The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is a Gem in RDU

Yesterday, I spent ALL day at the prestigious Full Frame Documentary Film Festival as a volunteer on their social media team. I wrote about how I’m a newbie at the Festival in the previous blog post and after yesterday, I can honestly say I can’t WAIT for next year’s! I’m attending again today, but since there’s still another full day, I had to tell you why YOU should be there too!

The Caliber of Films is Off the Chain

I saw four films yesterday…almost five. I’ll get to that in a second. Of the four I saw, I loved every single one. They were all different in story, scope, and length, but they each drew the viewer in.

Wolf Mountain was a documentary short about a wolf sanctuary in Utah. Beautifully shot and a wonderful story in an of itself, as a viewer you left it smiling AND wanting more.

Manhunt was about the search for Osama Bin Laden from a completely different perspective – the trained analysts of the CIA and all those who helped connect the dots to find, and ultimately, kill him. This film received a Standing Ovation from the audience as the film makers and its stars made their way to the stage. It was a riveting piece of history that needs to be shared. It will premiere on HBO on May 1st and when it does, watch it.

While I enjoyed both of these, it’s the next two that had me in tears, happy tears.

If You Build It. Inspiring. Amazing. Crazy good.

First, as a former educator, it had already sucked me in, but the story itself and the way it’s told, made me nearly ball like a baby when it was over. That’s probably mostly because it was such a good film that when the film makers and its stars (including the students) came up on stage, yet another Standing Ovation was given by a packed Fletcher Theater crowd.

If You Build It at Full Frame Lisa Sullivan

Q&A with the film makers and cast of “If You Build It” at Full Frame.

If You Build It profiles a program called Studio H founded by two designers – Emily Pilloton and Mathew Miller whereby they enter a community and take their uniquely designed hands-on teaching program and apply it to the school they are working with. In this case, it was a school in Bertie County, North Carolina and during our Great Recession just a couple of years ago. The film chronicles the program, its struggles, challenges, and successes in 84 minutes time.

Other critics may have already given away its secret sauce so I won’t say it here. Just, if you get the chance, go and see this film. I don’t know if the film makers made mention of this or not, but I hope it gets picked up for wide distribution. It’s worth every penny you would spend on it. I think I’m still teary.

The final movie I saw was Twenty Feet From Stardom, a profile piece on those that don’t always get the recognition in the music industry – the backup singers. It chronicles some of the most famous ones including Patti Austin, Darlene Love, Merry Clayton, Lisa Fischer, and even Judith Hill, who’s now competing on The Voice.

It’s a story about how important the Backup Singer really is to the musician in which they perform with whether in studio or on the stage. Bruce Springsteen, Sting, jazz musician Chris Botti, all contribute. There’s even old footage about Luther Vandross (and when I saw that, I so wanted to Tweet – “Luther!!!!!”).

As the girl who stood in front of her mirror with the microphone hairbrush as a child (and I still do it today, but don’t tell anyone), once again, I was already sucked in. Film maker Morgan Neville does an outstanding job combining interviews with the stars today and old footage of their performances/studio work from years ago captivating the audience in story and in song. It too received a Standing Ovation (that was #3 of the day) and my guess is it will be an Encore presentation today (Full Frame Fest will release the names of the Encore winners at 1pm. Stay tuned to their official website for that announcement.).

The final film I ALMOST saw was Buzkashi. It was paired with Wolf Mountain and while the film began with some amazing cinematography, of learning the subject matter and watching a couple of short scenes, I quickly realized that it wasn’t a film for me. It’s about a cultural ritual in another part of the world and it involves dead animals and a fierce competition on horseback. I couldn’t stomach it. I’ll be honest. But, for those that were able to stay through the film, I could tell with the Q&A afterwords it was well received. Lesson here – next time I need to really check the description of the film before I take my seat.

That’s the beauty about documentary….or any film…for that matter. Not every film is for everyone. Buzkashi wasn’t for me, but I could tell in the first few moments the film maker took great pride and care to make it authentically beautiful. I’m sure it was.

Today, I’ve got a ticket to Running From Crazy, the poignant and true story of the fight for mental illness in the family of actress Mariel Hemingway and I hope to see an Encore presentation as well as my friend, Todd Tinkham’s School of Doc film about local favorite Pelican’s Snowballs.

I still can’t believe that after eight years of living here, I have never been to this festival. I have missed out!

Hope to see YOU there today. Tickets are very reasonable. Encore presentations are just $10 and the School of Doc film is FREE. Click to see the schedule for Sunday, April 7th.

The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is truly a gem in The Triangle. My congratulations to everyone who makes it happen. I’m honored to be a part of the team this year.

See you there or on the interwebs. Follow me on Twitter at @LisaSullivan.


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