Black film festival shifts event to virtual format among COVID fears
The Denton Black Film Festival puts education first in its mission statement.
But festival director and co-founder Harry Eaddy said he didn’t want middle and high school students to risk COVID-19 infection to attend school screenings.
“We talked about it and we decided we didn’t want to be a superspreader event,” Eaddy said. “So we made the decision to go virtual — as much as we can. Some things are going to happen later, some of the music will get rescheduled.”
Eaddy said the festival’s leadership had been monitoring other big festivals with hybrid formats, such as South by Southwest Conference & Festivals, and the enormous CES tech showcase.
The local festival, now in its eighth year, has enjoyed a growing profile among filmmakers and festival buffs since its inception. It was a virtual festival in 2021. This year, the festival runs from Jan. 27-Feb. 6. More than 130 films will screen on demand (and some for limited screening times), and the music performances will move to a virtual performance, with rescheduled live dates to be announced. The comedy and poetry will also be virtual.
The tech expose, which was to highlight Black, woman and minority-owned technology businesses has been canceled, and festival officials plan to bring it back in 2023.
The Black Film Festival celebrates and examines Black lives and experiences through narrative and documentary films, and it brings the work of Black filmmakers and producers to an audience eager to hear emerging voices and viewpoints.
A schedule of virtual films, panel discussions and music is posted, with more content coming soon.
Festival officials started to contact patrons who had purchased tickets and passes. The festival’s VIP experience pass gives access to all of the virtual screenings and events. The five-block virtual experience pass gives patrons a choice of five individual film screening blocks, and any other ticketed events.
Individual tickets to all film screenings and other events are still available.
The only in-person event will be an art exhibit featuring Ciara Elle Bryant. Bryant is the festival’s 2022 artist in residence. She is a multidisciplinary artist who uses photography, video and installation to examine Black culture in the new millennium.
The exhibit will be at the UNT CoLab, at 207 N. Elm St. The exhibit runs 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, Jan. 26-Feb. 12.
Linda Eaddy, the festival co-founder and director of film programming, said the event maintained engagement online in 2021.
“People participated,” she said. “They screened the films and they took part in the panels and Q&A events that we had after screenings. It’s not ideal, of course, but we found a way to make it work last year and we’ve been able to make that transition again this year. We know people like to attend festivals in person, but we do want to keep people safe.”
The festival has grown in participation from the audience and filmmaker side of things.
“More filmmakers are approaching us now,” Linda Eaddy said. “That’s what we were hoping for. And we look forward to 2023, when we can bring film lovers and directors together in person again.”
LUCINDA BREEDING-GONZALES can be reached at 940-566-6877 and via Twitter at @LBreedingDRC.