The Denton Black Film Festival has a history of short films that engage and invest the viewer as much, if not more, than feature-length films and documentaries. This year, Cream and Strange Fruit are among those that tell their stories and state their views in less than 15 minutes. Both are centered around and directed by women, and both have distinctly unique voices that tell stories worlds apart but manage to have a lasting impact.
Cream is a period piece following a young girl, her sister, and her grandmother. It touches on issues regarding generational differences and the impact societal issues have in developing minds. Some of the most striking imagery and conversation revolve around skin color and the power it holds. The director manages to navigate the intricacies of a family with contrasting viewpoints when it comes to pride and self-preservation.
As the film progresses, we see the evolution of the protagonist Tiana and the way that she internalizes and rebels against ideas imposed by her radical grandmother and sister. While it's set in the 60s, the issues that it discusses are incredibly relevant to contemporary viewers.
Cream runs 14 minutes and will be shown Friday, January 27 at 1 p.m. during Film Block 1 with other college short films such as Sterile; Two Scoops; Ball is Life; Reach; Same Fruit, Different Tree; On Time and Trouble Man as part of Denton Black Film Festival. To purchase tickets at the online box office, click here.
Similarly, Strange Fruit touches on these issues in a wholly different way.
Strange Fruit is a visually-striking and emotionally-charged view into the harsh realities facing African American people throughout the country. Anjola Coker combines poetic dialogue over nuanced symbolic storytelling to convey her message. The film follows a young woman realizing her position and the dangers she and people like her face based on race.
The director manages to incorporate a variety of metaphors and symbols into the short film, notably including nature as a beautiful and cruel constant through time. The opening shot of a pristine green apple being coated in a slick black fluid is as beautiful as it is befuddling. Coker masterfully presents these visual metaphors for examination and deconstruction and leaves them somewhat open-ended for interpretation adding to the allure of the film.
The score provides a perfect background for the story, highlighting mood shifts and allowing the narration to sink in for the viewer. It is jarring when it needs to be and smooth at other times, providing a solid base for the story to blossom over.
One particular image that stands out is of a young girl drawing a chalk outline of a body commonly seen in crime scenes. The shot is gripping and disturbing and manages to invoke deeper levels of discomfort by way of the child's obliviousness towards the macabre drawing she's creating.
The short is a perfect example of the impact that beautiful language and harsh realities create when combined and the artistic direction manages to meld the difficult subject matter with pleasing aesthetics without trivializing the topic. The director’s background and experiences are incredibly evident within the work and her message is succinct and powerful.
Both pieces are great examples of the impact a short film can have and their inclusion in the festival shows the wide variety of talent and methods of storytelling within the community.
Strange Fruit runs 3 minutes and will be shown Saturday, January 28 at 2:30 p.m. during Film Block 8 with the feature Word Warriors III and the Panel on Social Justice as part of Denton Black Film Festival. To purchase tickets at the online box office, click here.