Full Frame Documentary Film Festival: the passion, history, and what to look forward to

Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024

By Alyssa Clark

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival celebrates the nonfiction work of rising filmmakers and showcases their works to the public. 

The festival, an annual four-day event hosted in downtown Durham, is dedicated to documentary work and presents 60-70 films at the Carolina Theater.

Founded by Nancy Buirski in 1998, the festival started at Duke University’s Center for Documentary Studies and was hosted by Full Frame, a program at Duke University.

Pictured: The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University.

Originally dubbed “The Double-Take Documentary Film Festival,” a five-year split with the Center for Documentary Studies would usher in a new era for the festival. The filmmaking celebration would officially emerge as the “Full Frame Documentary Film Festival” upon reconnection with the Center.  

The idea of the festival was to dedicate a space exclusively for nonfiction cinema at a point in time when it lacked recognition. 

Full Frame became one of the first festivals to strictly show nonfiction films and remains one of the top festivals to do so. 

Full Frame has an impressive team of film enthusiasts dedicated to producing high-quality works.

Emily Foster is the Co-Director at Full Frame Documentary Film Festival and her role is to oversee marketing and production operations.

“My job involves making what feels like hundreds of little promises with all these other people to bring them in who are helping us produce this large event in downtown Durham,” said Foster. “It is up to me to make sure we are fulfilling all those promises.”

These “promises” are made to the companies and sponsors that help make the festival possible. 

The festival is supported by the community of Durham through corporate sponsors and foundations. 

Bringing the festival to fruition fosters a sense of community like no other, as sponsors seek to work in conjunction with the  people of Durham to make the event the best it can be.

Not only does the festival aim to present the prestigious work of nonfiction filmmakers, but it  also hopes to showcase what makes Durham special. 

The festival has a significant economic impact on downtown Durham by attracting a large number of people to celebrate the city. 

The main goal of the festival is to promote nonfiction works of art by emerging filmmakers. It is important to note that, while the festival showcases the works of impressive filmmakers, it is run by equally passionate individuals, like Foster.

Foster fell in love with film and wanted to be a filmmaker before she discovered film exhibition. 

“My passion drove from just loving film to now this passion of supporting the artist and their work,” said Foster. 

The support from Foster and her team greatly impacts the community’s appreciation for the work of artists and their craft.

“I feel like I get to be a part of shaping the place that I call home,” said Foster.

Full Frame Documentary Film Festival will be held from April 4-7 in downtown Durham.

Along with film screenings, a series of panel conversations with filmmakers and event coordinators will be held at the Durham Hotel.

There will be outdoor screenings that are free to the public in Durham Central Park. 

The event also includes an opening night party and awards barbecue that aims to bring the community together.

Full Frame plans to invite the filmmakers to join the events and participate in a post-film question and answer, as well. 

Passes and ticket packages go on sale on February 13 and single tickets will be available on March 28. The full film lineup will be announced in early March.

For more information on the event, visit Full Frame’s website: https://www.fullframefest.org/

Edited by Ava Dobson