Tickets go on sale for the annual Full Frame Documentary Festival in Durham, NC tomorrow. The four-day event brings brand new and recent documentaries to the downtown area, including many that enjoyed recent premieres at Sundance and SXSW.
Here's our top picks of films on Southern stories and issues.
AT THE DEATH HOUSE DOOR
The Huntsville Unit of the Texas State Penitentiary is home to the state's lethal injection execution chamber, one of the most active in the country. For 15 years, Chaplain Carroll Pickett served as the shepherd for 95 convicts put to death by the state. He recorded himself describing each one, amassing an entire library of experiences, including interactions with inmates who were possibly wrongfully executed. This documentary by Hoop Dreams director Steve James explores the personal stories of the men trapped in their roles on both sides of the bars. Friday @ 10:30am at the Carolina Theater. Followed by Q&A session with filmmakers and Rev. Pickett.
In the summer of 1964, hundreds of volunteers from all parts of the US organized a massive voter registration drive in Mississippi during one of the most tumultuous periods in the state's history. Not quite knowing the full danger of the territory or the complex hatred entrenched in the system they were trying to change, the activists brought national attention to the state of civil rights in the Deep South. Filmmaker Stanley Nelson told related stories in The Murder of Emmitt Till and Freedom Riders. He's assembled archival footage of the volunteers and their hosts, protests and beatings, all of which provides a backdrop for contemporary interviews with politicians, surviving volunteers, and even white supremacists who put up bloody resistance to the progress of equality. Saturday @ 1pm at the Durham Convention Center followed by filmmaker Q&A session.
THE GREAT INVISIBLE
The first documentary film based exclusively on the BP/Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010, The Great Invisible premiered earlier this month at SXSW, winning the grand jury prize for feature documentary. The film unwinds the story of the disregard for human and environmental safety that led to the well blowout through interviews with workers who were on the rig, members of the oil industry, and surviving family members of the 11 men who died when the rig exploded. The stories of fishermen and other citizens directly impacted in small communities along the coast round out the big picture view of individual lives drawn into the complex machinery that supplies our planet's thirst for oil. Margaret Brown previously directed the Order of Myths about the curious detente of the traditionally segregated Mardi Gras celebrations in Mobile, Alabama. Saturday @ 1:10pm, Durham Convention Center followed by filmmaker Q&A session.
IF YOU BUILD IT
Bertie Country in eastern North Carolina is suffering from the cycle shared by rural, small communities across the country where a lack of opportunity causes more and more young people to leave its borders, shrinking the tax base, leading to less effective public programs. This documentary follows two builder/designer/teachers who are invited in by the school superintendent to kickstart an interest in social problem-solving and community engagement by bringing together ten students for a radical take on shop class. The students also participated in the documenting of their own education by learning how to operate the cameras and interview each other. Friday @ 6:30pm, the Power Plant at American Tobacco.
This film brings the realities of domestic violence to light through the voices of two women. Deanna Walters, a young woman from Ashe County, NC, who was kidnapped by her estranged husband and beaten over the course of several days on a cross-country nightmare. When she went to local prosecutors, she was told her injuries only amounted to a misdemeanor. Fellow survivor and advocate Kit Gruelle helps Walters along on her search for justice. Throughout the film, traditional responses (or non-responses) to women in crisis are explored and explained, leading to a long look at a problem too often unnoticed. Thursday @ 4:20pm Carolina Theater.
SOUTHERN DOCUMENTARY FUND WORKS-IN-PROGRESS
Don't miss a chance to see clips from two films that are in work right now funded in part by the Southern Documentary Fund. Veteran filmmaker Danielle Beverly is in post-production on Old South. The SDF site explains that the film "follows a black Georgia neighborhood as it battles a confederate flag flying college fraternity, who moves in and stages its annual antebellum style parade." Trapped, a new film by Dawn Porter, offers "a look at the impact of Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws in the southern United States, and their disproportionate effect on women living in poverty. Trapped follows the physicians, staff, and patients of abortion clinics in Alabama and Mississippi as they struggle to remain open in an increasingly hostile legal and political climate." (via Athena Film Festival description). Fellow filmmakers and audience members will be offering feedback following the screenings. Sunday @ 2:30pm at the Durham Arts Council.