIA (August 16-21): Fresh-faced teenager Olivia arrives at an all-female countryside finishing school and finds herself embroiled in a series of transparently encoded lesbian crushes. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/olivia

Chicago premiere! FOR SAMA (August 23-29): A university student’s video diary morphs into a chronicle of the Syrian civil war in this intimate documentary. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/for-sama

TONI MORRISON: THE PIECES I AM (August 23-29): Anchored by a new interview with Morrison, this documentary portrait of the great African American novelist is as rich and abundant as the woman it depicts. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/toni-morrison-the-pieces-i-am

 
SPECIAL EVENTS
Fringe Benefits: The Gene Siskel Film Center presents a monthly series dedicated to provocative and outré films that have galvanized audiences and critics alike. In Robert Altman’s BREWSTER McCLOUD (August 2, 8), as a series of deaths connected to him catches the attention of police, an eccentric young man absconds to the Houston Astrodome to work on a bizarre flying machine. 35mm widescreen. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/brewster-mccloud

Chicago premiere! THE FRESHMEN (August 2, 4, 7): Two aspiring med students see their friendship tested as they navigate their rigorous first year of school. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/the-freshmen

National Theatre Live: SMALL ISLAND (August 2, 3): This epic new theater adaptation follows three connected stories exploring the tangled history of Jamaica and the UK. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/nt-live-small-island

New restoration! First broadcast on BBC-TV, THREADS (August 23, 24, 26) presents the fallout of a nuclear war between America and the Soviet Union with unflinching realism. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/threads

Gene Siskel Film Center Movie Club examines BESSIE COLEMAN, FIRST BLACK AVIATRIX (August 27). The following guests are scheduled to appear for audience discussion: Gigi Coleman Brooms, great-niece of Bessie Coleman and CEO/President of Bessie Coleman Aviation All-Stars; Dr. Christopher Reed, Professor Emeritus of History at Roosevelt University and Resident Historian at the DuSable Museum; and Myiti Sengstacke-Rice, CEO/President of Chicago Defender Charities and great-grand-niece of Robert Sengstacke Abbott, founder of the Chicago Defender. Each ticket-holder attending the Movie Club post-screening discussion receives a complimentary beverage.
http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/movieclub
http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/bessie-coleman-first-black-aviatrix

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All screenings and events are at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, located at 164 N. State St.

Tickets to each screening–unless stated otherwise—are $12/general admission, $7/students, $6/Film Center members, and $5/Art Institute of Chicago (AIC) staff and School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) faculty, staff, and students. All tickets may be purchased at the Film Center Box Office. Both general admission and Film Center member tickets are available through the Gene Siskel Film Center’s website www.siskelfilmcenter.org/content/tickets or through the individual films’ weblinks on www.siskelfilmcenter.org. There is a surcharge of $1.50 per ticket. The Film Center and its box office are open 5:00 to 8:30 pm, Monday through Thursday; 1:00 to 8:30 pm, Friday; 2:00 to 8:30 pm, Saturday; and 2:00 to 5:30 pm, Sunday.

BLACK HARVEST FESTIVAL PASS
Black Harvest Festival Passes are available—$55/general admission and $30/Film Center members—for six films and six small popcorns. Festival Passes may be purchased in-person at the Film Center at the Main Office (Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00pm) and at the box office (for hours, see above). Festival Passes may also be purchased online at www.siskelfilmcenter.org/bhff25

NOTE THE FOLLOWING TICKET PRICES:
Tickets to National Theatre Live: SMALL ISLAND (August 2, 3) are $14/general admission and $8/Film Center members.

Tickets to Black Harvest Film Festival Opening Night (August 3) are $50/general admission and $30/students and Film Center members.

Admission to the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Black Harvest Film Festival Prize (August 17) and panel discussion Panel Discussion: New Trends and Strategies in Filmmaking (August 25) is free but tickets are required and can be obtained at the Film Center box office. Seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis.

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A Gene Siskel Film Center membership is a year-round ticket to great movies for only $6 per screening! Memberships are $50 (Individual) and $80 (Dual). For more information, call 312-846-2600 or visit www.siskelfilmcenter.org/content/membership.

Discounted parking is available for $19 for 24 hours at the InterPark SELF-PARK at 20 E. Randolph St. A rebate ticket can be obtained from the Film Center Box Office.

The Film Center is located near CTA trains and buses. Nearest CTA L stations are Lake (Red line); State/Lake (Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple lines); and Washington (Blue line). CTA bus lines serving State St.: 2, 6, 10, 29, 36, 62, 144, and 146.

For more information about the Film Center, call 312-846-2800 (24-hour movie hotline) or 312-846-2600 (general information, 9:00 am-5:00 p.m., Monday-Friday), or visit www.siskelfilmcenter.org.

 
About the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
Since 1972, the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has presented cutting edge cinema to an annual audience that has grown to over 100,000. The Film Center’s programming includes annual film festivals that celebrate diverse voices and international cultures, premieres of trailblazing work by today’s independent filmmakers, restorations and revivals of essential films from cinema history, and insightful provocative discussions with filmmakers and media artists. Altogether, the Film Center hosts over 1,500 screenings and 200 filmmaker appearances every year. The Film Center was renamed the Gene Siskel Film Center in 2000 after the late, nationally celebrated film critic, Gene Siskel. Visit www.siskelfilmcenter.org to learn more and find out what’s playing today.

About Panorama Latinx
Panorama Latinx is an initiative of the Gene Siskel Film Center dedicated to year-round Latin American programming. The Film Center engages the dynamic Latinx community of greater Chicago through showcasing the work of emerging and established Latinx filmmakers educational screenings, and community partnerships. http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/panoramalatinx

About the School of the Art Institute of Chicago
For 150 years, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) has been a leader in educating the world’s most influential artists, designers, and scholars. Located in downtown Chicago with a fine arts graduate program ranked number two by U.S. News and World Report, SAIC provides an interdisciplinary approach to art and design as well as world-class resources, including the Art Institute of Chicago museum, on-campus galleries, and state-of-the-art facilities. SAIC’s undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate students have the freedom to take risks and create the bold ideas that transform Chicago and the world—as seen through notable alumni and faculty such as Michelle Grabner, David Sedaris, Elizabeth Murray, Richard Hunt, Georgia O’Keeffe, Cynthia Rowley, Nick Cave, and LeRoy Neiman. Learn more at saic.edu.

 
Send your film festival news to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton, dan@reelchicago.com.

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