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Tomas Gonzalez

Black Film Festival closes on strong note

Profile image for By Harrison Long
By Harrison Long
People watch a free community screening of “Caged Bird: The Life & Music of Florence B. Price” hosted by the Denton Black Film Festival, on Sunday  in Denton .Tomas Gonzalez
People watch a free community screening of “Caged Bird: The Life & Music of Florence B. Price” hosted by the Denton Black Film Festival, on Sunday in Denton .
Tomas Gonzalez

By Sunday, as the third annual Denton Black Film Festival began to wind down, attendance refused to waver. Attendees filed into Denton’s Campus Theatre for the final day of screenings in order to soak in the culture and devote their attention to narratives about and by black filmmakers.

The festival, which had its opening film Thursday night, has the tagline “Stories that empower. Art that inspires. Culture that builds.”

Here’s a bite-sized look at the festival, through the films screened in Sunday afternoon’s Block 13:

Empowerment

“Priyanath,” a short film by Anietie Antia-Obong, is a tale told through the eyes of the titular young boy, who is kept indoors by his mother while he longs to work alongside his father in the mysterious shed behind their home.

When 6-year-old Priyanath asks why he can’t go outside, his mother tells him the tale of a vicious monster who, through unfortunate circumstance, has bound a neighbor to care for him for the rest of his days. She tells Priyanath that his father has agreed to help the neighbor in caring for the monster, which they keep locked in the shed. She warns him that he must never venture into the shed, for fear that he will be the next person bound to care for the monster.

When the boy is called to investigate the shed, his discovery marks a familiar return to the magic of one’s childhood, which the filmmakers say was intentional.

“The film is based upon a story found in the book the Autobiography of a Yogi,” Antia-Obong said after Sunday’s screening.

When asked if the film had any basis in her own childhood, the filmmaker said it was “nothing in particular — I always feel like a child at heart.”

Antia-Obong did cite one personal attachment to the film — “Priyanath” was filmed in a location owned by her late mother.

“It is a way to remember her,” she said.

Inspiration

Sunday’s Block 13 also included “The Storyteller,” Alex Emanuel’s short film chronicling the story of Terrick, a London cab driver of Ghanaian heritage who seeks ways to make amends with his estranged wife and remain involved in the life of his two children, Bruno and Sasha.

Told through a haunting score marked with West African musicians and a series of flashbacks to happier times, Terrick tries time and time again to gain access to his children. Through Terrick’s narration, the audience explores the folklore of Ashanti culture through tales of Anansi the spider as Terrick tries everything he can think of to remain a fixture in his children’s life.

“It reminded me of my own childhood,” said viewer Mary Pelgrath, a Denton native and a first-time attendee of the Denton Black Film Festival. “Having separate households is a defining part of one’s life, but it’s important to charge through it all. I loved it.”

At 18 minutes long, the film is a quick yet effective testament to the power of staying firm in one’s roots while charting for a better life in the future.

Culture

The main feature of the block was The Land Beneath Our Feet, an hourlong documentary about Liberia, which is known by Westerners for its role in the 2014 Ebola outbreak.

Though the disease outbreak is briefly explored in the film, the history provided by filmmakers Sarita Siegal and Gregg Mitman extends back to the 1847 founding of the republic, the effects of colonialism on Liberia in the century that followed, as well as the devastating effects of its deadly civil war.

Told through the efforts of Emmanuel Urey, a Liberian man seeking answers about the nature of forces that have long afflicted his country, weaved masterfully with archival footage dating back nearly a century, The Land Beneath Our Feet offers a rare glimpse into a land that has found itself caught between warring forces for far too long.

“This is my third time attending [this festival] and I’m thankful for this platform,” said Marcus Warren, one of the producers of “Priyanath.” “It’s wonderful to have stories about black people and stories told by black people — though some might not even be about black people, but just told through their perspective. ”

 

HARRISON LONG can be reached at 940-566-6897 and via Twitter at @HarrisonGLong.