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The Denton Black Film Festival returns for its eighth year in 2022. Although festival staff had originally planned to hold this year’s event in person, the recent surge in COVID cases caused the event to be restructured as a virtual event. However, that does not mean there will be a lack of programming — festival staff has worked quickly to turn its planned 100 film screenings, workshops, Q&A panels, and much more into a virtual event running Thursday, January 27th through Sunday, February 6th.
A Worthy Cause
The idea for the Denton Black Film Festival (DBFF) came from Harry Eaddy, currently executive director of the Denton Black Film Festival (DBFF) Institute. Eaddy is also the president of the Denton African American Scholarship Foundation, which Eaddy says has awarded over $400,000 to black students who graduate from Denton area high schools since its start in 1984.
Eaddy and his wife came up with the idea for the DBFF and pitched it to the board of the Denton African American Scholarship Foundation. “Of course, the board thought I was crazy — that’s not what we do,” Eaddy recalls. “I said I think it could be fun and also I think it would raise awareness and promote a worthy cause.”
Eaddy was able to convince the board of the Denton African American Scholarship Foundation to become the DBFF’s founding sponsor. The first festival took place in 2014. “At our first festival we had 800 attendees over a day-and-a-half,” Eaddy says. “We averaged almost 80 people per screening, so we were pretty pleased with that.”
The next year, Eaddy says the festival “blew up” with about 2,400 attendees over a three-day festival. And prior to the pandemic, the festival was averaging a 30% attendee growth every year.
With last year’s festival held virtually due to COVID, Eaddy says about 9,000 attendees enjoyed the festival online.
Over 100 Films
This year’s DBFF will include the screening of over 100 films. For some of the movies, attendees will be able to participate in virtual Q&A sessions with filmmakers, critics, and other industry experts.
One movie Eaddy believes will draw a large interest is Little Satchmo — a movie about musician Louis Armstrong’s daughter who no one knew about. “We think that is really a great film because he is really an American icon and no one knew about his daughter,” Eaddy says.
The screening for Little Satchmo will take place on Friday, January 27th at 7:00 pm, followed by a live stream Q&A at 8:15 pm with Sharon Preston Folta, the daughter of Louis Armstrong, and the film’s director and producer.
The festival will also hold a special pre-festival screening of the film $avvy, which investigates the historical, cultural, and societal norms around women and money. The screening of $avvy is scheduled for Wednesday, January 26th at 7:00 pm, followed by a live stream Q&A at 8:30 pm with the film’s director and staff from the University of North Texas, Texas Woman’s University, and North Central Texas College.
On Friday, January 28th, the festival will host a special screening of The Significance of Sidney, about the late actor Sidney Poitier, at 7:00 pm. This will be followed at 8:00 pm by a live stream conversation with filmmakers about the contributions Poitier made to cinema.
And Eaddy reports there is one film at the festival by someone from Denton. The narrative feature film Illusion was submitted to the festival by Denton resident Sylvain Boayaga, who is originally from the country of Cameroon.
More Than Movies
In addition to screening films, the DBFF offers a variety of other events as well, including music, spoken word, and comedy.
Through the festival, the DBFF Institute also issues a variety of awards to filmmakers. “We have several awards for best narrative, best documentary, best narrative short, best documentary short, some Texas awards, and high school and college student awards,” Eaddy says.
And another part of the DBFF experience is the Technology Expo, which will also be held virtually on Friday, January 28th. “We’re going to cover some topics that we think are really important for people,” Eaddy says.
The virtual Technology Expo will include three panels on different topics, including women in technology, a look at the decade ahead, and “Fintech, Blockchain, Cryptocurrency, & NFTs — are these technologies a fad or are they here to stay?”
Come for the Stories
Eaddy urges all Dentonites to attend this year’s DBFF purely for the experience. “Don’t really think of color — think of experience,” he says. “There’s a lot of great stories that are being told.”
He says a past festival attendee once told him while watching a film about two teenagers in South Africa, she got so caught up in the story she realized later on it could have been about her own grandson or really anybody.
“And that’s what we really want people to focus on — just come and enjoy,” Eaddy adds. “Filmmakers are telling stories that will resonate with most people. Plus you get to learn a little bit about a different culture.”
The 8th Annual Denton Black Film Festival will take place virtually from January 27th through February 6th. This year’s event features about 100 hours of films and programming, workshops and panels, and more. Visit dentonbff.com for more information and to purchase tickets.