DURHAM --What started 15 years ago as a small gathering of documentary filmmakers has grown into one of the premier documentary film festivals in the U.S.Thursday marks the opening of the 15th annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in downtown Durham. Hundreds of filmmakers and documentary fans will invade the Bull City to watch more than 100 films over four days in six venues. A lot of people may feel intimidated by the term "film festival" and are not sure what they need to do to see a movie. It's actually fairly simple once you get used to the Full Frame terminology. While many festival goers will be wearing one of several different types of passes, you don't need a pass to get into a film. If you see a movie on the schedule that peaks your interest, simply go to the Full Frame box office set-up in the Durham Convention Center adjacent to the downtown Marriott hotel and buy a ticket. You then go to the venue where the movie will play and wait in line. If you have any questions about where you should go there are dozens of volunteers eager to help and point you in the right direction. If the movie is sold out, there's still a chance you can get in. Just go to the "last minute" line and wait for everyone who has tickets to be seated. If there are any empty seats you can buy a ticket right there in line. You'll need cash for this option and the price is $10 for a regular event and $15 for a premium event.
The Festival films are broken up into several categories. By far the largest category is "New Docs." This category features a wide array of documentaries, from the drama of the discriminatory laws against Palestinians in "The Law in These Parts" to an experimental short film about an Israeli soccer fan's obsession in "Sivan." Six of the 57 new documentaries will make their world premier at Full Frame, 13 will be North American premiers and 4 are US premiers. "Thematic Program" is another category on the Festival lineup. Every year Full Frame invites a nationally recognized documentary filmmaker to curate the series. This year Ross McElwee curates the program called "Family Affairs." It features 10 selections that explore family dynamics.
Full Frame also honors a documentary filmmaker every year and their films are put in the "Career Award" category. This year the Festival will honor Stanley Nelson and each day one of his films will be shown. Finally there's the "Invited" category that usually contains a variety of documentaries that don't fit into the first three categories.
After the movie is over, don't leave! My favorite part of Full Frame is getting to hear from the filmmakers themselves. Nearly every film has a representative in attendance. After the film they talk briefly about the experience of making of the documentary and then answer questions from the audience. It's truly insightful and educational to sit through these sessions.
The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is one of the highlights of my year. Not only to you get to see some interesting movie you won't see at the mall multiplex or on Netfix, you get to meet people from around the world. If you've never been, give it a try. Start small, pick one or two movies and see what it's all about.