Watch Now: ‘Meru,’ ‘Mavis!,’ and ‘Last Day of Freedom’
Eager to see a doc you missed at the festival? Excited to revisit your Full Frame favorites? We’re here with regular updates on which Full Frame films are coming to theaters, DVD/VOD, and the small screen.
Last Day of Freedom
Now on Netflix
In this haunting work, filmmakers Nomi Talisman and Dee Hibbert-Jones turn one man’s story into a beautifully animated, hand-drawn documentary about the scars of war, mental illness, and the failures of our country’s justice system. Bill Babbitt is our narrator. His younger brother Manny, a decorated Vietnam veteran, suffers from PTSD. When Bill finds evidence that ties Manny to a murder, he agonizes over what to do. Thinking that it is not only the right thing to do, but that it might also be a way to get his brother help, Bill goes to the police. In the ensuing trial, Bill testifies for both the prosecution and the defense, haunted by his recollection of Manny’s last day of freedom. This devastating short won Full Frame’s Best Short Award and the Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award at the 2015 festival, and is currently Oscar®-nominated in the category of Documentary Film Short Subject.
Available on Hulu on February 12
The peak of Meru, located in the Indian Himalayas, is 21,850 feet above sea level. It has never been successfully scaled. Three climbers hope to be the first to conquer Meru: climbing legend and group leader Conrad Anker, film co-director Jimmy Chin, and Renan Ozturk, a relative newcomer to climbing. Beginning with the trio’s 2008 attempt to ascend the peak via the unconquered and perilous Shark Fin’s route, the film skillfully weaves together multiple stories, intercutting past and present with personal histories and recollections of friends and family, accompanied by commentary from renowned chronicler of the sport and its sacrifices, Jon Krakauer. Meru, which was the Opening Night Film at the 2015 festival, is an adventure story like no other, a cinematic study in perseverance of mind, body, and spirit.
The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
Airing on PBS Independent Lens on February 16
Director Stanley Nelson, recipient of the 2012 Full Frame Tribute, presents a vibrant, clarifying, and timely story of the Black Panther Party in Vanguard of the Revolution. Here, through the use of rich archival material from multiple perspectives, Nelson explores the party’s beginnings as a survival organization, evolution into the vanguard of a revolutionary movement, and eventual dissolution. This film was featured as a Center Frame at the 2015 festival.
Airing on PBS Independent Lens on February 22
Filmmakers Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe give us a thrilling, behind-the-scenes viewpoint of a counterterrorism scene in (T)ERROR. The film follows longtime FBI informant Saeed “Shariff” Torres on his last assignment: he moves to Pittsburgh and attempts to befriend, and seek evidence against, a Muslim target. There, guided by phone calls and text messages from his FBI handler, a pressing presence always felt yet never seen, Torres’s questionable and potentially coercive tactics are on full display. Halfway through the film, however, Cabral and Sutcliffe radically shift focus, a twist that transforms (T)ERROR into a thrilling game of cat and mouse that speaks to the ethical murkiness of America’s war on terror. Lyric R. Cabral received the Garrett Scott Documentary Development Grant in 2013 for (T)ERROR, and the film won the Grand Jury Award at Full Frame 2015.
Available in theaters and on demand February 26
Le Bec-Fin is closing its doors. After 33 years, the crown jewel of the Philadelphia restaurant scene, no longer seems in step with current tastes. This film, which had its World Premiere at Full Frame 2015, follows fiery owner and head chef Georges Perrier over the last four years of life at the restaurant, granting us ample access inside the belly of the beast. In stark contrast to the orchestrated perfection of its dining room, Le Bec-Fin’s kitchen is a constant circus of sweaty chaos and emotions, with Perrier as ringleader. But even as the intensity of the job, and its 21-hour workdays, takes its toll, Perrier struggles with his decision to relinquish control. More than just a vivid character study of a dedicated and passionate perfectionist, King Georges is a touching tribute to this master chef who realizes it is time to pass the torch on to the next generation whom he’s mentored so well.
Airing on HBO February 29
Mavis Staples was only a teenager when her family group, the Staple Singers, started performing. Led by their father, “Pops,” Mavis and her siblings moved audiences with their gospel music and helped inspire the civil rights movement through song. When styles shifted, so did their sound, though its spiritual essence was never lost. Featuring intimate stories and a collection of breathtaking performances, both past and present, Mavis! charts the singer’s incredible career and makes space for the music to speak for itself. We witness Mavis’s deep ties to family; though she now performs on her own, her sister Yvonne still travels with her wherever she goes. Numerous musicians also appear to speak on behalf of Mavis and her influential sound. After 60 years of performing, this civil rights icon and pioneering vocalist is making the most vital music of her career, and we need her message of equality now more than ever. Mavis! screened at Full Frame last year, and broadcasts on HBO this month.
BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez
Airing on America ReFramed on March 8
A vital originator of spoken word poetry, Sister Sonia Sanchez is an essential element of hip-hop’s vocal expressionism and the Black Arts Movement. Her tender, quiet power is a decades-spanning journey of creativity in opposition to sexism, racism, and abuse. We are carefully guided along her trail of truth, understanding, and revelation through the commentary of fellow literary activists Amiri Baraka, Nikki Giovanni, and Haki Madhubuti, as well as those of the hip-hop generation she inspired, including Yasiin Bey (Mos Def), Ursula Rucker, Talib Kweli, and Questlove. Right at the point of pen in hand to paper, the poem continues and you are there. The film, directed by Barbara Attie, Janet Goldwater, and Sabrina Schmidt Gordon, had its World Premiere at Full Frame 2015.