Saturday, July 26, 2014



20th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival (August 1-28) is the Midwest’s largest festival of the Black experience featuring movies from the African diaspora. Celebrating a milestone of 20 years with a combined total of over 40 shorts and features will be shown with over 30 filmmaker appearances. There will also be a panel discussion, a workshop, and special events throughout. Highlights include:

Opening Night
Chaz Ebert and (posthumously) Roger Ebert will receive the Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in Community Leadership, presented by Mrs. Deloris Jordan, after whom the award is named. Mrs. Jordan is the president of the James R. Jordan Foundation. Following the award presentation to the Eberts, films from the Opening Night program—A Black Harvest Feast—will be shown. The six short films in A Black Harvest Feast convey the spirit of the month-long festival: cross-cultural comedy Chris’s Briss; a wildly imaginative London bus ride in Frayed; rousing history lesson Strange Fruit; compelling two-women drama The Way You Love; cheeky schoolboy fantasy Vivre; and Perfect Day, a charming high school romance with a bold twist. Master of Ceremonies will be LeeAnn Trotter, entertainment reporter for NBC 5. Following the award and film program will be a reception at the Joffrey Tower, home of The Joffrey Ballet, 10 E. Randolph, and will feature music by Musicians of the Chicago Sinfonietta.

Shorts Programs
Shorts Program: Made in Chicago, five films featuring local talent; Shorts Program: Black History—Lost and Found, four thought-provoking films with historical themes; Shorts Program: International Visions, five striking films from around the globe; Shorts Program: Family Matters, four films exploring family ties; Shorts Program: Love African American Style in which the course of love runs anything but smooth in a provocative selection of five films; and Shorts Program: Black Noir: five films which take a walk on the wild side.

Fiction Features
Unsound is the story of love challenged and a relationship broken and mended portraying an epic battle of wills between mother and son. Jayhawkers by Kevin Willmott (Destination Planet Negro!) is a recreated historical drama about basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain who was controversial off the court for dating white women and defying “Whites Only” prohibitions. Finding Forever in Love—by Toot’s and Blow’s director Deri Tyton—is a grown up romantic drama which concerns Preach, a talented poet who loves weed and is grieving the death of his girlfriend, inhibiting his writing and current relationship with the mature and challenging Arika. The 4th Meeting is an intriguing character study concerning Diana, a successful career woman who has been battling survivor guilt since her husband died in an auto accident, how she takes her frustration out on her younger sister, and faces the demons of her own past. Dar He: The Lynching of Emmett Till is a phenomenal tour-de-force featuring Mike Wiley in 39 roles to create a stunning dramatization of the horrific murder of the 14-year-old Emmett Till. Bad Hair concerns a young Latino American boy whose social and sexual identity become invested in the status of his ‘fro and how his innocent crush on a handsome news vendor sends ripples of homophobia through his dysfunctional family. Cass features Detroit in all its faded glory as the protagonist Cass fuels her ambitions to become an artist when a vagrant moves next door to her, her little brother, and widowed father. A loose and lovely spin on the classic The Bicycle Thief, The Bicycle finds 10-year-old Bobbie who resents her prospective stepfather Teddy; after her bicycle is stolen by a bully, the two reluctantly join forces to search across Queens to find the thief. Filled with flashbacks and mishaps, romantic comedy Grand Gesture finds Craig camped out for the day in a Harlem diner awaiting a reunion with an ex-girlfriend who may or may not show up. Hogtown, the newest feature by Daniel Nearing (Chicago Heights) creates a multilayered tapestry of Chicago over a century, beginning in 1919 when the police are on a manhunt for a missing millionaire. A Rage in Harlem is presented in honor of Bill Duke, the director’s first feature, which is based on pulp maestro Chester Himes’ 1950s-set ghetto tale; Duke will appear for discussion via Skype. The Forgotten Kingdom finds a tough Johannesburg boy who is charged with escorting his father’s body back to his native village, encountering a journey of myth and witchcraft which awakens the boy’s heart.

