This festival of work by black artists from around the world continues Friday through Thursday, August 24 through 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.
RAugust the First In this self-assured debut feature, director Lanre Olabisi comes up with a novel twist on the typical broken home: instead of a black inner-city clan struggling to survive without a father, his comfortable family in suburban New Jersey is thrown for a loop when the patriarch who's abandoned them (D. Rubin Green) returns home after a decade in Africa. Invited back by his younger son (Ian Alsup) for a graduation ceremony, dad encounters hostility from his wife, his mother-in-law, and his other two children. His good manners can't mask a certain sinister aspect, but the other family members are so focused on their own pain that initially they can't fathom the threat he represents. Larry Hillier's restrained 16-millimeter photography underscores the actors' naturalism, with Alsup a standout. 81 min. (AG) Olabisi will attend the Friday screening. a Fri 8/24, 6 PM, and Wed 8/29, 8:15 PM.
Banished Video maker Marco Williams (Two Towns of Jasper) exposes the racial cleansing of the American south, revisiting three towns that violently expelled blacks and redistributed their land to whites in the early 20th century. One black family returns to Forsyth, Georgia, to pore over county records and follow the property deeds back to the theft of their land; two other descendants arrive in Pierce City, Missouri, to shame the local government into exhuming their great-grandfather. Two of the towns--Pierce City and Harrison, Arkansas--were still 97 percent white at the last census, but residents consider themselves generations removed from any crime, and the idea of making financial reparations to the descendants meets with courtly demurrals. 88 min. (JJ) Williams will attend the Saturday screening. a Sat 8/25, 6 PM, and Thu 8/30, 6:15 PM.
Family Values Chicagoan Derek Dow wrote and directed this digital video about two teenage brothers struggling to find their places in life after their mother dies. Living with their older cousin, an alcoholic painter, the brothers each face a personal hurdle; one, a popular athlete, must deal with his confused sexuality, while the other, a charming troublemaker, confronts the consequences of his explosive temper. Dow takes some structural risks with the story, creating a lively pastiche before pulling the narrative threads together into a conventional and less interesting tale of moral uplift. Despite this cop-out and some significant technical limitations (especially in the sound and editing), this is a winning debut; Dow displays a real gift with actors, drawing fresh and natural performances from his excellent cast. 125 min. (Reece Pendleton) Dow and other members of the cast and crew will attend both screenings. a Sat 8/25, 8:30 PM, and Thu 8/30, 8 PM.
RSilent Choices For the most part this video documentary about black Americans' attitudes toward abortion is evenhanded and instructive. Director Faith Pennick traces the history of reproductive rights from the early 20th century, when Margaret Sanger tried to make safe abortions available to poor African-Americans, to the 60s, when the Black Panther Party encouraged women to have large families as a revolutionary act. Pennick's pro-choice agenda becomes more overt as she allots significant screen time to the role of Christian pastoral counselors; in a dialogue with pro-life Reverend Clement Childress, she uses a ticking clock on the soundtrack to emphasize his evasiveness. Her case is made more effectively in interviews with several women who consider their lives immeasurably better because they terminated early pregnancies. 60 min. (AG) Pennick will attend both screenings. a Sun 8/26, 5 PM, and Tue 8/28, 8 PM.
Being a Woman 94 min. a Mon 8/27, 7:45 PM.