This festival of work by black artists from around the world continues Friday, August 10, 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 10 through 16; a complete festival schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.
Fassytails Director Roxxy Cooley adapted her own stage play for this video about generations of a Chicago family plagued by unwanted teen pregnancies. The story starts out on a light note, with a 12-year-old innocent (Toya Turner) watched over by a family housekeeper (Cooley) who's a relentless scold about boys. Both actresses play their parts so broadly, though, that they don't mesh with the more naturalistic performers, and as a result the transition from comedy to tragedy is jarring. Cooley's point about the importance of open, informed communication is unassailable, but it would have been better made with more focused action and less rambling dialogue. The sound recording is uneven, lens flares distract, and there's no excuse for leaving in a shot in which someone knocks the camera. 120 min. (AG) Cooley and members of the cast and crew will attend both screenings. a Sun 8/12, 5 PM, and Tue 8/14, 8 PM.
RHave You Heard From Johannesburg? The title refers to Connie Field's ambitious six-part documentary series chronicling the history of apartheid; screening is part four, "Apartheid and the Club of the West" (2006), a solid, straightforward account of U.S. policy toward South Africa. Field traces the U.S. antiapartheid movement from its origins among black politicians and activists in the 70s through the massive demonstrations for divestiture that swept college campuses during the 80s, ending with the congressional repudiation of President Reagan's odious "constructive engagement" policy. The grassroots success is inspiring, though many of this story's congressional heroes (including Ron Dellums and Howard Wolpe) have since retired, leaving a political laggard like Senator Richard Lugar to reprise his shabby morality in the current Iraq debacle. 87 min. (Reece Pendleton) a Tue 8/14, 6:15 PM.
The Last Days of Left Eye Produced by VH1, this 2006 video documentary uses footage shot for a planned autobiographical documentary about Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, the brash MC for the hugely successful R & B trio TLC. This source material was recorded during a monthlong stay in Honduras, but a few days before the trip ended, Lopes was killed in a freak auto accident. The interviews show her trying to come clean about her strained relationship with her bandmates and her tempestuous personal life (including the 1994 incident in which she torched the mansion of her boyfriend, NFL star Andre Rison). Director Lauren Lazin makes no effort to include differing perspectives, but Lopes's candor and optimism make this a poignant self-portrait. 87 min. (Peter Margasak) a Fri 8/10, 8:30 PM, and Thu 8/16, 6:15 PM.
Love and Other 4 Letter Words Tangi Miller (Madea's Family Reunion) cowrote, produced, and stars in this blatantly predictable comedy. A Chicago TV personality tries to appease her dying grandmother in Alabama by pretending to be engaged; after rallying miraculously, grandma dispatches the TV star's geeky childhood pal, now grown into a handsome minister, to check out the new fiance. It's all about as convincing as some of the LA locations that double for Chicago (one backyard is graced by palm trees). Steven Ayromlooi directed. 86 min. (AG) Miller will attend the Saturday screening. a Sat 8/11, 8:30 PM, and Wed 8/15, 8:15 PM.
Sarbane's Oxley An ambitious young attorney (Shane Taylor) trades away his personal integrity to clamber up the corporate ladder in this tepid thriller (2006) from the template of Oliver Stone's Wall Street. Attempting to leverage his future position in a growing technology start-up, the attorney feeds inside information to a business rival who's scheming to take over the company and soon discovers he's in way over his head. Director-cowriter Ramcess Jean-Louis struggles to find the right tone, lurching from suspense to moralizing drama and inexplicably tossing in some wildly off-the-mark office comedy. The title refers to the 2002 federal law designed to reduce corporate fraud. 90 min. (Reece Pendleton) a Fri 8/10, 6:30 PM, and Thu 8/16, 8:15 PM.
RSistagod The barest thread of a narrative connects the many lush and disturbing images in this 2006 experimental HD video from Ghanaian-born Yao Ramesar. A broken white veteran of the Persian Gulf war is mysteriously washed ashore on a Caribbean island, where he falls in love and fathers a child with his black nurse. When their daughter turns 18, she's possessed by a supernatural force and becomes a catalyst for the apocalypse. Shot in Trinidad and Tobago, this is visually stunning: some compositions recall the cool, organic shapes of Edward Weston photographs, others the sinister glamour of a Helmut Newton fashion spread. The most mesmerizing sequence comes near the end, when costumed dancers evoking myriad tribes from Africa to North America gyrate in a psychedelic frenzy toward doom. 72 min. (AG) a Mon 8/13, 8:15 PM, and Wed 8/15, 6:30 PM.
Sisters of Selma This PBS documentary by Jayasri Hart focuses on the role of Catholic nuns, both white and black, in the Selma-to-Montgomery voting-rights marches of 1965. Hart rounds up a handful of these old women to watch and comment on news footage of those dark days; their narrative culminates in the familiar images of Bloody Sunday, when police beat and gassed marchers at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the triumphant march to Montgomery two weeks later. That story may not need retelling, but an interesting coda focuses on longtime Selma mayor Joe Smitherman ("the white . . . male . . . leadership," as one nun remembers him with disgust) and his 2000 electoral defeat to James Perkins Jr., who became the city's first black mayor. 57 min. (JJ) a Sat 8/11, 3:30 PM.
Black History: Lost and Found 102 min. a Mon 8/13, 6:15 PM.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Sistagod.