Full Frame Documentary Film Festival Unveils Lineup Led by ‘Girls State’ (EXCLUSIVE)

After a year-long hiatus the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival has unveiled the lineup for its 26th edition, which will take place in Durham, N.C., from April 4-7. The festival will kick things off with “Girls State,” the Apple Original docu that premiered at Sundance earlier this year.

It’s been five years since Full Frame, often referred to as “a filmmaker’s festival,” was held as an in-person event. Full Frame was held entirely online for the 2020–22 festivals due to COVID-19. Then in 2023 the festival was put on hold last year due to financial struggles and leadership turnover at Duke’s Center for Documentary Studies (CDS), a nonprofit affiliate of the university that puts on the fest. Notably, CDS executive director Opeyemi Olukemi resigned last year. As reported by The Assembly, Olukemi, who took the role in 2021, was criticized as the CDS staff shrank and a bulk of the documentary arts center’s programs, including Full Frame, were put on hiatus.

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“Since 2022, it was always the plan to only have the festival be on pause for one year,” says Emily Foster, Full Frame co-director. “Ultimately it was due to an overall strategic planning review that was happening at the center.”

This year, the CDS will produce Full Frame in partnership with Duke venue and production management, the events and operations branch of the university.

The Full Frame 2024 program includes 20 features that will screen in competition in the New Docs category, along with 14 short films. Included in its competition line-up are Angela Patton and Natalie Rae’s “Daughters,” which premiered at Sundance and sold to Netflix; Ibrahim Nash’at’s “Hollywoodgate,” which earned rave reviews after its Venice Film Festival premiere; and Emily Kassie and Julian Brave NoiseCat’s “Sugarcane,” which premiered at Sundance and sold to National Geographic.

The majority of the feature films in the New Docs category have already made their world premieres at various film festivals around the world.

“As we program the festival, we are not premiere-focused the way some other events are,” Full Frame co-director and artistic director Sadie Tillery explains. “We are always very excited to have a discovery in the lineup, a film that is screening in Durham for the first time, but it’s not a priority as we set the lineup.”

Competition films are eligible for juried awards offering a combined value of $50,000 in cash prizes. Full Frame is also a qualifying festival for the Academy Award documentary film short subject.

In addition to the 34 films in New Docs, 16 features and two shorts will screen out of competition in Full Frame’s Invited category. Feature docus include Sundance docus “Eno” (Gary Hustwit) and closing night film “Luther: Never Too Much” (Dawn Porter), as well as Michael Selditch’s “Happy Clothes: A Film About Patricia Field,” which premiered at Tribeca and the world premiere of D.L. Anderson’s “Red Whiteville and Blue.”

The Invite program does not usually include short films, but this year Tillery made an exception for one by late Academy Award winning director Julia Reichert, who died in 2022. Together with her partner and longtime co-director Steven Bognar, Reichert directed “American Factory,” which won an Oscar in 2020. Reichert and Bognar’s short film “Julia’s Stepping Stones,” which was made in the final months of Reichert’s life, will make its world premiere at Full Frame.

“It’s a film that looks back at Julia’s career and what led her to filmmaking,” says Tillery. “It’s told in her own words. So it’s her life story in her voice and amazingly (Julia and Steve) recorded it before she died.”

“Julia’s Stepping Stones” will screen along side Reichert’s first documentary, “Growing up Female,” which was released in 1971.

Full Frame will also continue its tradition of inviting a filmmaker to curate a special thematic program. For this year’s fest, “Eno” filmmaker, Gary Hustwit and doc filmmaker Jessica Edwards (“Mavis!”) have put together a program titled “In Process: Documenting Creativity,” which explores the creative process through films that illuminate how artists — on both sides of the lens and across a variety of mediums — make their work. The series features six selections, four features and two shorts.

In total, this year’s festival will screen 60 films selected from 1,000 submissions.

