24th Annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Announces Official Selections

    Emily Foster, Marketing Director
    emily.foster@fullframefest.org | (513) 503-3200


    Durham, NC ­­– Thursday, May 6, 2021 – Full Frame is thrilled to announce the official festival selections for the virtual 24th Annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, which takes place June 2–6, 2021. In total, there are 36 titles from 21 countries, comprising 21 feature films and 15 short films. The lineup includes 6 world premieres, 4 North American premieres, and 5 U.S. premieres.

    All films will screen as part of the NEW DOCS program and are eligible for juried awards. Award winners will be announced during the festival.

    “In a year unlike any other, we are grateful to the filmmakers for allowing us to be a part of celebrating their work,” said Full Frame’s Artistic Director and Interim Festival Director, Sadie Tillery. “It’s hard to imagine an event without being together in downtown Durham, but Full Frame’s essence has always been rooted in the films themselves. Our venue may look different this year, but there is still so much to see and experience in these films that sparks our capacity for understanding.”


    This year’s festival takes place entirely online and features film screenings, filmmaker Q&As, and a panel discussion. Passes are on sale now at store.fullframefest.org. Single tickets to individual films will be available for purchase on Tuesday, May 18th.

    2021 Official Selections


    Águilas / United States (Director: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan; Producers: Kristy Guevara-Flanagan, Maite Zubiaurre)

    Once a month the members of Águilas del Desierto, or the Eagles of the Desert, endure the scorching Arizona heat to search for migrants who have braved the journey across the border but are now missing. Made up of mostly Latino volunteers, the Águilas set out to either rescue the lost or recover their remains to bring peace to families who have no idea what has happened to their loved ones.


    All-In / Belgium, The Netherlands, France (Director: Volkan Üce; Producers: Emmy Oost, Magalie Dierick)

    Hakan and Ismail have traveled to work at an all-inclusive hotel on the Turkish Riviera for the summer. They both have dreams of learning English, improving their fortunes, and moving to the U.S., but as the novelty of the tourists wears thin and the pressures of providing hospitality increase, both are changed by their experiences, not necessarily for the better. U.S. Premiere


    American Wildlife / United States (Director: Elizabeth Lo; Producer: Elizabeth Lo)

    In this vivid black-and-white short, animals are treated at a wildlife care center, their injuries making manifest the impacts of ever-expanding human encroachment.


    Cane Malice / Spain (Director: Juan A. Zapata; Producers: Sergio Grobas, Oriol Cortacans)

    This powerful and beautifully filmed exposé of the hardships faced by undocumented Haitian laborers in the Dominican Republic reveals the harsh realities and vicious cycles of unrelenting work on the island’s sugarcane plantations, while a new generation of immigrants strives to find agency, opportunity, and empowerment. World Premiere


    The Chimney Swift / Germany (Director: Frédéric Schuld; Producer: Fabian Driehorst)

    Set in London, England, during the Industrial Revolution, The Chimney Swift is an animated short that offers a haunting yet handsomely illustrated view into the imagined world of apprentice chimney sweepers, or “climbing boys,” who between the ages of four and fourteen cleared soot and ash from fireplace flues. 


    The Doll / Iran (Director: Elahe Esmaili; Producer: Elahe Esmaili)

    In this witty and complex portrait of a girl coming of age in Iran, a father decides whether to allow his 14-year-old daughter to marry, while an opinionated chorus of family members share their perspective on her fate.


    Drills / United States (Director: Sarah Friedland; Producers: Sarah Friedland, Gabe C. Elder)

    This innovative hybrid explores the ways we handle the present and prepare for the future. In a re-imagining of the social guidance films of the Cold War era, Boy Scout survival skills are performed alongside workplace stress-management exercises and active school-shooter drills, begging the question, what future are we preparing for?


    E14 / United Kingdom (Director: Peiman Zekavat; Producer: Sanam Jehanfard)

    From several stories up in a new high-rise in East London, an intrepid urban anthropologist utilizes his sterling view to deftly capture the initial weeks of coronavirus lockdown. Attenborough-esque narration punctuates this direct, often intimate view of his neighbors’ terraces, living rooms, and bedrooms, and the sometimes desolate park below.


