Full Frame 2K7 Saturday

After driving through a torrential downpour, I’m back in Fayetteville after two very cool days after seeing about a dozen documentaries–several of them shorts–at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham. I can recommend pretty much all of the films I saw with some degree of enthusiasm and will try to write short reviews for at least most of them, but the Fest was an opportunity to catch up with or meet several bloggers and filmmakers I’ve been reading, including the cinetrix, AJ Schnack, and Paul Harrill of Self-Reliant Filmmaking. Here are some quick mini-reviews from Saturday’s lineup, which I’ll follow up with the movies I caught on Friday.

My Saturday began with two films focusing on the war in Iraq and its aftermath. The feature, Meeting Resistance, is one of the most compelling documents to come out of the war in Iraq. The directors, Steve Connors and Molly Bingham, managed to gain access to several members of the Iraqi “insurgency” over the course of several months providing us with a compelling portrait of the resistance that challenges both media and official accounts. Meeting Resistance was preceded by James Longley’s short, Sari’s Mother, a portrait of an Iraqi woman caring for her son who contracted the AIDS virus through a blood transfusion. Longley originally planned to include Sari’s Mother in his Academy Award-nominated documentary feature, Iraq in Fragments, and the short, at least in my experience, felt like a continuation of that project.

Later on Saturday I watched The Devil Came on Horseback, an emotionally powerful and provocative documentary about the genocide in Darfur, as told through the eyes of former US Marine Captain Brian Steidle. After his military service was complete in 2003, Steidle takes a job as a monitor for the African Union where he becomes one of the few witnesses to gain photographic evidence of genocide in the Darfur region. Steidle is clearly troubled by the fact that he was unable to do more than watch helplessly as these actions were taking place and similarly troubled by the lack of a clear government response. The film itself is a profound meditation on what it means to be a witness.

I finished Saturday with AJ’s Kurt Cobain About a Son (IMDB), which uses audio recordings of journalist Michael Azerrad’s interview with Cobain to allow the famous singer to tell his own story. AJ used images of Cobain’s hometown of Aberdeen, including the lumber yard where Cobain’s father worked and the high school he attended, as well as Olympia and Seattle to tell Cobain’s story. While the film provides valuable access into Cobain’s personality, challenging many of the myths about the singer, it also works as a portrait of a specific place, of the Pacific northwest where Cobain lived. Kurt Cobain was paired with the humorous short, Talk to Me (see also), in which the filmmaker Mark Craig compiled twenty years of answering machine messages to narrate his life story over those two decades. I don’t think the movie would have worked as a feature, but as a short, it was a lot of fun and used the audio from answering machine messages very effectively.

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