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Black Harvest International Festival of Film and Video

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This festival of work by black artists from around the world runs Friday, August 5, through Wednesday, August 31, at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State. Unless otherwise noted, tickets are $9, $5 for Film Center members; for more information call 312-846-2800. Following is the schedule for August 5 through 11; a complete festival schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.

Al'leessi...an African Actress

Zalika Souley, Niger's first female movie star, is the focus of this 2004 documentary, a study of the rise and decline of the West African nation's independent cinema. Director Rahmatou Keita tracks Souley's career from her breakthrough in a western through the femme fatale roles that led to her being rejected by conservative Muslim audiences, who equated her with her characters. Souley was eventually forced to retire; now in her 50s and the mother of four children, she's all but forgotten. In French, Songhoy, Hausa, and Zarma with subtitles. 69 min. Also on the program: Marie-Francoise Theodore's 13-minute short Rebel in the Soul. Both will be screened in Beta SP. (AG) (Sat 8/6, 5:30 PM; Tue 8/9, 6 PM)

RBeat the Drum

Like Alexander McKendrick's A Boy Ten Feet Tall (1963), this moving 2003 coming-of-age story follows an orphan who sets off alone across Africa in search of a relative living in the big city. After seeing his family decimated by a "curse" no shaman can lift, an eight-year-old Zulu (Junior Singo) heads for Johannesburg as AIDS sweeps the countryside, its spread abetted by ignorance and indifference. Cinematographer Lance Gewer's wide-screen visuals are a knockout, and the impressive cast delivers; David Hickson directed. In English and subtitled Zulu. 113 min. (AG) (Fri 8/5, 6 PM; Tue 8/9, 7:45 PM)

Black Aura on an Angel

In this first feature by former Chicagoan Faith Trimel, the healthy and successful Angel starts an affair with the overbearing, possessive, and mentally unstable Phaedra (a creepily convincing performance by Sherry Richardson). Trimel, who plays Angel and wrote the script and music, creates genuine psychological and sexual intensity with tight close-ups, rapid editing, sensuous performances, and lots of dissolves--the characters' intimacy is almost palpable. But she has Angel ignore the advice of a psychic friend and other obvious warning signs, and by the end this 2004 digital video becomes a bit too predictable. Trimel will attend the screening. 65 min. (FC) (Sat 8/6, 8 PM; Wed 8/10, 6:30 PM)

Only in America

While the premise of this Beta SP video isn't bad, director David DeCrane's clumsy execution renders it an unfunny mess. Pascal Atuma (who also wrote and coproduced) stars as Mandela, a Nigerian immigrant who's become a wealthy drug dealer and is married to the sexy but sleazy Diamond (Tanjareen Martin). He's told his parents that he's a successful attorney, so when they announce their plans for an extended stay at his nice house in suburban Dallas, he desperately seeks a way to maintain the facade. If Atuma and DeCrane's intention was to create a menagerie of selfish, conniving rogues they succeeded: everyone's so scuzzy you might feel like showering afterward. 75 min. (JK) (Fri 8/5, 8:15 PM; Mon 8/8, 6:30 PM)

Shouting Silent

Xoliswa Sithole lost her mother to AIDS when she was in her 20s. Almost a decade later she traveled around her native South Africa, visiting with others who'd lost their mothers, and in many cases their fathers too. As Sithole journeys from one family to another, the scope of the havoc unleashed by HIV on her country becomes agonizingly apparent; at one point she comments on the new family structure that's emerged in Africa, as many orphaned children are raised by their grandparents. What's sorely lacking from Sithole's 2002 video, however, is any mention of the government's ineffectual approach to the epidemic, which has exacerbated the ongoing tragedy. Also on the program: Leon Lozano and Tracy Taylor's 27-minute video Walking on Sunshine (2004), about a young African-American woman's fear that she is HIV positive. (JK) (Mon 8/8, 8 PM; Thu 8/11, 6:30 PM)

Urban Visions

Program of shorts with the theme of city life, among them Walt Brother Walt (13 min.), by Chicagoan Bradford Stevens. Stevens will attend the screening. (Sat 8/6, 3 PM; Thu 8/11, 8:15 PM)

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