“It sounds sort of cliche, but there’s something for everyone audience wise,” says Tillery. “There are films that are maybe more traditional. They are films that are more experimental. They are films about important issues and international issues. They are films about issues in the United States. There’s also films that are about grief and lived experiences. So it’s less like we are going into it trying to cover certain areas of interest and more like we are going into it appreciating the filmmaking, and paying attention to each film as its own consideration process. At the end of the day, it has to be about the cinematic experience of viewing the film on the screen.”

Foster adds, “The festival may be internationally recognized, but it remains unpretentious. There’s no red carpets, just a focus on great films and great community, and that’s the beauty of it. For example, instead of a big gala, our awards party is a barbecue. It’s very southern and very Durham and full of hospitality.”

The festival’s 2024 tribute will honor two filmmakers who died: Full Frame founder Nancy Buirski and pioneering filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker. Both tributes will include a curated retrospective of the two directors’ body of work.

In addition Full Frame will feature wide array of panel discussions including four free Speakeasy panel conversations covering an array of craft and industry topics at the Durham Hotel. Director Amir Bar Lev (“My Kid Could Paint That,” “Happy Valley”) is helping to curate this year’s panel discussions, which will be announced two weeks before the start of the festival.

The Full Frame lineup:


1489 / Armenia (Director: Shoghakat Vardanyan; Producer: Shoghakat Vardanyan)

Over two years, filmmaker Shoghakat Vardanyan documented her parents and herself, waiting to hear about the fate of her twenty-one-year-old brother Soghomon, a musician, who disappeared in the front line of the brutal 2020 Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) War. Filming with her phone, Vardanyan turns her family’s grief into a film as an act of escape.

Agent of Happiness / Bhutan, Hungary (Directors: Arun Bhattarai, Dorottya Zurbó; Producers: Noémi Veronika Szakonyi, Máté Artur Vincze, Arun Bhattarai)

Amber is one of the many agents working for the Bhutanese government to measure people’s happiness levels among the remote Himalayan mountains. But will he find his own along the way?

All We Carry (Lo Que Llevamos) / United States (Director: Cady Voge; Producers: Laura Pilloni, Laura Tatham, Cady Voge)

All We Carry follows a young Honduran family as they flee persecution—migrating in cargo trains across Mexico, claiming asylum at the US border, and enduring separation in detention before being released in Seattle. There, a local synagogue sponsors the family for two years while they await the final decision on their asylum case. As the family tries to settle into their new home, we witness their everyday moments—both sorrowful and joyful—along the way.

American Seams / United States (Director: Carly Jakins; Producer: Carly Jakins)

The stories of three quilters combine to reveal an intimate portrait of rural women in the American West.  World Premiere

Anyuka / United States (Director: Maya Erdelyi; Producer: Maya Erdelyi)

Interweaving super 8 family films, archival material, and experimental animation, a granddaughter takes a deep dive into the remarkable life of her indomitable grandmother— a writer, WWII refugee and Holocaust survivor. Anyuka (Hungarian for mother) explores intergenerational trauma, the Jewish diaspora, immigration, motherhood, and religious identity, to tell the story of a tragic and marvelous life across continents.

Ashima / United States, Spain, France, South Africa, United Kingdom (Director: Kenji Tsukamoto; Producers: Minji Chang, Dave Boyle, Roy Choi, Kenji Tsukamoto)

Ashima is an intimate portrait of elite rock climber Ashima Shiraishi as she travels to South Africa to try to become the youngest person in the world to climb a v14 graded boulder problem. Accompanying Ashima is Poppo, an eccentric, hermit-like, retired avant-garde dancer, who also happens to be her father. Emotional and rooted in character, Ashima is a love letter not only to climbing, but to immigrant parents and the realization of the American Dream.

The Bus (El bus) / Spain (Director: Sandra Reina; Producer: Valérie Delpierre, Jaume Fargas Coll)

This round-trip bus ride takes passengers on Friday mornings towards the weekend and picks them up on Sunday afternoons to take them back to the place where they came from.

