The Curtain Rises

Full Frame Festival opens including screenings in a historic landmark turned theater

Coal is out and film is in at the ATP Power Plant.  Photo by Ian McClerin
Coal is out and film is in at the ATP Power Plant. Photo by Ian McClerin

The massive American Tobacco Power Plant is getting a much brighter ground floor than the piles of coal once used to power the historic tobacco warehouse complex.  Duke University's Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) and its Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, in partnership with American Tobacco Campus, are transforming the first floor of the building into a gallery and event space, including the boutique Full Frame Theater to screen documentary films from around the world.

Launched in conjunction with this year's Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, held April 4-7 at the Carolina Theatre and other venues in downtown Durham, the new Full Frame Theater at the Power Plant will offer the general public two free screenings of award-winning films, on Friday, April 5, 6:30 p.m., and Saturday, April 6, 6:30 p.m. (Only the first 100 people to arrive for each screening will be admitted.)

"We've put together a top-notch venue to view important documentaries in one of the most unique locations I've seen for screenings," says Deirdre Haj, executive director of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Guests entering the lobby of the state-of-the-art theater will see that much of the power plant's historic structure is still intact, including the four-story furnace. The adjoining Boiler Room, in addition to the Full Frame Theater, will be available for events. The Power Plant Gallery will showcase photography and other artwork created by Duke students, faculty, and others affiliated with the university. Currently on view is the 2013 Thesis Exhibition of the Master of Fine Arts in Experimental and Documentary Arts program at Duke.

"The Power Plant, with the beautiful Full Frame Theater and a wonderful gallery space, will be a vital nexus for the documentary arts in Durham," says Tom Rankin, director of the Center for Documentary Studies. "The programming and educational opportunities with this new space will further deepen the richness of the arts in Durham and at Duke, by providing a new venue for the Duke community to extend our activities in exciting ways."

CDS has been working with the team at American Tobacco for more than year to plan and execute the new space, where the Full Frame festival offices also are located.

"Projects like this present the type of challenges that get our team out of bed every day," says Michael Goodmon, vice president of real estate, Capitol Broadcasting Company. "Instead of knocking down a historic building or taking out the enormous furnace in the middle of the lobby, we challenged ourselves to create a space that would be functional and superlative as a movie theater, but would also celebrate the history and beauty of this amazing space. Guests are going to be blown away by what has been done."


FREE SCREENINGS @ Full Frame Theater

Friday, April 5, 6:30-8 p.m.

2012 Full Frame Audience Award Winner "Trash Dance" tells the story of an unusual, creative partnership between a dancer, Allison Orr, and the men and women of the Austin, Texas, Department of Solid Waste Services. In the film, non-dancers contribute to choreographing a public performance based on their daily activities in order to demonstrate what workers and their machines do on the job: quotidian movements parsed into ballet.


Saturday, April 6, 6:30-8 p.m.

In "Chasing Ice," winner of the 2012 Nicholas School Environmental Award, National Geographic photographer James Balog uses his inspiring images as catalyst in his new role as climate change activist. He and his colleagues created the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS) and installed cameras in remote northern locations to take photos at measured intervals of the glittering, translucent beauty of arctic terrain. These time-lapse photography sequences stretch over years and sound an alarm as northern ice landscapes dramatically melt and recede.

Pictured below, the new Full Frame Theater provides a comfortable environs to watch a movie.  Photo by Ian McClerin.

Full Frame