Moms Mabley and Whoopi
I can’t believe two things: 1) that another year has gone by, and 2) it’s been 19 years already, but this August, as always in Chicago, at the Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago, the 19th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival will take place from Friday August 2 to Thursday Aug 29th.

(Yes it’s always a month long, Longer than even Cannes or Sundance or Toronto)

And during those 19 years that I’ve been personally involved - since the beginning - I know two things for sure; that 1) in some ways it gets easier to put to it together, and 2) it gets harder as well.

But I think we have put together a really solid festival this year, including some films we have profiled several times already here on S&A, such as Jono Oliver’s beautifully moving feature Home, Chris Eska’s pre-Civil war set slave drama The Retrieval, and Sudz Sutherland’s Home Again with CCH Pounder and Tatyana Ali.

And there are also a couple of world premieres this year, including Katherine Nero’s drama For The Cause, and Kevin Wilmontt’s hysterical satire Destination: Planet Negro.

There will be two special programs as well - Charles Murray’s romantic drama Things Never Said will see both screenings dedicated to the memory of my deeply beloved friend and the true inspiration throughout my life, Terry Glover, one of the original founders of Black Harvest who passed away all too soon last December; and a special closing night screening of Whoopi Goldberg’s documentary about comedian Moms Mabley.

But instead of just listing all the films that will be screened, all 40 of them, including features documentaries and shorts, why not take a look for yourself at the complete schedule below:

From August 2 through 29, the Gene Siskel Film Center presents the crowning event in our summer programming, the “Black Harvest Film Festival,” now in its 19th amazing year of celebrating the stories, images, and history of the black experience and the African diaspora.

The harvest of new talent is bountiful, as seen in an exciting array of narrative features, documentaries, and attention-grabbing short films. 

Closing night on August 29 promises to be a provocative fun-fest when HBO sponsors a sneak preview of Whoopi Goldberg’s directorial debut, WHOOPI GOLDBERG PRESENTS MOMS MABLEY, followed by our closing nightparty.  Additional special events include a tasty reception sponsored by Real Men Cook preceding the August 16 screening of HOME AGAIN, and a screening of THINGS NEVER SAID dedicated to the memory of Ebony magazine editor and writer Terry Glover, who had participated in thefounding of Black Harvest.

New films by Chicago independent filmmakers are always a special feature of the festival, and this year they include: FOR THE CAUSE, a legal drama by Katherine Nero; THE MAN IN THE SILO, a thriller by Phil Donlon; MOUND BAYOU: JEWEL OF THE DELTA, an engaging documentary by Jon Ross and John H. Rogers III; and more.

“Action! The Real Deal About Filmmaking: Money, Casting, Production, and Distribution,” this year’s edition of the ever-popular Black Harvest panel discussion and DIY workshop, will cover every aspect of production for the aspiring filmmaker and feature down-to-earth tips and practical information from our guest producers and directors.   Be there if you’re even thinking about making a film!

Opening Night Celebration

Friday, August 2, 6:45 pm

Join Master of Ceremonies LeeAnn Trotter of NBC 5 Chicago for the opening night celebration.  The “Deloris Jordan Award for Excellence in Community Leadership” will be presented to Theaster Gates.  After the show, the audience is invited to join our celebrity guests for areception in our gallery/café.

Opening night films!

A Black Harvest Feast

2012-13, Various directors, USA/UK, 64 min.

Friday, August 2, 6:45 pm

Enjoy a sneak preview of the 2013 “harvest” through four short films.In Martine Jean’s THE SILENT TREATMENT (2013, 9 min.), this romance may be straight out of a silent movie, but the lady’s intentions are loud and clear.  A family grows in its own unique way in Steven Caple Jr.’s poignant A DIFFERENT TREE (2013, 15 min.).  Painterly special effects make for an eye-popping look at Zanzibar in Kibwe Tavares’s JONAH (2013, 18 min.).  A stressed dad relearns a lesson in love from his little boy in Ralph K. Scott’s BARBASOL (2012, 22 min.).  (BS)

Director Ralph K. Scott (BARBASOL) will be present. 

Closing night film!

Free admission!


2013, Whoopi Goldberg, USA, 90 min.

