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Sir Patrick Stewart and Alfre Woodard
Sir Patrick Stewart and Alfre Woodard

Film and theater legend Sir Patrick Stewart, and actress Alfre Woodard will be honored with Career Achievement Awards at the 53rd Chicago International Film Festival.

Sir Patrick Stewart will be honored with the Gold Hugo Career Achievement Award, and Alfre Woodard will be honored with a Career Achievement Award as part of the 21st edition of the Festival’s Black Perspectives Program. The “Tribute to Alfre Woodard” and “Tribute to Patrick Stewart” will feature an onstage discussion, showcasing clips highlighting their decades-spanning career.

The Black Perspectives Program was founded in 1997 in collaboration with Spike Lee to showcase excellence in African American filmmaking. Since the Festival began its annual Black Perspectives Tribute, Cinema/Chicago has consistently honored actors and filmmakers of the highest caliber, including Sidney Poitier, Halle Berry, Ruby Dee, Forest Whitaker, Morgan Freeman, Viola Davis, and Steve McQueen, among others. By arranging select screenings and panel discussions, the Festival creates a unique environment in which audiences can gain valuable insights into the challenges and triumphs of African American filmmakers and actors.

This year’s Black Perspectives Program will present 13 compelling programs, including feature films, documentaries, short films, a film industry panel and a master class with Oscar-nominated director Sam Pollard. Among this year’s exciting lineup: the Sundance hit and award-season contender Mudbound; the French comedy Chateau; two documentaries about celebrated black artists, Sammy Davis, Jr. and Lorraine Hansberry; the world premiere of Kartemquin Films’ founder and Chicago filmmaker Gordon Quinn’s ‘63 Boycott, to be shown on the October 22nd anniversary of the famous Chicago public school march; and other highly anticipated and acclaimed films.

Other films and events included in the Festival’s 2017 Black Perspectives Program include:

Black Cop — Dir. Cory Bowles, Canada
It’s not easy being a black cop: Your community doesn’t trust you and your colleagues are wary of you. But for one officer, the tension between duty and moral obligation eventually pushes him over the edge, and he sets out, vigilante-style, to exact a twisted kind of vengeance on the white and privileged in his city. Timely and bitingly funny, Black Cop is an unapologetic, confrontational satire about racial tension today. 91 min.

Can’t Turn Back: Edith + Eddie and ‘63 Boycott
From Chicago-based Kartemquin Films (Hoop Dreams) comes two new powerful half-hour documentaries about interracial harmony, conflict, and societal injustice. In Laura Checkoway’s award-winning Edith and Eddie, America’s oldest interracial newlyweds, ages 96 and 95, find their happy union threatened by a family feud. ‘63 Boycott, by Gordon Quinn (Golub), chronicles the Chicago Public School Boycott of Oct. 22, 1963 when more than 200,000 Chicagoans, mostly students, marched to protest segregationist policies. 60 min. With 30-minute post-screening discussion.

Chateau (La Vie de Château) — Dirs. Modi Barry and Cédric Ido, France
In the Château d’Eau district, a bustling African neighborhood in the heart of Paris, the always natty, fast-talking Charles (Jacky Ido) works the streets trying to lure clients into local hair salons. At odds with other hustlers, Charles sees the rise in competition as a sign that he needs to leave, but can he realize his own entrepreneurial dreams? This smart, fast-paced comedy brings wit and heart to the immigrant tale of trying to stay ahead of the game and out of the way of the law. French with subtitles. 81 min.

Félicité — Dir. Alain Gomis, France/Belgium/Senegal
Single mother and chanteuse Félicité ekes out a living performing in a rough Kinshasa bar. Her fiercely guarded independence is threatened after her son is involved in a life-altering accident, and she must find a way to pay for his care. A love letter to persistence and the power of song, Félicité is buoyed by one woman’s irrepressible spirit in the face of overwhelming odds. Lingala, French with subtitles. 123 min.

