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April 19, 2010

A Woman Blesses the Day Her Brother Shot Her

And other fascinating storylines from the flicks at the Full Frame Documentary Film Fest


A woman blesses the day her brother accidentally shot her (Family Affair). An intersection in Florida houses an abortion clinic and a pro-life pregnancy care clinic on opposite sides of the street (12th and Delaware). An eighty-year-old man in Japan boasts he has patented 3,357 inventions (The Invention of Dr. Nakamats), while an eighty-year old man in Appalachia makes a single chair (Chairmaker). A town in Slovakia wakes one morning to find that half its citizens now live in the Ukraine (The Border). An island in the South Pacific loses its residents, who become the world’s first climate-change refugees (Sun Come Up).

A taxi driver in Yemen regrets once working as Osama Bin Laden’s bodyguard (The Oath). Two men in Sweden regret having sex change operations—and so they change back (Regretters). A half-Jewish teenager dares to try to assassinate Adolph Hitler (Surviving Hitler: A Love Story), and the denizens of a bar in Greenwich Village dare to stand against the police trying to arrest them for being gay (Stonewall Uprising). A Boston journalist sets out on an epic quest to reunite The Kinks (Do It Again), and a strange assortment of executives and artists set out to revive the slumbering giant that is Disney animation (Waking Sleeping Beauty).

As in years past, the 2010 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival provided a rich and varied mix of major, studio-backed (or purchased) films, and smaller independent works deserving of an audience’s time and attention.

While a great documentary is different in many ways from a great narrative film, at its heart it tells a gripping story. Sometimes it can be a story about a person or place you think you already know: Allen Iverson, Glenn Gould, or Daniel Ellsberg. At other times a great documentary can be about a person or event so gripping you can’t help but wonder, “How could I have not heard about this until now?”

Brazilian artist Vik Muniz goes to the world’s largest landfill to make works of indescribable beauty out of garbage (Waste Land). An Israeli baby broker flies frozen embryos from the United States to India, where the surrogate mothers charge less than their Western counterparts to carry a baby to term (Google Baby). One film follows soldiers on a fifteen-month deployment in the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan (Restrepo). Another follows a boxing champion turned Buddhist monk on a single night through the city of Tokyo (Ito—A Diary of An Urban Priest).

Rob Lemkin’s and Thet Sambath’s Enemies of the People took both the Anne Dellinger Grand Jury Award and Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award, while John-Keith Wasson’s Surviving Hitler: A Love Story took the Full Frame Inspiration Award. Directors Rory Kennedy and Liz Garbus received career achievement honors.

Other films to keep an eye out for include Chico Colvard’s Family Affair, which has been purchased by Oprah Winfrey’s OWN Channel, Google Baby (HBO), and Stonewall Uprising (PBS).

Ken Morefield is an Assistant Professor of English at Campbell University in Buies Creek, NC. He is the editor of and a contributor to Faith and Spirituality in Masters of World Cinema (2008, Cambridge Scholars Publishing).