April 23, 2014

FULL FRAME ‘10: Exclusive interview with Sadie Tillery, Director of Programming


Writing about the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, A.O. Scott of the New York Times said, “A festival like this offers a sustained, concentrated exposure to the sheer emotional power of documentary filmmaking, its ability to communicate the drama embedded in human experience. In Durham … you (can) walk into the stately dark of the Carolina Theatre and lose yourself in real life.”

That’s exactly what thousands of audience members hope to do this weekend once Full Frame gets underway. The four-day festival promises to bring more than 100 films – as well as discussions, panels, and good old-fashioned southern hospitality – to a six venues in a four-block neighborhood in downtown Durham.

This year’s program includes new films by innovative director Michel Gondry (“The Thorn in the Heart,” pictured above), Academy Award winners Steven Soderbergh (“And Everything Is Going Fine”) and Alex Gibney (“Casino Jack and the United States of Money”), and Oscar nominee D.A. Pennebaker (“Kings of Pastry”).

Full Frame also will screen a handful of festival favorites, including “Waking Sleeping Beauty,” about the revitalization of Disney’s animation department; “How to Fold a Flag,” about American soldiers trying to assimilate back into society after fighting overseas; and “Do It Again,” the story of one journalist’s quest to reunite the members of The Kinks.

Are you intrigued by Full Frame’s programming? You can thank Sadie Tillery, who serves as Director of Programming for the 2010 event. As the fest approaches, Tillery sat down with HollywoodNews.com to explain the film selection process, and the impact Full Frame has had on the documentary film industry.

Hollywood News: How many documentaries do you screen before selecting the roughly 100 films that screen during the fest?

Sadie Tillery: Well, we have several different sections of films at the festival. The biggest component is the New Docs section, and those are all films that are completed in the last two years. We have an open call for entries for that section. This year, there are 57 titles screening in New Docs – 42 features and 15 shorts. And those were selected from over 1,200 entries. We have a 20-person selection committee that helps us sift through the work. Each and every film is reviewed, and then we meet periodically throughout the season.

Hollywood News: So it’s a year-round process?

Tillery: It is. Our call for entries opens in August, and then final decisions are made in mid-February.

Hollywood News: Is Full Frame benefitting from an increased output of documentary films?

Tillery: I certainly think that helps keep our programs fresh. Not only are there so many more films these days, but there are so many more film festivals and places for documentary filmmakers to showcase their work. And I really feel like there is plenty of work to go around. I feel that we are very fortunate at Full Frame because we’re not a premiere-oriented festival. We don’t have a premiere requirement. But we have the option to show work that has screened very successfully at other festivals, like Sundance or IDFA, the international documentary film festival in Amsterdam. And then we also have the opportunity to showcase work that is really fresh, that’s being seen in North America for the first time. I feel like our program is a nice blend of those two ends.

Hollywood News: So what are, in your opinion, some of the highlights of the 2010 program?

Tillery: You know, that is the hardest question to answer. I’m very fond of them all.

Hollywood News: I’m sure.

Tillery: But opening night is going to be amazing. It’s D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus’ latest film, “Kings of Pastry.” … It follows the co-founder of a French pastry school in Chicago as he competes in the (Meilleurs Ouvriers de France) competition in France. Seventy hopefuls apply, but only 16 chefs are invited to compete. It’s a three-day, timed trial of creating over 40 different concoctions. But it’s the skill that Pennebaker and Hegedus bring to it that separates “Pastry” from something you would see on the Food Network and other food competitions that seem to be so prevalent these days.

Hollywood News: But this, to me, is the joy of Full Frame. It’s finding films that, on the surface, wouldn’t appeal to you, and then being blown away by them. I can recall going to Alex Gibney’s Enron documentary and having very little interest in the subject matter, only to be floored by his film. It was so riveting. And you find five or six masterpieces like that every year that you attend.

Tillery: The thing about it is that there are so many different ways for an audience to relate to a movie that is beyond just the topic. We are showing this film “Do It Again,” which is about Geoff Edgers’ attempt to reunite The Kinks. And I could easily see how someone who is not a huge Kinks fan could dismiss it and think, “That’s not the film for me.” But really, it’s so much more about a character being at a crossroads in their life and trying to figure out how to get themselves a sense of purpose … at a time when their job is sort of in limbo and they are reaching an older age. That, to me, is an example of a film that is about so much more than its one-line description.

For more on this year’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, including a schedule of events and parties, please visit www.fullframefest.org.

About Sean O'Connell

Sean O'Connell is a nationally recognized film critic. His reviews have been published in print ('The Washington Post,' 'USA Today') and online (AMC FilmCritic.com, MSN's Citysearch) since 1996. He's a weekly contributor to several national radio programs. He is a longstanding member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA), the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS), and the Southeastern Film Critics View all articles by Sean O'Connell Association (SEFCA).

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One Comment

  • April 6, 2010 | Permalink |

    this festival sounds interesting, hadn’t heard of it before

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