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Forty-nine new films. Twelve thousand people. Four days. Today through Sunday, the Carolina Theater and downtown Durham will be a mecca for people who love great storytelling on the big screen.

The 18th annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival occupies Durham this weekend, beginning with the first film today at 10:00 AM and ending with the closing film Sunday at 8:00 PM. Full Frame is a festival not just for film connoisseurs and critics but for anyone who enjoys well-crafted stories. In other words, one need not have majored in English or Art History to enjoy the films at Full Frame: one need only have an interest in the human experience. Full Frame has a reputation for screening films that are masterfully executed and reveal fascinating realities about the world and our place in it.

Nearly 90 films will screen at the festival, covering a variety of topics and themes, among them art, crime and justice, food, music, nature and wildlife, politics, sports, and more. For example, those interested in crime and justice will undoubtedly be compelled by 3 ½ Minutes, a film documenting the trial that ensued after the 2012 shooting of Jordan Davis, a black teenager in Florida. Tiger Tiger follows Alan Rabinowitz’s attempts to protect the tigers of India and Bangladesh and will appeal to those interested in nature and wildlife. Sports fans will enjoy Althea, a film about a black woman tennis player who dominated the courts during the 1950s but faced insufferable discrimination throughout her career.

Other highlights of the festival include:

  • The Full Frame Tribute, honoring acclaimed filmmaker Marshall Curry with screenings of five of his films, including his recent Point and Shoot (2014) and Oscar-nominated Street Fight (2005)
  • The Thematic Program, “The True Meaning of Pictures,” which includes screenings of The Queen of Versailles (2012) and five other films curated by filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal
  • Six free panel discussions with experienced filmmakers and industry professionals
  • Food Truck Roundups, Friday and Saturday evening from 5:30 – 8:30 PM, at Durham Central Park
  • Seven free films, including two outdoor screenings at Durham Central Park following the Food Truck Roundups

Yet perhaps the greatest highlight of Full Frame is the people. What distinguishes a festival from the cinema is the opportunity to engage with other filmgoers before and after the films. Throughout the weekend, the courtyard in front of the Carolina Theater will be a bustling common space where festival patrons socialize and share their reactions to the films they have seen. Full Frame’s celebratory atmosphere encourages such exchange, which rarely happens on a typical day at the movies. Full Frame thereby elevates the cinema from a marketplace to a community, making film not just a commodity but a vehicle for human engagement and shared reflection.

You can view the schedule here and purchase tickets here. If a film you want to see is sold out, you may have another chance to see it during one of the Sunday encore screenings. Follow me on Twitter for other updates and reviews throughout the weekend.

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