Thursday, August 29, 6:30 pm

Breaking racial and sexual boundaries as a pioneering comic talent, the African-American stand-up comedienne Jackie “Moms” Mabley has long been an icon in the comedy world.  First-time director Whoopi Goldberg explores Mabley’s legacy through recently unearthed photography, rediscovered performance footage, and the words of numerous celebrated comedians, entertainers, and  historians, including Eddie Murphy, Joan Rivers, Sidney Poitier, Kathy Griffin, Harry Belafonte, Bill Cosby, Quincy Jones, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.  Mabley tackled topics such as gender, sex, and racism, making her one of the first triple X-rated comedians on the comedy circuit.  Once billed as “The Funniest Woman in the World,” she performed on stage and in television and film up until her death in 1975.  (HBO)

This is a complimentary screening courtesy of HBO.  Seating is limited; to reserve a seat go to after July 12.  WHOOPI GOLDBERG PRESENTS MOMS MABLEY will air on HBO in November.  Immediately following the screening, there will be a dessert reception hosted by HBO and the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Festival panel discussion

Free admission!


The Real Deal About Filmmaking: Money, Casting, Production, and Distribution

Saturday, August 24, 6:00 pm

Our Black Harvest panel discussion, which annually debates issues relating to black filmmaking, will dissect the process of making a film, from getting the money to casting, production, post-production,and distribution.  Black Harvest festival consultant Sergio Mims heads up a panel of filmmakers to include director Katherine Nero (FOR THE CAUSE) and others.  The audience is invited to participate withquestions in this provocative forum. 

"Black Harvest" films


2013, Ramin Niami, USA, 90 min

Sunday, August 4, 3:15 pm

Monday, August 5, 8:15 pm

“If you don't want to get up and move at some point during this film, go see a doctor.”--Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times

This loving portrait celebrates the legendary South Central L.A. blues club and the indomitable woman who ran it for over 50 years: Laura Mae Gross, better known as “Mama Laura.”  Guitar Shorty, Ray Bailey, Deacon Jones, Keb’ Mo’, South Side Slim, Tokyo Mississippi, and many others testify to the club’s profound influence on their music and demonstrate it in rousing performances.  As loose and funky as theestablishment it depicts, BABE’S AND RICKY’S INN captures the soul of the place more truly than a slicker, more polished documentary might have done. 



2013, Dorothy Darr and Jeffrey Morse, USA, 114 min.

Sunday, August 11, 5:00 pm

Monday, August 12, 8:00 pm

Charismatic, ceaselessly evolving, and constantly crossing boundaries, reed man Charles Lloyd has been in the vanguard of jazz for over 50 years with his unique, flowing yet swinging sound.  This intimate portrait, co-directed by his painter/filmmaker wife, conveys the astonishing range of Lloyd’s career, including his Memphis roots; his counterculture crossovers in the 1960s; his Garboesque seclusion in the 1970s; his collaborations with Keith Jarrett, the Beach Boys, Burgess Meredith, Charles Bukowski, Michel Petrucciani, and many more; and the comeback that began in the late 1980s and is still going strong.  

World premiere!

Kevin Willmott in person!


2013, Kevin Willmott, USA, 98 min.

With Danielle Cooper, Tosin Morohunfala

Friday, August 23, 8:30 pm

Tuesday, August 27, 8:30 pm

A smart satire that sports a wicked streak of goofball humor, DESTINATION: PLANET NEGRO! has the feel of low-budget 1950s sci-fi, as leaders including W.E.B. DuBois and George Washington Carver kick off a secret plot to solve the “Negro Problem” by way of a rocket ship to Mars.  Carrying a crew of three, the spacecraft vaults into a time warp, landing its brave scientists in a present-day Midwestern metropolis, where this comedy takes on the look of a reality show as the astonished adventurers discover unbelievable developments like young men with drooping pants and the election of a black president.

Director Kevin Willmott will be present for audience discussion on Friday.

Katherine Nero in person!


2013, Katherine Nero, USA, 80 min.

With Charlette Speigner, Shariba Rivers

Saturday, August 3, 8:00 pm

Thursday, August 8, 8:30 pm

Family melodrama and political history strike sparks in Chicago native and Northwestern grad Nero’s explosive first film.  Mirai Scott (Speigner), a tightly wound lawyer, reluctantly agrees to defend her estranged father (Eugene Parker) on a first-degree murder charge, much to the dismay of her embittered mother.  Mirai’s investigation stirs up skeletons from her parents’ Black Panther days, setting past andpresent on a collision course.  The volatile Speigner and the softspoken Parker complement each other beautifully in their prison-set confrontations. 

Director Katherine Nero will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.

Eric Haywood in person!


2013, Eric Haywood, USA, 99 min.

