Monday, April 12, 2010

Full Frame: Day 4

On Day 4 I woke up two hours later than intended; I was tired!  Watching seven films in one day is exhausting.  Who knew?!  Sunday, the last day of the festival, was just as wonderful as the others, though.

Dawn and I met for coffee in the AM, then walked over to see The Most Dangerous Man In America which started at 10:20am in Fletcher Hall.  What a great film.  Anyone interested in Abandoned Allies needs to see The Most Dangerous Man.  Like Restrepo, it hits on a lot of the same themes in our film (but a much different angle).

The Most Dangerous Man In America is about Daniel Ellsberg, who worked at RAND Corporation (where one of our cast members, Dr. Gerald C. Hickey, also worked).  Ellsberg is known for leaking information known as the Pentagon Papers to a number of newspapers during the Vietnam War.  There are so many similar themes: war strategy, decision-making on a presidential level, political corruption, misinformation, blind ignorance of the American people (or misleading the American people), and so much more.

I'm incredibly thrilled about seeing this film, and genuinely think all of my fellow citizens should see it.  There were several points where audience members cheered and applauded in the middle of the film, thrilled about what was happening on screen.  You get so caught up in rooting for Ellsberg and the truths he was trying to share, that you forget you're in a theater watching a film--that's how great it this film and story are constructed.  I fell in love with Ellsberg and the filmmakers for crafting his story so that we can all experience it.

After the Q&A session with one of the filmmakers, Rick Goldsmith, I nervously introduced myself (after following the flock of people waiting to talk with him out of the theater).  During the Q&A he mentioned that they want to share the film, and are working on ways to do that.  I offered to help him show the film in the Triangle again, and truly hope that happens.

The rest of Sunday was spent watching A Film Unfinished (about a Nazi propaganda film that was never finished), Book of Miri (which I had already seen and was thrilled to watch again), and Waste Land, about an artist who makes a difference in the lives of people who pick recyclables out of the garbage in one of the world's largest landfills.  I was lucky enough to hear the director, Lucy Walker, speak as part of the panel discussion on Friday.

Dawn and I parted ways after the end of the last film, each going back to our own realities with the end of Full Frame having arrived.  I have many more thoughts to share, but this was the conclusion of Day 4, and so I'll keep it relatively short for ya!  What a great day.

Full Frame: Day 3

By Saturday we had a few things figured out: best parking options, how not to get too lost in downtown Durham, where the theaters and lines to get into them were located, shorter lines for tasty food at busy lunch times, and a few other things.

Dawn was such a fun film festival friend!  She's so classy, smart and fun to hang out with, and I feel so lucky to have had such fine company for four days.  Today I'm having a bit of withdrawal, knowing that I won't watch films all day and chat with her.  (Thankfully we have another festival coming this weekend with improvisers from Chicago coming down to perform at ComedyWorx.)

Here are the films I saw on Saturday:

  • Born Sweet
  • Today is Better Than Two Tomorrows
  • Book of Miri
  • In the Matter of Cha Jung Hee
  • Albert's Winter
  • The Edge of Dreaming
  • Restrepo
While all of these films were really great, the film Restrepo was right up my alley.  I've been studying the Vietnam War and how it relates to what's happening in Iraq and Afghanistan today.  I'm interested in the experiences they are having there today, but you can't quite get that from the news.  And not many of them want to talk about it when they return.  This film was incredibly helpful, and reading what the website states will help you see why: 

Restrepo is the feature-length documentary that chronicles the deployment of a platoon of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley.  The movie focuses on a remot 15-man outpost, "Restrepo," named after a platoon medic who was killed in action.  It was considered one of the most dangerous postings in the U.S. military.  This is an entirely experiential film: the cameras never leave the valley; there are no interviews with generals or diplomats.  The only goal is to make viewers feel as if they have just been through a 90-minute deployment.  This is war, full stop.  The conclusions are up to you.
The Q&A after the film ended was also really wonderful.  Tim Hetherington (co-producer/director/cameraman) took audience questions and answered them with ease and style.  Like the website states, the film is not about politics, and Hetherington kept to that idea during the Q&A session.  I'll paraphrase one of the things he said when asked about whether the U.S. should still be in Iraq & Afghanistan, "I can't tell you what to think.  This is a democracy, and you have to make up your own mind.  Besides, I'm British so you wouldn't listen to me anyway."

This is a film everyone should see; you absolutely fall in love with the soldiers in the film.  For the sake of this film, it doesn't matter where you stand politically.  It doesn't matter how you feel about the war.  The bottom line is that these guys are there fighting on behalf of our country, and they should be respected and applauded for what they've been through (or are currently going through).  That seemed to be the message from the filmmakers, but I can't speak for them here.  The standing ovation from the audience when the soldiers stood gives me goose bumps just writing about it today.  Everyone in that room was standing and applauding them.  

Some of the things the film covered mirror some of the things in Abandoned Allies: you're fighting for the guy to your left and right, politics on a higher level aren't relevant at the moment because you're fighting to stay alive, you're focused on the mission at hand when you're on the ground.  There were also matters related to the strategy of war: working with locals, building relationships, what happens when one group of soldiers rotates out and another comes in, and are the things we're doing to "help" locals really helping them?  

When those soldiers spoke during the film, I saw the members of my own cast speaking nearly 40 years after their own service in Vietnam.  I saw the same look in their eyes, the same pause when they talked about fallen soldies, the same dedication to keeping their memory alive with respect and dignity.

Restrepo is definitely a film that the Abandoned Allies audiences will enjoy.  You feel like you're on the ground with them, a part of the brotherhood, and mourn with them--even though you're sitting safely in a theater.  I really enjoyed the film, and want to watch it again.  There's no secret why the screening was sold out.

Yes, Saturday was a great day!  To all the folks who made it possible to attend: THANK YOU!  You have given me such a great gift, and I'm so humbly appreciative.