The Bitter Pill / United States (Director: Clay Tweel; Producers: Tim Grant, Shannon E. Riggs, Mary Rohlich)

With his hometown ravaged by the opioid epidemic, plaintiff attorney Paul Farrell Jr. sets out to take on giant pharmaceutical companies to recover enough money to make a lasting impact for the area. When his legal strategy catches the attention of lawyers across the country, all of the cases get rolled into the biggest civil litigation in US history. Will the case become too big for this small-town lawyer, or will he rise to the occasion and effect change not just for his hometown but for the entire nation?  World Premiere

Daughters / United States (Directors: Angela Patton and Natalie Rae; Producers: Natalie Rae, Lisa Mazzotta, Justin Benoliel, James Cunningham, Mindy Goldberg, Sam Bisbee, Kathryn Everett, Laura Choi Raycroft)

Four young girls prepare for a special Daddy Daughter Dance with their incarcerated fathers, as part of a unique fatherhood program in a Washington, D.C., jail.

Echo of You (Ekko af Kærlighed) / Denmark (Director: Zara Zerny; Producer: Maria Møller Kjeldgaard)

People in their eighties and nineties, and even some centenarians, talk candidly and eloquently about love, loneliness, grief, life, and death. A poetic, tender group portrait of a Danish generation slowly saying goodbye.  North American Premiere

Elefsina Notre Amour / Greece (Director: Mahdi Fleifel; Producers: Yorgos Eftasthoulidis, Andie Chantzi)

Deserted landscapes, ancient ruins, and abandoned shipwrecks at sea. Elefsina’s archeological sites don’t come close to being as hauntingly beautiful as these dead ships. Elefsina Notre Amour is a short sci-fi essay, a timeless archive, filmed on 16mm color Kodak.  US Premiere

Elephant / United States (Director: Wes Sterrs; Producer: Wes Sterrs)

An elephant arrives on an island off the coast of Maine and, on a day like any other, the tightly-wound circle of life unfurls.

Ever Since, I Have Been Flying (O Gündür Bu Gündür Uçuyorum) / Switzerland (Director: Aylin Gökmen; Producer: Aylin Gökmen (A Vol d’Oiseau))

Apoetic immersion into a man’s memory, where realities are merging.

The Elk Calf (Losenok) / Russia (Director: Elena Koptseva; Producers: Nelly Yaralova, Georgy Molodtsov)

Katya is a professional “elk calf.” Every spring she delivers elk calves. Right after the delivery, Katya takes a newborn away from its mother.  Sometimes it’s simpler to be an elk calf than to work things out with her own son.  North American Premiere

Family Tree / United States (Director: Jennifer MacArthur; Producer: Rupert Maconick) 

Family Tree explores sustainable forestry in North Carolina through the stories of two Black families fighting to preserve their land and legacy. Family Tree’s cinéma vérité approach reveals the vast task of maintaining the land while navigating challenging family dynamics, unscrupulous developers, and changing environmental needs. The forest itself and the beauty of its changing seasons become a primary character in this family drama.  World Premiere

The Final Chapter (Siste Kapittel) / Norway (Director: Frøydis Fossli Moe; Producer: Kristi Strømmen Kjerpeset)

Ten years after Frøydis cut all contact with her parents due to neglect and violence during her upbringing, she is confronted with her father being on his deathbed. US Premiere

Fortune / United States (Director: Shirley Yumeng He)

Through an embodied camera eye that moves freely in the in-between place that is an alley connecting two streets, Fortune evokes a sense of magical realism and offers texture to the meditation on the Chinese American identity, which can also be characterized as a liminal space.

George-Peterland (Gösta Petter-land) / Sweden (Directors: Christer Wahlberg, Sebastian Rudolph Jensen; Producer: Christer Wahlberg)

Five eight-year-olds found the imaginary world ‘George-Peterland’: a dreamy forest land with cute chickens everywhere, to which one can travel by just closing their eyes. When the school interferes and rules take over the imaginary world, it becomes a nightmare.

