Presented by the Gene Siskel Film Center, the Black Harvest festival showcases films and videos by black artists from around the world, with screenings continuing through Thursday, September 2. Following are reviews of selected films screening from Friday, August 20, through Thursday, August 26; for more information and a complete schedule see siskelfilmcenter.org.
Inside a Change Like Spike Lee's 25th Hour, this thoughtful urban drama follows a young New Yorker (Ephraim Benton) during his final day of freedom before going to jail for dealing dope. He's torn between the father-figure drug kingpin who bankrolled him, the girlfriend who feels she deserves better, and his hardworking single mother, who's in danger of losing the family home in Queens. His two brothers—the elder sadder and wiser, the younger callow and impulsive—correspond to the warring sides of the protagonist's own personality as he considers going straight. Director Rik Cordrero (who's done music videos for Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, and Busta Rhymes) chooses substance over flash, focusing on behavior and motivation rather than the gunplay of most stories about street life. The resulting impact lingers. 88 min. —Andrea Gronvall Mon 8/23, 6:30 PM, and Thu 8/26, 8:15 PM.
Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child Tamra Davis's documentary on the first African-American to become an international art star centers on interview footage she shot of him in the 80s, around which she weaves the narrative of Basquiat's life without offering much insight into his art. A teenage runaway, he was a homeless graffiti artist in Manhattan in his late teens, but after a few years his lively and energetic compositions attracted the attention of the art world. His ascent was rapid, and he and Andy Warhol became best friends and did a show together. In the interview, a charmingly self-effacing Basquiat displays a winning smile; perhaps no one could explain what drove him, or his 1988 death from a heroin overdose at 27, but we do learn of his alienation from his family. 88 min. —Fred Camper Fri 8/20, 6:30 PM.
Neshoba: The Price of Freedom Revisiting the murders of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, who arrived in Neshoba County, Mississippi, in the summer of 1964 to register black voters, documentary filmmakers Micki Dickoff and Tony Pagano reveal that there's been little retribution for the tragic events that transpired more than 45 years ago. Dickoff and Pagano traveled to Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 2004 when 80-year-old klansman Edgar Ray Killen—the only person among the group responsible for the killings ever to stand trial—was finally indicted. The filmmakers incorporate fascinating archival footage with interviews that include surviving family members of the murder victims. But the most riveting interview subject is the unrepentant Killen, who granted the filmmakers surprisingly broad access to his personal life. 86 min. —Joshua Katzman Sun 8/22, 5:15 PM, and Mon 8/23, 8:15 PM.