With Darrin DeWitt Henson, Nadine Ellis

Friday, August 23, 6:15 pm

Saturday, August 24, 8:30 pm

The seven-year itch arrives early for young marrieds April and Derrick in this comedy-drama that makes character development key as the pair come to the realization that the spark has been missing in their bedroom for quite some time.  Friends Christy and Matt move into the adjoining townhouse, and camaraderie takes a sexy turn when it develops that the new neighbors are secret swingers.  Variety might be the spice of life, but can April and Derrick handle this hot recipe for modern marriage? 

Director Eric Haywood will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.

Jono Oliver in person!


2013, Jono Oliver, USA, 112 min.

With Gbenga Akinnagbe, Tawny Cypress

Sunday, August 25, 5:15 pm

Monday, August 26, 8:15 pm

Beginning with an electrifying chase through the streets of Brooklyn, HOME is a powerful drama about a desperate man’s struggle to find ahaven.  Jack, a 33-year-old mental patient, is due to leave the institution, but first he has to overcome a series of daunting obstacles, including money, crime, and inner demons.  Working in the realist/humanist vein of the Dardenne Brothers and Charles Burnett, first-time writer-director Oliver makes effective use of urban locations, but the heart of this character-driven drama is the acting, featuring an intense lead performance by Akinnagbe (“Chris Partlow” in “The Wire”) and a strong supporting cast that includes Joe Morton (THE BROTHER FROM ANOTHER PLANET), Danny Hoch (BAMBOOZLED), and James McDaniel (“Detroit 1-8-7”). 

Director Jono Oliver will be present for audience discussion on Sunday.



2012, Sudz Sutherland, Canada, 104 min.

With Tatyana Ali, CCH Pounder 

Friday, August 16, 8:30 pm

Wednesday, August 21, 8:15 pm

“Polished and energetic.”--Dennis Harvey, Variety

“Infused with reggae rhythms, rude-boy dialects and flamboyant atmosphere of the Kingston ghetto.”--Brian D. Johnson, Maclean’s

Director Sudz Sutherland (LOVE, SEX AND EATING THE BONES) puts a human face on immigration issues with three rousing interlinked stories. Marva (Ali), a Canadian widow and mother of two, unknowingly transported contraband for a boyfriend; Everton, an upper-crust London schoolboy, was arrested with a few joints; tough guy Alton has a minor criminal record in New York but resolves to go straight.  Although none of the three has seen Jamaica since they were toddlers, all are deported and left to make their way on the mean streets of Kingston without family, friends, or resources. 

On Friday, Real Men Cook host a pre-film reception in our gallery/café beginning at 7:30 pm.  Note: valid ticket to the screening is required for entry to the reception.



2012, Hemamset Angaza, USA, 79 min.

Sunday, August 4, 5:15 pm

Wednesday, August 7, 8:30 pm

Black hair is a subject that comes with its own history, politics, practical issues, and loads of emotional baggage in director Angaza’s illuminating documentary, as testified to by the scores of women who model every conceivable coiffure as they offer insight into their complex relationship with their crowning glory.  Going natural vs.conforming to mainstream standards of beauty and “good” hair vs. “bad” hair are only two of the questions debated by interviewees including historian Majora Carter, author Asha Bandele, and Farah Jasmine Griffin, the first black network TV news anchor. 


Tamarat Makonnen in person!


2013, Tamarat Makonnen, USA, 75 min.

Friday, August 9, 6:30 pm

Saturday, August 10, 8:15 pm

Many African American professional women lament the shortage of eligible black men, a provocative subject that comes in for a humorous and thought-provoking exploration in this often-hilarious documentary. Director Makonnen takes his quest from coast to coast, blending commentary by relationship experts, candid street interviews with women and men, and some very entertaining sketch comedy, all providing speculation on the causes and the possible remedies for the scarcityof that elusive black Prince Charming

Director Tamarat Makonnen will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.



2011, Charlie Ahearn, USA, 81 min.

Sunday, August 11, 3:15 pm

Monday, August 12, 6:15 pm

Charlie Ahearn’s 1983 opus WILD STYLE was the definitive document of hip-hop culture.  In his first film in over a decade, Ahearn looks back at the movement he helped to put on the map, this time through the eyes of another pioneer, the celebrated Brooklyn-based photographer Jamel Shabazz.  Starting in the 1980s, Shabazz captured the styles and attitudes of street life in a series of collaborative, theatrically posed group photographs that have been called “a cornerstone of hip-hop culture.”   In the film’s moving climax, as he revisits his old neighborhood, Shabazz discovers that his photographs resonate with the inhabitants as priceless records of bygone icons and those who died too young.  Fab 5 Freddie, KRS One, and Jazzy Ivy are among the commentators.