Hollywoodgate / Germany, United States (Director: Ibrahim Nash’at; Producers: Talal Derki, Odessa Rae, Shane Boris)

When the United States withdrew from its twenty-year “forever war” in Afghanistan, the Taliban retook control of the ravaged country and immediately found an American base loaded with weaponry—a portion of the over $7 billion in U.S. armaments still in the country. Unprecedented and audacious, director Ibrahim Nash’at’s Hollywoodgate spends a year inside Afghanistan following the Taliban as they take possession of the cache America left behind—and transform from a fundamentalist militia into a heavily armed military regime.

Je m’appelle Mariia / Finland (Director: Juho Reinikainen; Producer: Hadi Nikzad)

This town was a place where they could sleep peacefully, but now the time has come for them to go.  World Premiere

Light of the Setting Sun (回光返照)/ United States (Director: Vicky Du; Producers: Danielle Varga, Vicky Du)

A Taiwanese American filmmaker questions her family’s silence around the cycles of violence that have persisted since the Chinese Communist Revolution of 1949. Light of the Setting Sun is a poetic family portrait of what’s been left unsaid.  World Premiere

A New Kind of Wilderness / Norway (Director: Silje Evensmo Jacobsen; Producers: Silje Evensmo Jacobsen, Mari Bakke Riise)

On a small farm in the Norwegian forest, the Payne family seeks a wild and free existence. They practice home-schooling and strive for a closely-knit family dynamic in harmony with nature. However, when tragedy unexpectedly strikes the family, it upends their idyllic world and forces them to forge a new path into modern society.

On the Way Home (იქ, სადაც სახლია) / Georgia (Director: Giorgi Kvelidze; Producers: Nino Shengelaia, David Michael, Charlotte Savage, Giorgi Kvelidze)

Thirty years after the War in Abkhazia, two generations of Georgian refugees squat in abandoned

Soviet sanatoriums, haunted by echoes of the past while they continue to wait for aid in the form of

government housing.

A Photographic Memory / United States (Director: Rachel Elizabeth Seed; Producers: Rachel Elizabeth Seed, Sigrid Dyekjær, Beth Levison, Matt Perniciaro, Michael Sherman, Danielle Varga)

A Photographic Memory is an intimate, genre-bending portrait of a daughter’s attempt to piece together a portrait of her mother, an avant-garde journalist and a woman she never knew. Uncovering the vast archive Sheila Turner-Seed produced, including lost interviews with iconic photographers Henri Cartier-Bresson, Gordon Parks, Lisette Model, and others, the film explores memory, legacy, and stories left untold.

Power / United States (Director: Yance Ford; Producers: Yance Ford, Jess Devaney, Sweta Vohra, Netsanet Negussie)

Driven to contain threats to social order, American policing has exploded in scope and scale over hundreds of years. Now, it can be described by one word: power.

Remaining (Quello che resta) / Italy (Director: Gianfranco Piazza; Producer: Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia sede Sicilia)

A year-long journey through the mountains of Sicily, a fleshed-out and depopulated territory seen through the eyes of a young shepherd, a wingless vulture, and an astronomical observatory.  World Premiere

The School of Canine Massage / United States (Director: Emma D. Miller; Producers: Emma D. Miller, Colby Day)

At a unique training program in Southern California, people heal dogs and dogs heal people.

The Sparkle (L’artifice) / Canada(Director: Isabelle Grignon-Francke; Producer: Patrick Francke-Sirois)

Kim and Billy work at carnivals. Over the summer, Kim procrastinates. He plans to leave this family of colleagues to devote himself to his passion, the search for precious stones. The layoff of Billy, his best friend, accelerates his disenchantment.

