This weekend, Denton once again welcomes the Denton Black Film Festival, a 2-day series dedicated to showcasing award-winning, independent films. These films are set to entertain, educate, inspire, and communicate black cultural themes to the broader community. All the while hoping to reflect a specific cultural mindset and changes through several generations of film-making.
DBFF will present their chosen collection of films inside Denton’s historic Campus Theatre. This year, they have expanded the festival to include music, art, poetry, and more. With musical acts like The Boombachs, they're going at it full force. We recently spoke with Daniel Amotsuka, UNT alumni and head of Marketing and Digital Media for the festival, and asked him a few questions. Read on for more!
WDDI: Hey Daniel! What’s changed about the festival from last year to this year?
Daniel Amotsuka: Last year, only film was offered. This year, we're looking to highlight other aspects of culture - music, art, poetry, dance. We're want to expand our audience to have offerings for a much wider demographic and not necessarily, “the film buff “.
What are you most looking forward to during this year’s festival?
I'm most excited about the opportunity to offer attendees new, but crucial cultural experiences. As cliche as that is, it's true. Having both blacks folks and people of other races come together intentionally to experience black culture and stories of or from the black experience, I think can be transformative for the racial dynamics of this country. Beyond that, outside of film, I'm excited for the poetry slam. I've never seen one done before and it sounds incredibly intense. It'll be a lot of fun.
What types of films does the DBFF look to highlight?
A wide variety, really. I think one of our goals is to explore the complexity of the black experience so we're taking a global approach to our content. We have a number of films from Cameroon, South Africa and another set in China. As we grow, we'd love to be a coveted platform for black filmmakers globally, looking to show their work to a North American audience. We're also exploring as many genres as possible.
What makes Denton the right location for the DBFF?
I often say Denton is in the middle of a cultural rebirth. Our city is coming into its own and defining its cultural identity - part of that identity is being forward thinking and embracing of progressive values. As Denton continues to grow in its artistic and cultural identity, it is crucial for that identity to be inclusive and diverse. DBFF is an intentional way to make that happen, by providing a platform that is specifically catered to celebrating the experiences and culture of a minority group.
In a year when there were zero black actors nominated for Oscars, is more importance placed on a festival that pushes diversity first and foremost?
There has always been an importance for a festival like ours. The Oscars has always been the way it is. This year - there are zero actors of color nominated but it's not like in previous years, there's been a plethora of them either. It's always been a sprinkle of color, just enough not to ruffle feathers. The focus really isn't so much about who got nominated but moreso, whose stories are being told, whose experiences are seen as valid for the big screen, whose face is as seen as fitting for certain roles. We look across the board, in all genres, across decades, and the answer is most often - white. Our festival provides a way to break that racial monotony. Where blackness, in whatever form, can be experienced not just as an aside or in a sprinkle, but as the focus of attention. It's good for communities of color to be validated in such a way and it's good for white folks to take the back seat and experience a minority culture in a way that isn't yet available in broader society.
What does the music lineup look like for the year?
The actual festival has two music showcases. Joel Cross and Robin Hackett will play at West Oak Coffee Bar. Our main music event was during our pre film festival event, which lasted all day and we had 6 bands play which included local favorites, The Boombachs and others like Texas Blues Crew, Katina Butler, Brandon Kareem, 432 Hertz Ensemble and Robin Hackett.
What are your long-term goals with the festival?
Growth. To continue to grow and become an annual cultural destination event, nationwide and even globally. Denton is the perfect city for it. We want to build relationships with more black artists, in film and other mediums and grow as valuable platform for artists and consumers alike. We want multiracial networks to be expanded, diverse relationships built and once in a lifetime memories formed at DBFF. Also, for there to be a better understanding of why things like a “black” film festival are necessary and important for our community and society at large. Fielding snarky comments about that gets tiresome. But, I understand it's part of the process of growing as a country towards racial harmony and equality so I try to handle it with grace. Sometimes I fail…I'm human, guys.