Spotlight: Full Frame Festival

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Sunday Encore Screenings

If you’ve put off going to Full Frame Documentary Film Festival this weekend, today is your last chance to experience it. Strategically speaking, procrastinators will be rewarded by a chance to take in a rich slate of award winners, which will screen all day today from 2:00-9:00 p.m.

After three nights and three days of watching documentaries that show us intimate glimpses of the world around us, I can honestly say that I am not ready for the festival to be over. I can’t wait to see some of the many films that I missed along the way that I’ve been hearing about all weekend. When I overheard people waiting in line talking about the films they just saw that moved them, I can’t count how many times I said, “I really wanted to see that!”

Well, today is the day for that.

Of the award-winners I saw, I enthusiastically recommend seeing QUEST, a film about a North Philadelphia family over that was filmed over the course of ten years. This is the kind of documentary that I wish everyone could see: it is moving, engaging, surprising, and inspiring. It depicts the power of family and community in the face of all manner of adversity, and is a reminder of how documentaries can get us beyond headlines in ways that we don’t experience often enough.

Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, a portrait of the artist Mindy Alper, was one of my personal favorites this weekend. It is sensitive, artful, and riveting. It is a film that celebrates difference and admires the art made by one woman as she struggles though a difficult life.

Samuel in the Clouds is, on the surface, a poignant study of a Bolivian man’s daily life. But it’s really a film about climate change, told with subtlety and patience. It is haunting, in its images and in its message.

I’ll be in line to see Strong Island, a film I missed this weekend but which won two awards at the ceremony today. Sunday encore screenings offer a shot at seeing all of the award-winning films, including the audience’s picks of favorites.

Accepting an award for Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405, Frank Stiefel sums up the spirit of the festival and the power of documentary: “This is where we connect to the absolute worse that humans can do to each other, and to the absolute best.” —Marsha Gordon

Today’s schedule and a list of the award winners are available at


Free Full Frame Experience: Saturday Night in the Park with Presenting Princess Shaw

Presenting Princess Shaw was one of my favorite documentaries at last year’s Full Frame Documentary Festival. If you are looking for a chance to experience the festival this year, I cannot recommend highly enough seeing this film on Saturday night (April 8th) at 8:30pm in Durham Central Park. It is free and open to the public.

Full Frame Documentary festival makes great efforts to bring some of the best of the festival into the community at no cost, and this re-screening is part of that program. Though you might need to bundle up since the screening will take place outside, it will be well worth putting on a puffy coat to check out this feel-good documentary about a talented young woman’s struggle to reflect upon and improve her life by pursuing a musical career.

Princess Shaw is a nursing home worker by day, but her real passion is songwriting and singing. She broadcasts her songs on YouTube and pours her heart out through her music. The documentary follows her as she is discovered by an Israeli composer who gives her a shot at something more than her small YouTube network, and the outcome is as electrifying as it is heartbreaking in its mix of possibility and reality.

At the screening last year, Princess Shaw did a surprise live performance after the screening, energizing the crowd with her positivity, gratitude, and talent. Who knows what will happen this year? — Marsha Gordon

The festival schedule and tickets can be found at . However, no tickets are required to see Presenting Princess Shaw on Saturday night.

The Original Richard McMahon

Olympia Stone, who lives in Chapel Hill, is at Full Frame Documentary Festival this year with her latest documentary, The Original Richard McMahan, a short film about an artist who renders other people’s masterpieces in miniature. When she first encountered her subject, Stone says that what impressed her most was that “his taste in art is so sophisticated.” This is an artist who so admired the masters that he decided to bring his own artistry to replicating their output.

As Stone explains: “Richard calls his art collection ‘the greenest art collection in the world’ because it’s made from recycled materials that he finds around his home in Jacksonville, FL.….To date, there are over 1,100 works in the mini-museum and it continues to grow.”

One of Stone’s favorite moments in the film is when McMahan reflects on an exhibition of his work that had just taken place in New Orleans, describing it as “a dream come true.” Such a pure moment of joy is precisely the kind of emotion Stone herself responds to in the documentary genre, and that she hopes the audience will experience while watching her film. A self-described documentary junkie, Stone admires the genre’s ability to make a powerful impact, recalling a film she saw at the festival several years ago that “left her a tearful wreck.”

Stone’s films, however, evoke more curiosity and wonder than sadness, as was the case with last year’s impressive Curious Worlds: The Art and Imagination of David Beck. With two years of festival films behind her, Stone describes Full Frame, which is celebrating its 20th year, as a welcoming and friendly festival unlike any other, a quality remarked upon by almost all attendees. —Marsha Gordon

Olympia Stone’s The Original Richard McMahon plays twice on April 7th (at 10:20 a.m. and again at 5:00 p.m.). The festival’s full schedule is available at

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