With two film festivals on our near horizon, it is movie season in Denton.
When Tim and I watch a movie, we see different things happening on the screen. He notices detail within each scene, frame by frame. I merely see a story, focusing on the characters. He notices nuances like cars racing down a wet street, squealing to a stop seconds later on dry pavement. All I saw was a harrowing getaway.
Tim is right-brained, an artist. He sees director errors, scene inconsistencies, setting details relevant to where viewers are supposed to believe the story is taking place. I could miss mountain oddity in the background of a scene supposedly unfolding in Denton if the story fully captured my imagination. My left-brained logic envies his skill at times; other times, it’s just irritating. I guess together we make a whole brain.
Tim can watch a movie with a sloppy storyline, yet appreciate artistic elements of excellent filmmaking in its production. Me? I’m either engaged in the story or likely not watching at all. At least that’s how it was before Tim and film festivals and documentaries. What I’ve learned through discovery is that people perceive differently. They take in the world through different filters and in different ways. And film is just one artistic expression of experience, passion, culture and world-view.
Documentaries have helped me appreciate and understand other art forms, too. When I stand in front of a painting, study a sculpture, drive by a mural, read a book, I’ve learned to see something from inside someone else. It’s not about me. Its creation was not rooted in my entertainment. Instead, I have an opportunity to glean from someone else’s expression a way of seeing that would never come naturally to me. Art is an ultimate sharing, an intimate impartation.
The Denton Black Film Festival (DBFF) this coming weekend is an excellent case in point. All month long, I’ve been checking out art exhibits and artist interviews highlighting black artists of many genres. Interestingly, they are all individually connected to the film festival through their appreciation of each other’s work. For instance, I met Annette Lawrence, UNT Professor and Chair of Studio Art at the UNT College of Visual Arts and Design. I toured her exhibit “Around Again”, which is showing at UNT on the Square through January 31. And I met Vicki Meek, internationally acclaimed artist, curator, critic and manager of the South Dallas Cultural Center in Dallas, Texas. And I met Shay Youngblood, author, novelist and playwright. Fascinating artists. Each a unique perspective. Each, an original expression. Each, a black woman.
When the DBFF was in its conception, I admit I did not understand the need to call out the black aspect of the artists involved. I truly have a Technicolor view of the world. Not black or white or gray. Color. That’s why in movies, I see the story in the film, but really don’t ponder much the real lives of the actors and makers themselves. I just see the story. With all the recent media attention on the lack of diversity among nominees for the upcoming Oscar awards and the research divulged as to why that may be the case, these ladies opened my eyes as to why the black in the festival’s mission is important.
I’ve learned that great artists go unnoticed because of colored skin, and that sometimes they are discovered because of it. Their ultimate desire, though, is to be seen as artists based solely on the quality of their expressions. According to Meek, just finding a way into a community of like-minded artists is difficult. Historically, art communities have not flourished within black culture, isolating these gifted right-brains. Events like the DBFF are changing that. Black artists are discovering one another, and finding their way together into a broader arts community, enlarging it for everyone’s benefit, including mine. This is ultimately what the DBFF is all about.
In the same way Tim’s and my different ways of consuming a film make a bigger movie experience when we share it together, so art of every kind is more enriching when it is inclusive. Thin Line Fest, celebrating its 10th year next month, does the same thing as the DBFF. They both expose us through film and other art forms to stories about and from people all over the world. And we are more for having glimpsed our world through different filters.
It is film season, a time for enlarging our personal borders, a time for embracing, appreciating what it means to be Denton, original and independent.