By Christina Johnson
The Denton Black Film Festival returns to Denton for it’s third year this coming weekend, and we’re pretty excited about all of the films, music, panels, and poetry that are about to descend upon our little city. If you have the time, it would be worth it to check out the entire festival, running Thursday through Sunday in thirteen different schedule blocks--but if you’re interested and only have a few hours here and there to spare, we’ve narrowed it down to five things not to miss!
The Opening Film: I Am Not Your Negro
Director: Raoul Peck
Screen Writers: James Baldwin and Raoul Peck
Speaker: Samuel L. Jackson
Screening: Thursday, 1/26 at 7pm, Silver Cinemas Theater in Golden Triangle Mall
I Am Not Your Negro features words from author, poet and activist James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript titled Remember This House, which contains personal recollections of civil rights leaders Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Medgar Evers. Baldwin passed away with only thirty pages written of his manuscript, but this film uses his own words while including archival footage to tell a story that weaves a complex history into our current society.
Why you should see it: Baldwin was known for his eloquent and poignant novels and poetry regarding the civil rights movement; I Am Not Your Negro uses his own words from his unfinished manuscript, with Samuel L. Jackson narrating (yes, THAT Samuel L. Jackson). The film has received rave reviews, eleven international awards, and holds the spot for second highest rated film in 2016 on the site Metacritic. The film will have a wider release by Magnolia Pictures on February 3rd, but you can check out early right here in Lil’ D!
Film: Word Warriors III
Screening: Saturday, January 28th at 2:30pm, Campus Theatre
One of the overarching themes of this year’s DBFF is the power of words. Word Warriors III acts as a social commentary on the struggles of African-American men and their fight to use words instead of violence as a catalyst for change. Profiling poets, educators, and activists, this film explores the power and hope that words can bring to our society.
Why you should see it: Because words have the power to change the world, ya’ll. Also, following this film is a panel on the various social justice issues affecting our society and the black community today. Panelists include Word Warriors III Director/Screenwriter/Producer Takia "Tizzi" Green, Screenwriter Producer Lyah Beth LeFlore Poet Shirley Leflore and Executive Producer and retired NFL football player Walter Thurmond III.
Spoken Word Event
Friday, Jan 27th, 8pm & Sat, Jan 28th, 7pm, Black Box Theatre
The goal of this year’s Spoken Word event is to “BE inspired- BE creative- BE involved”. The event was so successful last year that they decided to hold two of them this year. You can either go to share or go to listen, but be sure to get tickets early-- it’s expected to sell out quickly!
Why you should check it out: If you’re a fan of poetry, social activism, or are just curious about what’s going on in our society today, this is the event to attend. This event allows you the freedom to either participate yourself or just listen to what others have to say, while opening the door for further discussion and reflection in a creative way.
College Student Competitive Short Films
Screening: Friday, January 27th at 1pm, Campus Theatre
This year’s festival is showing a block of competitive short films that run from three to thirty minutes in length and cover a variety of topics. Topics of this year’s films include an examination of personal sacrifice and identity, sterilization through legalized eugenics programs in the US, and police brutality, among others. You can check out all of the films HERE. The screening is a competition between the short films, and an awards show, hosted by The Movie Bruthas, will take place at the end of the festival.
Why you should see it: Several of the films have won awards or recognition in national and international film festivals and competitions. The films carefully approach difficult topics in a respectful and precise way. Also, you should go support the efforts of college students and those who will go on to become prominent future filmmakers!
Film: Walk with Me: The Trials of Damon J. Keith
Screening: Friday, January 27th at 7pm, Campus Theatre
Director: Jesse Nesser
Walk With Me follows the ten-year journey of federal Judge Damon J. Keith as he fought for civil rights on a local level. Judge Keith, an African-American, challenged the system from the inside during four prominent, ground-breaking cases that came into his courtroom. The documentary chronicles his fight using his own words, his contemporaries in civil rights activism, his daughters, and those people who were changed by the outcome of his efforts.
Why you should see it: Judge Keith, now 93 years old, still serves on the US Circuit Court of Appeals, bringing a historical viewpoint to our current questions surrounding race and equality. Additionally, this film provides a glimpse into how sometimes local level politics can impact national politics, even though it may not always feel that way--we’re pretty sure that encouragement is reason enough.
Denton Black Film Festival is offering tickets in “blocks” on their website, so paying for access to any of these recommendations also gives you access to other films or events. Check out their website for more info on tickets or how you can get involved!