That Daughter’s Crazy is a portrait of Rain Pryor (who appears in person with the film) and what it was like to grow up as the biracial daughter of comedy legend Richard Pryor with excerpts of her one-woman show Fried Chicken and Latkes. Lord Thing is a restored, “lost” film which sheds new light on the role of gangs on the West Side of Chicago in the 1950s and 1960s. Melvin & Jean: An American Story, is a look back at the political lives of Melvin and Jean McNair who hijacked a plane from Detroit to Algeria to join Eldridge Cleaver and the Black Panthers and later settled in France where they live as model citizens, never to return to the U.S. where they could face the rest of their lives in prison. Little White Lie is director Lacey Schwartz’s exploration of reconciling her Jewish upbringing and unearthing a lie about her ethnic background that haunted her parents.

Free Workshop + Panel
Action! The Real Deal About Filmmaking, the annual Black Harvest panel discussion, dissects the process of making a film, from obtaining funding to casting, production, post-production, and distribution, headed by festival consultant Sergio Mims. The 90-minute workshop, The Realities of Screenwriting, also hosted by Mims, who has been there, done that, reveals what screenwriting books don’t tell you.

Closing Night
From Above (aka Chasing Shakespeare) is a magic realist tale in Native American myth and the poetic power of Shakespeare, unreeling in flashback as William Ward (Danny Glover) and his cherished wife Venus (Tantoo Cardinal) face a climactic experience one stormy night.

More information about Black Harvest Film Festival:

Hitchcock: Early, Rare, and Classic (August 2-September 4) is a series of 10 programs with an emphasis on overlooked and rarely shown films from the master’s early British period. Such movies as Murder!, The Skin Game, Rich and Strange, Waltzes from Vienna, and The White Shadow, the latter of which Hitchcock served as an apprentice, give audiences a look at when the director was more versatile and experimental.

Film/lecture series The Unquiet American: Transgressive Comedies from the U.S., with lectures by internationally renowned film critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, opens with the rarely seen Laughter.

Back by popular demand is Half a Yellow Sun (August 1-7). Based on Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s novel, this handsome adaptation centers on two couples and their dramas against a broad canvas of national upheaval beginning with Nigeria’s independence in 1960.

The Grand Seduction (August 1-7) is a comedy centering on a crusty mayor of a Newfoundland fishing village who shamelessly tries to lure a hotshot urban doctor to relocate to their town so they can obtain as much-needed factory.

Chicago premiere of A Master Builder (aka Fear of Falling) (August 8-14)—directed by Jonathan Demme and based on the most autographical play by Ibsen—stars noted and award-winning stage actress Lisa Joyce, as well as Wallace Shawn, Andre Gregory, and Julie Hagerty. Runaway ego and monster hubris are embodied in an ailing architect (Shawn) who cruelly bends others to his will. The unexpected arrival of vivacious young Hilda (Joyce) fatefully changes the dynamic. Joyce appears in person for audience discussion on Saturday, August 9, with chief Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones, and on Sunday, August 10, with Ain’t It Cool News / Gapers Block film critic Steve Prokopy aka “Capone.”

First Chicago run of Dinosaur 13 (August 15-28) is the an astounding seven-year tale of intrigue, double-dealing, and government intervention that resulted in the discoverers of Sue—the Field Museum’s majestic T. Rex skeleton—being divested of their find, cheated of recognition, and even sent to prison.

First Chicago run of The German Doctor (August 15-21) concerns a charismatic Nazi doctor who befriends an Argentinian family, threatening their well-being, as told through the eyes of a 12-year-old.

First Chicago run of a new restoration of Eric Rohmer’s A Summer’s Tale (August 22-28)—never released theatrically in the U.S.—in which a student becomes involved with two women while waiting for his girlfriend to join him on vacation at a Brittany resort. As with other Rohmer films, the director masterfully creates erotic tension without explicitness.

