Full Frame

Roosevelt Harris in The Great Invisible

In addition to its normal slate of invited and in-competition docs, as well as a tribute to the work of Steve James, this year the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival invited filmmaker Lucy Walker to curate a thematic program of her choosing. Walker built her sidebar around memorable characters, and how they both enrich and sometimes problematize documentary storytelling. It was a choice that resonated not only in the films she chose, such as the Robert Evans doc The Kid Stays in the Picture and Marcel Ophüls’s Hotel Terminus: The Life and Times of Klaus Barbie, and her own 2002 effort Devil’s Playground, but also in the new docs screening throughout the weekend. Many of my favorites from the fest were those that fit well with Walker’s program, as you can see below. From topical and historical stories that are most effective when focused on individual subjects to strictly character-driven narratives, the following five titles represent the best of what the 2014 Full Frame had to offer as well as some of the best docs of the year so far. READ MORE AT NONFICS

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Mort-Shuman-and-Doc-Pomus

There are two kinds of biographical documentaries, the kind about a person we know and want to learn more about and the kind about a person we don’t know but should be aware of (according to the filmmakers, anyway). Few films are exclusively one or the other, because different viewers have different levels of familiarity with different subjects. Someone could presumably go into Marley completely ignorant of who Bob Marley was, while someone else might watch xi with full appreciation already of who Rodriguez is. I mention two music docs since the overlap likely occurs more so with this genre. And because this is a review of a doc about a notable songwriter, Doc Pomus. In certain circles, that’s a very famous name. But for a lot of us, the lyricist behind such tunes as “Viva Las Vegas,” “This Magic Moment,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “Suspicion” and many others is not only obscure, but we wouldn’t even have thought all were penned by the same person. We can now fix this oversight with A.K.A. Doc Pomus.

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medora locker room

Small things matter in Medora, Indiana. It’s the kind of town where “enormous” only really applies to people’s pride, especially in the minimal size of their community, schools and achievements. But to them it’s relative. What may seem like small victories are really great ones. And no part of Medora is more illustrative of this than the high school basketball team, which is the absolute worst in a state famous for the sport. When — if — they ever win, it’s almost the equivalent of being named national champions. Medora, a gripping and thoughtful documentary about this place produced by actors Steve Buscemi and Stanley Tucci, focuses on a single season with the Hornets, who in the previous year went 0-22. But it’s really about the endangered small towns having big trouble surviving in modern America, and not just because of the recent economic downtick. Factories have been gone, farms have been struggling and funding for public education institutions have been dwindling by the school year.

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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.26.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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published: 11.21.2014
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