    The Facility / United States (Director: Seth Freed Wessler; Producer: Patricia Benabe)

    In this harrowing documentary, told mostly through video chat and news footage, investigative reporter Seth Freed Wessler shares the stories of immigrants at a Georgia ICE detention center during the COVID-19 pandemic. The detainees struggle to fight back against inhumane treatment and dangerous conditions until one of the center’s nurses blows the whistle and their plight becomes national news. World Premiere


    Faya Dayi / Ethiopia, United States, Qatar (Director: Jessica Beshir; Producer: Jessica Beshir)

    Filmed in Harar, a rural Ethiopian town where director Jessica Beshir grew up, Faya Dayi takes as its subject the khat trade, borrowing its title from a hymnal chant recited by the stimulant plant’s harvesters. Khat’s pervasive influence is explored in this lyrical and atmospheric portrait of rituals and dreams.


    The First Woman / Spain (Director: Miguel Eek; Producers: Miguel Eek, Marta Castells, Virginia Galán)

    Notions of normalcy are exquisitely explored in this bittersweet yet decidedly hopeful personal narrative. Eva is a recovering addict transitioning from a psychiatric hospital to living on her own; she is also a daughter, a mother, a girlfriend, a friend. Labels and multiple identities aside, Eva is simply a person doing her best to find her way in the world. U.S. Premiere


    Fruits of Labor / United States (Director: Emily Cohen Ibañez; Producer: Emily Cohen Ibañez)

    In this layered portrait of Ashley—a curious, introspective teen—moments of magical realism offer dreamy, vivid interludes of self-reflection to reveal how Ashley blossoms into her full self as she works multiple jobs to help support her family, navigates the increased threat of ICE raids, and tries to graduate from high school.


    Homeroom / United States (Director: Peter Nicks; Producers: Peter Nicks, Sean Havey)

    The senior year of high school is a milestone in the lives of many teenagers, often marked by high stress around what the future may bring. Homeroom follows students from Oakland High School’s Class of 2020 as they face these challenges and navigate their final year in the midst of a global pandemic and a national outcry for systemic change.


    In the Same Breath / United States, China (Director: Nanfu Wang; Producers: Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang, Julie Goldman, Christopher Clements, Carolyn Hepburn)

    In this deeply personal and transnational investigation, Nanfu Wang uncovers the origins of COVID-19. As the story travels between two pandemic epicenters, Wuhan and New York City, she uncovers a troubling common thread: corruption and misinformation at the highest levels of government. 


    It Is Not Over Yet / Denmark (Director: Louise Detlefsen; Producer: Malene Flindt Pedersen)

    At Dagmarsminde, nurse May Bjerre Eiby refuses to conform to conventional nursing home practices that tranquilize and disregard dementia patients. For 11 residents, their healthcare regimen includes hugs, laughter, animal visits, eye contact, and lots of champagne and cake. It Is Not Over Yet looks at a radically different way to treat dementia patients, shifting from medicine to care. U.S. Premiere


    The Last Archer / Spain (Director: Dácil Manrique de Lara)

    When Spanish painter Alberto Manrique de Lara Díaz suffers a stroke, his granddaughter returns home with hopes of restoring his lost memories. Using family photographs and diaries, Super 8 home movies, personal reflections, and fanciful animation, director Dácil Manrique de Lara makes the film as a gift to her grandfather, but in the process heals her own past and present wounds. U.S. Premiere


    Meanwhile on Earth / Sweden, Denmark, Estonia (Director: Carl Olsson; Producer: Caroline Drab, Anne Köhncke, Ivo Felt)

    Composed primarily of workplace tableaux from the Swedish funeral trade, Carl Olsson’s Meanwhile on Earthtakes viewers into seldom-seen corners and conversations with those who make a living from the business of dying. A deadpan dramedy of manners and mundanity emerges, inviting empathy and introspection and bringing light to the commonly dark subject of death. North American Premiere


    My Name Is Pauli Murray / United States (Director: Betsy West, Julie Cohen; Producer: Talleah McMahon)

    This luminous film examines the legacy of Pauli Murray. A trailblazing lawyer, activist, poet, and priest, Murray’s life was dedicated to effecting change in America, especially around issues of race and gender equity. The experience of growing up Black in the segregated South—having moved to Durham, North Carolina, as a child—shaped Murray’s resolve to question and challenge cultural norms.


