Co-founder of the Black Harvest Film Festival, Gene Siskel Legacy Award winner, long-standing member of the Chicago Film Critics Association, and contributor to RogerEbert.com, Shadow and Act, and Huffpost, Sergio Mims passed away this week at the age of 67.
According to his family, Mims, who was a resident of Hyde Park, passed away on Tuesday after suffering from failing health for quite some time.
Mims attended the University of Illinois Chicago and “was a movie buff as long as I can remember, from when he was watching Jason and the Argonauts,’’ his sister Lisa Mims told the Chicago Sun Times.
In the early 1980s, Mims helped found Chicago’s Blacklight Film Festival of Black International Cinema. Once it was apparent the Blacklight Film Festival was about to dissolve, Mims stepped in to launch the Black Harvest Film Festival with Barbara Scharres, who headed programming at the Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, according to Jean de St. Aubin, executive director of the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute.
As co-founder of the Black Harvest Film Festival, Mims was involved with the BHFF from the beginning, and was programming and consulting throughout the entire run of its existence. What began as a modest week-and-a-half showcase for the independent voice in Black cinema, has evolved into an annual month-long major film festival. Mims was also a Major voice in Chicago’s vibrant cinema scene, having appeared in print, radio, and as a lecturer at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
The Black Harvest Film Festival is Midwest’s largest and longest-running Black film festival, and the Gene Siskel Film Center’s most vibrant annual showcase featuring provocative films that celebrate the stories, dreams, history, and legacy of African Americans and the African diaspora. The Festival features Chicago premieres, filmmaker appearances, panel discussions, and special events.
“The idea of a Black film festival 27 years ago was still a very, very new thing,” Mims said in an interview posted on the SAIC website. “Even though there’s always been Black filmmakers and Black cinema and independent Black filmmakers since the Silent Era … a Black filmmaker was lucky if he had his film shown at any film festival.”
Despite his illness, Mims continued to work as a programmer and consultant for the festival which is now in its 28th year.
A tribute to Mims is being planned at the Black Harvest Film Festival next month at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute, according to Jean de St. Aubin.
In addition to his work with the Black Harvest Film Festival, Mims did DVD and Blu-ray film commentaries, taught screenwriting at the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, participated in film panels, hosted and produced the Bad Mutha’ Film Show on WHPK-FM, and also was a critic for N’DIGO.
As news of his passing hit the internet, many friends and collogues took to social media to pay their respects:
In addition to his sister Lisa, survivors include his mother Gladys and another sister, Judith. His family hopes to establish a foundation in his memory to help Black students interested in film.
Visitation is planned from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday at Doty Nash Funeral Home, 8620 S. Stony Island Ave., with a wake there at 2 p.m. Saturday followed by the funeral at 3 p.m. Saturday.