Watch an interview with Hoop Dreams Director Steve James at the 2009 Full Frame Film Festival in Durham, NC, where James curated a sidebar of documentary films entitled The Sporting Life.
Hoop Dreams was revolutionary both in terms of scope and due to its immense popularity. In fact, when the film failed to gain a nomination for best feature documentary at the Academy Awards, a public outcry ensued and the selection process was modified thereafter. In 2007, the International Documentary Association named Hoop Dreams the No. 1 documentary in film history.
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Watch an interview with farmer and prominent food advocate Joel Salatin at the 2009 Full Frame Film Festival in Durham, N.C., where Robert Kenner's documentary, Food, Inc., was screened and featured Salatin's sustainable practices at his Ployface Farm in Virginia.
Ultimately, how a society raises and distributes its food is the clearest manifestation of that culture's values, a point upon which Salatin reflected in the film, igniting the packed theater into roaring applause during last week's screening:
"A culture that just views a pig as a pile of protoplasmic, inanimate structure to be manipulated by whatever creative design the human can foist on that critter will probably view individuals within its community and other cultures within the community of nations with the same type of distain and disrespect and controlling-type mentality."
Read more of Suzanne Nelson's review of Food Inc. and interview with Director Robert Kenner.
Watch a short interview with hippie icon and ice cream flavor Wavy Gravy and Michelle Esrick, director of Saint Misbehavin' The Wavy Gravy Movie, following the film's screening at the 2009 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, N.C.
Satirist Paul Krasner describes Wavy as the "illegitimate son of Harpo Marx and Mother Theresa, conceived one starry night on a spiritual whoopie cushion," to which Wavy has replied, "Some people tell me I'm a saint, I tell them I'm Saint Misbehavin'."
William Gates, the subject of Steve James' genre-defining basketball documentary HOOP DREAMS, told a panel of filmmakers that attending this year's Full Frame Film Festival (his first, by his count, and just the fifth time he had watched the film) "reminded me of how I pursued the game of basketball-- I wanted to be the best at it."
Indeed, seated with Gates were among the best filmmakers in their league: Barbara Kopple (HARLAN COUNTY USA, FALLEN CHAMP), George Butler (PUMPING IRON, THE GOOD FIGHT) and Steve James (HOOP DREAMS), along with two promising new players in Arturo Cabanas (MAN UP) and Andrew Lang (SONS OF CUBA). James had organized the panel in culmination of this year's excellent sports film series, "This Sporting Life." But aside from the amount of talent gathered in close proximity on the Durham Arts Council stage, the truly remarkable event was Gates' recounting of the impact of being on the other end of the camera.
"He we are, 20 years later ... and I'm sitting here talking about HOOP DREAMS," Gates said. (The film was released in 1994, but began filming five years earlier.) "That's what documentaries do."
It wasn't always so easy: Gates said that after the film was released, his high school shunned him, his teammates "must have hated" him for the attention, and the NCAA revoked his and Arthur Agee's athletic scholarships for becoming "professionals."
"They said we were professional athletes because they thought HOOP DREAMS was going to make money," he said. "Imagine that: documentaries making money."
Now, Gates said, his high school uses HOOP DREAMS for recruiting, and though he never achieved NBA fame, he uses the film as "bragging rights around the house" to tell his son that he is in the upper echelon of athletes like Michael Jordan with films dedicated to them. Many NBA stars, in turn, cite the film as an early inspiration to pursue basketball. And, perhaps most important, Gates said that the film allowed him to "always have" the voice of his brother, who encouraged him to become a great player, and was killed in 2001.
BURMA VJ--the story of underground reporters who risked their lives to capture video images of a military crackdown in Burma--cleaned up at this year's festival, picking up a total of three awards, including the Grand Jury Award. THE WAY WE GET BY, UNMISTAKEN CHILD, VOICES FROM EL-SAYED, LOVE ON DELIVERY and the shorts OIL BLUE and 12 NOTES DOWN also took home awards. The full list, including honorable mentions, after the jump.
When you've had a really good Saturday night—and didn't drink too much—you can open your eyes to a sunny spring morning and think about the marvelous things you've done and be grateful that one more day of adventure awaits you this weekend. Yesterday's day of outstanding docs was capped last night—for those who care—by a closing night party, an NCAA semifinal victory by UNC, a playoff-clinching win by the Carolina Hurricanes and an Orlando Bloom sighting.
We've been shooting a few video interviews this weekend and hope to have them posted soon. In the meantime, there's one more block of new films this morning, including OBLIVION, a Dutch filmmaker's study of her birthplace of Lima, Peru; WILLIAM KUNSTLER: DISTURBING THE UNIVERSE, a study of the renowned champion of unpopular defendants; and PINUCCIO LOVERO, a film from Italy that sketches an aspiring cemetery attendant.
The awards barbecue runs from 1-3 p.m., and the re-screening schedule will be announced immediately afterward.
I doubt Andre Leon Talley will take in a Durham Bulls game on future trips to the Triangle. One, the Bulls are seriously lacking in Louis Vuitton fan gear, and two, the larger than life editor-at-large of Vogue magazine took serious exception to SEPTEMBER ISSUE director R.J. Cutler's comparison of the magazine's superstar line-up of fashion editors to the Babe Ruth-era of the New York Yankees.
