Aug 13, 2007

Black Harvest International Festival of Film, Video, and TV

This festival of work by black artists from around the world continues through Thursday, August 30, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State. Unless otherwise noted, tickets are $9, $5 for Film Center members; for more information call 312-846-2800.


Sarbane's Oxley An ambitious young attorney (Shane Taylor) trades away his personal integrity to clamber up the corporate ladder in this tepid thriller (2006) from the template of Oliver Stone's Wall Street. Attempting to leverage his future position in a growing technology start-up, the attorney feeds inside information to a business rival who's scheming to take over the company and soon discovers he's in way over his head. Director-cowriter Ramcess Jean-Louis struggles to find the right tone, lurching from suspense to moralizing drama and inexplicably tossing in some wildly off-the-mark office comedy. The title refers to the 2002 federal law designed to reduce corporate fraud. 90 min. (Reece Pendleton) --> 6:30 PM.

The Last Days of Left Eye Produced by VH1, this 2006 video documentary uses footage shot for a planned autobiographical documentary about Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, the brash MC for the hugely successful R & B trio TLC. This source material was recorded during a monthlong stay in Honduras, but a few days before the trip ended, Lopes was killed in a freak auto accident. The interviews show her trying to come clean about her strained relationship with her bandmates and her tempestuous personal life (including the 1994 incident in which she torched the mansion of her boyfriend, NFL star Andre Rison). Director Lauren Lazin makes no effort to include differing perspectives, but Lopes's candor and optimism make this a poignant self-portrait. 87 min. (Peter Margasak) --> 8:30 PM.


Sisters of Selma: Bearing Witness for Change This PBS documentary by Jayasri Hart focuses on the role of Catholic nuns, both white and black, in the Selma-to-Montgomery voting-rights marches of 1965. Hart rounds up a handful of these old women to watch and comment on news footage of those dark days; their narrative culminates in the familiar images of Bloody Sunday, when police beat and gassed marchers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the triumphant march to Montgomery two weeks later. That story may not need retelling, but an interesting coda focuses on longtime Selma mayor Joe Smitherman ("the white . . . male . . . leadership," as one nun remembers him with disgust) and his 2000 electoral defeat to James Perkins Jr., who became the city's first black mayor. 57 min. (J.R. Jones) Sister Mary Benet McKinney, who participated in the 1965 voting-rights march on Selma, and Anita Baird, director of the Office for Racial Justice, will attend the screening. --> 3:30 PM.

Love and Other 4 Letter Words Tangi Miller (Madea's Family Reunion) cowrote, produced, and stars in this blatantly predictable comedy. A Chicago TV personality tries to appease her dying grandmother in Alabama by pretending to be engaged; after rallying miraculously, grandma dispatches the TV star's geeky childhood pal, now grown into a handsome minister, to check out the new fiance. It's all about as convincing as some of the LA locations that double for Chicago (one backyard is graced by palm trees). Steven Ayromlooi directed. 86 min. (Andrea Gronvall) Miller will attend the screening. --> 8:30 PM.


Fassytails Director Roxxy Cooley adapted her own stage play for this video about generations of a Chicago family plagued by unwanted teen pregnancies. The story starts out on a light note, with a 12-year-old innocent (Toya Turner) watched over by a family housekeeper (Cooley) who's a relentless scold about boys. Both actresses play their parts so broadly, though, that they don't mesh with the more naturalistic performers, and as a result the transition from comedy to tragedy is jarring. Cooley's point about the importance of open, informed communication is unassailable, but it would have been better made with more focused action and less rambling dialogue. The sound recording is uneven, lens flares distract, and there's no excuse for leaving in a shot in which someone knocks the camera. 120 min. (Andrea Gronvall) Cooley and members of the cast and crew will attend the screening. --> 5 PM.


Black History: Lost and Found Five shorts that explore black history. 102 min. --> 6:15 PM.

R Sistagod The barest thread of a narrative connects the many lush and disturbing images in this 2006 experimental HD video from Ghanaian-born Yao Ramesar. A broken white veteran of the Persian Gulf war is mysteriously washed ashore on a Caribbean island, where he falls in love and fathers a child with his black nurse. When their daughter turns 18, she's possessed by a supernatural force and becomes a catalyst for the apocalypse. Shot in Trinidad and Tobago, this is visually stunning: some compositions recall the cool, organic shapes of Edward Weston photographs, others the sinister glamour of a Helmut Newton fashion spread. The most mesmerizing sequence comes near the end, when costumed dancers evoking myriad tribes from Africa to North America gyrate in a psychedelic frenzy toward doom. 72 min. (Andrea Gronvall) --> 8:15 PM.


