Black Harvest Film Festival Launches November 4th, Here’s the Lineup

The School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s Gene Siskel Film Center has revealed the full festival schedule for its 28th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival, which will take place in person at the Gene Siskel Film Center from November 4 through November 20 and virtually from November 21 – 27. 

The festival’s month-long showcase of Black stories will feature 19 feature films; 4 short film programs; and over 15 separate in-person and virtual filmmaker and cast appearances, alongside several anniversary screenings, restorations, and a multitude of receptions and special events.

Honoring the Festival Founder

This year’s festival will be dedicated to the Film Center’s dear friend Sergio Mims (1955 -2022), the co-founder of the festival and its longtime co-programmer and consultant. Sergio passed away on Tuesday, October 4, 2022.

In memory of Mims, Rebecca Fons, Gene Siskel Film Center’s Director of Programming said, “Earlier this summer, Black Harvest Film Festival co-Founder Sergio Mims and I met for our regular, bi-weekly meeting to discuss the film submissions we’d been watching in consideration for this year’s 28th Festival. ‘I love what I’m seeing,’ Sergio commented. ‘Lots of joy, lots of Black joy.’ This year’s Black Harvest Film Festival is dedicated to Sergio, who passed away Tuesday, October 4, 2022, and is a tribute to the glorious cinematic celebration that he built.”

“And he was right; the lineup is joyful, not just in the stories presented, but in the artists highlighted and the parties planned. The 28th Festival is a tribute to Sergio’s dogged determination to suggest the best for our screens, to ensure emerging filmmakers were in the same spotlight as the established auteurs, and his efforts to make local filmmakers feel like stars, and our audience to feel like a family. We will miss him immensely – his bold opinions, his wit, his knowledge, and his camaraderie – and dedicate each moment of Black Harvest to his memory.” 

Gene Siskel Film Center Executive Director Jean de St. Aubin said, “The Black Harvest Film Festival has always been a reunion of filmmakers and film lovers. This year, with the passing of Sergio Mims, it will be bittersweet. But we rejoice in what Sergio has created – a month-long celebration of Black storytelling that has thrived for 28 years and counting. I look forward to seeing our loyal BHFF audience, welcoming new friends, and sharing Sergio stories, along with those on the screen. Please join us in celebrating the full range of the Black experience on film.”

Feature films this year include the insightful, family-friendly JASMINE IS A STAR, about a sixteen-year-old girl with albinism (lack of pigment in hair, skin, and eyes) determined to make it big as a professional model; the powerful psychological horror film, NANNY, which follows a recent Senegalese immigrant hired  to care for the children of an affluent New York couple; the riveting VOODOO MACBETH , recounting the true story of a young Orson Welles who turns his vision for a Haitan-themed “Macbeth” into a reality in 1937 when an all-Black cast performs the classic Shakespearian play in Harlem; and the gripping doc, REWIND AND PLAY, exposing the casual racism and disrespect jazz pianist Thelonious Monk encountered on French TV in his 1969 visit to Paris, alongside glorious concert footage from his exceptional show at the 3,000-seat Salle Pleyel concert hall.

Feature film highlights include Voodoo Macbeth

Film restorations and anniversary screenings include the 50th anniversary, 4K-restoration of Sidney Poitier’s directorial debut, BUCK AND PREACHER, a savvy revisioning of the classic Western; the 4K digital restoration of the long-lost, independently financed Black thriller, SOLOMON KING, featuring a killer Soul-Funk soundtrack and incredible clothes from director Sal Watts’s own Mr. Sal’s Fashion stores; and a 35mm screening of the crafty comedy COOLEY HIGH, presented in memoriam for Black Harvest Film Festival co-founder Sergio Mims – preceded by a tribute to Mims

The Film Center will screen four original shorts programs: SISTERS IN SCENE, six stories of culture, Black femininity, self-expression, and survival; FROM THE BLOCK, showcasing homegrown and homemade Chicago talent; CINE LADO A LADO (“CINEMA SIDE BY SIDE”), presenting voices and stories that express the complexities of a multi-faceted African identity from Latine-identifying perspectives/artists; and FIGURES AND GUARDIANS, a powerful and emotional program featuring the figures, guardians, mothers, and fathers that have raised us.

Opening Night of Black Harvest is always a reunion of filmmakers, film lovers, and film supporters. This year’s program, taking place on Friday, November 4, will be hosted by NBC/5’s LeAnn Trotter and feature a bounty of four short films in a Black Harvest Feast. The evening will include a tribute to Sergio Mims, the presentation of Black Harvest Film Festival Legacy Award to Chicago casting director and author Sharon King, and the announcement of the winners of The Richard and Ellen Sandor Family Black Harvest Film Festival Prize. After the presentations, guests will enjoy a celebratory reception in our gallery/cafe.

The Film Center will close out the in-person portion of the festival on Sunday, November 20 with a 30th-anniversary, Closing Night screening of Reginald Hudlin’s playful romantic comedy BOOMERANG, featuring Eddie Murphy and Halle Berry.

From November 21 – 27, audiences can enjoy Black Harvest at Home. Whether patrons miss a film during our in-person festival or are searching for great films to watch over the Thanksgiving holiday, Black Harvest is proud to offer a program of official selections virtually, which they can watch from the comfort and convenience of their own home.

Time to Buy Your Tickets!

Black Harvest Film Festival individual tickets and festival passes are available for purchase now.

Tickets for regular in-person and virtual film presentations are $12, with Film Center members paying only $6 per ticket. Students with valid school ID pay $7, and SAIC students, staff, or faculty pay $5 for regular film presentations. 

Black Harvest Film Festival passes cost $60 and can be redeemed for six (6) regular in-person or virtual film presentations (excluding Opening Night). Film Center members will pay only $30 for the 6-film Black Harvest festival pass. 

Opening Night tickets are $50 (general audience), with Film Center member and student tickets on sale for $30. Tickets include the screening, Q&A, and special reception. 

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