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Black Arts Festival: A Salute to Independent Filmmakers

The Black Arts Festival has been an integral part of the Harvard tradition for many years. Its mission is to bring renowned and aspiring artists together with enthusiasts and academics in a setting conducive to intellectual discourse on the contributions and uniqueness of Black artistic traditions. This year’s festival will run from Friday March 16 through Sunday March 18 and will include a performing arts show, a visual arts showcase, a jazz concert, and African American theater. The Black Arts Festival would like to thank the following for their support: John Gianvito of Harvard Film Archive, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Screen Gems, Edmonds Entertainment, and Kino Distribution.

March 16 (Friday) 7 pm
March 20 (Tuesday) 9 pm
March 21 (Wednesday) 8:30 pm

Boseman and Lena

Directed by John Berry
South Africa 2000, 35mm, color, 88 min.
With Danny Glover, Angela Bassett, Willie Jonah

Acclaimed South African playwright and activist Athol Fugard collaborated with director John Berry on this extraordinary and truly cinematic adaptation of Fugard’s classic play. Evicted from their shantytown, a South African couple (Glover and Bassett, in outstanding performances) treks the dusty roads outside Cape Town in search of a better existence. They piece together a makeshift dwelling on a squalid patch of wasteland and continue the verbal and physical abuse that defines their relationship. The arrival of a Xhosa tribesman pits Boesman’s stinginess against Lena’s compassion, tipping the balance of their love-hate relationship and ultimately changing their lives.

A Beckett-like study of the anxieties of human existence, the film, on another level, is a powerful indictment of the rootlessness and loss of dignity brought on by apartheid. Berry, a victim of the Hollywood blacklist, died tragically within days of completing the production; Boesman and Lena stands as a magnificent testament to his artistry and political commitment.

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March 16 (Friday) 9:30 pm

The Visit

Directed by Jordan Walker-Pearlman
US 2000, 35mm, color, 126 min.
With Hill Harper, Rae Dawn Chong, Billy Dee Williams

Inspired by the true story of a man sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for a crime he insists he has not committed, The Visit is a powerful drama about family relations and personal redemption. As the prisoner (Harper) comes to terms with his situation, friends and members of his family––including Billy Dee Williams and Marla Gibbs as his parents and Rae Dawn Chong as his childhood sweetheart––comb through the past for answers to their common dilemma. The film won the Freedom of Expression citation from the National Board of Review and an emerging artist award for its star at the Chicago International Film Festival.

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March 17 (Saturday) 4 pm

Short Film Program

The Harvard University Black Arts Festival salutes independent filmmakers with a screening of 2000’s most popular and award-winning short films. These shorts have received acclaim at film festivals across the world, including the prestigious Cannes, Sundance, and Urbanworld programs. Often experi-mental, they deal with the idiosyncrasies of black experiences, undefiled by the pretenses of mainstream filmmaking. From romance to rap, these films expose the heterogeneity of the black artistic tradition.

March 17 (Saturday) 7 pm
Director Patrik-Ian Polk in Person


Directed by Patrik-Ian Polk
US 2000, 35mm, color, 103 min.
With Seth Gilliam, Rockmond Dunbar, Vanessa Williams

First-time director Patrik-Ian Polk’s over-the-top romantic comedy has won raves for its exploration of the inside vibe of the African-American gay male community. Opening with a not-to-be missed critique of the sexiest gangsta rappers on the planet, Polk’s insightful film follows the lives of four twenty-something friends struggling to find love and happiness in contemporary West Hollywood. This close-knit group of best friends tackles the pain of breakups, the sting of substance abuse, and, of course, the pleasures of sex. Buoyed by a bouncy sound track filled with R&B classics and house anthems, and with a cast that exudes a youthful, talk-to-the-hand exuberance, Punks is an exhilaratingly funny and emotionally compelling exploration of the vast tapestry of sexual connections.

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March 18 (Sunday) 4 pm

The Brothers

Directed by Gary Hardwick
US 2001, 35mm, color, 106 min.
With Morris Chestnut, Bill Bellamy, D. L. Hughley

Dubbed "Refusing to Exhale" by director Gary Hardwick, The Brothers follows the hilarious path of four African-American men as they take on love, sex, friendship, and two of life’s most terrifying prospects—commitment and honesty. Smart, successful, and sexy, Jackson Smith (Chestnut), Brian Palmer (Bellamy), Derrick West (Hughley), and Terry White (Shemar Moore) are "The Brothers"—lifelong friends banded together to weather love’s innate terrors and occasional triumphs in this brazenly comic yet painfully truthful exploration of the battle between the sexes. Amidst career-track machinations, basketball, and bar hopping, "The Brothers" love women—as many as possible—but eventually must face a shocking revelation that tests their friendship and changes their dating habits forever.

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