For Ahkeem — Dirs. Jeremy S. Levine and Landon Van Soest, U.S.
Daje Shelton, a 17-year-old girl from St. Louis, just wants to do the right thing. But growing up in a tough neighborhood, she can’t catch a break: she’s struggling in school; she’s distracted by boys; and she’s surrounded by a culture of violence and brutality. The fatal shooting of Michael Brown Jr. provides a powerful backdrop for this masterfully crafted portrait of working-class urban life. 90 min.

Mudbound — Dir. Dee Rees, U.S.
This powerful epic set in the 1940s follows the entangled lives of two families—one white, one black—on a single farm in rural Mississippi. Based on the bestselling novel, the film focuses on the unlikely friendship forged between each of the family’s oldest sons—both WWII veterans—and its catastrophic consequences. Featuring committed performances from Carey Mulligan, Garrett Hedlund, Mary J. Blige, and Jason Mitchell, Mudbound is a monumental and resonant tale about race in America. 134 min.

The Rape of Recy Taylor — Dir. Nancy Buirski. U.S.
From the director of the highly acclaimed The Loving Story comes another dramatic tale of racial conflict. In 1944, six young white men raped 24-year-old mother Recy Taylor in Alabama. Rather than stay silent, Taylor spoke up against her attackers. With the help of the NAACP and its chief investigator Rosa Parks, Taylor waged a battle for justice that is powerfully brought to life through archival footage, early “race films,” and heartbreaking personal interviews. 91 min.

Sammy Davis, Jr.: I’ve Gotta Be Me — Dir. Sam Pollard, U.S.
Singer, dancer, and actor; “Rat Pack” legend; civil rights activist; Jewish convert; and Nixon supporter—the life of Sammy Davis, Jr. defies expectations and easy categorization. Charting the performer’s surprising journey across the major flashpoints of contemporary American history, Oscar-nominated filmmaker Sam Pollard interviews such luminaries as Billy Crystal, Jerry Lewis, and Whoopi Goldberg and culls together an array of electric performances for this captivating exploration of the man, his talents and the struggle for identity. 100 min.

Sighted Eyes/Feeling Heart — Dir. Tracy Heather Strain, U.S.
The title of her posthumous autobiography To Be Young, Gifted and Black only partly sums up the trailblazing life of Southside Chicago playwright Lorraine Hansberry. Although best known for her landmark 1959 play A Raisin in the Sun, Hansberry forged an expansive path as an African-American female artist and activist—while also wrestling with self-doubt and questions about her sexual identity. 118 min.

The Work — Dirs. Jairus McLeary and Gethin Aldous, U.S.
Imposing men break down in tears; convicts embrace each other in emotional catharsis. Such is “the work” that takes place within the walls of Folsom State Prison’s Inside Circle, an intense four-day group therapy program where offenders interact with troubled individuals from the outside hoping to exorcise their own demons. This eye-opening, award-winning documentary chronicles the surprising moments of healing and camaraderie that can occur when confronting the darkest moments of one’s past. 87 min.

Shorts 7 – Another Country: Black Perspectives
A family grapples with the consequences of close-quarters racism in New Neighbors (U.S.). Fastest Man in the State (U.S.) examines the deep-seated racial divides embedded in the history of the University of Virginia. A bathroom attendant working the Night Shift (U.S.) in a Los Angeles nightclub attempts to get his life back on track. Waiting for Hassana (Nigeria) is a haunting recollection of a violent Boko Haram attack. A police Sketch (U.S) artist assumes he has solved a crime when he thinks he encounters a suspect from one of his renderings. Skull & Bone (U.S.) chronicles the costume-clad efforts of a New Orleans group to curb the threat of gun violence. Macho (U.S.) explores ideas of manhood and masculinity as a community reels from the recent murder of a transgender woman.

Industry Days Panel – The Moonlight Effect: The Expanding of Black Cinema – Or Not?
After black cinema triumphs Moonlight and Get Out, is the film industry expanding its definition of what African-American cinema is and can be? Join this provocative discussion about whether the industry is changing. Or are these films the exception and not the new rule?

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