It's Christmas time once again for area film buffs. Full Frame Documentary Film Festival has officially taken over downtown Durham this weekend, with hipster crowds lined up and down Morgan St.
The Fest kicked off this morning at 10am, beginning a constant onslaught of films that refuses to stop until 10pm Sunday night. 57 films are in competition this year, while the Full Frame Tribute recipient will be legendary director Stanley Nelson (2010's Freedom Riders being just one of his classics). Hands down the most important film event each year for the Triangle area, it also holds the distinction of being the most important documentary event in the world.
New Raleigh's coverage this year begins this year with a double feature of Fiona Otway's Kiss the Paper and Andrew Beck Grace's Eating Alabama.
Kiss the Paper brings us into the world of Alan Runfeldt, a middle-aged gentleman who has worked as a letterpress printer since 1962. One of the few letterpress printers left standing in this modern world, he welcomes us to view his craft from a bygone era.
Kiss the Paper is only 20 minutes long, but it feels 3 times as long due to the subject matter and the pacing that Otway decides to use. A great documentary starts with a director fascinated by a subject, but there are only so many shots of Runfeldt shuffling through a stack of minute letters and numbers, or the old guy sweeping the shop floor so we can watch the dust rise in the air. There is no conflict to be found here, only an opportunity for the viewer to watch an old man tinker with his equipment.
Eating Alabama is the polar opposite to its double-bill partner. Eating Alabama features the director Grace with his wife deciding to embark on a yearlong adventure of eating only foods locally sourced and grown in their native state of Alabama. Their first attempt at buying from local vendors amounts to a 2 day, 770 mile journey around the state to buy a week's worth of groceries.
What begins as the wacky story of couple joining the latest food trend soon becomes a meditation on the disappearance of farmers in rural areas. Grace's family tree includes a long line of farmers, but it seems no generation has stepped up to the plate of running a farm since World War II.
Grace also goes into great detail the financial liability that comes with attempting to become a farmer. As one local grain producer describes, whereas years ago a family could survive off of the money that a 200 acre spread would bring, the cost of living now entails a family to work on at least 1500 acres to keep up with their neighbors. Hence, more car salesmen, less farmers.
Eating Alabama is the type of doc that makes me look forward to this festival each year. Who knows where it will land next, but take the opportunity to enjoy it for yourself if given the chance.