26th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival Opens Friday

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center will present its 26th annual Black Harvest Film Festival virtually this November. Beginning Friday, November 6, this year’s festival will offer an engaging, fully-online experience, featuring the Chicago premieres of short and feature-length films, along with virtual filmmaker conversations and panel discussions. Films will premiere via the website, siskelfilmcenter.org, at various dates throughout the month, and will remain available to stream for at least two weeks, with the festival ending with a Closing Night celebration on November 30.

Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and First Lady Amy Eshleman will serve as the honorary co-chairs of the 26th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival, welcoming patrons in an Opening Night video.

“If these past seven months have shown us anything, it’s that, during trying times, we can turn to the arts and storytelling to find meaning and understanding. Events such as the Black Harvest Film Festival are what make Chicago a thriving, multicultural city, and as the honorary co-chairs, we invite you to join us to discover new talent, gain a better understanding of the world, and just simply be entertained,” Lightfoot said in her statement.

The festival will premiere ten feature films; over 30 short films; a program showcasing work from Chicago youth; a workshop and three-panel discussions with industry insiders, including “Who Tells The Story,” “How Art and Film Move Movements,” and “How To Get A Movie Made.” The festival will also feature various “Screen to Screen” virtual conversations with filmmakers and film talent, which will be announced throughout the festival.

On Opening Night (Nov. 6), NBC/5 entertainment reporter LeeAnn Trotter will serve as Master of Ceremonies, presiding over a virtual “parade of filmmakers” and the Chicago premiere of five short films.

On Closing Night (Nov. 30), the Black Harvest Film Festival Legacy Award will be presented to Black Cinema House director and Host of Silent Sunday Nights on Turner Classic Movies, Jacqueline Stewart, recently named Chief Artistic and Programming Officer for The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. This presentation will be followed by a tribute to the late actor Chadwick Boseman and a screening of Mischa Webley’s film, THE KILL HOLE, starring Boseman, which made its Chicago premiere at the Black Harvest Film Festival in 2012, and a (tentative) conversation with the director.

For the third year, the Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Black Harvest Film Festival Prize will be presented to the best short film. This year’s winner, which was chosen by a select jury of six individuals, is filmmaker Nelson Foix’s film TIMOUN AW (YOUR KID), from Martinique. The award will be presented on Friday, November 13 at 6:00pm before the shorts program, “Tales from Other Shores.” 

Now more than ever it is important to support diverse storytelling through film. We congratulate the extraordinary Black Harvest Film Festival and Nelson Foix,” said Ellen and Richard Sandor.

The Illinois Film Office will again be a promotional partner of the Festival. “The Illinois Film Office is proud to once again support the Black Harvest Film Festival – a premier event celebrating the contributions and creativity of Black filmmakers in Illinois and across the country,” said Peter Hawley, Director of the Illinois Film Office. “As the proud home to one of the the leading film production centers in the country, as well as the most diverse crew base in the entire country, the State of Illinois remains committed to supporting opportunities and events like this one that shine a light on films and filmmakers portraying the diversity of all our Illinois communities.”

Panels, workshops, and virtual discussions are free, with the opportunity to donate. Tickets for feature films and shorts film programs will cost $10, with Film Center members only paying $5 per ticket. The Film Center will also be selling Black Harvest Film Festival passes for $50, which will allow patrons to see any 7 features or shorts presentations in the festival; or $100, which allows unlimited access to all festival programs. Film Center members will pay only $30 for the 7-film festival pass.

New this year is Festival merchandise will be available for sale. The items, which include masks, water bottles, hats, coffee mugs, hoodies, and totes– were designed by Black artist Rachel S. Gadson, founder of ILA Creative Studio, LLC, with a percentage of the proceeds benefiting an organization advancing racial justice.

More information and updates about this year’s Black Harvest Film Festival can be found here: https://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/BHFF2020

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