Sunday, April 6, 2014

Full Frame 2014: A List

Rather than even attempt to post throughout the last four days, I told myself each time a film or a person or a place or a thing hit me square in the heart-I'd just list it all, as simply stated as possible, come Sunday. Here's that effort.

1. Documentary films tell stories in a way that is authentic, and they tell them in a world that is often inauthentic. They remind us of the real.

2. The Vietnam war was poorly taught to me in school. Either that, or I just didn't pay proper attention. "Last Days in Vietnam" rectified that. It also reminded me that history is perception amplified by a need to record the past. A measure of security, perhaps.

3. Too much effort is much worse, for me, than no effort at all. Trying too hard at a film-or at anything, or anyone, speaks only from a place of desire with an inability for fulfillment. While there's no shame in that, and while that's a thing I definitely have lived myself via other avenues, the only film I saw I did not enjoy was desperate for acceptance. Had it of told its own story-its true premise was really quite lovely. There's a lesson there.

4. "Olga-To My Friends" reminded me of what color is-its power, its place. I teach symbolism to children every year & somehow, in that process, had seem to of lost the ability to be captured by color. There's a scene in this one where Olga, who is alone in the vast Russian landscape-fully entrenched by snow, & all is white. When the men come in to herd her reindeer, that white is wrecked & becomes tinged quickly with crimson as they slaughter her herd. Two colors, red. White. The image sticks almost palpably.

5. "Private Violence," a film by Durham's own Cynthia Hill on the evil that is domestic violence, told a story with more bravery than I knew could be captured in film. Her power came in heavy doses of truth via the lives of folks that live exactly one county away from me. I heard her speak to a passerby on the stairwell after the screening. The patron remarked on the heavy-handed graphics, which were admittedly tough to stomach. Her response was simple: "It had to be that. It is that."

6. The capacity of the human spirit to exert positivity-to smile- to believe- to thrive when others cannot or will not-is never a thing I will understand. Abby Evans in "Butterfly Girl," and honestly, several of the subjects I saw in films these last four days, reminded me of our power to choose how we handle and experience and learn and grow. It is a choice.

7. Sitting around a picnic table, or in a row of theater seats, or at a bar, & talking about good films will inevitably lead to sitting around a picnic table, or in a row of theater seats, or at a bar, & talking about a good life. I am grateful for anyone willing to allow such a trend to transpire.

8. I will always be struck by contrast. Juxtaposition was a commonality in so many of these films--"E-Team," for example, where a Human Rights Watch Activist is undercover in Syria, standing beneath an airstrike, 8 months pregnant while she speaks to a mother that lost her family the night before. Life & death. A start & an end.

9. You may walk into a film with the intent on it serving your students. You may walk into a film with the intent of being a film critic of a sort-there to analyze, to pick apart, to evaluate every second. And then that film changes you, and you forget your purpose entirely. Best to embrace it.

10. After spending four days in this place-a place driven by passion, with so many stories shared-on screen & off-all about this life & our ability to simply experience-to try again, to try differently, to stop trying...You couldn't possibly be the same you were when it started. That's the measure of the festival--it's ability not just to tell stories of change--but to change the spectator.

And as this season turns to spring, I'd say a change was long overdue. At least for this spectator.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Finding my "Place" in Bull City:

Have come on back to this blog in an effort to record the results of what very well be the best decision I could've made for myself. Moving here, to Durham, seeing this skyline every early morning on my way to school, is a thing that felt absolutely impossible a year ago. Now, I sit here staring at this killer schedule for the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, and I can't fathom a better time to get back to writing on a blog I named after the feeling you get when you finally find home.

 Given the mountain of school work that surrounds me-I don't suppose I'll be able to grant this thing much attention until I'm fully immersed in the fest & fully detached (is that even possible?) from my middle schoolers. In the mean time, here's a schedule of films that, because of a killer program called "Teach the Teachers" that the festival sponsors, I will attend, for free, with a group of very cool teachers, this weekend in downtown Durham in an effort to continue to integrate documentary film into my classroom as a means of bridging learning gaps, creating a global social conscience among my students, & moving them towards mastery of every single Common Core State Standard ever written. Sure feels like a win to me.

Thursday, April 3rd:
Last Days in Vietnam
A Park for the City
Private Violence
112 Weddings

Friday, April 4th:
DamNation: Trailer
Butterfly Girl: Trailer

Saturday, April 5th:
The Hip-Hop Fellow: Trailer
The Great Invisible: Trailer
The Lions Mouth Opens
Devil's Playground: Trailer
Rich Hill: Trailer

Sunday, April 6th:
Alive Inside
School of Doc