Full Frame Film Reviews by Isabella & Wynton

Below is a selection of films from Isabella Leone and Wynton Wong, SOW Media Ambassadors at Full Frame. Isabella is a SOW student at Duke University. Wynton is a SOW student at UNC Chapel Hill. 

The following films are examples of the power of documentary film to create laughter, reflection, and dialogue in the audience, and we highly recommend them to everyone in the SOW community and beyond.

Captivated-The Trials of Pamela Smart by director Jeremiah Zagar, is a twisting and turning exploration of media and the power that it wields. A great conversation starter about media, it asks both content creators and consumers to question the things we make and see, even while we are watching the film. This film is the documentary companion to Paddy Chayefsky and Sidney Lumet's fantastic Network. Zagar is masterful in the mixing of archival and shot footage, and his method of framing and presenting archival footage is beautiful and poignant.

Private Violence, awarded The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights at Full Frame this year, was directed by Cynthia Hill. It is a film about abusive relationships and follows an advocate’s hard work to help victims find themselves, train officers in prevention, and push the court system to do something. Hill took a largely taboo topic and transformed the narrative of the issue, helping the audience understand why asking “why didn’t she [the victim] leave” is not the right question to ask.

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The Battered Bastards of Baseball, by directors Chapman Way and Maclain Way, was the closing film of the festival and it was the perfect choice. It told the fascinating story of how Bing Russell and the Portland Mavericks changed the institution of baseball by remaining true to the game. The film echoed the fun nature of the story by playfully showing old footage and allowing interviewees to be natural/unscripted and hilarious. Audience members who are not baseball fans could easily fall in love with the game due to the enthusiasm and energy the Way brothers managed to infuse. After the film, the directors revealed to the audience that they are in fact Bing Russells’ grandsons!

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The Case Against 8 by Ben Cotner and Ryan White. Following the appeal case of two California couples against Proposition 8, The Case Against 8, looks beyond the legalese and explores the people behind the case. A wonderful example of how to compress years into a well-structured and organized, as well as deal with a diverse cast. The Case Against 8 is a beautiful and moving film that inspires as much as it reveals.

The Hand That Feeds, by directors Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick, which premiered at Full Frame, follows a group of undocumented workers as they fight for safer working conditions, higher wages, benefits, and, most importantly, respect. Scrappy, funny, and moving, the film captures how these workers are commanding respect and thus putting everything on the line – the audience begins to contrast this with their own life experiences only to realize that, because most are US citizens, they do not have to fear losing everything in order to gain the simple, basic right to be respected. Though there are moments heart-wrenching disappointing, the film is wonderfully fun and inspiring and was the winner of the Full Frame Audience Award.

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