Full Frame: Take One

I attended my very first film festival in Durham, NC and as usual, as soon as I got home I went online and began to research additional festivals I might make it to. I say “as usual” because my insatiable curiosity always leads to full on immersion in whatever subject is top of mind. Film, like the interweb, has no bottom. There are always new films to see, so I will never be finished. For those of you who resist boredom and a life of obscurity, you will understand how important this is.To feed your passions and have the promise of more discovery always present is a particular pleasure. As a naturally passionate person, my interests are wide ranging. But today I am feeling curiously satiated.
My time at the festival was a dream come true. I was in a different state, so travel was involved, always a happy occurrence. I had friends with me, made new ones and in one case, re-connected with a former classmate from high school who has gone on to direct a feature film about Mobile. Best of all, I did almost nothing but watch movies all day long for days. In between I tried great little restaurants. I had several perfect Stoli Cosmos at the Hotel bar. (For some reason, a perfect one is hard to find.) I saw about 5 movies a day for 3 days and then 2 on my last day. My head is reeling with texture, sound and a constant mental replay of the memorable images that conquered me.
Perhaps the most shocking film I saw was Man on Wire. I don’t know why it resonated as much as it did, except that the main character, Phillippe Petite, a French national who once tight roped across the span between the twin towers, was that which I admire most. A triumphant visionary, a creative who has defied the world and succeeded on his own terms. It reminds me a little bit of how I felt about the new Burton/Depp Willy Wonka and Burton’s Sweeney. The victory of artistry over the commercial. The ephemera of beauty, whimsy, joy captured in a single unforgettable event. This film is a masterpiece of editing, cinematography and is quite simply… breathtaking. The story is beyond unbelievable and the innocence of his dream, beguiling.
I know I will continue to think on this film. I was so moved by it that I felt compelled to address the director via microphone in front of a full theater. I said, “I just want to thank you. I thought that for the rest of my life, whenever I saw images of the twin towers that I would only remember the horror of the events of September 11th, but now, when I see images of it, I will think of this and feel joy.”
Yeah, I’m a dork and I even cried during the moment when he finally achieved his dream. Not a little, polite tearing of the eye, but many tears streaming down my face. Wow.
I cried at other films: Trouble the Water as I was taken back to New Orleans and Katrina. The pictures of it still feel traumatic to me. I have a PTS response. My blood pressure elevates, my hands go cold and my heart plummets. My eyes welled up at image after image of the devastation. I can remember every magical adventure I had in pre-Katrina New Orleans. The hidden places I stumbled upon, the scents of chicory coffee and woodsmoke in winter, the reek of beer laden streets on Halloween. Shivering in delight as I had my palm read by candlelight in the shadow of Jackson Square. Sweet, simple moments on the ferry to Algiers dazed by the taste of river on my tongue, my eyes dazzled by the pearl laden bridge, the diamond strewn sky.
At the Deathhouse Door, when the Prison Chaplain described the last moments of an innocent man who died for a crime he did not commit. Man’s inhumanity to man and a suffering innocent sentenced to death. Soft, sad tears that tracked silently as I watched…
There were wonderful moments as well. Getting interviewed for the local news channel about how I felt about Durham and the festival. Finding a perfect French Bistro that had beignets 2 blocks from the hotel. Securing autographs and handshakes from the makers of the films I fell in love with. Having a great conversation with a Producer from Starz at a chance meeting at the hotel bar in between films. Watching a late night showing of a crazy Iranian film while a man with a lilting, infectious belly laugh sounded behind us, sending us into laughter ourselves. Meeting a charming artist who directs a film festival in Wilmington, NC and being delighted by the unexpected awareness of a kindred spirit and his physical presence at a casual touch.
Laughing at Trumbo and feeling swirled up in the language of his letters. Snapping close-ups of Joan Allen from the second row. Managing to watch 5 episodes of Dexter on my iPod while traveling. Listening to INXS with my friends as we sped towards our hotel at 12:30 a.m. slightly drugged by the heady intoxication of being surrounded by others who loved story as I do. Managing to slip out to a local church this morning several blocks away to have Eucharist while my compatriots covered for me by utilizing my ticket to a required event for a chance acquaintance.
Yes, it was quite an amazing first festival. When I arrived home, my sweet Tucker dog lept into my arms and buried his little snout under my chin. I took a ride to Starbucks for a post trip beverage and savored my familiar routine for a few moments. Part of the joy of leaving a place is in the returning.
My first class (Intro to New Testament) has been canceled tomorrow, leaving me some luxurious free time to catch up on my reading before my Leadership in Africa class.
No wonder I feel so happy. I am humming along to my current favorite song and thinking of taking up running and am approaching my bedtime. I’ll brush my teeth, snuggle into my pj’s and listen to the soothing sounds of a faux rain storm on my iPod cradled in the Sounddock.
I wonder what I will dream…

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