Full Frame Festival: A Feast for Doc Lovers
Full Frame Festival, scheduled for April 2-5, in Durham, is a feast for lovers of documentary films.
In its 11th year, the Full Frame Festival features 61 exciting new "Docs in Competition." Watching these works is a little like betting on the horses. You are proud when you pick a winner based on its description in the program or word-of-mouth and disappointed when you don't.
In addition to these competitive works, which range from over 90 minutes down to 10 minutes, there are the invited films which often are heard of again as they garner support at other festivals and occasionally end up as the Academy Award Documentary winner.
Such a film, "Man on Wire," ran at Full Frame last year and became the 2008 Oscar winner. At Full Frame it won a special Grand Jury Award, as well as the coveted Full Frame Audience Award. And for good measure, it was shown at the Sunrise last October.
We (Features Editor Faye Dasen and I) always felt a bit conflicted. Not about publicizing the Festival, for an increasing number of documentary fans from the Sandhills have attended.
The problem has been the relative difficulty in seeing documentary films after the Festival closes. Then came NetFlix, a DVD rental mail service, through which you can select documentaries of all kinds. Voila! This relatively rare breed of film is suddenly available.
So here are the basic highlights of this year's Full Frame Festival, should you choose to attend. When the festival has ended we will follow up with some of the Award-winning documentaries that might merit viewing on your part.
"Center Frame" kicks off the opening night of Full Frame with the world premiere of "Sons of Cuba" ("Hijos de Cuba"), a rare behind-the-scenes look at the legendary Havana Boxing Academy, where young boys train to be champions and bring honor to their country.
The three other Center Frame films are:
n "Food, Inc." -- a film that untangles the twisted knot of farm policy, lobbying, engineering and corporate greed that has drastically altered the landscape of American farming since the 1950s.
n "The September Issue" -- an inside look at the creation of Vogue's notorious fall edition, a product of the collective genius of Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour and Creative Director Grace Coddington.
n "The Yes Men Fix the World" -- these are men who battle the free market mentality with their politically charged hijinks. A fast-paced, entertaining look at their unique brand of activism.
The annual Career Award will go this year to a legendary figure in the field of documentary film. It will be awarded posthumously to St. Clair Bourne, who died suddenly last year. His films of note and weight that will be screened include "Black Journal," "In Motion: Amiri Baraka," "John Henrik Clarke: A Great and Mighty Walk," and "Paul Robeson: Here I Stand." Described and known as a filmmaker who "did not shy away from difficult issues," these films will be offered to honor him as one of the most distinguished and respected black filmmakers and critics of the 20th century.
The thematic program this year will be on sports. The curator who put together the 10 titles for this was Steve James. He is the director of the acclaimed film, "Hoop Dreams," "the deeply moving film that follows Arthur Agee Jr. and William Gates as they strive to achieve professional basketball stardom and escape poverty in Chicago."
A free screening of "Hoop Dreams" will take place in Fletcher Hall Saturday night, April 4, at 10 p.m. in the Carolina Theater and both Director James and player Gates will be there for discussion after the screening.
Other films included in the sports theme screenings include: documentaries -- "Fallen Champ: The Untold Story of Mike Tyson," Barbara Kopple's Academy Award-winner; "Maletilla" on bullfighting; "RANK," on
bull-riding; "Man Up," father/son wrestling; "The Red Race," training Chinese children for Olympic glory; "The Good Fight: Work-in-Progress," about Bobby Bowden and Florida State's tough '06 season; and three feature films on sport -- "Paper Lion," George Plimpton undercover as a Detroit Lions quarterback, 1963; "Slap Shot" by George Roy Hill, starring Paul Newman as an aging hockey player-coach; "This Sporting Life" by Lindsay Anderson portraying a very young Richard Harris as a coal miner cum rugby star.
As if this feast was not large enough, there are always panels and workshops and special programming included in the final program.
To take a look at titles and brief descriptions of all the films that will be shown, visit www.fullframefest.org. Information on the Web site will help any wishing to attend the Festival, reserve tickets and learn the dates and times the films will be exhibited.
Pinehurst resident Ron Sutton is professor emeritus of film at American University, Washington, D.C.
More like this story