Few directors pick up Full Frame awards

Staff WriterApril 6, 2009 

— As the final day of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival came to a close, there seemed to be one thing that was missing: filmmakers.

At the usual Sunday afternoon awards barbecue, held at the Armory, several awards were given to films whose directors either bounced before the fest was over or were never there at all.

"I think a lot of international work was honored this year, and some filmmakers just couldn't make it," said programming director Sadie Tillery, adding that other winning filmmakers had to adhere to their schedules. "They can't always stay through Sunday evenings."

"Burma VJ -- Reporting from a Closed Country" was the big winner, picking up the Anne Dellinger Grand Jury Award, the Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award and the Working Films Award.

"Unmistaken Child" picked up the Inspiration Award as well as a Special Jury Award. "Voices from El-Sayed" got the Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award, while "Love on Delivery" received the HBO Emerging Filmmaker Award. The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights went to "Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech." And "12 Notes Down" won the Jury Award for Best Short.

Two filmmakers did step up to the stage to receive their prizes. Elli Rintala came down from the Armory balcony to pick up the President's Award for her movie, "Oil Blue," while "The Way We Get By" director Aron Gaudet was in attendance to receive the Audience Award.

Overall, executive director Peg Palmer said this year's festival was a pleasing success. "I think it did well," Palmer said. "Ticket sales were up, I can tell you that. How much up? I can't tell you till later this week, but ticket sales were up. Passes sold out. Merchandise sales were up. I think there was a lot of economic activity in Durham -- especially at night. And I hope it was a good festival for everybody. I was left with a really good feeling."

As the festival was winding down, some attendees had mixed reactions about the past four days. While Duke sophomores Natalie Crimp and Natalie Burtenshaw enjoyed their time at the festival, they could've lived without some of the more pretentious moviegoers.

"I just don't like people who take themselves too seriously," Burtenshaw said. "I think that you can either get a really type of, like, cool, artsy person who wants to learn about the world and other cultures, or you can get a group of elitist snobs who, you know, just come down for the weekend from New York."

The New Zealand-born Crimp said, "I feel like there is half of Brooklyn down here." As for Triangle residents, they liked what the festival had to offer.

N.C. State professor Wendy Redfield and her friends were intrigued by the lighter, pop culture-related tone the festival's lineup of films seemed to have.

"We were just reflecting on the collection of films in relative to previous years, and wondering whether there was a shift, a cultural shift, that the documentarians were reflecting in their choices," Redfield said.

"I remember, in previous years, they had as a motto something like, 'Full Frame -- How Much Reality Can You Take?'" she said. "And I remember, in previous years, I was staggering out of here, I mean, after having wept for four days. It just didn't have that tenor this year somehow. I don't know why."

Is that a good thing or a bad thing? "I don't know," she said with a chuckle. "It's different."

craig.lindsey@newsobserver.com or 919-829-4760

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