Black Harvest’s strong local selection points to Chicago as African American production center

The 11th Black Harvest International Festival of Film and Video is not only the biggest it’s ever been?it also showcases its strongest-ever crop of local productions, spotlighting Chicago’s growing position as a center for African American independent film.

“In the last two years we’ve seen a remarkable, really dramatic increase in the number of films by local African American filmmakers,” said Gene Siskel Film Center program director Barbara Scharres, founder and programmer of the festival.

Black Harvest runs Aug. 4-25 at the Film Center, screening 35 pictures by filmmakers of African descent.

Eldridge Valentine’s single-father feature “Caged” and Mike Merrill’s sex-abuse survivor feature “Comatose” are return engagements for both directors, whose “Player in Training” and “Even Trade,” respectively, screened in last year’s Black Harvest.

“I think that’s a wonderful development, because it shows that people are establishing careers as independents and staying here in Chicago,” Scharres said.

“These directors are building their own group of actors and technicians that they’re working with regularly,” she continued. “I think we have a real movement in the making here, that we’re going to see further developments from in the next few years.”

Also made here was Deri Tyton’s “Toot’s and Blow’s,” a romance between a drug dealer and a spoken-word poet. Chicagoan Joe English produced Michael Phillip Edwards’ Jamaican feature “Runt.”