Yance Ford is in Durham, North Carolina this weekend, where she’s blogging from the 2008 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.
The 2008 Full Frame Film Festival got off to an enthusiastic start in Durham last night. Elizabeth Edwards, wife of former presidential candidate John Edwards, addressed the crowd at Fletcher Hall. She spoke about the peril our democracy faces from increasing media consolidation and lauded the independent filmmakers whose documentaries offer us a glimpse into the world obscured by media monoliths. The crowd gave Edwards, a native daughter, a warm welcome.
She was followed by Ariel Dorfman, professor, author and subject of Peter Raymont‘s 2007 film A Promise to the Dead. Dorfman introduced Nancy Buirski, founder of Full Frame and the festival’s former artistic director, who received a standing ovation and an award in honor of her vision and dedication over the past ten years. Nancy was eloquent — as always — in her remarks. Not only did she thank the staff and volunteers, but she also made special mention of St. Claire Bourne, who died suddenly last December. A mentor and teacher to many, Bourne also curated a sidebar at Full Frame last year. She also announced that the 2009 Career Award will be presented to Bourne, and a program of his work will be curated by Sam Pollard at next year’s festival.
The opening night film Trumbo was a portrait of the prolific screenwriter Dalton Trumbo. The film follows Trumbo’s career before he was blacklisted during the McCarthy era, and recounts his unwavering belief in freedom of thought even as his career was devastated. Trumbo is conventional in its structure, mixing interviews with archival footage. What I enjoyed most about the film was its liberal use of his own personal letters to friends and family, performed dramatically by well-known actors. I usually find this technique distracting, but Trumbo’s words are so alive, and so energized by his convictions and his love for his family and friends that the device works. Donald Sutherland and Paul Giammatti are particularly good, and Nathan Lane‘s rendition of the letter Trumbo wrote to his son about masturbation brought the house down.
On my schedule today is Full Battle Rattle, by POV alum Jesse Moss (Speedo, POV 2004) and his co-director Tony Gerber; Trouble the Water by Tia Lessin and Carl Deal, which played to raves at Sundance this year; and Be Like Others, another Sundance favorite by Tanaz Eshaghian. The screening of Up the Yangtze (POV 2008) nearly sold out yesterday, and filmmaker Yung Chang took questions from the audience afterwards. The Last Conquistador (POV 2008) also screened yesterday, as did Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter (POV 1995).
I’ll report some more from rainy Durham soon (it’s ok though, there’s been a drought).