Fences lives up to hype as a great tribute to the late August Wilson

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DENZEL WASHINGTON AND Viola Davis as Troy and Rose Maxson share a lighter moment in “Fences.” The couple love each other immensely, but eventually hit a couple of rough spots in the film directed by Washington.

By Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., Chicago Crusader

The movie “Fences” is in theaters everywhere, and I have previously written about this movie, which is an initiative by Award-winning actor Denzel Washington to bring the late playwright August Wilson’s work to the big screen.

“Fences” is a 1983 play by Wilson that is set in the 1950s in Pittsburgh. It is the sixth play in Wilson’s ten-part “Pittsburgh Cycle” that explores the Black experience, while examining race relations, among other themes. The plot centers around Washington, who plays a former baseball player named Troy Maxson who creates tension in his family when he denies his teenage son’s dream of playing college football and comes home with the baby he had through an affair. The teenage son whose name is Corey is played by Jovan Adepo, and the wife Rose is played by Viola Davis. Other actors include Mykelti Williamson, Russell Hornsby and Stephen Henderson in their respective Broadway roles.

The movie is fantastic, in that it reaches across many themes of Black life: father-son strife; husband-wife relationship; a mother’s love for her son; infidelity; death; mental illness and the inability of Black civil servants to get ahead, among other things. The movie comes at you in some cases with lightning speed, meaning that the dialogue is fast and long sometimes, since it’s based upon a play. Nevertheless, all actors are fantastic in sharing a story of a man who has felt cheated out of some things in life and who only wants the best for his son. However, this “best” for his son doesn’t coincide with what his son wants, and Rose is committed to protecting her son, even if it means that she’s challenging Troy to change his ways. As I watched the movie, I thought of Wilson and the play as I remembered seeing it. “Fences” can be rough going at times, especially when I felt that Rose was being mistreated. But she holds strong, and Troy’s shocking revelation and the ensuing events will give you pause. The movie is good through and through, and it’s playing everywhere.

Gene Siskel Film Center receives $10,000 grant to support Black Harvest Film Fest

“PURPLE RAIN” WAS the pre-opening film with after party during the 2016 Black Harvest Film Festival. It’s good that the festival has received additional support for the 2017 event. The festival brings many national and international films to downtown Chicago, as well as great Chicago-based films during the Made in Chicago feature.  

The National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu has approved more than $30 million in grants as part of the NEA’s first major funding announcement for fiscal year 2017. Included in this announcement is an Art Works grant of $10,000 to the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in support of its Black Harvest Film Festival. The Art Works category focuses on the creation of art that meets the highest standards of excellence, public engagement with diverse and excellent art, lifelong learning in the arts, and the strengthening of communities through the arts.

“The arts are for all of us, and by supporting organizations such as the Gene Siskel Film Center, the National Endowment for the Arts is providing more opportunities for the public to engage with the arts,” said NEA Chairman Jane Chu. “Whether in a theater, a town square, a museum, or a hospital, the arts are everywhere and make our lives richer.”

“We are delighted that the NEA has approved the Gene Siskel Film Center for a grant in the amount of $10,000 for the Black Harvest Film Festival. We are very grateful for their support and the endorsement of our work. We look forward to presenting the 23rd Annual Black Harvest Film Festival [in 2017], a program that showcases emerging and established filmmakers from the African Diaspora and attracts audiences from throughout the Midwest,” said Jean de St. Aubin, the Gene Siskel Film Center’s Executive Director.

The Black Harvest Film Festival is the Midwest’s largest- and longest- running Black film festival and the Gene Siskel Film Center’s most vibrant annual showcase featuring provocative films that tell stories, spark lively discussions, and address issues relating to the experiences from the African Diaspora. Black Harvest features Chicago premieres, filmmaker appearances, panel discussions, and special events. Presented are more than 50 features, documentaries and shorts, including a number connected to Chicago, affirming the city’s role as a vital center for independent filmmaking. Supporting the Film Center’s ongoing mission to present inclusive and insightful programming, Black Harvest will be presented August 4-31, 2017.

For more information about this year’s Black Harvest Film Festival, visit http://www.siskelfilmcenter.org/blackharvest.

For more information on projects included in the NEA grant announcement, visit arts.gov/news.

About the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago: Since 1972, the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has presented cutting edge cinema to an annual audience of 80,000. The Film Center’s programming includes annual film festivals that celebrate diverse voices and international cultures, premieres of trailblazing work by today’s independent filmmakers, restorations and revivals of essential films from cinema history, and insightful provocative discussions with filmmakers and media artists. Altogether, the Film Center hosts more than 1,600 screenings and 200 filmmaker appearances every year. The Film Center was renamed the Gene Siskel Film Center in 2000 after the late, nationally celebrated film critic, Gene Siskel.

Visit www.siskelfilmcenter.org to learn more and find out what’s playing today.

 

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