The Lowdown: Denton Black Film Festival

Harry and Linda Eaddy were attending a local film festival when inspiration struck to launch the Denton Black Film Festival. Its inaugural event was in January of 2014, and it has since grown into a multi-faceted experience that shares entertainment with cultural relevance. As president of the Denton African American Scholarship Foundation, Mr. Eaddy also envisioned a unique opportunity to raise funds for his charitable organization.

The idea grew rapidly after it was discussed with close friends in small meetings. It was Mesha George who came up with the festival’s tagline: “Educate, Entertain, and Inspire.” Marketing director Daniel Amotsuka believes DBFF provides a “more genuine freedom to express cultural personality.” In other words, independent films have the ability to tell stories that aren’t a rehash of stereotypes perpetuated by Hollywood. DBFF provides 3 tracks of entertainment defined as Film, Entertainment, and Community.

FILM TRACK

Opening night brings a powerful documentary based on author James Baldwin’s perspective on the civil rights movement fought by Martin Luther King Jr., Malcom X, and other leaders of the cause. As stated in the narration by Samuel L. Jackson, “The story of the Negro in America is the story of America. It’s not a pretty story.”

The film garnered a People’s Choice Award when it premiered at the 2016 Toronto International Film Festival. DBFF provides a great opportunity to watch this film before it opens nationwide in theaters.

After opening night, the film track consists of 15 blocks of screenings pertaining to the following categories:

COLLEGE STUDENT SHORT FILMS
NARRATIVE FEATURES
DOCUMENTARY FEATURES
SHORT FILMS

One short film, Ball is Life, is written and directed by UTA grad student, Terry Bluez. His film centers around a strong teenage girl determined to earn a basketball scholarship while enduring her loving but intense father’s personal coaching. Her dream faces complications due to an unplanned pregnancy and the jealousy of her peers. It’s a proof-of-concept film that could possibly turn into a feature film in the future.

PERFORMANCE TRACK

DBFF provides other forms of entertainment beyond films. They have also outlined a performance track that will include music, comedy, spoken word, and a poetry slam competition.

Ashleigh Smith, a UNT alumna and winner of the 2014 Sarah Vaughan International Jazz Vocals competition, performs her R&B music with a jazzy edge. The Ella Fitzgerald-inspired singer has come a long way since she first started out performing in cover bands, and she doesn’t show any signs of slowing down her music career. Opening for her is Quentin Moore, a former UNT athlete who first performed on campus with gospel rappers Lecrae and Tadashi. Experience this lineup’s musical message of love at the PAAC on the evening of January 28th.

Spoken word is a returning feature from last year’s festival, and there will be two sessions for the Dentonite to hear powerful sharing at the Black Box Theatre on the 27th and 28th. They are both open mic events moderated by Verb Kulture. The session on the 28th will be followed by a late-night slam poetry competition that provides a chance for local poets to win a cash prize. Interested participants may email contact@dentonbff.com to get in on the fun.

If you’ve been enjoying the numerous local comedy events, then you’ll enjoy DBFF treating Denton to a pair of comedians named Derrick Keener and Alfred Kainga. Keener has a talent for impersonations and just may treat the audience to an improvised song. Kainga is originally from Zimbabwe, and has developed a comedy style combining his African Heritage and experiences as an immigrant in the US.

COMMUNITY TRACK

Never forget that Denton Black Film Festival was started as a way to benefit the community. That love for the community is on display in between entertainment tracks through an art exhibit, panels on gender roles and social justice, and workshops for both kids and adults.

Begining January 23rd, UNT on the Square will host an art exhibit featuring Christopher Blay’s work that addresses the history of police shooting victims over the past 25 years. Blay recently contributed to the community by moderating the Sonar Scan art exhibit at Brick Haus Collective last Fall. The exhibit is more than a few images to sit back and stare at. It’s an immersive experience that takes viewers through a fantasy narrative, utlizing elements of science fiction, religion, and conspiracy theories to dig into the anguish that police brutality has caused.

KWTXR is an exhibit of drawings, photographs and video by Christopher Blay. KWTXR (based on the fictitious character KaraWalkerTexasRanger) is a body of work that memorializes African American victims of police shootings over the past 25 years. Its central theme is a fantasy narrative in which the character time travels and reverses the outcome of the victim’s confrontations with police. Key elements of the fantasy narrative co-opt religious symbols and rituals, combined with conspiracy theories and science fiction as a way of dealing with the collective frustration and heavy sense of loss that these events have created. An opening reception on the evening of January 25th will be attended by the organizers of DBFF and feature Blay speaking about his work.

The PAAC will host a pre-festival event called Building Bridges on the 21st. At noon, a family-friendly session will feature the following elements of education: 

Hip hop Dance Workshop
UNT African Dance Workshop and Performance
Braswell High school Step Team Performance
Arts and Crafts, short film screenings, food trucks and more

At 4pm, a music session meant for a mature audience will feature the following:
Music Performances By
K.Avett
Katina Butler
The Boombachs
Pocketbook

There will also be panels and filmmaking workshops providing opportunities for learning and discussion. Sybil Wilkes, a political journalist and co-host of the Tom Joyner Morning Show, will moderates discussion on the topic of Women in Entertainment. After the screening of, Word Warriors 3, filmmaker Takia “Tizzi” Green joins others to reflect on social justice issues affect the black community and society.

Aspiring filmmakers can attend a free workshop hosted by director and UTA film professor Ya’Ke Smith. Smith’s work has been featured on HBO, and his short films “Wolf” and “One Hitta Quitta” have been screened in various Denton film exhibitions. Smith never stops working, and his event is free. Student filmmakers with no money shouldn’t miss out on this opportunity.

Speaking of having no money, M. Legend Brown presents a hands-on experience on how to make a low-budget film under 100k. His recent film Hiding in Plain Sight successfully circuited 35 festivals with 22 awards granted.

Denton Black Film Festival is for the entire community. No matter who you are, there is something to be gained from hearing stories told by others. Their mission is more relevant than ever as some people may feel society is becoming more divisive, with an air of tension suffocating the ability to breathe an air of tranquility. It’s time to build bridges with music, stories, and art.

For more info on tickets and the event schedule, visit www.dentonbff.com. Discounts are available for students and seniors.

Flyer courtesy of Denton Black Film Festival
Header image design by Brittany Keeton