ALT (who is fabulous enough to rate an acronym) cried out "Who are the Bronx Bombers?" and indignantly denied any similarities to that Hall of Fame team. After all, Vogue, and subsequently the SEPTEMBER ISSUE, is about stilettos and couture, not steroids and curve balls.
Talley, who took up tennis only for the fun of buying a Louis Vuitton tennis racket case, water bottle trunk and towel, wore a tan alligator coat and large black plastic aviator-style sunglasses to the screening, toting a bulging Louis Vuitton planner. He was joined by Vogue creative director Grace Coddington, whose shock of red hair matched her crimson nails and blinged-out cross necklace sparkled from across the room, to talk about the documentary. The film, which not even all of the Vogue editors have seen yet, follows Talley, Coddington, editor-in-chief Anna Wintour and the rest of her staff during the nine-month process it takes to execute the magazine's ad-heavy September issue.
Talley, a Durham native and N.C. Central University grad, said it was both exciting and unsettling to show the film in his hometown and at a theater he frequented as a boy. Growing up under the shadows of Jim Crow, ALT was relegated to the Carolina Theatre's balcony when he came to watch movies like DRACULA with his uncle. But despite his success, international connections and bittersweet memories, ALT said he visits the Bull City often, and he even hopes to move back and be "an old man sitting on his front porch."
After the show, Cutler declared the Full Frame screening to be the best yet, noting the audience recognized the film's humor better than any other audience. But although Cutler may have logged the night's most understated sound bite ("Anna [Wintour] has opinions"), Talley was full of juicy insight on the infamous fashion editrix herself:
At today's Full Frame panel about the State of the Documentary, we heard a tune familiar to those in the media biz: We have to retool the business model. We have to be leaner and more efficient.
My favorite quote was from indie and DIY filmmaker and panelist Gary Hustwit, who spoke on the merits of using the Internet for grassroots—and cheap—promotion and distribution: "I'll pop my own fucking popcorn if I have to."
"Your job is to connect with as intimately and as frequently as possible the audience," said Hustwit, who honed his DIY chops from his years working with indie label SST Records in the '80s."Reach the bloggers and people who like to turn their friends on to documentaries."
Also reminiscent of his music business background, Hustwit is going on a 50-city tour over the next three months, screening his film at ticketed one-night events, inviting cast members, panelists, hosting afterparties, etc.
It's another beautiful day in Durham. Flowers bloom, birds sing, and the Full Frame doc fest hits the home stretch.
Last night we went to bed with visions of Zidane in ZIDANE still burned into the retinas, and the Africanist polyrhythms of Youssou N'Dour in I BRING WHAT I LOVE ringing in the ears.
Today, however, begins and ends with basketball: At 10 a.m. there's a free community screening of Steve James' and Peter Gilbert's indelible HOOP DREAMS. See our interview with James here.
And tonight at 8:47 p.m., local doc fans will have a dilemma: Movies or the Final Four semifinal between UNC-Chapel Hill and Villanova. I'll opt for the former. There are just too many good movies to pass up.
In between the basketball today, the movie highlights include Indy pick hits THE COVE, BURMA VJ: REPORTING FROM A CLOSED COUNTRY and REPORTER. Also, two of our writers saw Eva Weber's short, STEEL HOMES, and recommend it highly (it precedes OBJECTIFIED). Click here for the Indy's review capsules.
Elsewhere, the late St. Clair Bourne is remembered with a screening of IN MOTION: AMIRI BARAKA. Another big event is THE SEPTEMBER ISSUE; tickets are scarce for this look at the production of Vogue's biggest issue, the multi-pound titular doorstop).
There's also MIROIR NOIR, the Arcade Fire doc, late tonight. Today's schedule is here.
For all the movies, I confess that, if I have an opportunity late this evening, I might wander past the television in the Marriott Hotel bar—and not because we saw Colin Firth and Patricia Clarkson having a drink there last night.
Consider this: At last year’s Full Frame, BIGGER STRONGER FASTER*, a fast-paced, rousing dissent from the conventional wisdom about anabolic steroids, won over a large crowd in Fletcher Hall. It had been a hit at Sundance, and seemed to have enough popular appeal to make a splash at the box office. Before screening at Full Frame it had been bought by sports mogul Mark Cuban’s Magnolia Pictures, and after it opened in theaters on May 30th, it was well-received by critics, earning 97% positive notices on the online review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.
After 12 weeks in theaters, BIGGER STRONGER FASTER* earned all of $308,575 (source: boxofficemojo.com). By contrast, IN BRUGES, a fiction film which was also well-received at Sundance but had modest box-office expectations, earned $7,800,000—$459,575 just in the opening weekend.
Even last year’s most critically acclaimed documentary, Full Frame Jury and Audience Award (and Oscar) winner MAN ON WIRE, managed just $2,962,242 in ticket sales, ranking it the 189th highest-grossing movie of 2008. That’s less than 1/10th what PAUL BLART: MALL COP earned in its opening weekend.