Friday, November 3rd, kicked off Gene Siskel Film Center’s 29th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival. The host for opening night was LeeAnn Trotter from NBC 5. Black Harvest will run through November 16th. The festival includes 10 short film programs and 20 feature-length films. This year’s theme is “Revolutionary Visions.”
Opening night was sold out, and the theater opened at 6 p.m. Several early birds were anticipating admittance, including myself. I arrived 45 minutes early. As my immense excitement continued, along with the growing crowd in the corridor, the doors opened. Everyone was checked in and waited until 6:30 p.m. for seating. The event began around 7 p.m.
“It gives you a taste of the spectacular scope of films you can enjoy throughout Black Harvest.”
An animated LeeAnn excitedly tells the audience, “It feels like we’re home!” The Opening Night Feast, as it’s called, presented seven short films, three directed by women, from the Black Harvest official lineup. LeeAnn said: “It gives you a taste of the spectacular scope of films you can enjoy throughout Black Harvest.”
“It was as if Sergio’s dream, a seed firmly planted in our collective hearts, refused to wither. Instead, it took root, blossoming.”
But, the mood swiftly changed as LeeAnn acknowledged the passing of Sergio Mims (the founder of the festival). She led the audience in a brief moment of silence for Sergio. Black Harvest Lead Curator Jada-Amina Harvey, also said a few words about Sergio. “When he transitioned a month before Black Harvest last year our community stood at the pessimism of uncertainty. The very essence of the festival hung in the balance.” Jada-Amina continued: “Yet what transferred was nothing short of remarkable. It was as if Sergio’s dream – a seed firmly planted in our collective hearts – refused to wither. Instead, it took root, blossoming.”
“Black Harvest is truly the jewel in the crown of the Gene Siskel Film Center.”
After Jada-Amina’s speech, LeeAnn introduced a video of Ellen Sandor (the chair of the Gene Siskel Film Center’s philanthropic council), and her husband Richard Sandor. Ellen said that: “Black Harvest is truly the jewel in the crown of the Gene Siskel Film Center.”
The Sandors introduced the presenters of the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Black Harvest Film Festival Prize.
The awards were given to a filmmaker of one short Joseph Douglas Elmhirst’s Burnt Milk. And to a filmmaker of one feature, Katherine Simóne Reynolds’ A Different Kind of Tender. The presenters, Maya S. Cade and Paige Taul were from the Black Harvest Film Festival Jury.
After the speeches and announcements, it was time to watch the shorts. The short films – all released in 2023 – were: Tiktok Challenged by Ivan Rome, Salone Love by Tajana B. Williams, Six Winters Gone Still by Justine Emeka, Gaps by Jenn Shaw, A Mind of Its Own by C.C. Randle, For the Crib by Lawrence Agyei, and Burnt Milk by Joseph Douglas Elmhirst. Six of the seven short films were from the U.S. Burnt Milk is from Jamaica.
While watching the shorts, I noticed collective laughter, gasps, and silent enthrallment. It really felt like we were home.
The Gene Siskel Film Center thanks this year’s sponsors for the BHFF. Presenting sponsor: Gilead. Producing sponsors: Allstate and Gallagher. Celebrity sponsor: BMO Wealth Management. Foundation and government support: Illinois Arts Council Agency, Art Works., National Endowment for the Arts, The Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Foundation, and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events (DCASE). Media sponsors: NBC 5 Chicago and WTTW Chicago. Hospitality sponsors: The Godfrey Hotel Chicago, theWit, and StayPineapple. Media partners: Chicago Reader and The Bulletin. Special thanks to Chaz Ebert and Eleva Singleton.
© Stephanie A. Taylor (11/7/23) — Special for FF2 Media ®
LEARN MORE/DO MORE
Find out more information on the Black Harvest Film Festival for tickets and passes.
Read my article on Jada-Amina Harvey and find out more on Black Harvest.
Follow this link to the Betye Saar: Ready to Be a Warrior website
CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured Photo: LeeAnn Trotter of NBC 5 welcomes the crowd. Photo Credit: Stephanie A. Taylor (11/3/23) Authorized for responsible use as long as a link to this post is included in the credit line.
Bottom Photo: Betye Saar is the subject of Betye Saar: Ready to Be a Warrior, a new documentary by Angela Robinson Witherspoon which will screen at the Siskel on Friday November 10th. Photo Credit: Abdul Malik Abbott. Used with permission. All Rights Reserved.