How much reality can you handle?

This post was written with Kevin Greer, co-founder of the Brooklyn Community High School of Communications, Arts and Media.

This weekend begins the 9th annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham, NC. This is our second time attending; we really enjoy this festival because we have the chance to come away feeling smarter rather than saturated with fat. We are not here so much as critics but as plebes hungry to take in information not often seen in the mainstream media -- something the festival prides itself in offering. That being said, we are New Yorkers, so we can't help but be somewhat, er, critical.

There are 3 components of the festival:
72 films in competition which range in subject matter from The War on Iraq to . . . air guitar.

13 films in a category called Class in America, curated by St. Clair Bourne which "represents an inquiry into class as American filmmakers have envisioned it" and aims to "paint a more accurate picture that can be useful to politically active citizens who are trying to make the U.S. government more democratic (that is, small "d") in practice."

There's the regular feature of the festival called Southern Sidebar, which will focus on Katrina this year, a subject the networks (and the American people?) seem to have tired of.

Also, panels, parties, awards ceremonies, free man-purses, and free food.

Just about every film in the catalogue seems unmissable from their descriptions, though we stepped into (and out of) our very first film, about New Orleans musicians in the wake of the big hurricane. From the half hour we did see, it seemed that a potentially sympathetic topic was made tedious by an emphasis on the banal. While it's awful that the "Queen of New Orleans Soul", Irma Thomas, lost her nightclub, we were underwhelmed by the ten minutes of screen time devoted to her laments about moldy ceilings, sheet rock damage, and sign wreckage. Perhaps we were a bit impatient, having scooted out before halftime, but we hoped to be more sucked in for our first screening. A girl we spoke to later said the film redeemed itself in the end with inspiring musical performances. That's what we get for giving up too quickly.

Still, we have high hopes for another New Orleans musical saga, "To Be Continued: The Story of the TBC Brass Band," about the re-uniting of a teenage street band who played borrowed and taped-together instruments but were wiped out by Katrina just as they were about to make it big.

Other films we're especially looking forward to: "Songbirds," a doc musical featuring singing and dancing British female inmates and their guards; "Maid In America," about domestic workers redefining their role in society through the Worker's Rights movement; "The Drug Years," (ah, those were the days) about the cultural impact of illicit drug use in the U.S.; Kirby Dick's "This Film Is Not Yet Rated," which uncovers the biased censorship of the MPAA rating system; "Flag Wars," about African American working class homeowners confronted by an influx of white gay homebuyers; Al Franken's "And God Spoke"; "Mr. Conservative: Goldwater on Goldwater"; and "Irag In Fragments" (you get the picture). Also, the Career Award to Richard Leacock, presented by Direct Cinema cohorts Albert Maysles, Robert Drew, D.A. Pennebaker, and Ross McElwee.

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