Second annual Black Film Festival comes to Denton community

Second annual Black Film Festival comes to Denton community

The Campus Theater hosted more than 20 original films this past weekend of January 29-31 for Denton’s annual Black Film Festival. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Second annual Black Film Festival comes to Denton community
February 01
17:54 2016

Tyler Hicks | Staff Writer

@MightyasaPen

A few minutes into a rousing poetry performance, Gabreal Lyrix forgets his words. It’s the second night of Spoken Word at the Denton Black Film Festival, and the Black Box Theater is teeming with poets, vocalists, volunteers and fans. Stepping back from the mic, Lyrix searches for the right words.

Then something amazing happens. People in the crowd of 50-plus start clapping, snapping and shouting words of encouragement at the stage.

With the full support of a rapturous audience, the performer finds his words and finishes his piece. This is what fellow poet A.J. Houston called “building dreams together.”

Poet, author and host A.J. Houston performs at a spoken word event at the Black Box Theatre on Saturday January 31, 2015. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Poet, author and host A.J. Houston performs at a spoken word event at the Black Box Theatre on Saturday January 31, 2015. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

The Denton African American Scholarship Foundation launched the Denton Black Film Festival last year in what director Harry Eaddy called part of a concerted effort to “shake things up.” The Foundation had been putting on events for 32 years, but never something of such large size.

“Not everyone is a filmgoer, and that’s okay,” Eaddy said. “This is a festival geared toward all people.”

Last year’s lineup boasted 13 films, and this year there were 29, but that’s not the biggest difference. According to the organizers, this year’s festival extended collaborations with the community in new and exciting ways—an integral part of that is the inclusion of art, music and spoken word.

Some of the festival’s spoken-word artists have been performing since elementary school. Houston said for him, writing started out as a way to get a grade. But after speaking at a friend’s funeral, he realized the power of words.

Artist Gabreal Lyrix performs a piece he wrote at a spoken word event at the Black Box Theatre on Saturday January 31, 2015. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Artist Gabreal Lyrix performs a piece he wrote at a spoken word event at the Black Box Theatre on Saturday January 31, 2015. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

The night’s emcee, Verb Kulture, began writing when she was just 6 years old and started performing, she said, because she loved the inclusiveness of the spoken word. Anyone in the festival’s crowd was welcomed to sign up and perform.

The result was a mixture of veterans and fledgling poets coming together to share their art.

“We don’t have very many platforms,” Verb said.

But, for more than five hours on Friday and Saturday nights, the stage was open to everyone. Special projects coordinator Mesha George said festival organizers have always striven to make the event all-inclusive, hoping it will “build bridges in the community.”

Festivalgoers reeled from back-to-back movies about civil unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. In the Campus Theater, where “Bonnie and Clyde” premiered nearly 50 years ago, fans came in droves to take in the diverse palate offered by the robust lineup.

“At least we had ‘Little White Lie’ to leave us with a smile,” a woman said about a family-centered documentary that followed the two Ferguson docs.

The feeling of emotional whiplash was common among audience members—an intent of festival organizers.

In developing the lineup, Eaddy and the selection committee sought out complex movies that push boundaries.

Film-goers begin to fill up the auditorium at the Campus Theatre before Friday night’s final screenings. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

Film-goers begin to fill up the auditorium at the Campus Theatre before Friday night’s final screenings. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

“These are not run-of-the-mill films,” Eaddy said. “When we bring films to Denton, we’re trying to show the best films of the past four to five months.”

Over three days, the short films, rom-coms and aforementioned documentaries offered sharp insights on black culture and world culture in general. Plans for next year’s festival are already underway.

“It’s all about being inclusive and appealing to all audiences,” Eaddy said. “It’s a place to hang with friends, meet new people of all ethnic backgrounds and just have a good time.”

Featured Image: The Campus Theater hosted more than 20 original films this past weekend of January 29-31 for Denton’s annual Black Film Festival. Paulina De Alva | Staff Photographer

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