Stand out of my sunlight (Ote-toi de mon soleil) / Belgium (Director: Messaline Raverdy; Producers: Matière Première, CBA – Centre de l’Audiovisuel à Bruxelles, GSARA, Luna Blue Film, Shelter Prod)

Joseph cannot live at his own place anymore. For many years, he has travelled around the city with his trolley to gather tons of miscellaneous papers and objects of all kinds, thus filling his flat with labyrinthine chaos. He is said to have “the Diogenes syndrome.” He is gifted with vertiginous erudition and witty humor. As the filmmaker helps him with his home, a friendship forms.  North American Premiere               

A Stranger Quest / Italy (Director: Andrea Gatopoulos; Producers: Andrea Gatopoulos, Marco Crispano, Marco Caberlotto, Lucio Scarpa)

In the eyes of an artificial mind, the last thirty years of David Rumsey—spent amassing one of the biggest historical maps collections in the world he secretly calls his poem—seem like an unexplainable quest. A Stranger Quest follows him on a road trip confronting the ghosts of his past and the end inching ever closer.

Stud Country / United States (Directors: Lina Abascal, Alexandra Kern; Producers: Lina Abascal, Alexandra Kern)

Stud Country is the largest queer country western line dancing night in America, continuing a little-known 50+ year tradition in Los Angeles. Despite its success and fiercely committed community, due to gentrification, the event is set to lose its venue.  World Premiere

Sugarcane / Canada, US (Directors: Julian Brave NoiseCat, Emily Kassie; Producers: Emily Kassie, Kellen Quinn)

An investigation into abuse and missing children at an Indian residential school ignites a reckoning on the nearby Sugarcane Reserve.

Union / United States (Directors: Brett Story, Stephen Maing; Producers: Brett Story, Stephen Maing, Samantha Curley, Mars Verrone, Martin Dicicco)

The Amazon Labor Union (ALU)—a group of current and former Amazon workers in New York City’s Staten Island—takes on one of the world’s largest and most powerful companies in the fight to unionize.

Waking up in silence / Germany, Ukraine (Directors: Mila Zhluktenko, Daniel Asadi Faezi; Producers: Mila Zhluktenko, Daniel Asadi Faezi)

Ukrainian children are confronted with their past as they explore their new home in Germany: a former Wehrmacht military barracks.

Invited Program

Among the Wolves / France, Belgium (Directors: Tanguy Dumortier, Olivier Larrey; Producers: Henri de Gerlache, Nicolas Zunino, Nicolas Cennac)

To share an entire year in the life of a pack of wild wolves is a dream for Yves the painter and Olivier the photographer. Throughout the four seasons, motionless and silent amid an unchanging scenery, they gradually become part of the “picture” and immerse themselves in the life of the wolves.

Eno / United States, United Kingdom (Director: Gary Hustwit; Producers: Gary Hustwit, Jessica Edwards)

Visionary musician and artist Brian Eno — known for producing David Bowie, U2, Talking Heads, among many others; pioneering the genre of ambient music; and releasing over 40 solo and collaboration albums — reveals his creative processes in this groundbreaking generative documentary: a film that’s different every time it’s shown.

Every Little Thing / Australia (Director: Sally Aitken; Producer: Bettina Dalton, Oli Harbottle, Anna Godas)

Amid the glamour of Hollywood, Los Angeles, a woman finds herself on a transformative journey as she nurtures wounded hummingbirds, unraveling a visually captivating and magical tale of love, fragility, healing, and the delicate beauty in tiny acts of greatness.

False Positive / United States (Director: Ismail Al-Amin; Producers: Ismail Al-Amin, Philip Aromando, Marquis Daisy)

Track-and-field gold medalist and world-record holder Butch Reynolds is one of Akron, Ohio’s finest athletes. But his reputation and career took a debilitating hit when the International Amateur Athletic Federation (IAAF) falsely accused him of using performance-enhancing drugs, costing him the 1992 Olympic Games.

Girls State / United States (Directors: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss; Producers: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss

What would American democracy look like in the hands of teenage girls? A political coming-of-age story and a stirring reimagination of what it means to govern, Girls State follows young female leaders — from wildly different backgrounds across Missouri — as they navigate an immersive experiment to build a government from the ground up.

