The Denton Black Film Festival’s aim to “educate, entertain, and inspire” manifested through the vehicles of film, art, culture and conversation the weekend of Jan. 27-29. The third-annual DBFF’s immense variety of artistic showcases mirrored the festival’s vision of diversity and allowed artists across genres and mediums to participate in reclaiming and celebrating black culture.
Eloquently phrased by Festival Director Harry Eaddy, the DBFF is a collaborative platform with two goals in mind: sharing black culture and building community.
“This is really a cultural experience…Don’t come for one film, don’t come for two films, but come to really understand,” said Harry Eaddy. The DBFF boasted a festival-high of forty-three film screenings, following its thirteen screenings in 2015 and twenty-eight in 2016.
The Texas premiere of Oscar-nominated documentary “I Am Not Your Negro,” based on the unfinished manuscript of James Baldwin’s memoir “Remember This House” and directed by Raoul Peck, sold out two Silver Cinemas theaters as DBFF’s opening film.
Director of Film Programming Linda Eaddy said: “We’re trying to bridge the gap of misunderstanding. In our country, there is a lot of division going on, so what I hope through our films, our festival and this whole experience is that it brings people together.”
The DBFF is a hybrid festival, crafted to include both filmmakers and community members. “Denton has an 8 percent black population. You don’t have this huge demographic, so it really takes a community to support something like this and for it to be successful…Film is our anchor, but there is so much more that we are trying to share,” Harry Eaddy added.
In addition to screenings at the Campus Theater, the DBFF included the Building Bridges pre-festival event, spoken word and poetry hosted by Verb Kulture, a comedy show featuring Derrick Keener and Alfred Kainga, a concert by Ashleigh Smith, panels on Social Justice and Women in Entertainment, film workshops, an art exhibit and an awards ceremony.
Like any event focused on a minority culture, some people have been skeptical and even highly critical of the DBFF and its agenda. Countless times Harry Eaddy has been asked, “Why would you have a black film festival?” and “Why would I come?” His answer? An unwavering, “Why not?”
Harry Eaddy said: “Black culture is an expression of the people that it represents. Most of the time, at least in America, black culture and black people are in the minority. As an example, if you look at most TV shows, you rarely see a black person in a leading role… We request and require that there is some major character that is black. So that means the minority culture will have a majority representation.”
When questioned about the necessity for a festival centered on black culture, Harry Eaddy says that he simply asks people to attend with an open mind and share in the experience.
Harry Eaddy commented “Many of my friends that are not black have said, ‘You know, I thought I would be entertained….but I didn’t know I would be educated.’”