Courtesy of The Chicago Way

The movie-going experience has hit a brick wall of redundancy – meaning, Hollywood seems settled in this routine of pumping out the same films with the same plots over and over again. But cinema lovers don’t have to settle for such unimaginative storytelling. Take respite in the Black Harvest Film Festival, a month-long showcase of Black-centric indie films from directors, producers and actors across the creative diasporic community.

The Black Harvest Film Festival, one of the oldest Black film fests in the nation, prides itself on amplifying the voices of Black folk who are otherwise overlooked by mainstream institutions. Based out of Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center, the festival boasts several local favorites this year, including a closing-night (Aug. 31) celebration of the 20th anniversary of Love Jones.

Here are some other indie films with Chicago roots worth checking out this month:

Shorts Program: Made in Chicago I & II

Comprised of riveting submissions by Chicago filmmakers, this year’s shorts program includes mini films shot in the Windy City.

Fearless a collaborative documentary piece where directors J. Cannon, B. Hampton, and Y.J. Hao follow members of the 10,000 Fearless movement, a collective working to end gun and gang violence to create safer communities. The characters met in the 17 minutes spent on the South Side offer a glimpse into the cyclical world of violence and the new questions needing to be asked to break it.

Baracked is a thoughtful and comedic thesis film from artist Jean Williams that forces the main character, an upper-middle class white young man, to reckon with the bigotry he grew up with and whether or not it defines who he is today. A commentary on the “whitelash” the country has incurred since the Obama administration, this piece is a relevant watch that will carry this conversation well beyond the screen.


I – Wednesday, Aug. 16th @ 8:30p

II – Sunday, Aug. 27th @ 5p & Tuesday, Aug. 29th @ 8:30p

The Chicago Way + Blueprint for Bronzeville

Though separate features, the films are being screened back to back. The Chicago Way, by director Donald Washington, explores activists efforts to make Chicago a safer place by following their work in the streets. Partnering with former Ceasefire head Tio Hardiman and social activist Gregg Greer, this film serves as a platform for the many people impacted by gun violence in Chicago, and offers a space to find solutions. Blueprint for Bronzeville, by co-directors Tristan Hanson and Arlen Parsa, focus their documentary lens on the ongoing reclamation efforts happening in the historically Black neighborhood of Bronzeville. In a time where gentrification is moving at breakneck speeds, this film inspires a trip to “Black Metropolis” and hopefully an interest to invest.


Monday, Aug. 28th @ 8p & Wednesday, Aug. 30th @ 8:30p

The Best Thing!

A light-hearted fiction film serving up an array of complicated worlds surrounding and consuming Justin’s Coffee Shop, which was shot on Chicago’s South Side. With many tales to tell, this shop/epicenter of friendships, relationships and secrets provides a romp through the South Side rarely enjoyed on film.


Friday, Aug. 18th @ 8:30p & Tuesday, Aug. 22nd @ 8:15p