Filmmakers in person!


2012, Phil Donlon, USA, 55 min.

With Ernie Hudson, Jane Alderman

Friday, August 9, 8:15 pm

Wednesday, August 14, 8:15 pm

Filmed in the Chicago area, THE MAN IN THE SILO is a bold mix of horror, Hitchcock, racial themes, and experimental narrative.  Ernie Hudson (“Oz,” GHOSTBUSTERS) delivers a tour-de-force performance as an African American corporate executive haunted by the recent deaths of his wife and child and fearful that he is being squeezed out by his white business associates.  With his grip on reality crumbling, he tries to reconstruct the events that have led him to a ruined silo across from a deserted farmhouse.  First-time director Donlon is a co-founder of Chicago’s Gilead Theater Company.

Preceded by JONAH (2013, Kibwe Tavares, UK, 18 min.), a dazzling ecological fable in which the magical appearance of a gigantic fish brings both fortune and ruin to an African coastal town.  (MR)

Director Phil Donlon, producer Steven Ordower, and co-writer Christopher Ellis will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.


Filmmakers in person!


2013, Chris Eska, USA, 92 min.

With Ashton Sanders, Tishuan Scott, Keston John

Saturday, August 17, 8:15 pm

Sunday, August 18, 5:00 pm

“Equal parts suspenseful road movie, persuasively detailed period drama and emotionally resonant coming-of-age story, THE RETRIEVAL is an outstanding example of regional indie filmmaking accomplished with limited resources and an abundance of skill.”--Joe Leydon, Variety

This provocative, deeply involving second feature by director Eska (AUGUST EVENING) created a buzz at the SXSW Festival, where Tishuan Scott won the Best Acting award.  Set on the fringes of the Civil War, the story centers on Will (Sanders), a 13-year-old black boy who is used by Southern slave-hunters and his manipulative uncle (John) to lure runaways back to captivity.  One such mission sends him up north to entrap Nate (Scott), a freed slave with a large price on his head. The suspense builds as Will finds a surrogate father in the proud man whom he is compelled to betray.  Eska makes expert use of reenactors, Texas landscapes, and occasional digital effects to create a convincing Civil War background on a tight budget

Director Chris Eska and actor Keston John will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.


Filmmakers in person!

Shorts Program:

Black History--Lost and Found

2011-2013, Various directors, USA, 76 min.

Monday, August 26, 6:15 pm

Five thought-provoking films with historical themes:  American myth and history loom over a young black rodeo performer’s dreams of making it to the big time in the evocative documentary THE ROPER (2012, Ewan McNicol and Anna Sandilands, USA, 6 min.).  In the moving family drama THE DATE (2013, Vera J. Brooks, USA, 10 min.),  a romantic meeting is interrupted on a fateful date: April 4, 1968.  WASTEISM (2013, Marcus Moreno, USA, 12 min.) gives a “Twilight Zone” twist to a biting parable of rabid racism.  Suspense and sacrifice mark OUR RHINELAND (2011, Faren Humes, USA, 16 min.), an unusual drama of two sisters resisting Nazi Germany’s policy of sterilizing mixed-race citizens. MOUND BAYOU: JEWEL OF THE DELTA (2012, Jon Ross and John H. Rogers III, USA, 32 min.) tells the fascinating history of a once-thriving Mississippi town founded by former slaves. 

Co-directors Jon Ross and John H. Rogers III (MOUND BAYOU) anddirector Marcus Moreno (WASTEISM) will be present for audience discussion.


Dion Strowhorn Sr. in person!

Shorts Program:

Black Noir

2012-2013, Various directors, USA/UK, 92 min.

Tuesday, August 13, 8:30 pm

Monday, August 19, 8:00 pm

Five films take a walk on the dark side:  In JUNIOR (2012, JeffreyElmont, USA, 11 min.), an ordinary coffee-shop meeting between fatherand son takes a harrowing turn.   A posh country estate conceals the shady dealings of a wealthy Nigerian-British family in 4-1-9 (2012, Alexander Etseyatse, UK, 16 min.).  CHAPTER ONE (2012, Tony Tambi, USA, 19 min.) gives an interracial twist to a classic noir set-up ofadultery and murder.  A Somalian-born prostitute receives an unexpected visit in the Georgia-set drama SWEET, SWEET COUNTRY (2013, Dehanza Rogers, USA, 18 min.).  In the Chicago-set OVER THE EDGE (2013, Dion Strowhorn Sr., USA, 28 min.), there’s more than meets the eye to the tragic romance that a recently released mental patient is struggling to overcome.

