Everything You Need to Know About Chicago’s Black Harvest Film Festival

An 8mm camera for adventurous filmmakers.
An 8mm camera for adventurous filmmakers. | © SPDP / Flickr
Sarah Ashley

The Black Harvest Film Festival kicks off its 24th year at the Gene Siskel Film Center in downtown Chicago.

As the Midwest’s oldest and largest film festival devoted to movies by black artists about the black experience, the Black Harvest Film Festival attracts and celebrates storytellers.

The independent filmmakers taking part come from a range of skill levels and backgrounds. The annual event is an incredible opportunity to enjoy work from artists experimenting with story, form, and genre to find their voices, and accomplished filmmakers doing what they do best.

In addition to the films themselves, some of the most attended experiences are the interviews and panel discussions that follow. Directors, writers, producers, and actors featured on screen and in the credits participate in these conversations, answering questions about their processes and goals.

Opening night’s shorts series could be the fest’s hottest ticket (it completely sold out this year). Titled A Black Harvest Feast, the series featured four short films totaling 70 minutes. Following the screenings, three of the four directors were present at the evening’s reception, including Sanicole, an up-and-coming black female filmmaker who studied film at Columbia College Chicago. Her short, Training Wheels, based on her relationship with her father, was set in and filmed around Chicago.

Other films set in Chicago include Logan Hall’s Animator, a science-fiction drama, and David Weathersby’s documentary The Color of Art, an exploration of the Chicago art scene and the space that artists of color take up within it.

At a time when it’s more crucial than ever for narratives to be written and performed by those who have lived them, the Black Harvest Film Festival hones in on African-American and black African storytellers exploring personal histories and the African diaspora.

DeRon Powell, a Chicago actor who recently relocated to Los Angeles and stars in Training Wheels, stated that representation is his favorite aspect of the festival.

“Somewhere in that audience will be a young black child with aspirations of being in this industry,” Powell said. “This festival makes it all so tangible to them or anyone that shares that dream.”

The Gene Siskel Film Center on State Street in downtown Chicago hosts the Black Harvest Film Festival.

That the festival takes place in Chicago is equally significant. Audiences will see the city’s neighborhoods, which are just a short drive from the Gene Siskel Film Center. The sidewalks, homes, and train stations on the city’s South and West Sides are featured in several of the films. Just as growing up in Bronzeville and Englewood influenced National Youth Poet Laureate Patricia Frazier’s work, these places inspired Chicago artists to turn their own stories into films.

“Chicago is one of the most beautiful cities in the world … the landscape itself tells a story,” Powell added. “I think the audience is going to love [Sanicole’s] vision and this finished product.”

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Edit article