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Getting behind the Denton Black Film Festival

Getting behind the Denton Black Film Festival

Getting behind the Denton Black Film Festival
January 28
23:52 2015

Kelly Benjamin / Staff Writer

In an attempt to educate and stimulate the art culture in Denton, three colleagues decided it was time to do something different.   Mesha George, Harry Eaddy and Gigi Johnson decided to create the Denton Black Film Festival, a collection of feature-length and short films designed to showcase black culture. George, festival chairwoman, said she has been setting up for the event, the first of its kind, since late August.

“A lot of very talented filmmakers are out there and the unfortunate thing is they don’t have an audience,” George said. “From the standpoint of the people, a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to see things that are truly enjoyable, entertaining and educational as well as inspiring.”

George said she also went through many films that fit the criteria. A lot of the films the team viewed were out of distribution and weren’t playing at local theaters. They thought it would be a good idea to screen some classics.

George said being chairwoman isn’t always an easy task, citing that finding sponsorships and a specific line-up of movies seemed daunting.

“It was also a bit scary because we’re creating,” she said. “We’ve never done this.”

George said although many people were interested in volunteering from the beginning, difficulties came from identifying the components of the festival and how to utilize the talents of those involved.

Eaddy, co-founder of the festival and president of the Denton African-American Scholarship Foundation said he has enjoyed working to plan the festival with George.

“She’s really good,” Eaddy said. “She knows quite a bit about the film industry and has very strong communication.”

One of the featured films at the festival is “Belle,” which George said tells the story of a mixed-race young woman who was raised in an aristocratic white family.

Starring British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw, the story centers around Belle, whose father had an affair with a black slave woman and takes her back to England for an education in attempt to raise Belle based on his upbringing. The story features overtones relating to the civil rights movement even though the story takes place in the 1700s.

“It’s her story and it’s a very different story,” George said. “It brings about a different perspective because we are familiar with slavery here in America.”

George said the movie is about Belle’s awakening as a human being who sees injustice and wants to be educated about it.

Other films at the festival include “Cowboys of Color,” a documentary about the history of black cowboys, “When We Were All Broncos,” a film displaying desegregation in Denton, and the critically-acclaimed “Dear White People,” starring Tessa Thompson, Kyle Gallner, and Tyler William James, best known for his role as the titular character in the television show “Everybody Hates Chris.” The movie follows a group of black college students as they go through the struggles of campus life and race politics in a predominantly white college.

Fashion merchandising senior Cory Simmons said having a black film festival will be a great way to spread black culture throughout Texas.

“When I hear black film festival, the only thing I think about is Spike Lee doing stuff in New York,” Simmons said. “I think the atmosphere and location are prime for the film festival. I don’t think it’s going to be just all black people showing up.”

The inaugural Denton Black Film Festival will run at the Campus Theater Jan. 30 and 31. For more information visit www.dentonafricanamericanfilmfestival.com.

Featured Image: The Campus Theatre hosts movies and theatrical productions year round. Sold-out performances of Les Miserables are currently showing and the Thin Line Film Festival will be back in February. Photo by Byron Thompson – Senior Staff Illustrator

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