Black Harvest Film Festival Names New Lead Curator and Coordinator

The Gene Siskel Film Center at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has named filmmaker, curator, and programmer Jada-Amina to lead the artistic vision and direction as lead curator of the 29th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival, which will take place at the Gene Siskel Film Center from November 3 through 16. In her new role, Jada-Amina will lead the Film Center programming team in viewing film entries, crafting the festival schedule, planning community programs, filmmaker dialogues, and special events. 

Jada-Amina served as the festival’s coordinator in 2022, where she led Black Harvest’s community-centered initiatives and satellite programming in partnership with the Chicago Public Library and other organizations. 

The Film Center has also named filmmaker Nick Leffel as coordinator of the Black Harvest Film Festival. Leffel will support Jada-Amina in curation of the festival and coordination of community outreach, filmmaker discussions, and other special events. 

“Jada-Amina grew up attending Black Harvest, and Nick played a central role in programming the 2022 festival alongside Black Harvest’s late co-Founder Sergio Mims, said Gene Siskel Film Center Director of Programming Rebecca Fons. “ In addition to their keen and distinctive curatorial perspectives, Jada-Amina and Nick recognize and respect the history of Black Harvest, and its impact on filmmakers and audiences alike. They are thoughtful and gifted stewards of the next generation of this exceptional festival.”

“I’m delighted to welcome Jada-Amina and Nick Leffel in their new roles as lead curator and coordinator, respectively, of the Black Harvest Film Festival,” said Gene Siskel Film Center Executive Director Emily Long. “Jada-Amina’s experience in filmmaking and curation and her immersion in Chicago’s contemporary art scene ensures that we’ll have a vibrant lineup for the festival. And Nick’s intimate knowledge of film and experience in film programming and community outreach–make him a perfect fit as festival coordinator..”

“As a South Side Chicagoan, I am thrilled to leverage the Gene Siskel Film Center’s resources in the interest of Black imagination,” said Jada-Amina, lead curator of the Black Harvest Film Festival. “In my new role, I look forward to honoring Black Harvest co-founder Sergio Mim’s original vision by exalting renderings of Black life on screen and diversifying Black representation in cinema.” 

“I’m really excited to offer my experience and expertise for this year’s festival so that Black Harvest can continue being a cornerstone of community engagement and artistic leadership, not just in the film scene, but in the entire Chicago community as a whole,” said Nick Leffel, festival coordinator.

Co-founded in 1994 by Sergio Mims, who also served as the festival’s consultant until his passing in 2022, the Black Harvest Film Festival celebrates, explores, and shares the African Diasporic experience. Film submissions are now being accepted for the festival.

About Jada-Amina and Nick Leffel

Jada-Amina (BFA 2020)  holds a bachelor of fine arts degree from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Her independent curation includes the touring screening series Not Far from Here (2018-2019), which featured a screening and dialogue with renowned director Charles Burnett; and Passion to Profession, a workshop series that aims to help youth and professional artists find pathways to a career in the arts. Her film work has screened in Chicago at the Gene Siskel Film Center, ACRE Projects, Roots & Culture Contemporary Art Center, and the Music Box Theater; and in Los Angeles at the Echo Park Film Center and Otis College of Art and Design. 

Nick Leffel is an Asian and African filmmaker and film curator who assisted in programming the 28th Annual Black Harvest Film Festival. Leffel is also a film director known for ZORDOVIA, MY LOVE (2021), FLOWERS FOREVER (2022), and DAKHLA (2023). His films explore themes of cultural upbringing, linguistics, and international politics, with pieces winning awards at the Hollywood Screenings Film Festival, the Liverpool Underground Film Festival, and the Milwaukee Film Festival.

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