Director Dion Strowhorn Sr. (OVER THE EDGE) will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.

Ali Kamanda in person!

Shorts Program:

International Visions

2011-13, Various directors, USA/UK, 77 min.

Monday, August 5, 6:15 pm

In Ali Kamanda’s SALAY (2011, Sierra Leone, 44 min.), a bright, pretty village girl, the apple of her widowed father’s eye, naively accepts a shady uncle’s offer of help in order to pursue her dream.  Preceded by two shorts:  Kibwe Tavares’s Sundance festival favorite JONAH (2013, UK, 18 min.), is a magic-realist impression of Zanzibar composed through eye-popping special effects.  In Shaun Escayg’s FISH (2012, Trinidad and Tobago, 15 min.), two homeless cousins run afoul of the underworld while plying their trade as pickpockets in a Port-of-Spain market

Director Ali Kamanda (SALAY ) will be present for audience discussion


Filmmakers in person!

Shorts Program:

Love African American Style

2012-13, Various directors, USA, 86 min.

Friday, August 16, 6:15 pm,

Thursday, August 22, 8:15 pm

Love is funny, love is soulful, and love is challenging in this evocative program in which emotions of the heart can provoke a tender kiss or a spiteful spat.  Films include: ME by Adolfo R. Mora (2013, 4 min.); PROSPECT by Derrick Perry (2012, 12 min.); TEXT TONE by Sandrel “Sanicole” Young (2013, 13 min.); FAUX PAS by Raphael Nash (2013, 21 min.); SOUL MATES by Reginald T. Jackson (2013, 27 min.); and THE SILENT TREATMENT by Martine Jean (2012, 9 min.). 

Directors Derrick Perry (PROSPECT) and Sandrel Young (TEXT TONE) are tentatively scheduled to be present for audience discussion at both screenings.


Jared Katsiane in person!

Shorts Program:

We Are Family

2012-13, Various directors, USA/Canada, 85 min.

Sunday, August 25, 3:00 pm

Tuesday, August 27, 6:15 pm

In this heart-warming program, six directors explore how to be one with your family in good times and trying times while staying true to yourself.  Films include: CLEAN TEETH WEDNESDAYS by Catherine Bruhier (2012, 8 min.); DUST by Shane Book (2013, 9 min.); BIG WILLOW by Jared Katsiane (2013, 11 min.); A DIFFERENT TREE by Steven Caple, Jr. (2013, 15 min); BUSTED ON BRIGHAM LANE by Talibah Newman (2012, 20 min.); and BARBASOL by Ralph K. Scott (2012, 22 min.). 

Director Jared Katsiane (BIG WILLOW) is tentatively scheduled to bepresent for audience discussion at both screenings.


Vandon N. Gibbs in person!


2013, Vandon N. Gibbs, USA, 76 min.

With Dupree Lewis Jr., Dixie Light

Wednesday, August 14, 6:15 pm

Thursday, August 15, 8:45 pm

Director Gibbs, whose first feature COMPLEXION played in the 2009 BHFF, turns a withering eye on a largely corrupt, largely white world in this superbly scripted and acted chamber-noir in which three seemingly unrelated plotlines snap together with the finality of a steel trap.  The ingredients: a nervous white lawyer, an intimidating black hustler, an enigmatic bargain, an adulterous politician, his suspicious wife, a woman tied to a chair, and a hired killer.  Winner for “Best Feature Film: Drama” at Cinequest. 

Director Vandon N. Gibbs will be present for audience discussion at both screenings.



2012, Charles Murray, USA, 112 min.

With Shanola Hampton, Elimu Nelson

Tuesday, August 6, 8:15 pm

Wednesday, August 7, 6:15 pm

A young poet searches for her true voice and the steely confidence to make it heard in this romantic drama that explores love, ego, and the elusive muse.  Kalindra, a regular at open-mic nights at a Los Angeles poetry club, struggles with stage fright, the disapproval of an angry husband, and the wavering support of her fickle best friend.  New York beckons as the platform for a new start, but not before Kal’s resolve undergoes a trial by fire, and the advent of new love alters the way she looks at the world through her art. 

 These screenings of THINGS NEVER SAID are dedicated to the memory of Terry Glover (1955-2012), Chicago-based Ebony magazine managing editor and writer, who participated in the founding of the “Black Harvest Film Festival.”  Kendall Glover, Ms. Glover’s husband, will speak before the Tuesday screening