Growing up Female / United States (Directors: Julia Reichert, Jim Klein; Producers: Julia Reichert, Jim Klein)

Julia Reichert and Jim Klein’s first film, widely seen as the first feature documentary of the modern-day Women’s Liberation Movement, offers six portraits of girls and women at various ages, examining how they are socialized. Added to the National Film Registry in 2011, Growing Up Female remains in active distribution 53 years after its initial release.

Happy Clothes: A Film About Patricia Field / United States (Director: Michael Selditch; Producers: Donald Zuckerman, Samuel J. Paul, Michael Selditch)

A candid fly-on-the-wall glimpse into the creative process and the extraordinary life and career of Emmy-winning costume designer Patricia Field, whose unique vision has impacted fashion and popular culture for nearly six decades.

Julia’s Stepping Stones / United States (Directors: Julia Reichert, Steven Bognar; Producer: Steven Bognar)

Pioneering filmmaker Julia Reichert, who passed away in 2022, shares the intimate story of her youth, as a working-class girl, and how she began to dream of a larger life for herself, coming to embrace her working-class identity, and discovering feminism, documentary filmmaking, and her own voice. This luminous short film was edited and completed by Julia’s partner Steven Bognar.World Premiere

Look Into My Eyes / United States (Director: Lana Wilson; Producers: Kyle Martin, Lana Wilson)

A group of New York City psychics conduct deeply intimate readings for their clients, revealing a kaleidoscope of loneliness, connection, and healing.

Love Machina / United States (Director: Peter Sillen; Producers: Brendan Doyle, Peter Sillen)

Love Machina follows Bina48, a humanoid AI, commissioned in 2007 by Martine and Bina Rothblatt. An early sketch of potential digital consciousness, Bina48 is our vehicle to explore the Rothblatt’s futurist ideas and their quest to be in love forever.

Luther: Never Too Much / United States (Director: Dawn Porter; Producers: Trish D. Chetty, Ged Doherty, Jamie Foxx, Datari Turner, Leah Smith)

Luther: Never Too Much, the documentary film, chronicles the story of a vocal virtuoso. Using a wealth of rarely seen archives, Luther tells his own story with assistance from his closest friends and musical collaborators including Mariah Carey, Dionne Warwick, Valerie Simpson, and Roberta Flack. The film relives the many stunning moments of Luther’s musical career, while exploring his unrequited love life, health struggles, and a lifelong battle to earn the respect his music deserved.

Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes / United States (Directors: Sam Pollard, Ben Shapiro; Producers: Sam Pollard, Ben Shapiro

Max Roach: The Drum Also Waltzes explores the life and music of the legendary drummer, composer, bandleader, and social activist through a remarkable series of creative peaks, struggles, and personal reinventions—from the Jim Crow era to the Civil Rights years, surveying the heady days of post-war modern jazz to hip hop and beyond.

Red Whiteville and Blue / United States (Director: D.L. Anderson; Producers: Sarah Sloan, D.L. Anderson)

In a moment of extreme polarization, a group of millionaires makes an unlikely bet that the working class residents of a diverse Southern town can set aside their differences to help them convince legislators to unrig the economy so it works for everyone.  World Premiere

Story & Pictures By / United States (Director: Joanna Rudnick; Producers: Joanna Rudnick, Korelan Matteson, Tim Horsburgh)

Let us tell you a story about the boundary pushers who shape souls and give children strange dreams. The stars of Story & Pictures By are picture book creators changing the narrative for the next generation, even when their own lives are not fairytales.

There’s a star (Y a une étoile) / Canada (Director: Julien Cadieux; Producer: Jean-Claude Bellefeuille)

Samuel LeBlanc, a young transgender musician, embarks with his friends on a musical journey through the work of Acadian musician Angèle Arsenault. Does queer Acadia exist?

This Is Going to Be Big / Australia (Director: Thomas Charles Hyland; Producers: Jim Wright, Josie Mason Campbell)

Peer behind the curtain as a cast of neurodivergent teens prepare to come of age and hit the stage in their school’s time-travelling, John Farnham–themed musical.

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