The Soul of It: Shinemen + American Shoeshine


“It’s in the jazz of it. It’s in the soul of it. Two people conversing. The back and forth of it.” George Bailey, Columbia College

Chicago filmmaker Eleva Singleton presents Shinemen, a short documentary featuring Chicago shoe shine technician Bill Williams. Owner of two Chicago shoe-shine shops, Williams juggled his business while also working in the tourism industry, earning a street named in his honor in Morgan Park. A cast of local historians and politicians weigh in on Chicago’s shoe shine legacy. (Singleton, 2015, 24 min)

In American Shoeshine, filmmaker Sparky Greene uses an expertly edited montage of first-hand accounts, stills, and found footage, some of which dates to the first decade of this century, to follow the shoeshine business from the earliest days to the present. The shoeshine men themselves provide both history and analysis, often articulating highly developed views on the nature of both class and racial relations in American society. Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Short Documentary in 1976. (Sparky Greene, 1976, 29 min, courtesy of Chicago Film Archives)

Original Chicago shoe-shine stands from the collection of Theaster Gates will be on display.

Screening followed by conversation with Bill Williams, filmmaker Eleva Singleton and cinematographer Ahmed Hamad, moderated by Black Harvest Film Festival’s Sergio Mims.