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Black Harvest International Festival of Film and Video

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This festival of films and videos by black artists from around the world continues Friday through Thursday, August 11 through 17, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson. Tickets are $7, $3 for Film Center members; a festival pass, good for all programs, is $50. For further information, call 312-443-3737.

FRIDAY, AUGUST 11

The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun and Le franc

Senegalese master Djibril Diop Mambety made these two 45-minute films as parts of a triptych called "Tales of Little People" but died of cancer before he could make the third. They're closer to neorealism and less intellectually complex and ambitious than his remarkable features Touki Bouki and Hyenas, but these stories about the urban poor are still pungent, buoyant, and often funny, with wonderful performances by nonprofessionals. Le franc (1994) follows the misadventures of an impoverished musician with a winning lottery ticket, and The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun (1999), described by Mambety as "a hymn to the courage of street children," is a fable about a crippled 12-year-old who sells newspapers in Dakar despite her male competitors' cruel efforts to discourage her. (The title is a pun on the newspaper she sells, Le soleil.) If you're unfamiliar with Mambety, one of the greatest of all African filmmakers, these excellent featurettes may whet your appetite for his stunning features. (JR) (6:00)

Cold Feet

With its music-heavy sound track and slick visuals, this slight romantic comedy (1999) about emotional commitment among black yuppies in New York City seems like a Hollywood resumé for first-time indie director Brian Evans. A real estate broker is preparing to settle down with his fashion designer girlfriend, but his womanizing older brother and her practical older sister, who used to be engaged to one another, each try to thwart the upcoming marriage. Much of the film is a calculated series of skirmishes between the sexes, played alternately for laughs and tears, yet the characters lack any sense of irony and the dialogue is banal except for moments of jivey repartee. 103 min. (TS) Evans will attend the screening. (8:00)

SATURDAY, AUGUST 12

Mortu nega

See Critic's Choice. (4:00)

The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun and Le franc

See listing under Friday, August 11. (6:00)

Three shorts

A "mockumentary" by Mad Matthewz, Groupie (1999, 22 min.) profiles a pouty, brazen young woman (played by Tiffany Adams) who tells the interviewer that she's serviced "34 celebrities, mostly rappers and singers, plus a few football and basketball players." The story is too short and disjointed to properly examine the dangerous allure of fame and nightlife, but the teenager's defiant independence and blithe lack of self-awareness provide some real bite, as does Cliff Charles's gritty cinematography. In The Lush Life (1999, 27 min.), by the same creative team, an alcoholic young novelist (Michael D. Brown in a sincere, angst-ridden performance) struggles to finish his second book, clutching the bottle like a security blanket, to the disgust of his wife and agent. It's a familiar premise, and Matthewz milks it for pathos. Sidra Smith's A Luv Tale (1999, 45 min.), a languid and surprisingly tender story of lesbian love between a magazine editor and a freelance photographer, benefits from the sad-faced Michele Lamar-Richards (The Bodyguard), who plays the ambivalent, middle-aged editor as if she were the most vulnerable creature on earth. With Gina Ravera (Soul Food). (TS) Matthewz and Smith will attend the screening. (8:00)

SUNDAY, AUGUST 13

The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun and Le franc

See listing under Friday, August 11. (3:00)

Chief! and Seeing Haiti Through "Lafanmi Selavi"

Lafanmi Selavi ("the family is life") is the name of a center for street kids in Haiti founded in 1986 by Jean-Bertrand Aristide. The children in Lee Flynn and Caitlin Manning's 56-minute video documentary are inspiring in their sincerity as they tell of their terrible pasts (one lost her family to a shipwreck and was homeless for weeks) and hopes for the future ("I believe evil will end"). The imagery is a bit slick, with arty superimpositions and sections edited to music; the filmmakers focus on the positive, interviewing Aristide and reporting what the kids are doing today, but also detail the many attacks on the center by Aristide's political opponents, including a deadly arson. Jean-Marie Teno's Chief! (1999), a 61-minute video transferred to 16-millimeter film, originated when Teno discovered and taped a crowd in Cameroon that was viciously beating a 16-year-old thief. What follows is a first-person inquiry into the state of affairs in the African republic, where justice is for sale, a newspaper editor is wrongly jailed, and the prison conditions are horrendous. (FC) Flynn will attend the screening. (5:00)

TUESDAY, AUGUST 15

The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun and Le franc

See listing under Friday, August 11. (7:00)

THURSDAY, AUGUST 17

Mortu nega

See Critic's Choice. (6:00)

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