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Chicago Filmmakers Make Their Mark at the Black Harvest Film Festival

For the past 17 years, the Gene Siskel Film Center has hosted the Black Harvest Film Festival which has presented groundbreaking films that detail the black experience. The largest and longest-running festival of its kind in the Midwest, this year’s showcase is being enhanced by a two-month prelude to the festival titled, The Best of The Black Harvest in the Chicago Public Library.

In partnership with the Chicago Public Libraries and The Chicago Community Trust, the Gene Siskel Film Center has selected six films to be screened at five libraries throughout the South and Westside of Chicago. Additionally, all of the films were created by Chicago filmmakers and each library will hold a discussion with the director following the screening.

“We’ve seen a wide variety of demographics showing up. Many adults show up to watch the film and many young people watch the films because they happened to using the Internet at the library during the time the film’s screening,” said Danielle Davis, program coordinator of the series.

As the festival approaches its 18th year, its impressive track record of hosting talented filmmakers is ever-expanding. “Black Harvest has become a launching pad for a lot of careers,” notes Karen Durham, associate director of public relations and marketing for the Gene Siskel Film Center.

Black film has a rich tradition of using art as a platform to discuss pressing social issues. Swimmin’ Lesson, a story journaling the life of a man in a post-Katrina New Orleans, made its debut at the Black Harvest Film Festival. The film was eventually featured at the Cannes Film Festival.

“These are stories that are true and real to many people but you never see it on camera. The festival gives voice to things that are real to the black experience, but never brought to light,” said Davis.

“There are a lot of things people want to sweep under the rug and not talk about. But that’s why I think it’s so necessary to have a black film festival that looks at black independent filmmaking. Hopefully, people can walk away with new insights,” added Durham.

The Black Harvest Film festival runs from Aug. 3 through Aug. 30. Here is the schedule for The Best of Black Harvest Series.