This festival of work by black artists from around the world runs Friday, August 3, through Thursday, August 30, 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 3 through 9; a complete festival schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.
And Then Came Love Tailored for Vanessa Williams, this video has a contemporary subject (resolutely single mothers) but feels more like Doris Day's farcical 60s comedies about independent career women who remain unfulfilled until they meet Mr. Right. Williams plays an unwed Manhattan journalist and author whose son's behavioral problems prompt her to locate the sperm donor who's his biological father. Dad turns out to be a young, struggling actor (Kevin Daniels) who soon comes between Williams and her lover (Michael Boatman). Director Richard Schenkman creates a subtext promoting traditional nuclear African-American families, yet oddly the heroine has no black friends. With Eartha Kitt and Ben Vereen. 99 min. (AG) a Thu 8/9, 8:15 PM.
A Black Harvest Feast Screening as the festival's opening-night program, these short films are more likely to produce heartburn than satisfaction, but there are some enjoyable items. Andre Royo's Big Scene (2004), directed by Christopher Scott Cherot, is an amusing true-life account of a bit actor's unnerving on-set encounter with an egomaniacal star. Deron Albright's engaging rotoscoped animation The Legend of Black Tom (2005) is based on the life of Tom Molineaux, one of boxing's earliest black heavyweight champions. Kujo, My Love features a silly romantic encounter between two vain hotties, while Rogelio Mitchell Jr.'s For the Best (2006) is a maudlin father-son tale set in a pool hall. Scraping the bottom of the barrel is Trey Haley's Homeless Destiny, a plea for compassion in which a histrionic homeless woman casts misfortune on those who ignore her demands. 80 min. (Reece Pendleton) A reception will follow the screening. a Fri 8/3, 7:30 PM.
Carmen & Geoffrey Linda Atkinson and Nick Doob's 2004 documentary lovingly profiles Geoffrey Holder and Carmen De Lavallade, iconic figures in the world of dance and theater who've been spouses and professional partners for more than half a century. (They met while performing in the 1954 Truman Capote/Harold Arlen/Peter Brook musical House of Flowers.) Clips show them working both together and separately over the years, sometimes alongside such artists as Alvin Ailey and Josephine Baker; there are also scenes from The Wiz, Holder's Broadway hit as a director-designer. Still active well into their 70s, the elegant De Lavallade and flamboyant, deep-voiced Holder hold forth in settings that range from the streets of Paris and New York to the beaches of Holder's native Trinidad. 79 min. (Albert Williams) a Mon 8/6 and Wed 8/8, 6:30 PM.
E.S.P. This 2006 video comedy by Adedapo Akisanya may be short on budget and technique, but its concept is refreshingly original. Fired from his job, a Chicago car salesman (B.K. Battle, both likable and credible) is egged on by his materialistic, unfaithful wife (Monica Williams) to pass himself off as an African telephone psychic. His transition from hustling cars to hustling callers is so successful he has to hire additional "psychics" to meet consumer demand, and one of them, a pretty coed (Yvette Thompson), catches his eye. Shaky camerawork and indifferent lighting distract from mostly sincere performances, while poor sound recording and mixing render some lines unintelligible. Yet thanks to Battle the story's moral about taking responsibility for one's own mistakes goes down easily enough. 89 min. (AG) Akisanya will attend the screenings. a Sun 8/5, 5 PM, and Tue 8/7, 8:15 PM.
La Rebelle A rich Haitian teen (Nathalie Ambroise), bored by her untroubled life of leisure, falls in with a clique of troublemaking dilettantes who only want her money; when her widowed father falls in love with a white business associate, the resentful daughter lashes out, accelerating her predictable descent. Sacha Parisot's formulaic coming-of-age story (2006) offers few surprises other than the jarring reminder that Haiti has a fabulously wealthy overclass; the only hint otherwise is two servants supplying comic relief. Fine performances from the ensemble cast boost this otherwise tepid video drama. In French with subtitles. 93 min. (Reece Pendleton) a Mon 8/6, 8:15 PM, and Thu 8/9, 6:15 PM.
Chicago Connected 94 min. a Wed 8/8, 8:15 PM.
Hurricane in a Rose Garden 87 min. a Sat 8/4, 6 PM, and Tue 8/7, 6:30 PM.
Mr. Untouchable 91 min. a Sat 8/4, 8:30 PM.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Carmen & Geoffrey.