Why Denton Black Film Festival is Important

Sunday, January 29th marked the end of the hugely successful 2017 Denton Black Film Festival. For the uninitiated, DBFF is a multi-day fest in its third year which aims to celebrate the accomplishments of African American filmmakers, musicians, artists, and other creatives.  

Two things struck me as I approached the theater inside Golden Triangle Mall on Thursday night for the festival’s opening film. First, the line. A large gathering of people were spread throughout the mall’s corridor, patiently waiting to enter one of two sold-out theaters. A rainbow of skin tones, all here to be among the first in Texas to see the Oscar-nominated documentary I Am Not Your Negro. Second, a mild sense of shock. I had been completely unsure of what to expect for the coming weekend.

One of my favorite things about this town is the warmth with which diversity is embraced. But as a black woman in America, more than once I have felt weary of the strength and/or authenticity of support I (or any POC) might receive from my white brothers and sisters. With featured films like I Am Not Your NegroAnd Still I Rise, and Heroes of Color all festival-goers became students of the black perspective. As animosity between people of all sorts grows to be increasingly public in nature, it gives me hope to see people willing to open their hearts and minds to what might be an unfamiliar viewpoint.

I had the opportunity to speak to a few others about their experience with Denton Black Film Festival. Here are their stories:

DANIEL AMOTSUKA
DBFF Marketing Director

 Photo courtesy of Daniel's Facebook Page

Photo courtesy of Daniel's Facebook Page

“2016, our 2nd year was a year that we were seeking to establish ourselves as a viable festival, which we were able to pull off pretty well. This year we got to test out our wings and our explore our platform a little bit. We received submissions for the first time, went from 26 films to 43. Added panels and workshops and also standalone music and comedy events.

From an audience standpoint, we got to cast our audience net wider with marketing efforts seeking to engage the broader DFW area. We managed to successfully bring a good crowd to come check out our little quaint city and have a great time while doing so.

Our opening film "I Am Not Your Negro" was definitely a highpoint for me and many that I interacted with. It indeed was a privilege to be a part of a platform to draw a very diverse crowd of several hundred to watch a film on the work of my favorite authors and speakers of all time, whose words and insight are prophetic and illuminating for the time we're in as a country. I'm meeting with a diverse group of about 20 people this week to have a discussion group about the film. That's what makes what we do important. At the end of the day, it's about building stronger bonds and learning how to celebrate and love one another better. That's the heart of community. And to me, that's the heart of the Denton Black Film Festival.”

HAYDEN ZAISER
The Dentonite Video Producer

 Photo courtesy of Hayden's Facebook Page

Photo courtesy of Hayden's Facebook Page

“The festival was fantastic! I feel more informed of the issues facing African Americans from a different perspective. I was happy to feel welcomed to the festival. I could really feel the support of the audiences toward the filmmakers. I wish I could have visited everything!

I mean, I would like to say I have [learned things].

I'm going to be honest, I was raised in a majority white suburban neighborhood and that kind of deterred me from interacting with people of other races because I was never really exposed to those interactions. However, the fact that I was met with open arms helped me come out of that shell. I feel less... I don't want to say afraid, but afraid is the right word for it. I love all peoples, I just am always afraid of what they think of me because I'm a white man. Being able to talk to the people at the festival really helped me just talk to people.”

VANESSA ELLISON
DBFF Community Partner

 Photo courtesy of Vanessa's Facebook Page

Photo courtesy of Vanessa's Facebook Page

“I really enjoyed the opening film I Am Not Your Negro which stems from the work of James Baldwin and followed the lives and deaths of MLK Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evans. It was a really impactful and timely work of art. The diversity of the crowd that came to see this film was simply beautiful. I think that many people left feeling a deeper sense of self or a reflection of sameness through our shared humanity.

I met many people throughout the festival, but my most memorable interactions were at the KWTXR art exhibit by Christopher Blay. His work is incredibly moving so it sparked meaningful dialogue and connection.

There was a group of women who have a podcast called DDBS and we had a natural brainstorm session on future topics for them based on our experiences from the Denton Black Film Festival. It was refreshing to hear one of my favorite genres of music, Neo Soul here in Denton. Ashleigh Smith and Quentin Moore sang original music as well as covers of amazing artists like Prince, Earth Wind and Fire, and D'Angelo. To quote the late and great Don Cornelius, the weekend was filled with a lot of "Peace, Love, and Soul!"
 

 Photo courtesy of Mateo's Facebook Page

Photo courtesy of Mateo's Facebook Page

MATEO GRANADOS
The Dentonite Arts Editor

“My biggest takeaway from the fest is that no matter the production value of each film, each filmmaker had a special story worth experiencing. I'm always intrigued to see the result of minimally funded productions that are always full of heart.”

 

 

 

 

Photos by Brittany Keeton
Header image design by Brittany Keeton
Video Filmed & Edited by Hayden Zaiser