    My Neighbor, Miguel / United States (Director: Danny Navarro; Producers: J.M. Harper, Vanessa Carrión Upson de Harper)

    In this short, San Francisco filmmaker Danny Navarro creates an affectionate portrait of his eccentric and exuberant neighbor, Miguel, whose house is filled with an accumulation of recycled objects that he turns into brilliant costumes and sculptures. As Miguel shares his art, he reflects on his life and a community coming together at the height of the AIDS epidemic.


    A Once and Future Peace / United States (Director: Eric Daniel Metzgar; Producer: Mikaela Beardsley)

    Director Eric Daniel Metzgar follows “Andy,” a Mexican American teenager facing felony charges, as he participates in a program based on the Indigenous tradition of peacemaking circles. Under the guidance of his Cambodian mentor, Saroeum, a former gang leader, Andy works to complete the program so the court will drop the charges, giving him the chance at a better life.


    Radiograph of a Family / Iran, Switzerland, Norway (Director: Firouzeh Khosrovani; Producers: Fabien Greenberg, Bård Kjøge Rønning)

    Director Firouzeh Khosrovani layers archival footage, personal photographs, audio performances, and re-created interiors of her family home to explore the relationship between her secular father and devout Muslim mother. Her perspective hovers between their worlds, allowing us to reflect on how tensions between traditionalism and modernization played out in her parents’ marriage and in pre- and post-revolutionary Iran.


    The Rifleman / United States (Director: Sierra Pettengill; Producer: Arielle de Saint Phalle)

    This cinematic essay, told entirely through archival materials, traces the career and influence of Harlon Carter, the father of the modern National Rifle Association; his staunch anti-regulation stance influenced the NRA’s evolution into the organization it is today.


    Scenes from the Glittering World / United States (Director: Jared Jakins; Producers: Roni Jo Draper, Hunter Phillips, Carly Jakins)

    In the furthest reaches of the Navajo Nation, at the most remote high school in the continental U.S., three Indigenous students maneuver through the vagaries of adolescence in hopes of realizing their dreams for the future, all while balancing the responsibilities of family, the challenges of school, and the dissonant brush of the outside world against the traditions of their tight-knit community. World Premiere


    Spirit never dies, only transitions. / United States (Director: Logan L. Burroughs; Producer: Logan L. Burroughs)

    Filmmaker Logan Lynette Burroughs’s tender portrait of Black experience and ritual unfolds in slow-moving images, diegetic sound, and a soaring cinematic score. This poetic rumination on the power of simply being Black in America affirms that the spirit of tradition endures, joyfully.


    Spirits and Rocks: an Azorean Myth / Switzerland, Portugal (Director: Aylin Gökmen; Producers: Aylin Gökmen, Victor Candeias)

    From the ocean, a volcanic island rises into steamy mist. With breathtaking black-and-white cinematography, this poetic short considers the human relationship to this volatile land, where residents live alongside the looming threat of eruption with reverence, fear, and awe.


    Storm Lake / United States (Directors: Jerry Risius, Beth Levison; Producer: Beth Levison)

    Between March 2019 and September 2020, we follow the dogged efforts of Pulitzer Prize– winning journalist Art Cullen and his family and colleagues at Iowa’s Storm Lake Times as they fight—at the local level—for the survival of their biweekly small-town newspaper and—at a national level—for an informed electorate and functioning democracy. World Premiere


    Taming the Garden / Switzerland, Germany, Georgia (Director: Salomé Jashi; Producers: Vadim Jendreyko, Erik Winker, Martin Roelly, Salomé Jashi)

    In Georgia, between the Black and Caspian Seas, a powerful and mysterious man collects trees from across the country, summoning them from native forests and villages to his estate where they are replanted. Director Salome Jashi’s patient cinematic eye observes the staggering resources deployed to extract living history in a practice that is both eccentric and upsetting.


    Television Event / Australia (Director: Jeff Daniels; Producers: Amanda Spain, Jeff Daniels, Ozzy Inguanzo)

    The 1983 film The Day After was viewed by nearly 39 million households in America, setting a record for the highest-rated made-for-TV film. Television Event revisits the making of this film, which asked the American public: What would life look like in the aftermath of a nuclear war?


