PHOTOS: Denton’s Thin Line Fest kicks off, continues through Sunday

A full band on stage

Hen and the Cocks heavy-hitting rhythms and cathartic vocals give the audience an electric show. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Thin Line Fest is a free five-day festival that showcases documentary films, music and photography in Denton this weekend. Festivities kicked off Wednesday night at Andy’s Bar, Campus Theater and Sunago Bell in Downtown Denton Square.

All of the locations for various festival features are a stone’s throw away from one another, leaning on Denton’s walkability in the square.

Opening night showcased Subject as its only documentary film for the night, the opening reception for the photography gallery, and a local / national music lineup at Andy’s Bar that included Hen and the Cocks, Mutha-Falcon, FEA and Bad Cop / Bad Cop.

Thin Line Fest is the longest-running documentary film festival, started in 2007 by founder and UNT alum Joshua Butler.

Leoncarlo played inside Sunago Bell where the photography exhibition was featured. Photo: Jessica Waffles

An exterior shot of a theater

Campus Theater will be hosting all of the Thin Line Fest film screenings through Sunday. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Butler gave an introduction to Subject on stage, explaining that the festival’s name comes from the idea that there’s a thin line between reality and fiction, and the festival aims to explore that line through documentary films, music, and photography.

The documentary film Subject explores the relationship between documentarians and their subjects. It examines various documentaries such as “The Staircase,” “The Square,” and “Hoop Dreams,” among others – illustrating the power dynamic between the documentarians and the “subjects.” Delving into the ethics and repercussions of how the process of documentary filmmaking affects everyone involved, the film was the perfect flavor of introduction to Thin Line Fest.

The event is more than just a film or music festival – it’s an immersive experience that allows visitors to engage with the art and the creators, as well as like-minded supporters.

Four people standing on stage

Thin Line Fest founder Joshua Butler (left) and “Subject” documentary collaborators Margie Ratliff [The Staircase], Susanne Reisenbichler [The Wolfpack] and Mukunda Angulo. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A lit sign and a large room

Sunago Bell opened its doors for Thin Line Fest, which usually only hosts weddings and private events. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A wide shot of a building and a road

Sunago Bell is located on the top floor of the Wells Fargo building in the Downtown Denton Square. Photo: Jessica Waffles

The festival features a curated selection of films that cover a wide range of topics, from social justice and environmental issues to art and culture – including Don’t Worry About India, The Tuba Thieves, and Roots of Fire. (find the full festival lineup at the bottom of this article)

On Saturday, Thin Line will partner with Denton Fest / Denton Makers, shutting down Oak Street on the square. There will be over 100 artists set up from 1:00 – 7:00pm with an outdoor music stage set up on the grass 2:00 – 6:00pm. The outdoor stage at Denton County Brewing company will also have a music lineup for their 6th anniversary from 6:00 – 10:00pm.

Three people looking out a window over a city

Some attendees take in the view from Sunago Bell. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A piece of photography art

One of the 100 pieces in the Photography Exhibition for Thin Line Fest. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A catering table

Houlihan’s Restaurant + Bar catered opening night for Thin Line Fest, featuring sliders, dumplings and chips & queso. Photo: Jessica Waffles

One of the standout aspects of the fest is that it is completely free to the public to attend. Unlike most film festivals that cost potentially hundreds of dollars or more to participate, Thin Line Fest is brought to Denton through a labor of love.

“I don’t like to compete,” Butler said. “I always try to find ways to differentiate ourselves; we’re a nonprofit. My motivation is not to make money. The whole festival is run by volunteers. Tt takes an incredible amount of time and resources to make this happen.”

Though free, RSVP online is required to attend and receive a badge to enter the film screenings and easy entry to the other venues. You can also register on site at certain venues. Check-in locations are Campus Theater, Dan’s Silverleaf, Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studio and Andy’s Bar.

VIP passes are available to those who wish to come to screenings early and take advantage of the 5 to 10 minute window at the beginning of screenings to choose seats.

A musician playing violin

Leoncarlo at Thin Line Fest. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A piece of photography art

A piece from the featured photographer Mike Ferreira’s collection that showcases photos of Denton, TX. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A photo gallery

The view on the top floor has 360 degrees of windows that allow attendees to see the whole city of Denton. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Music acts over the next four days include Vincent Neil Emerson, Eyehategod, Rickshaw Billie’s Burger Patrol, Upsetting, Flowerbed, Record Setter and more.

The photography gallery featured in Sunago Bell has 100 printed images, including 20 images from Mike Ferreira’s upcoming photo book “This is Denton.” The gallery is on the top floor of the Wells Fargo building in the square, and has a beautiful 360 degree view of the city. The space is often closed to the public; this event gives people a chance to see the city from a new level.

“I’ve been fascinated in the space of the thin line,” Butler said. “The thin line always separates two extreme ideas. Love and hate. Crazy and genius. That space between the two extremes – that’s where the intensity is. Two sides with a very narrow space between them. Right where the action is. That’s were we like to live as a festival.”

Find the full event schedule at the bottom of this article.

A marquee with band names

The marquee outside Andy’s Bar in Denton Square on opening night of Thin Line Fest 2023. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A full band on stage and a crowd

Hen and the Cocks performing at Andy’s Bar for Thin Line Fest opening night. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A musician sings on stage

JoAnn Henkel of Hen and the Cocks leaves it all on stage at one of the most active performers in the music scene. Photo: Jessica Waffles

A singer in a crowd of people

JoAnn Henkel went into the crowd multiple times to engage with the crowd at Andy’s Bar. Photo: Jessica Waffles

Jessica Waffles is a freelance photographer/videographer and regular contributor to KXT. 

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