An Insight Into Filmmaking

Although all the documentaries I viewed at Full Frame varied greatly in their own approaches to filmmaking, they all shed light on a topic that I otherwise would’ve had very little exposure to. This experience broadened my idea of what a documentary really is, and helped me understand how many different ways there are to tell a story. Beginning with talking to Jacqueline Olive, the filmmaker behind Always in Season, I gained insight into the extremely time-consuming task of creating a documentary. From this discussion, I learned how a strong bond of trust between the filmmaker and interviewees yields the most vulnerable, and raw moments for the camera to capture. Mrs. Olive also explained how the soundtrack influences our emotions and the powerful effect of selectively enhancing audio. Having this behind-the-scenes understanding of the filmmaking process helped me better understand the documentaries to come, starting with The Ambassador’s Wife. While this certainly wasn’t my favorite of the films I saw, I was still able to appreciate it for its unique portrayal of the life of the French ambassador’s wife. The seemingly observational shots intentionally lacking music showed moments of her daily life, in contrast to the lack of privilege around her. Although the story itself wasn’t quite as entertaining as I would’ve liked, and quite uncomfortable at times, it was somewhat redeemed by the interesting composition of the shots. In contrast, the poignant score and likable figures in Ressaca made it a much more interesting film for me. This documentary followed the struggle of the Municipal Theatre in Rio de Janeiro against the government, and the overall fight to preserve culture and art. Deliberate choices to lay out the film in three acts and in black and white only heightened the drama and tension of Ressaca. Although not quite as visually unique, the stories of Moment to Moment, following how Carl and his wife Susan cope with his worsening Alzheimer’s, and Exit Music, following Ethan Rice’s experience preparing for the end of his fight with cystic fibrosis, resonated powerfully through their emotional content. Additionally, Only the Moon and Irene’s Ghost both utilized animation to add to the stories they were trying to tell. Because it was completely told this way, Only the Moon, a short about a Peruvian Man’s life after immigration to the U.S., went against my preconception of a documentary format. Although all these films were excellent and exposed me to new ideas, my favorite by far was 3 Days 2 Nights. This documentary followed the conversations that finally happened between sole survivors Mark and Andy Godfrey about the plane crash 40 years prior. When the brothers were 11 and 8, they experienced the most defining moment of their lives, yet waited to discuss it for decades. Going into this film, I expected the focus of the narrative to be on the events of the plane crash. Instead, the documentary served a more cathartic purpose, for reconciliation and breaking the silence that had been cast for so long. Sometimes when watching something like this it’s easy to forget these are the stories of real people. However, I was adamantly reminded of this when Mark and Andy Godfrey walked on stage at the end and explained how their enduring friendship with the director, John Breen, yielded such raw and unguarded moments. Seeing how this connection of trust positively impacted the film just like Jacqueline Olive told us, it truly brought my 2019 experience at Full Frame full circle.