    Three Songs for Benazir / Afghanistan, United States (Directors: Elizabeth Mirzaei, Gulistan Mirzaei; Producers: Elizabeth Mirzaei, Gulistan Mirzaei)

    Elizabeth and Gulistan Mirzaei’s moving short film shines a light on life for refugees in modern-day Afghanistan through the story of Shaista, a young man who—newly married to Benazir and living in a camp for displaced persons in Kabul—struggles to balance his dreams of being the first from his tribe to join the Afghan National Army with the responsibilities of starting a family. World Premiere


    To Be Reconciled / United States (Director: James Christenson; Producers: Brennan Vance, James Christenson)

    Following a father’s years-long battle against deportation, To Be Reconciled offers a heart-wrenching portrait of a family living through the anguish of uncertainty with faith and resolve. World Premiere


    Truman and Tennessee: An Intimate Conversation / United States (Director: Lisa Immordino Vreeland; Producers: Lark Lee, Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Jonathan Gray, John Northrup)

    From their southern roots to their sexuality to their early literary acclaim and eventual addiction-addled decline, Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams were almost twin-like in their personal and career trajectories. In this intimate portrait, director Lisa Immordino Vreeland brings the singular authors into dialogue through readings of their work and riveting TV footage. In many ways, their personal reflections are as resonant now as their works were then.


    Try Harder! / United States (Director: Debbie Lum; Producers: Nico Opper, Lou Nakasako, Debbie Lum)

    Try Harder! presents the college application process through the eyes of students at Lowell, one of San Francisco’s top-rated public high schools, where brilliance is the standard and senior year is a pressure cooker of anxiety. This film offers a candid look into the students’ interior lives, capturing the euphoria of acceptance letters and the raw disappointment of rejections.


    View from Above / The Netherlands (Director: Dylan Werkman; Producers: Marrit Greidanus, Dobber Bolhuis)

    An astronaut’s singular perspective, a couple’s life-altering experience, an athlete’s desire, and a lone diver’s dare share the screen as their individual yet collective mettle is tested in this immersive and kaleidoscopic collage. North American Premiere


    The Wakeful Sleeper / Belgium (Director: Boris Van der Avoort; Producer: Marie Kervyn)

    Dealing with chronic sleeplessness, filmmaker Boris Van der Avoort undertakes a personal quest to seek clues and cures for his insomnia. The investigation is both cinematic journey and personal essay, incorporating nocturnal people, wildlife, and landscapes into vignettes that are alternately playful, disquieting, and inventive—like a dream. North American Premiere


    The War of Raya Sinitsina / Israel (Director: Efim Graboy; Producers: Yahaly Gat, Efim Graboy)

    Female perspectives on war are rare—commemorative statues do not typically depict women heroes—yet Raya has much to share, her spirit as fervent today as we imagine it was during her service. A film about war, gender roles, aging, and cultural identity, this is an equally refreshing portrayal of a strong woman’s rich personality and ageless joy for life.


    We Were There to Be There / United States (Directors: Mike Plante, Jason Willis; Producer: Mike Plante)

    On June 13, 1978, the punk bands the Cramps and the Mutants played a free show for psychiatric patients at the Napa State Hospital in California. We Were There to Be There chronicles the people, politics, and cultural currents that led to the show and its live recording. U.S. Premiere



    About Full Frame

    The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is an internationally recognized, Academy Award® qualifying event that proudly presents the best of nonfiction films on the festival circuit each year. Based in Durham, North Carolina, the annual festival gathers thousands of enthusiastic fans from around the globe to celebrate the documentary art form, engage in meaningful conversation, and experience the impact of exceptional nonfiction cinema firsthand. The 24th Annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival will be held virtually June 2–6, 2021.

    The festival is a program of the Center for Documentary Studies, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) affiliated with Duke University, and receives support from corporate sponsors, private foundations, and individual donors whose generosity provides the foundation that makes the event possible. The Presenting Sponsor of the festival is Duke University. To learn more about the mission of Full Frame or how to support Full Frame, visit fullframefest.org.


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