The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival's 10th anniversary is still two months away, but it is not too early to begin reliving its past glory. Actually, Full Frame's Countdown to Ten series is more than a celebration; it is a micro-journey through a decade of elite documentary filmmaking, during which the genre rose out of relative obscurity and into the mainstream public consciousness.
Countdown to Ten is a special weekly screening of Full Frame's 13 Grand Jury Award-winners from the last nine years of the festival. The series opens Feb. 7 and will screen on successive Wednesday evenings (excluding Feb. 14). First up is a double bill from 1998: Jan Krawitz's In Harm's Way followed by Travis, the heartbreaking story of a 7-year-old boy living with AIDS.
Other highlights in the stellar lineup include Benjamin Smoke (Feb. 28), about the Atlanta-based band Smoke and its enigmatic lead singer, and Davis Guggenheim's The First Year (March 7), which chronicles five teachers during their first year in inner-city Los Angeles public schools.
When Control Room (March 21) won the prize back in 2004, little did anyone realize how pertinent still would be its look inside the Al Jazeera television network and, moreover, how the U.S. government and military manipulated the world media in the run-up to the Iraq War. Catch last year's winner, Iraq in Fragments (April 4), to see the second wave in documentary coverage of the war.
For a bona fide crowd pleaser, see the Grand Jury and Audience Award winner at the 2005 festival, Murderball (March 28), about rough-and-tumble quadriplegics who compete in full-contact wheelchair rugby and refuse to allow their differences to become disabilities.
For a list of films and show times, see www.fullframefest.org/press/news_countdown_sched.php.