Last weekend, Elondoc members had the amazing opportunity to attend the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham. The festival incorporates a collection of over 100 carefully selected non-fiction films to be shown over the course of several days. The festival also included various discussions and Q&A panels accompanying films as well as smaller fellows-only sessions where filmmakers talked openly to Elondoc members about their experiences and suggestions for aspiring filmmakers. “The main thing I learned at the festival, through panels with filmmakers and the Q&A sessions, was the best way to make a documentary is to just do it!” said Heather Cassano. “Sometimes I have a lot of trouble getting started on my projects, and it was inspiring to hear from filmmakers about their challenges as well.” All Elondoc members agreed that getting the opportunity to meet and hear from many of the filmmakers was something that made the weekend particularly special and inspirational.
The films also inspired the group to think differently about topics they wouldn’t otherwise focus on in-depth and transported them to different world through camera lenses showcasing a myriad different perspectives. Olivia Pohl really liked the way Alan Berliner’s “First Cousin Once Removed” made her think about time, memory and control by bringing to view the life and mind of a man named Edwin experiencing Alzheimer’s disease. “This movie brings forth the ultimate loss of control, and yet, in a way, paints the topic in a hopeful light,” she said. “In the beginning of the film when Berliner asks Edwin if he knows what is happening to him, Edwin replies, “I know I gave up the past to live in the present.” This is an interesting idea, because many people have been told from a young age to always live in the present and not to dwell on the past. In a strange way, Alzheimer’s is simply a forced version of that inspirational phrase.” “Last Call at the Oasis” was another film that made viewers think differently about the world they live in. It revealed the severity of the water crisis and brought to light an issue many people in the United States seem oblivious to as reflected through their continuous consumption of a limited and precious resource. “The film reminded me of the Flannery O’Connor quote: The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it,” said Mary Johnson. “I love documentaries that are wake-up calls. It took me outside the bubble I live in and educated me about a problem I knew little about before entering the theatre.”
The weekend was one of enjoyment and growth where doc members got to experience different mindsets through film as well as different methods for storytelling. “I learned that there are many experimental methods being used in modern documentary filmmaking, and I loved watching them being implemented at the festival,” said Devon Gailey. Emma Kwiatkowski and Mason Sklut said they took away insights about the process of storytelling, like maintaining focus by always keeping the story at the center, and learned how to bring the meaning of a documentary and its editing to a deeper level. The atmosphere throughout the festival contained the energy and passion from an audience who truly cared immensely about filmmaking and were excited to share and learn. The doc members was excited to be among a group of such talented filmmakers and to get the amazing opportunity to hear and learn from them– not only through discussions and panels–but through experiencing their completed works and witnessing their marvelous mastery first-hand as well.
Elon Docs Favorite Film Picks
Looking for a great documentary to watch? Here are some of the highlights from the festival:
“Gideon’s Army,” recommended by Mason Sklut
“A Story for the Modlins,” recommended by Devon Gailey
“The Crash Reel,” recommended by Heather Cassano and Sean Dolan
“First Cousin Once Removed,” recommended by Olivia Pohl& Mary Johnson
“The Record-Breaker,” recommended by Emma Kwiatkowski
“Spinning Plates,” recommended by Bia Jurema and Katherine Wise