Due to the perpetual disappointment that is COVID-19, the 25th Annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is being held online again this year, from April 7-10. But don’t worry: the festival organizers have found the best possible techniques for watching the movies at home on your TV (how about a viewing party?) or on your small-screen device, if you have to.
The best way to do this is through the full frame website, which contains step-by-step instructions and detailed FAQs on buying tickets and setting up your viewing experience. This year’s festival presents 37 titles from 18 countries, 22 feature films and 15 short films. The festival also hosts several online Q&A sessions with filmmakers. Organizers have also announced plans to bring a handful of in-person documentary screenings to Durham Central Park in late August.
To watch now, however, peruse the full listings on the Full Frame website and read this sample which suggests the typical extent of awesomeness at Full Frame’s annual festival.
Among the most popular documentaries this year, Stay prayed profiles legendary North Carolina gospel band The Branchettes and singer Lena Mae Perry, who celebrates 50 years as a bandleader. Early reactions suggest this is the movie for those of us looking for a dramatic revival of hope. Watch for a special screening at the Carolina Theater in May.
Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, The exiled follows the 30-year journey of three Chinese dissidents exiled from the Tiananmen Square massacre. Also in the frame: notoriously rowdy filmmaker Christine Choy, the documentarian who first portrayed the escapees right after the tragic events of 1989. Early directors Violet Columbus and Ben Klein unravel a very twisty story.
Another big winner at Sundance, this heartbreaking documentary tells the story of now-imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, and his mission to find those who poisoned him in 2020. Navalny is in the middle of the global conversation right now. moment, and it is one of several films in this year’s lineup to address issues related to the war in Ukraine.
Director Jon-Sesrie Goff offers a sustained meditation on the American South through a collage of history, memory and the tensions between the two. Told in flickering scenes of personal narrative, the film observes the Gullah community in South Carolina, the stewards of land originally ceded to freed slaves, and their experience of recent hate crimes and progressive gentrification.
Feature film debut director Reid Davenport shot the entirety of this remarkable film from his particular physical perspective as a wheelchair-bound documentary filmmaker. Switching between the experimental and the truth, Davenport offers a first-person perspective on “the spectacle, the (in)visibility and the corrosive legacy of the Freak Show”.
In 1956, Gabor Szilasi arrived by ship from Hungary to his new adopted country in Canada. Since then, he has photographed everyday life. Filmmaker Joannie Lafrenière follows the 94-year-old photographer as he applies his fiercely humanistic philosophy to everything he sees, from Montreal to Budapest and back. This year’s festival is light on feel-good films, but this one is one of them.
Another alarmingly relevant documentary just now, Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes features never-before-seen footage filmed during and just after the infamous 1986 disaster. Director James Jones has also extracted additional material from archival reports, defunct Russian studios and Soviet propaganda films. It is said that Jones finished his film and left Ukraine just before the declaration of war.
Filmmaker Iliana Sosa’s film is a kind of do-it-yourself cinematic ode to her grandfather, Julián, who regularly visits his daughters and their children in El Paso from his home in rural Mexico. Julián has been making this bus trip for decades, maintaining family ties across the border. Sosa’s lyrical and artful film serves as a reminder that all a talented filmmaker really needs is a story and a camera.
This intriguing feature-length documentary from director Tomasz Wolski depicts the behind-the-scenes action behind a series of violent protests in communist Poland around 1970, when authorities cracked down on starving workers. Wolski combines archival phone recordings with stop-motion animation to imagine the conflict behind the closed doors of the oppressors – angry little men in power, toying with life and death.
Fresh from its world premiere at SXSW, director Jessica Edwards’ new film is billed as the first feature-length documentary on the rise of women’s skateboarding. skate dreams follows the stories of several women, from pioneers in the sport of the 1980s to recent Olympic contenders from around the world. There aren’t many rules in making documentary films, but everyone knows this one: skateboard movies always look cool as hell.
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