Black Harvest ’17: Docs about Whitney Houston, Sly Stone and Disney animator

When “Love Jones” opened in theaters in 1997, it was an outlier. Still is.

Hollywood doesn’t make many films about the romantic lives of African-Americans. Written and directed by Columbia College alum Theodore Witcher, the Chicago-shot relationship drama is based on his own dating experiences as a 20-something.

Then and now, “Love Jones” also represents something more complex, LA Times reporter Tre’vell Anderson writes in a recent oral history of the film. At its core, “Love Jones” is about “opportunities people of color know exist for them — in love, life and career.”

Starring Nia Long and Larenz Tate, “it was difficult for Witcher as a first-time director to show these possibilities,” Anderson notes, “especially when most black films on theater marquees at the time were more like ‘Menace II Society’ and ‘Boyz n the Hood.’ Hollywood wanted to make money, and it wasn’t clear that a black romantic drama could do that.”

He would eventually land at Hanna-Barbera, working on everything from “Scooby-Doo” (“Hate that dog”) to “The Smurfs” before eventually making his way back to Disney, where he collaborated with Pixar on “Toy Story 2.” As Norman recounts in the film, Disney told him it was time to retire. It didn’t stick. His wife also works at Disney; he would drive her in every morning and just stick around. This is so clearly the right move, because Norman is so obviously neither physically nor mentally ready to put his pen down and put his feet up.

He’s 82 now, and in his horn-rimmed glasses and fedora he looks at least 20 years younger. The ageism in Hollywood is real, and Fiore captures terrific conversation between Norman and his former business partner discussing this. Norman wants to work. He needs to work. (Norman and director Fiore will be at the Siskel screening.)

The Black Harvest Film Festival runs through Aug. 31. For more information, go to

Twitter @Nina_Metz

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