The annual Harvard Black Arts Festival presents on a range of visual and performing arts programs that focus on the contribution of Black artists. This year’s film component features work by a new generation of emerging makers working both here and abroad.
March 1 (Friday) 7 pm
Directed by Brin Hill
US 2001, 35mm, color, 17 min.
Brooklynite Devon spends his time hustling with friends to make ends meet, but a rare ability for insight sets him apart from his peers and forms the basis for his unlikely relationship with Tawney—a girl who can get down in the neighborhood but has aspirations to an existence outside her man’s limited universe. NYU-trained director Hill has won numerous awards for his short work.
Directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade
US 2000, 35mm, color, 88 min.
On May 7, 2000, at a Ramada Inn in Jacksonville, Florida, 65-year-old Mary Ann Stephens was shot in the head before her husband’s eyes. Arrested two and a half hours later after being identified by the victim’s husband, 15-year-old Brenton Butler signed a confession. The investigators, the media, and the public are ready to sentence Brenton Butler before he even gets to trial—but not Patrick McGuinness and Ann E. Finnell, the public defenders assigned to represent him. The lawyers uncover startling evidence that raises doubts about the entire police investigation. This real-life courtroom drama raises disturbing questions about race and the American justice system.
Director and Vanessa Middleton and Actor Kadeem Hardison in person
March 1 (Friday) 9:15 pm
Director by Vanessa Middleton
US 2001, 35mm, color, 110 min.
With Melissa De Sousa, Kadeem Hardison
This ensemble comedy follows the lives of a group of friends facing the emotional crisis that comes with turning thirty. The directorial debut of television writer Middleson, 30 Years to Live uses humor to probe the inner turmoil experienced by these successful urban African-American Gen-Xers as they confront the specter of adulthood and the grownup responsibilities of marriage, children and career. The set of intersecting narratives includes the romantic misadventures of Natalie (De Sousa), who seeks security in a relationship with a handsome black physician (Hardison), and the parallel journeys of her friends: an investment banker with a great portfolio but few prospects for companionship, a stand-up comedian whose future is more than a little uncertain, and a real-estate agent fighting a lifelong battle with her weight.
March 2 (Saturday) 5 pm
The special presentation highlights the works of six aspiring African-American filmmakers, winners of the Black Arts Film Festival Student Film Competition, in association with Showtime Networks. The films include Rayce R. Denton’s Flight of the Bumblebee, an exploration of the unlikely union between a thug on the mend and an abused woman; P.J. Johnson’s Marriage and Margaret Cooper, a comedy about infidelity; Marc Dayo Harewood’s Bliss, about a young woman photographer’s attraction to a mysterious graffiti writer; Stephanie L. Jones’s Gabrielle, the story of an unborn soul who is given a glimpse of her future; Alphonzo Wesson’s We Are Not Vanishing, an account of how Dr. Dorothy Height created the Black Family Reunion; and 2000 Showcase grant-winner Niva Dorell’s Milk and Honey, the moving tale of a black soldier and a young Israeli girl in 1952 Texas.
Director Clement Virgo in Person
March 2 (Saturday) 7:15 pm
Directed by Clement Virgo
US 2000, 35mm, color, 99 min.
With Larenz Tate, Martin Cummins, Debra Cox
Love Come Down is the gripping tale of two brothers in their early twenties—one black, one white—who serve as each other’s keepers in the face of personal demons and family trauma. Neville is a struggling, drug-addicted comedian; Matthew an amateur boxer. Friends, lovers, and even a nun with a past, assist the brothers in their journey of self-discovery as they come to understand love in all its forms.
March 2 (Saturday) 9:30 pm
Directed by Rachid Bouchareb
France/Germany/Algeria 2000, 35mm, color, 97 min.
With Sotigui Kouyate, Sharon Hope
French and English with English subtitles
Alloune, a widower recently retired from his job at the Slavery Museum on an island off Dakar, decides to travel to the United States to trace his ancestors, who were sold as slaves in the New World two centuries before. After visiting South Carolina, where he uncovers information about family members renamed “Robinson” by their owners, he travels to the “Little Senegal” community in Harlem to stay with a nephew, and makes further links to the Robinson descendents. Alloune’s encounters with African-American attitudes toward African residents in America and his efforts to understand the bitterness of his Americanized relations make for fascinating commentary on cultural identity.
Director Craig Ross in Person
March 3 (Sunday) 6 pm
Directed by Craig Ross, Jr.
US 2001, 35mm, color, 118 min.
With Allen Payne, Clarence Williams III
Bluehill Avenue is the story of four neighborhood friends who grow up to be the most ruthless and successful drug dealers in Boston’s South End: Marlon "Money" Roberts, the lover of the crew; Eddie “E-bone” Winslett , the hothead; Simon Davis, the enforcer; and Tristan Mackey, the silent but violent leader of the group. This compelling urban drama about choices made and loyalties tested won director Craig Ross, Jr. best director honors at the Urbanworld Film Festival and best picture award at the Acapulco Black Film Festival.
March 3 (Sunday) 8:45 pm
Director by Carl Seaton
US 2000, 35mm, color, 97 min.
With Kenny Young, Eric Lane, Saadiqa Muhammad
Winner of the Acapulco Black Film Festival Audience Award and the Urbanworld Grand Jury Prize, One Week focuses on Varon Thomas (Young), a soon-to-be-married buppie who learns that he may have contracted HIV. With his wedding just one week away, Varon won’t let anything stand in the way of marrying the woman of his dreams, achieving a big promotion at his job, and finally getting his best friend to move off the couch and out of his home. But when a persistent stranger enters his perfect world, Varon soon realizes he can’t escape what she knows about his past.