The 25th annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival wrapped up over the weekend with the presentation of six awards and a combined US$35,000 in cash prizes, with the top honor going to Reid Davenport’s I Didn’t See You There.
Davenport’s film (pictured) won the Full Frame Grand Jury Award for delivering a “profoundly moving experience with astonishing vulnerability and a visionary creative voice,” as per the festival jury’s statement. The first-person documentary sees Davenport, a filmmaker with a disability, connecting the antiquated concept of the circus “freak show” with his own life as he examines the everyday ableism he faces. Earlier this year, Davenport won the directing award in the Sundance Film Festival’s U.S. Documentary Competition.
Receiving an honorable mention for the Grand Jury Award was James Jones’ Chernobyl: The Lost Tapes, which uses newly discovered archival footage and new audio interviews with survivors to tell the story of the disastrous 1986 explosion at the nuclear power plant in northern Ukraine.
The Full Frame Jury Award for best short was presented to The Silent Shore, directed by Nathalie Giraud and Timothée Corteggiani. The short profiles fantasy author Pierre Dubois and his wife Aline, who live in the small village of Cartignies in northern France, as they discuss the power of writing and imagination and cope with the loss of their teenage daughter.
“The filmmaking craft on display in The Silent Shore immediately immerses viewers into a dreamy, whimsical, yet saddening world that feels every bit [like] fantasy as it does real life,” read Full Frame’s jury statement. “The story of Pierre and Aline is captured through nuanced cinematography, an evocative soundtrack and editing that consistently reveals new layers. The end result is a deeply intimate exploration of love and loss, bringing understanding to the otherwise inexplicable.”
The Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award, provided by the Guggenheim family, was presented to Jannis Lenz for Soldat Ahmet, which follows a champion boxer and professional soldier who begins taking acting lessons. The jury statement praises Lenz for having a “clear, powerful voice” and for handling the subject of trauma in a “unique, layered way.”
The John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute Award, which recognizes a short film that highlights documentary as a formally inventive artistic medium, was presented to Alejandro Alonso’s Abyssal, which profiles a worker on a decommissioned cruise ship off the coast of Cuba.
No Soy Óscar by Jon Ayon was the winner of the Full Frame President’s Award, which is presented to the year’s best student film as selected by representatives on behalf of Duke University’s president’s office. Ayon’s short doc is about the death of a young father and his one-year-old daughter, who drowned in a river on the border of Mexico and Texas. The festival’s jury praised the film for its stunning visuals, intricate sound design, and weaving in of Indigenous people’s voices with the filmmaker’s personal reflections.
Finally, the Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights was presented to Paula Eiselt and Tonya Lewis Lee’s Aftershock. The film, which earlier this year won the Impact for Change award in Sundance’s U.S. Documentary Competition, details the maternal health care crisis in the United States, which has led to more women dying in childbirth today than was the case 25 years ago — a mortality rate that is significantly higher in the U.S. than in other developed countries, and that also disproportionately affects Black women.
Full Frame is a qualifying event for nominations for the Academy Award Documentary Short Subject category, as well as the Producers Guild of America Awards.