The 22nd Annual Black Harvest Film Festival returned to the Gene Siskel Film Center this August for another year of celebrating Black Independent Filmmakers. This year’s films ranged from raunchy comedies to films documenting real time social injustices, with some brilliant biographical documentaries in between. From first-time filmmakers and actors to legends like Irma P. Hall, George Wallace, and Chicago’s own Bob Hercules, this year’s Black Harvest Film Festival highlighted works that evoked every emotion with the most balanced storylines and visuals.
AND there was Wine, free popcorn, panels, desserts, selfies, and lots and lots of Networking
Here are a few of my favorite features:
The Caged Bird: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price
To compose a song is one thing. To compose a legacy, is a whole other thing. Florence Beatrice Price. You may not know her name, but I bet your favorite artist knows her music. You know her friends and colleagues - Langston Hughes, Frederick Douglas, W.E.B. Dubois and so many others. From the Chicago Symphony to the White House. The Caged Bird: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price is the untold story of the life and music of the first African-American woman to have her work performed by a major Orchestra.
From growing up with a father who was one of the first prominent African-American doctors in the South; housing musicians, artists, and abolitionist like Frederick Douglas in their home, to graduating High School at 15; Florence B. Price may not be as well know as many American (White) classical composers, but the legacy of her music is second to known. A musical prodigy, but she was more than just a composer. A world renown Pianist. A teacher. A mother. A wife. And a woman who never let racism, sexism, or any obstacle she encountered disrupt her legacy.
I Loved this film! I honestly never heard of Florence prior to this film. The detail that was taken by director James Greeson and his crew to research Florence's life and music included everything from acquiring rights from the University of Arkansas to use a lot of her work which was found in an abandoned house near Kankakee, Illinois to reaching out to her surviving family. I love a good biographical documentary that isn't just dry commentary, but live performances, music, and an intriguing narrated story with drama, love, struggle, injustice, and inspiration. The Caged Bird: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price satisfied all those things and more.
I don't know about you guys, but I'm tired of seeing the same Slave story told over and over again. What about triumph? What about our ancestry of royalty? What about our strength and power and ability to overcome oppression, disappointment and heartache? What about all of this told with a comedic flare that doesn't insult the levity of the storyline?
Click any image to view the Trailer
Jerico is that film! A perfect balance of satire and the poignancy and power of the struggle Blacks have endured in America. Jerico tells the story of generational oppression that finds 2 friends fighting for their lives in the Jim Crow south during the passing of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Ever seen a black man literally lose his pants fleeing a lynch mob? How about a big black man using a wig and face paint to turn into a flamboyant white man to save his best friends life? Ever had Irma P. Hall (Big Momma) give a speech that made you cry? How about a sexy scene of a lusting man dreaming of pouring something hot and sticky on the untouchable woman of his dreams? Have you ever wondered how parents survive seeing their eldest son lynched? Jerico has ALL of those things. Centered around a narrative of segregation and the darkness of lynching, Jerico is a story of friendship, love, oppression, triumph and loss.
Love isn't Enough
Black Lives Matter. But what if your father is black and your mother is white? Can they be happily married during a time in America where African-Americans have to constantly remind Americans that Black Lives Matter?
A dispute over Thanksgiving dinner exposes the trouble in an interracial marriage during a time... like Today! Charles and Amanda love each other. And the love their son. Amanda's brother is white police officer. Charles' friends are black activist. Charles struggles with the two seemingly contradictory sides of him. The Black man facing daily injustice in America versus the Black educated, successful man that went off and married a white girl. Can he truly love Amanda if he doesn't completely love himself? What about their son? Which side does he chose? Does he have to chose a side? And will it be a black turkey or a white turkey?
I truly enjoyed this film. The storyline was simplistic, but powerful; tackling the very injustices many black men face daily. The provocative question being can interracial love survive in a segregated, racist world?
Confused by Love
Click image to view Trailer
A light-hearted romantic comedy that intertwines the struggle of marriage with the multiple layers all relationships – friendships, family, courtships – go through. Take writer Ferguson and his wannabe socialite, designer shoe wearing wife Tiffany; the bubbly Jo-Jo who happens to be Ferguson’s ex-girlfriend and is now in a relationship with his long-time flashy friend Reggie, add a financial crisis, an unplanned pregnancy, and a cheating mate… and well… Love gets awfully confusing. I did feel that this movie progressed to the conclusion slowly and then rushed through the ending. Still made for a humorous and interesting take on when to a walk away and when to stay. Those moments when you are confused by love.
How to Tell You're a Douchebag
Even more... ever encountered someone that didn’t KNOW they were a douchebag and you wondered how? I mean everybody else can’t always be the problem right? Enter Ray. Documenting his occasional attempts at dating Black women in an ego-filled, self-loathing blog. For Ray, it’s women that are the problem. Black women.
A successful writer with the career of Ray's dreams.
A beautiful successful writer with the career of Ray's dreams.
A beautiful successful Confident writer with the career of Ray's dreams
and an intolerance to his douchebag character.
I enjoyed this film. I wish the story was so predictable. But I do appreciate the concise ending that leaves you thinking. Wondering.
Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise
Returning September 16-29
One of the most anticipated films of the Black Harvest Festival was Maya Angelou: And Still I Rise. As such, it sold out in just a few short days of the tickets going on sale. Returning for a second run September 16-29, this film is sure to sell out. Click the image above and get your tickets.
For a complete list of Films that were screened at the 22nd annual Black Harvest Film Festival - including info on the cast and crew- visit siskelfilmcenter.org