Chicago premiere of Jealousy (August 29-September 4) is Philippe Garrel’s latest feature centering on a struggling young actor (played by the director’s real-life son Louis Garrel) who juggles relationships with his neurotically possessive live-in lover, his devastated ex-wife, and his precocious little daughter.

First Chicago run of A Letter to Momo, (August 29-September 4) is Hiroyuki Okiura’s (Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade) poignant animated coming-of-age story which tenderly evokes the heartache of loss and the bumpiness of new beginnings featuring the talents of illustrator Ando Masahi (Spirited Away) and art director Ono Hiroshi (Kiki’s Delivery Service).

First Chicago run of Bound by Flesh (August 29-September 4) is a compelling documentary chronicling the sensational saga of conjoined twins Daisy and Violet Hilton who eventually faded into obscurity. These highly photogenic girls were a world-famous attraction in sideshows, vaudeville, and Tom Browning’s cult film Freaks. Director Leslie Zemeckis will appear in person for audience discussion at the Friday, August 29 screening.

In Ida (August 8-14), before taking her final vows, docile and devout Anna, a novice nun in 1960s Poland, where memories of World War II are still fresh, is sent to visit her only living relative, the hard-bitten, hard drinking aunt she never knew, resulting a collision of faith and the past, and revealing a shocking truth to Anna about herself and her family.

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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 $11/general admission, $7/students, $6/Film Center members, and $5/Art Institute of Chicago staff and School of the Art Institute of Chicago 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
or through the individual films’ weblinks on 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 Friday; 2:00 to 8:30 pm Saturday; and 2:00 to 5:30 pm Sunday.

Please note the following special ticket prices and discounts:
Black Harvest festival passes are available at the Gene Siskel Film Center for $50 per pass (a $92 value) which includes six movies for the price of five plus a free small popcorn with each film. Passholders who purchase a Gene Siskel Film Center membership at the end of Black Harvest receive a $5 discount when they turn in their passes.

Tickets to Opening Night program A Black Harvest Feast are $25/general admission, $20/students, and $15/Film Center members. Proceeds from this screening benefit the educational programs of the Gene Siskel Film Center. No free passes, blue tickets, or Black Harvest festival passes will be valid for this screening. Regular admission prices apply for Closing Night film From Above but no free passes, blue tickets, or Black Harvest festival passes will be valid for this screening.

Black Harvest Film Festival panel discussion Action! The Real Deal About Filmmaking, and workshop, The Realities of Screenwriting, are both free admission events.

Sunday Double-Bill Discount! Buy a ticket at the regular prices for the first Hitchcock film on any Saturday in August, and get a ticket for the second Hitchcock film that day at the discounted rate with proof of original purchase: $7/general admission; $5/students; $4/Film Center members. (This discount rate applies to the second film only.)

Lecture series discount! Gene Siskel Film Center members pay discounted admission of $5 to any screening in the series The Unquiet American: Transgressive Comedies from the U.S.

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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

Discounted parking is available for $16-$18 for nine 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

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The Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago celebrates 42 years of presenting cutting edge programs, independent and international cinema, premieres, retrospectives, and classic films. Internationally recognized for its original film programming, the Film Center is a vibrant cultural destination in Chicago that attracts a diverse and creative annual audience of over 80,000.

A leader in educating artists, designers, and scholars since 1866, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) offers nationally accredited undergraduate, graduate, and post-baccalaureate programs to nearly 3,200 students from around the globe. Located in the heart of Chicago, SAIC has an educational philosophy built upon an interdisciplinary approach to art and design, giving students unparalleled opportunities to develop their creative and critical abilities, while working with renowned faculty who include many of the leading practitioners in their fields. SAIC's resources include the Art Institute of Chicago and its new Modern Wing; numerous special collections and programming venues provide students with exceptional exhibitions, screenings, lectures, and performances. For more information, please visit

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