In celebration of Juneteenth this Friday, Denton Black Film Festival is hosting a virtual pop-up film event Thursday night. The occasion will feature short films that highlight the black experience, as well as conversations with filmmakers.
Juneteenth is one of the oldest celebrations commemorating the end of slavery in the U.S. and is particularly significant for Texas.
On June 19, 1865 – two years after President Lincoln delivered the Emancipation Proclamation – General Gordon Granger and his troops landed in Galveston, Texas announcing the war had ended and slaves were free. At the time, Lincoln’s executive order had little effect in Texas because there were so few Union troops to enforce it.
That is, until General Granger and his troops arrived on Juneteenth.
Alexis Bolden, Denton Black Film Festival’s communications director, said the organization wanted to bring attention to the holiday.
“We want to make sure that people can still be able to celebrate the emancipation of slaves,” she said. “Just still be able to celebrate something of this magnitude during this time, and it just seems even more timely with everything that’s going on.”
Bolden’s referring to the weeks of demonstrations across the country that were sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed in police custody after an officer knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes.
She said the film festival is also a great way for people in the black community to see their experiences reflected on screen, and it can also help others understand the reality of living as a black person in America.
“Just be able to expand that conversation to everyone and just allow people to experience black culture and in all of its glory, you know,” Bolden said. “The downsides and the positives, ’cause it’s always a balance to it. There’s a lot of pain, but there’s laughter, there’s joy, there’s the music. There’s a ton to it.”
Not all of the filmmakers featured in the festival are black; however, the movies being shown all revolve around the black experience.
“We wanted to make sure that we use our platform to share black stories that aren’t typically shown,” Bolden said.
That includes the film Miss Juneteenth.
It’s a coming of age movie that looks at the relationship between a former beauty queen and her rebellious teenage daughter as she helps prepare her for the Miss Juneteenth pageant. Turquoise Jones, played by Nicole Beharie, is a former winner who doesn’t feel like she’s lived up to her potential. She puts that pressure to succeed on her daughter Kai, played by Alexis Chikaeze, who doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps.
Fort Worth-native Channing Godfrey Peoples wrote and directed the film, which was produced in North Texas. It’s also Godfrey Peoples’ debut feature.
Miss Juneteenth was supposed to release in theaters on June 19, but the Denton Black Film Festival has helped make it available to buy or rent online. Proceeds from the film will go toward scholarships for high school students and the Denton Black Film Festival.
The virtual festival will feature short films including One Last Goodbye by Latasha Kennedy, Patient Zero by Issa Currie, Zoo by Monda Raquel Webb, and episodes 1 and 4 of Heroes of Color, an animated series by David Heredia. The event will also include a conversation about the Buffalo Soldiers of West Texas with filmmaker Michael “Aku” Rodriguez.
The Juneteenth Pop Up Film Event can be streamed for free here on Thursday evening from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Donations from the live event will benefit the Denton Black Film Festival and the National Multicultural Western Heritage Museum.
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