Lights, Camera… Action at Durham Film Festival

Mark Schueler

Action at Durham’s international documentary film festival

“Documentary is no longer broccoli. It’s become one of the most popular parts of the film world,” says Deidre Haj, director of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival that takes over downtown Durham each April. You can take part in the conversation April 5 – 8, when the festival presents nearly 100 international films in more than six venues daily from 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Despite the positively packed program, each screening’s atmosphere is intimate and inquisitive, and film creators are usually in attendance. “When you come to the festival, you’re able to talk to the filmmaker and very often the person in the film, and talk through the issues.”

Many of the filmmakers hail from all over the world, and Full Frame is distinct in the international community it brings to Durham each year. It was one of the first festivals in the nation to be recognized as an Academy Award qualifying festival, which means films that win a juried Full Frame award also become eligible for an Oscar nomination. “The profile of the festival has risen,” Haj says.

Increased recognition and support has enabled Full Frame to expand beyond this month’s main attraction weekend and to double-down on its commitment to the local Triangle community. “Besides the four-day event, we’re a year-round program now. We’re screening every month. We’re not just screening in Durham – we’re in Cary, we’re in Raleigh. We really do serve the entire Triangle region.”

Many of the monthly screenings are free and complement summer programs and other educational initiatives. The commitment to local education and access is evident in the main festival weekend, too. While this month’s 21st annual celebration is ticketed, it always concludes with a free community screening on Sunday.

Throughout the weekend, you can see local filmmakers’ work (learn more in sidebar at right). And new this year is a Sunday-only day pass, created with nearby residents in mind, be they movie novices or buffs. “Sunday is traditionally the day that many of our outside visitors have to leave,” Haj says. “For the Triangle, it’s a great opportunity to come down to the landscape. … Sunday is a lot of fun if you’re local you think, ‘hey, I want to dip my toe in and see what Full Frame is all about.’”  –J.A.

Weekend-long passes and ticket packages are $100 – $325; Sunday pass is $25;