Tag Archives: films

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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7 Films from the Full Frame Film Festival that Students of the World students should watch and why.

This post was originally written for and posted on the Students of the World national site at http://www.studentsoftheworld.org

Full Frame as a film festival is amazing and I would highly recommend that everyone try to make the trip down to Durham every year. But I understand that many times life creates some obstacles that make that a difficult venture. However, you can get a taste of the festival experience by watching some of the films that premiered/screened there. Plus nothing makes you a better filmmaker than watching films. Here are my recommendations (in no particular order) for other SOW students.

Private Violence dir. Cynthia Hill
Awarded The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights at Full Frame this year, this intimate and powerful piece about domestic violence is a film that everyone should watch. Hill and her partner Rex Miller spent many months with some women as they deal with an issue that impacts millions of women both in the United States and around the world. Beginning by attempting to answer the question, “Why doesn’t she just leave?” the film explores the many layers that complicate the issue of domestic violence and abuse in general. Private Violence is a fantastic example of the power of individual stories, the importance of trust and courage especially when telling difficult stories.

Captivated-The Trials of Pamela Smart dir. Jeremiah Zagar
Beautifully directed, Captivated, is a twisting and turning exploration of media and the power that it wields. A great conversation starter about media, it asks both content creators and consumers to question the things we make and see, even while we are watching the film. This film is the documentary companion to Paddy Chayefsky and Sidney Lumet’s fantastic Network. Zagar is masterful in the mixing of archival and shot footage, and his method of framing and presenting archival footage is beautiful and poignant.

The Hand that Feeds dir. Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick
Scrappy, funny, and moving this film takes a look at something that most people don’t pay attention to-the rights of low-wage workers. Following the journey of a group of workers in a “Hot and Crusty” shop in New York City, The Hand that Feeds is an amazing example of clarity and editing as you follow the works over quite a long period of time but still fully understand the narrative. It does an amazing job juggling a color ensemble. The film deals with an issue that impacts millions of people but is hidden to many, there are moments of heart-wrenching disappointing, bu the film is wonderfully fun and inspiring, an important reason that made it the winner of the Full Frame Audience Award.

Ivory Tower dir. Andrew Rossi
A film that has some structural issues, Ivory Tower, is still a piece that I would recommend to everyone, especially if you are a student. Well-researched and full of differing perspectives, Ivory Tower, explores the higher education system and some of the issues that have arisen as the system and expectations have changed. A great conversation starter about education and our American system in particular, it will may make you think differently about the years (and money) you are spending in college.

The Case Against 8 dir. Ben Cotner and Ryan White
Following the appeal case of two California couples against Proposition 8, The Case Against 8, looks beyond the legalese and explores the people behind the case. A wonderful example of how to compress years into a well-structured and organized, as well as deal with a diverse cast. The Case Against 8 is a beautiful and moving film that inspires as much as it reveals.

Evolution of a Criminal dir. Darius Clark Monroe
First person documentaries are not normally what people imagine documentaries to be but Darius Clark Monroe’s Evolution of a Criminal, is an intimate, powerful story about the filmmaker and those around him. Winner of both the Reva and David Logan Grand Jury Award and the Center of Documentary Studies Award at Full Frame, Evolution of a Criminal, mixes interviews with recreations beautifully and powerfully. Monroe’s thesis film out of NYU, he expertly plays with expectations and rhythm as he explores criminals and criminality. Darius Clarke Monroe is a filmmaker to keep an eye out for.

Hacked Circuit dir. Deborah Stratman
A beautifully shot short film that explores foley artists, I admit that this pick is a bit self-indulgent. As a filmmaker I’ve always love getting a chance to explore some of the lesser known steps of filmmaking. Beyond the seeing the amazing amount of detail that the artists take, the entire film is shot in one floating take, and contains some clips from one of my favorite movies. Go check out Hacked Circuit and appreciate one more aspect of filmmaking.

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