R Have You Heard From Johannesburg? The title refers to Connie Field's ambitious six-part documentary series chronicling the history of apartheid; screening is part four, "Apartheid and the Club of the West" (2006), a solid, straightforward account of U.S. policy toward South Africa. Field traces the U.S. antiapartheid movement from its origins among black politicians and activists in the 70s through the massive demonstrations for divestiture that swept college campuses during the 80s, ending with the congressional repudiation of President Reagan's odious "constructive engagement" policy. The grassroots success is inspiring, though many of this story's congressional heroes (including Ron Dellums and Howard Wolpe) have since retired, leaving a political laggard like Senator Richard Lugar to reprise his shabby morality in the current Iraq debacle. 87 min. (Reece Pendleton) --> 6:15 PM.

Fassytails See listing for Sun 8/12. Director Roxxy Cooley and other members of the cast and crew will attend the screening. --> 8:00 PM.


R Sistagod See listing for Mon 8/13 --> 6:30 PM.

Love and Other 4 Letter Words See listing for Sat 8/11 --> 8:15 PM.


The Last Days of Left Eye See listing for Fri 8/10 --> 6:15 PM.

Sarbane's Oxley See listing for Fri 8/10 --> 8:15 PM.


Changing the Odds A black man falls for a white woman in this 2006 comedy video by Willie E. Simmons, Jr. 80 min. Producer-writer-actor Anthony D. Colby will attend the screening. --> 6:00 PM.

Partyline Chris L. Griffin directed this video thriller about a businesswoman who meets a possible murderer through a telephone dating service. 78 min. Griffin, actor Simeon Henderson, and other members of the cast and crew will attend the screening. --> 8:30 PM.


The Rise & Fall of Miss Thang A former child tap-dancing prodigy returns to tap-dancing after years of being an irresponsible party girl. Stacie E. Hawkins directed this local video. 87 min. Hawkins will attend the screening. --> 5:00 PM.


Thomas Sankara: The Upright Man Robin Shuffield directed this French video documentary (2006) about Thomas Sankara, the army officer who became President of Burkina Faso, then Upper Volta, in a 1983 coup d'etat. In English and subtitled French. 52 min. Also on the program: two African-themed short films. --> 6:30 PM.

Being a Man Five shorts about black manhood. 106 min. --> 8:15 PM.


The Minority A black businessman is accused of theft by his white coworkers and forced to reevaluate his racial identity in this satirical video by Dwayne Buckle. 84 min. Buckle will attend the screening. --> 6:15 PM.

The Rise & Fall of Miss Thang See listing for Sun 8/19. Director Stacie E. Hawkins will attend the screening. --> 8:30 PM.


Changing the Odds See listing for Sat 8/18. --> 6:30 PM.

Partyline See listing for Sat 8/18. Director Chris L. Griffin, actor Simeon Henderson, and other members of the cast and crew will attend the screening. --> 8:15 PM.


Being a Woman Seven shorts on black womanhood. 94 min. --> 6:15 PM.

The Minority See listing for Tue 8/21. Director Dwayne Buckle will attend the screening. --> 8:30 PM.


August the First A father who returns to his family after leaving them ten years ago to start a second family in Nigeria. Lanre Olabisi directed. 81 min. Olabisi will attend the screening. --> 6 PM.


Banished Directed by Marco Williams, this video chronicles the forced exodus of black residents from southern towns between the Civil War and the Great Depression. 88 min. Williams will attend the screening. --> 6 PM.

Family Values Two orphaned brothers struggle with their identities in this 2006 video drama by local artist Derek Dow. 125 min. Dow and other members of the cast and crew will attend the screening. --> 8:30 PM.


Silent Choices Faith Pennick's video documentary explores abortion in the African-American community. 60 min. Pennick will attend the screening. --> 5 PM.


Being a Woman See listing for Thu 8/23 --> 7:45 PM.


Silent Choices See listing for Sun 8/26. --> 8:00 PM.


August the First See listing for Fri 8/24 --> 8:15 PM.


Banished See listing for Sat 8/25. --> 6:00 PM.

Family Values See listing for Sat 8/25. Director Derek Dow and other members of the cast and crew will attend the screening. --> 8:00 PM.

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