If the 2nd annual Denton Black Film Festival passed under your radar this weekend, you are not alone. With a robust programming schedule, the 3-day event was held in downtown Denton just three weeks before the 9th annual Thin Line Film Festival hits the downtown corridor. Needless to say, it’s film festival season in Denton, isn’t it?
The Denton Black Film Festival was created by three colleagues, Mesha George, Harry Eaddy and Gigi Johnson to present a collection of independent feature-length and short films showcasing black culture. During their inaugural year in 2015 the festival offered only a film selection, however this year they have expanded to include additional cultural offerings in the form of music, art and poetry.
The music programming included several different showcases. The first show took place at the Pre-Film Festival event the Saturday prior at the Greater Denton Arts Council’s Patterson Appleton Arts Center. Solo sets were held both Friday and Saturday, respectively, at West Oak Coffee Bar. On Sunday there was a Tribute to Gospel Music, where a number of different artists paid tribute to the rich traditions of Gospel music.
An art exhibit up in conjunction with the festival was hosted at UNT on the Square Gallery. Professor and Chair of Studio Art at the University of North Texas, College of Visual Arts and Design, Annette Lawrence curated the exhibit, Around Again, which included a series of three live presentations from Lawrence as well as appearances from visiting artists, Christopher Blay, Vicki Meek, and Shay Youngblood.
Also new this year was a Poetry Slam. There were two Spoken Words Poetry Slam sessions that took place at the BlackBox Theatre, just a couple blocks away from the Campus Theatre. The Poetry Slams were hosted by the inspiring ‘Verb’ or Verses and Flow.
Most importantly, there were films. There were 29 film screenings, to be exact, all of which screened at the Campus Theatre. Two of the films were Ferguson inspired. A Ferguson Story gave an interesting perspective into police aggression, as it has become a more commonly socially documented topic in every day life. The 33-minute documentary was directed by award winning, Chicago based Lonnie Edwards.
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Ferguson Documented: In 36 Hours - a 15 minute short - was directed by female journalist Carla Usher and uncovers the information she wasn’t hearing in the mainstream media about the tragedies taking place in a town that was pretty well unknown previously.
Last Night was a personal favorite — an hour and a half long romantic comedy. A former musician-current-businessman stumbles upon an emotionally torn knockout model at a coffee shop. She is all but engaged to a man she is supposed to meet the next day in Raleigh, however spends her last day in DC with a newfound stranger in an all-day romantic adventure that left me ultimately crying, but at times also laughing.
The majority of the films selected and played during the festival had been entered in other film festivals as well. Red, a 21-minute long drama strung together the grievingly emotional feelings of having lost a loved one, and fighting to get something back that not only belonged to them, but that they cherished. Actress Irma P. Hall stars in the film, portraying the lost loved one whom which Red, her grand daughter, fights for. Hall, an 80 year old American actress from Beaumont, Texas, was presented with the 2016 Denton Black Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award during this years festival. This film was also an Official Selection LA Shorts Fest and an Official Selection 2014 Champs-Elysees Film Festival.
The importance of the Denton Black Film Festival is phenomenal, not just in our community but in the bigger picture. Having a film festival where not only black community members come and celebrate black culture, but people of other races can come together and learn about black culture, about the issues that our cultures faces as a whole, and most importantly about how to communicate with one another.