Documentaries: A Chance to Explore the World, an Opportunity to Join a Community

This post was originally written for and posted on http://www.studentsoftheworld.org

“ There is nothing better for the soul than going to Full Frame” –Doug Block, Director of 112 Weddings, The Kids Grow Up, 51 Birch Street, and Home Page.

Nothing makes me feel more comfortable than the smell of cinema popcorn, the slightly squeaky seats and the gradual dimming of the lights before darkness cocoons you. Then you are transported.

In the beginning of April, I was lucky enough to represent Students of the World at the Full Frame Documentary Festival in my home state of North Carolina. I’ve lived in the Triangle area for the majority of my life and the transformation of Durham from a factory town into a metropolitan city has been awe inspiring. When I think about what makes Durham a cultural city Full Frame is one of the first things that pop into my mind.

I’d like to congratulate and thank the organizers and programmers of Full Frame on the excellent job they did this year (and every year.) I was transported to so many different places and lived the lives of so many amazing human beings, that at the end of each day I felt like I had spent hours traveling because that was how emotionally drained I was.

I watched twelve films over the course of about four days; each film opened a door, led me on a journey and introduced me to people that I may never have the chance to meet personally. From the amazing work done by Kit Gruelle as detailed in Cynthia Hill’s powerful Private Violence to the transformation of Mahoma Lopez from disgruntled worker to powerful activist in Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick’s inspirational The Hand That Feeds. Each film allowed me to explore and understand a perspective that I would never have been able to experience due to time, money and, most importantly, access.

That is what makes documentaries and Full Frame so amazing; they grant us access-into the lives of others and to the filmmakers’ processes and opinions. And that is brave. At almost every one of the screenings where filmmakers were present to introduce the films, each filmmaker took the time to thank and praise their subjects for their courage and strength to allow these cameras and people into their lives. To trust the filmmakers to craft a story that would be an effective reflection of something much larger.

It is brave of the filmmakers to be so transparent and open about their films and the process of making their films. By breaking the fourth wall that is normally set up in a cinema experience through Q&A sessions and simply being available to chat and discuss on site relationships are created that transcend the normal creator and consumer connection. I have never felt more comfortable among strangers because this medium, by necessity and the nature of it, is collaborative and community-driven.

All of these elements gel together to represent what makes documentaries and Full Frame experiences that should be enjoyed by everyone-community, collaboration and conversation. So I implore you, the millennial that aspires to travel around the world, to affect the lives of others, to tell the stories that are seldom told, my peer, to watch more documentaries, to connect with creators, and to head down to sunny Durham, North Carolina next April. I know I’ll be there with open arms and a smile on my face.

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