Several local artists have joined the mix with films exploring themes ranging from natural hair to forbidden love and unjust justice. Their work will be highlighted during the Frame4Frame festival which runs Sept. 20-23.
Dallas filmmaker Reginald Titus Jr. says he made Natural Hair the Movie after his wife, Ashanti, an executive producer, pitched him the idea. Ashanti had generated lots of feedback, Titus says, after she cut off her hair then let it grow back naturally without using harmful chemicals that could damage her hair and scalp.
“This is an extreme process called 'The Big Chop,'" he says.
Natural Hair the Movie took about two years to make, Titus says, and most of the documentary was filmed in Dallas.
A 7-year-old schoolgirl in the film, who was not from Dallas, had one of her beaded braids clipped off by a teacher who was upset that she’d been playing with her braids. In another instance, Isis Brantley was arrested “because braiding hair in a commercial facility, at that time, was considered illegal,” Titus says, adding that Brantley succeeded in having that law changed in Texas.
Titus, 37, has been interested in filmmaking since the fifth grade. He used to borrow his dad's camcorder to shoot comedies with his siblings and friends and completed his first short film in 2009 with no formal training. With the help of a few friends, he also created Grind Over Matter Films, a production and distribution company.
Among the more than 20 films screening during the festival is Hello Henry, a short film by UNT film major Zachary Dyck.
“The idea was stemmed from the edge of sleep,” he says. “I was about to fall asleep when I had the thought, ‘What if a man fell in love with the woman across the street, and he hired a hitman to assassinate the woman's abusive husband in order to be with her?’"
Dyck says the idea initially was that the woman was not interested in Henry but saw him as a tool to get rid of her abusive husband. After a rewrite, Linda (the woman across the street) wound up returning Henry’s love, which made the plot a bit more palatable, Dyck says.
“In the film, what makes Henry attracted to Linda is her exotic nature,” he says. “She is foreign and just as weird as he is, which gives him hope as a weird, nerdy character that she could be the one.
“I think there is a sense of danger in loving Linda (a married woman) that Henry actually craves in his life. Although he isn't socially normal, he is a man that likes adventures. And he sees the biggest adventure of his life in her.”
Dyck, who’s currently studying abroad at the University of Birmingham England, says he’s possessed a passion for storytelling since kindergarten. His first short film premiered before an audience of about 45 people when he was 16 years old. Now 21, he’s currently a video editor at UNT and owner of a freelance production company, Rigid Motion Films.
“My goal as a filmmaker,” he says, “is to create multiple films with commercial success that bring people all over the globe happiness and maybe a few tears.”
While some of the festival’s films lean to the lighter side, others, like Unarmed, take a more serious tone.
"Unarmed follows a young, African-American male, David, whose father was murdered by the police,” reads the press release. “David's biggest fear is seeing his daughter grow up without a father the same way he grew up without one.”
Elias Moreno, a 23-year-old UT-Arlington student whose focus is on film and video production, as well as criminal justice, says he created the film to highlight some of the main struggles that young African-American males deal with on a daily basis that affect their ability to form relationships with their children and their children’s mother.
Moreno says several factors, such as police brutality and profiling, intervene and he hopes to shed some insight on the effects that those things can have on a person’s family.
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“Police brutality doesn’t have to be a cop murdering someone,” he says. “It can come in many different forms.”
Frame4Frame also has a lineup of live music. Although most of the performances are free, some require an RSVP, and Wadestock, which features 10 bands and will be at Division Brewing, costs $10.
A series of artist talks will also be at the Arlington Museum of Art along with exhibits by UTA Associate Professor of Art Marilyn Jolly, TCU Associate Professor of Art Adam Fung and eight UTA art students.
Click here for Frame4Frame’s full event schedule and costs.