Full Frame XX: A Time to Celebrate the Unique Persuasive Power of Documentary Films | Full Frame Documentary Film Festival | Indy Week

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Full Frame XX: A Time to Celebrate the Unique Persuasive Power of Documentary Films

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Just last week—and this is not an infrequent occurrence—I was moved to tears by a documentary film. The curious thing is that it wasn't something hefty like Ava DuVernay's 13th or Kurt Kuenne's Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father. It was, of all things, a fairly soft portrait of Jimmy Buffett fans, aka Parrotheads. That I was so moved by the basic human kindness the film portrayed among them says something about the dire temper of our times. But it also says something about the unique persuasive power of documentaries. If movies are machines that generate empathy, as Roger Ebert famously said, then documentaries are the weaponized versions, targeting our biases and blind spots with relentless precision. I seldom watch a documentary about a subculture, no matter how absurd it seems from the outside, without gaining more understanding of people, more sympathy for their trials, and more respect for their perspectives. With these reflections in mind, I greet Full Frame, Durham's world-renowned documentary film festival, with particular appreciation on its twentieth birthday. In our desperately divided day, empathy weapons are needed more than ever before in the festival's two-decade history. In these pages we highlight a new film by the legendary Steve James, another about Japanese bluegrass, and more, but the best way to Full Frame is to dive into what you don't already know. You can never tell where new empathy resides, and reality is always interesting. —Brian Howe

    Full Frame XX:

Full Frame XX: In Steve James's Abacus, a Small Family Bank Is the Lone Scapegoat for the 2008 Mortgage Crisis

Full Frame XX: A Bite-Size Crash Course on the Origins and High Points—Plus, Picks

Full Frame XX: Far Western Is an Earnest, Intriguing Look at Country Music and Bluegrass in Japan

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