This festival of films and videos by black artists from around the world continues Friday through Sunday, August 27 through 29, at the Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson. Tickets are $7, $3 for Film Center members. For more information call 312-443-3737.


The Girl With Brains in Her Feet

Roberto Bangura’s 1997 first feature captures the turmoil of adolescence and the social chaos of Britain in the early 70s. Thirteen-year-old Jacqueline (Joanna Ward) lives with her abusive white mother but has never known her black father; an excellent runner, she’s pushed to excel by a sympathetic coach, who says her brains are in her feet. A busy camera and intrusive rock tunes convey Jack’s unstable sense of herself–full of contradictions, she takes cigarette breaks during her runs–but when her mother turns soft and cuddly, I was incredulous. (FC) (6:00)


See Critic’s Choice. (8:00)



See Critic’s Choice. (4:00)


Cauleen Smith’s 1998 feature about two young women in Oakland serves as a gentle, feminist response to all those boys-in-the-hood movies. Both Pica (Toby Smith) and Tobi (April Barnett) distrust and pity the men around them, who are either dangerous or ineffectual; it’s up to the women to restore a sense of community to the neighborhood. The two leads give engaging but low-key performances, aided by Andrew Black’s nervy camera movement, and the script, by the director and Salim Akil, has a good ear for girl talk and a real affection for its bonding protagonists. But the storytelling is sophomoric, hobbled by dull patches and a mostly amateurish cast. Like the sound track, which alternates between hip-hop and New Age, the film forges an uneasy compromise between grit and platitude. (TS) (6:00)

Living With Pride: Ruth Ellis @ 100

Yvonne Welbon directed this hour-long profile of Ellis, a centenarian lesbian who’s lived a remarkably independent and well-adjusted life. Neither Ellis nor her family or friends ever made a fuss about her sexuality; after leaving Springfield for Detroit in 1937, she bought a house with her lover, started a print shop, and became den mother to gay people who had moved to the city. Welbon uses vintage photos and reenactments to place Ellis’s lucid memories in the context of African-American history, from lynchings in the early part of the century through the world wars and the social turmoil of the 60s and 70s. Yet the director settles for an amiable tone and standard PBS format, choosing not to probe Ellis’s relationship with her longtime companion or dwell on her bouts of loneliness. These days she’s protected by a tight circle of lesbians, and the series of testimonials near the end of this lovefest only reinforces the impression that the women who’ve adopted her are far more political than she ever was. (TS) Welbon will attend the screening. (8:00)


Living With Pride: Ruth Ellis @ 100

See listing for Saturday, August 28. (4:00)


See Critic’s Choice. (6:00)