Greetings from Durham, where the cinetrix has ducked out of the excitement downtown at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival for a moment to loll by the pool at the hotel and enjoy the night air.
I gotta say, this chaise lounge is a sight more comfortable than the seating in the temporary screening rooms dubbed Cinemas 3 and 4 in the Convention Center. Oh for the chair massages they offered in the press room at sxsw. In the years I've been coming to Full Frame, they've experimented with any number of ancillary venues in addition to the majestic Fletcher Hall in the Carolina Theatre--the Armory, the American Tobacco Campus--even briefly [and unsuccessfully] the Durham School for the Arts.
But the drawbacks of Convention Center have loomed large this year. Forget the uncomfortable generic hotel conference chairs. The rake of the risers and the relatively low-slung screen means God help you if the film is subtitled. For example, The Swindler, which is the movie I just saw. Having had good luck with similar scam artist flicks in years past--Lucio and Forbidden Lie$, most recently--I was looking forward to the story of a con artist who, among other things, passed himself off as a Catholic archbishop in Malmo, Sweden. Once the picture started, though, there was a great rustling and shifting in the house as viewers craned to read the titles or relocated to the floors at either side of the room. I was glad the filmmakers weren't there.
This post is coming across perhaps more negative than I mean to, and I have grand plans to write actual reviews of the wonderful films I've seen after I get some sleep. But! I've been both cognizant of and cautious about attributing any off notes at this year's festival to the regime change at the top. It's Peg Palmer's first full year in charge, yes, but am I more likely to assign fault to the new team because I know there is one? Who can say? All I do know is that I've never encountered such difficulties seeing films. You can pick up all your tickets for each day first thing in the morning, but by 10 a.m., and often earlier, the response is often that many films are already sold out. That's great for the festival. What's odd is that it doesn't feel like there are as many people here this year. This is a phenomenon worthy of further investigation, and I'll be sure to gather anecdotal evidence at tonight's rumored unofficial late-night dance party at the Pinhook. More anon.