Thursday, April 10, 2008

ARTICLE: Full Frame 2008

As published in The Technician:

The 11th Full Frame documentary film festival -- which attracted filmgoers, press and filmmakers from all across the country for its screenings of more than 100 documentary films, 60 of which were eligible for various awards -- concluded last Sunday in Durham.

The opening-night film selected to kick off the festival was Trumbo, a documentary directed by Peter Askin about famous screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. Based on a play of the same name by Trumbo's son, Christopher, the film follows Dalton Trumbo's struggle to keep working after he was blacklisted in 1947 for being a member of the Communist Party. Christopher Trumbo was present at the festival and participated with Askin in a Q&A after the screening.

"My idea was simply to tell the story of a historical period … in terms of one person and the effect that it had," Trumbo said. "Peter and I wanted to make it into a play, but it was Peter's idea to continue ahead and make a documentary."

Askin said he felt the film's exploration of blacklist and censorship paralleled the current situation in the United States, citing the Patriot Act and the backlash against the Dixie Chicks as an example.

"I think the political relevance is pretty clear," Askin said. "But a lot of it is funny; it's not just a political treatise."

The big winner of the festival was Trouble the Water, which won three awards, including the Grand Jury prize. The film follows New Orleans resident Kimberly Roberts and her husband as they fight to endure Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath in 2005. A large segment of the film consists of home-video footage shot by Roberts during the storm.

Another festival favorite was Man on Wire, which focuses on the planning and commitment of what many have deemed "the artistic crime of the century": a high-wire routine performed between the Twin Towers by Philippe Petit in 1974. Containing archival footage of the event, as well as personal interviews with Petit and many of the other people involved in its execution, the film garnered glowing comments from audience members after the screening.

"After seeing this film, I feel like I'll be able to finally look at pictures of the World Trade Center and instead of immediately thinking of the terrorist attack, I'll think of this," one woman in the audience said.

Man on Wire went on to win the Audience Award as well as a special Grand Jury prize, which it shared with Trouble the Water.

Full Frame staff slightly changed the technical aspects of running a film festival. They used larger venues and set in place new ticketing and logistics systems, which made for an efficient festival-going experience. Early numbers project that more than 29,000 tickets were distributed, a 7 percent increase from last year.

"In 2008, Full Frame set a goal to allow more people access to the films," Israel Ehrisman, director of logistics for Full Frame, said. "The larger venues and improvements to the ticketing and logistics process really made that happen."

Peg Palmer, executive director of Full Frame, expressed her pride in the festival's staff and volunteers, without whom she said it would not have been possible.

"Full Frame 2008 was a huge success," said Palmer said. "The Festival hosted an eclectic audience of filmmakers and film lovers from all over the world who were completely engaged with our program."

Notable films

Up The Yangtze
: Directed by first-timer Yung Chang, this film chronicles the effect the construction of the Three Gorges Dam has on families along the Yangtze River in China. With gorgeous cinematography and emotional revelations, this is a film highly recommended for those interested in foreign countries or the cost of China's growing economy. Winner of two Honorable Mentions.

Man on Wire: This engaging and entertaining documentary chronicles the journey of Philippe Petit as he walks on a tightrope between the Twin Towers in the mid-1970s. Director James Marsh uses never-before-seen footage and photographs of the event from its early planning stages through the final performance. Winner of the Audience Award and Grand Jury Award.

At the Death House Door: Retired minister Carroll Pickett shares his experience as a death house chaplain at a prison in Huntsville, Texas, where he presided over more than 95 executions. This film is a sobering look at the death penalty and an engaging look at one man's transformation from apathy to activism. Winner of the Inspiration Award.

Please Vote For Me: In one of the funniest and most thought-provoking films of the festival, director Weijun Chen examines what happens when a third-grade class in Communist China holds a democratic election for Class Monitor. Bribery, lies and manipulation all come to pass in the lives of three 8-year-olds as they strategize their ways to victory. Is this a pessimistic look at the future leadership of China, or could it perhaps also be a critique of the way democracy works in the United States? Winner of the Working Films Award.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

ariel Dorfman? where is he?

10:19 PM  

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