The Denton Black Film Festival is offering more music, art and spoken word in its second time around. But its primary focus, film, continues to attract filmmakers from around the country.
At the Campus Theatre on Saturday, more than 100 people had gathered by early afternoon to watch short and feature films about cultural divides and internal conflict. The three-day festival — a day longer than last year — wraps up today.
Despite the festival’s expansion, director of operations Linda Eaddy said it is important for the event to maintain its relatively personal atmosphere.
“We wanted to keep that connection with the audience and the filmmakers,” she said. “It’s about community, and it speaks to a diverse group of people.”
First-time filmmaker Monda Webb, who lives in Maryland, said she has been in the film festival circuit for about a year. She has screened her short film, Zoo (Volkerschau), in North Carolina, South Carolina, Maryland, Georgia, Spain, and now Denton.
She said Denton’s festival was a little different than the others.
“This particular festival is one of the warmest that I’ve been to, in terms of the reception and in terms of how the festival organizers treat the filmmakers,” Webb said.
Webb operates a production company, Little Known Stories, with the goal of telling stories that are “buried in the crevasses of history’s pages,” she said.
Her film highlights the issue of “human zoos” through the eyes of a child on her first day in captivity. Webb said she was inspired by a photo of a child from the last known human zoo, at the 1958 World’s Fair in Brussels.
“I think primarily from a multicultural standpoint, speaking of people of color throughout the diaspora, it’s hard enough to tell our stories,” Webb said. “So to tell something this obscure, especially from the point of view of a child, I think is very different. But it also sheds light on what existed.”
Some films shown Saturday afternoon examine more well-known events in history. Chicago filmmaker Lonnie Edwards’ documentary A Ferguson Story is a compilation of footage and soundbites from the events following the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black 18-year-old who was fatally shot by police in Ferguson, Missouri, two years ago.
The footage in Edwards’ film is not narrated, so the amalgamated scenes of police aggression and citizen protests speak for themselves.
“When you see coverage of these kinds of conflicts, things seem skewed,” said Edwards. “I wanted it to be almost like going into a museum and looking at these different images.”
Like Webb, Edwards has gotten involved in filmmaking within the past few years.
Although Webb is only starting to stretch her legs in visual storytelling, she said that didn’t stop audience members from approaching her after the screening and making her feel loved.
“We want to feel some kind of validation for what we do,” Webb said. “It’s a human thing. So I’ve felt very human while I’ve been here.”
JULIAN GILL can be reached at 940-566-6845 and via Twitter at @juliangillmusic.