15th Annual Black Film Festival  Celebration


Southwest / Texas 53 Views

Last week,“The Dallas Black Film Festival”celebrated its 15th year of putting the spotlight on Black films of the past and present and honoring new, up and coming filmmakers at the Act of Change Theaterin Oak Cliff. The DBFF was founded in 2003 by Larome Armstrong, who is also the founder of P.W.A.M.P. (People with a Message Production Filmworks & etc.). 

Mr. Armstrong, has been a huge fan of Black Cinema ever since Spike Lee rocked Black audiences’ world with the release of “She’s Gotta Have It”. After seeing this film for the first time, Mr. Armstrong has been on a mission to learn as much as he can about Black film, starting with making contact with Spike Lee by exchanging several written letters with him. Spike was a big encourager and influencer. Eventually, Mr. Armstrong’s curiosity forced him in the area of curating a number of Black films which are no longer being distributed. 

One of the old Black films shown at this year’s film festival was, “The Spook Who Sat By the Door.”This film is a satire of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement and issue of “Black militancy.” 

In the film, the main character becomes the intelligence agency’s token back in an elitist spy program, however, he later decides to bring his knowledge back to the Black community as a way of training them to fight the powers that be. 

It is indeed a very powerful film, which should be a part of every Black arsenal of Black classic films. Although this film was released in 1973, it took nearly 40 years for it to be registered in the National Film Registryfor  being “culturally, historically and aesthetically”relevant. This honor was received in 2012.

The other component of the DBFF involves awarding the filmmakers, for which Larome has devised a unique way of awarding the best. Larome pays close attention to attendees as they are coming into the venue, then later selects several people from the audience who are not family or friends of the filmmaker to come up for an award, and they assist him with choosing the winners.

Mr. Armstrong was born and raised in Dallas, although his pursuit of a career in film lead him to settle temporarily in a number of different cities across the country, until he recently returned to Dallas four years ago. Mr. Armstrong credits Spike Lee with inspiring him to learn everything he could about filmmaking and film in general, he was already connected to the industry as a person with an interest in acting. 

I asked Mr. Armstrong, what specific areas does he believe Black film producers need to focus on? “We need to focus on providing more of a variety of content. I don’t want to see another PIMP movie,” said Mr. Armstrong. 

“You rarely see Blacks in any nature scenes. There are a lot of movies waiting to be made, but we have to be willing to take risks.”Maybe a majority of the major studios are not willing to fund a project or idea they have never funded in the past, but “Black Panther” was a new idea which produced ticket sale numbers people never would have imagined. 

Mr. Armstrong credits producers like Spike Lee and Jordan Peele with thinking outside of the box. “We can’t allow others to put us in a box; but by sticking with the familiar, we are actually creating more boxes for ourselves when we accept these types of offers,”says Mr. Armstrong. 

And although he liked the movie, “Girls Trip,”featuring Tiffany Haddishand Jada Pinkett-Smith, he felt as though the roles were degrading to Black women. “I understand it was a comedy, but the jokes they told, sort of turned them into caricatures. They were simply TOO over the top.”

My last questions for Mr. Armstrong was whether or not he believed we would ever have a Black Hollywood in our time. His response was as follows, “I don’t want to see a Black Hollywood. I want to see Blacks create something original. Hollywood’s way of doing business goes against who we are; it’s just not in our nature.”

For more information about the man behind the festival, follow Larome Armstrong at @laromearmstrong on Instagram or follow Dallas Black Film Festival on Facebook. 

You may also visit his website at www.dallasblackfilmfestival.com

Larome Armstrong is also the author of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and the Power of Black Music, which is available on Amazon. It shows how much of an influence Black Music was on these two iconic Pop/Rock groups.