True story: Appellate Judge Rob Lineberger sat at a booth and sold this very DVD during this year's Full Frame Festival.
Now entering Realitywood…
Facts of the Case
The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is known for its intimacy and hospitality. Perhaps the nature of the documentary style invites this intimacy. Perhaps it is due to the professionalism of founder Nancy Buirski, festival director Robyn Yigit Smith, and the dedicated core staff. Maybe the backing of a board with Big Names helps. Whatever the reason, Full Frame is expansive, but fosters a pleasant, down-to-earth attitude.
Even so, there was a fair amount of adrenaline in the air at this year's festival. People talked in heated tones about the war in Iraq. Aspiring filmmakers found quiet corners to talk with studio reps. The buzz was palpable when Martin Scorsese and Ric Burns showed up. Excited fans asked Walter Mosley for his autograph, which he gave with aplomb. Everywhere you looked, people were talking about the films they'd seen, or wanted to see; had made, or wanted to make.
It is of course impossible to capture the energy of Full Frame on a lifeless disc. Documentaries are by nature personal; the experience is enriched by talking about how a film made you feel in the lobby with other festival goers, or even at the filmmaker party with the filmmaker herself. The problem is compounded by the limited space on a DVD: There simply isn't room for all of the stories. Film distribution plays its part as well. Is Murderball going to be on next year's Volume Four? Doubtful, not after the press it has generated.
For these reasons, the six short films below are not representative of the overall 2004 Full Frame experience. Six films cannot begin to represent all of the stories that screened at last year's festival. Nonetheless, they manage to suggest the emotional breadth of the documentary and give us a glimpse into what compels documentarians and their fans.
• A Thousand Words (Melba Williams, 9 minutes)
This footage is surrounded by a narrative about Melba's tardy attempts to learn about her father's traumatic past: He suffered a stroke and cannot fully communicate with her now about the images he took. The "too late to ask" theme obviously resonated with people at the festival, but I found it distasteful. He obviously does not want to relive those times, and I wanted her to leave him alone. Let people's reticence to speak speak for them.
• The Great Cheesesteak Debate (Scott Vosbury, 13
• Rosalie's Journey (Warwick Thornton, 23 minutes)
• Texas Hospitality (Michael Pfaendtner, 4 minutes)
• Journeys (Vinayan Kodoth, 39 minutes)
• Foxhole (Franko Galoso, 26 minutes)
The six short documentaries on this disc offer mixed visual styles and techniques, ranging from classic full-frame film to widescreen digital "mixed media," but they all get the job done. Each film has credits and a filmmaker biography. The focus of this year's festival was "Why War?" so I expect next year's crop of documentaries to have a harder edge than did these. If you prefer Realitywood to Hollywood, consider stopping by Durham next spring for the 2006 festival.
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