Fiction films—you know, the ones starring your favorite actors that win most of the awards at the end of the year—get most of the attention at festivals around the world. Not so at North Carolina’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. As its title suggests, this is a gathering for and about nonfiction features. So if you’re a fan of inquisitive voice-overs, engaging characters drawn from real life, or want to see some of today’s hot button issues being tackled head-on, Full Frame is the place for you. Screening over 100 films in four days, there’s plenty to get excited about, so consider the following picks just the tip of the iceberg of what’s available at this year’s program.
Take Elan and Jonathan Bogarín‘s 306 Hollywood. The brother and sister directing duo have turned the process of emptying the house their grandmother lived for over 60 years into a whimsical exploration of how one person’s life remains and lives on in the objects they amassed. More funny than morbid (it does include, after all, a 1972 video tape that actors lip-synch to in the actual locations around the house), this is as twee a memorial as Grandma Annette could’ve asked for.
Offering yet another portrait of a person’s life—truly one of the gifts of nonfiction filmmaking—Anaïs Huerta‘s David. The Return to Land (David. El regreso a la tierra) follows the eponymous David as he embarks on a mission to better understand himself. “I’m black, born Haitian, French and Jewish by adoption,” he says in the doc, “I feel all those things, but people only see me as a black person, so it’s hard for me to find my place.”
And then are those like director Juan Pablo González who, rather than point their camera at others, turns it on himself in Las Nubes. Driving through a remote area of rural Mexican countryside, stopping to see the land where his father used to harvest agave and to visit the small ranches abutting the former farm, the director weaves a travelogue that also functions as a meditation on the violence of the area. As touching as it is insightful, the doc even boasts a seemingly single 20-minute shot that would make Cuarón proud.
Elsewhere, you can also check out Jayson McNamara‘s homage to the investigative reporting of the Buenos Aires Herald during the disappearances and murders of Argentinians between 1976 and 1983 in Messenger on a White Horse (El mensajero), Lisa F. Jackson and Sarah Teale‘s Patrimonio, a chronicle of the fight at Todos Santos, Mexico over a fisherman’s coast threatened by encroaching gentrification; as well as Erick Stoll and Chase Whiteside‘s América, which tells the story of Diego and Rodrigo, two brothers who must take care of their aging grandmother.
And two movies to check out from US Latina directors are Anayansi Prado and Heather Courtney’s The Unafraid about three students with DACA living in Georgia, and Dawn Valadez and Katie Galloway’s The Pushouts which chronicles the story of Victor Rios an ex-gang member who now mentors youth of color.
Full Frame Documentary Film Festival runs April 5-8 in Durham, NC.