Documentarians from Duke Show Films at Full Frame

Duke instructors and MFA student will present works at film festival April 9-12

A screenshot from the documentary film
A screenshot from the documentary film "Cairo in One Breath," directed by Anna Kipervaser, a student in Duke’s MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts program. Image courtesy of Anna Kipervaser

When Anna Kipervaser heard the Muslim call to prayer, the adhan, for the first time in Cairo in 2007, she was overwhelmed by the cacophony of layered voices over the loudspeakers. The noise quieted the street chatter and honking cars.Over eight years, Kipervaser, now a student in Duke’s MFA in Experimental and Documentary Arts program, researched the adhan and took multiple trips to Cairo to capture the story of muezzins, the men who call Muslims to prayer from mosques, and how their individual voices were going to be replaced in Cairo by one voice transmitted from a radio station.That struggle between tradition and modernity is captured in her documentary film “Cairo in One Breath,” which is having its world premiere at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival on April 10 in Durham. “The goal is for all humans to walk away with a desire to document their own traditions and to bridge the cultural gap,” Kipervaser said. In addition to Kipervaser’s film, the international Full Frame Documentary Film Festival will present more than 100 films at locations around Durham April 9 to 12. Tickets and the full schedule can be found on the festival’s website, and some events will include discussions with the filmmakers and film subjects.Filmmaker Erin Espelie, who is an instructor with the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke and the Nicholas School of the Environment, will also show her film, “The Lanthanide Series,” for the first time in the U.S. at Full Frame on April 11. “The Lanthanide Series” explores how rare earth elements on the Periodic Table are used in modern electronic devices, such as cerium being used to polish camera lenses and computer screens, Espelie said. Some footage includes scenes at a mirror factory in Lenoir, N.C., close-ups of an Aztec obsidian disc at the Nasher Museum of Art, and chimpanzees using touch-screen technology at the North Carolina Zoo. “It’s a pleasure to be able to show the piece in a state where I did a lot of the shooting,” she said. “And it’s an honor to be at such a wonderful festival for the North American premiere.”Another film premiering during the festival on April 10 is “Overburden,” in part produced by a Duke staff member. Elena Rue, director of the Lewis Hine Documentary Fellows Program at the Center for Documentary Studies, helped piece together the story chronicling two women who challenge mining company Massey Energy in a fiercely divided coal mining community. Rue worked with a small team on the film for four years, and she served as co-editor and co-producer. “I would want people to be inspired by the women in the film,” she said. “They’re incredibly strong, standing up for what they believe in in a place where their opinion is not shared by everybody. They’re fighting for what they believe is right.”

Mavis Staples

The Staple Singers, in "Mavis!"

Five Full Frame Movies to Watch For

Wesley Hogan, director of the Center for Documentary Studies at Duke, discusses five Full Frame movies she's particularly excited about.

1. "Mavis!" (1:30 p.m. Saturday): "This is an interesting portrait of one of my favorites, Mavis Staples of the Staple Singers. It's a back and forth look of what she's become and who she was in the early days and the great, great music the Staple Singers created." (For trailer, click here.)

2. "Cartel Land" (4:20 p.m. Saturday): "The movie examines the multiple vigilante groups on both sides of the Mexican and US border and the things they do to protect their friends and family members from the cartels.  It's like an action/thriller, which is a growing genre of documentary film."

3. "3 ½ Minutes" (7:30 p.m. Friday): "This tells the story of Jordan Davis, a young African-American man who was shot dead at a gas station after an argument with a white man over the loud music Jordan was playing in his car. Ron Davis, the young man's father, will be at the showing. Much of the movie is shown through his eyes." (For trailer, click here.)

4. "BaddDDD Sonia Sanchez" (10:10 a.m. Saturday) "Poet and activist Sonia Sanchez is another of my favorites. She is joyful, politically astute and full of outrage. It's unusual to find someone who so fully embodies all three of those qualities." (For trailer, click here.)

5. "(T)ERROR" (1 p.m. Saturday): "It's a challenging look at a FBI counterterrorism sting. The film has a twist, and it is another one in this action/thriller documentary genre. What's also satisfying is the filmmakers received a Garrett Scott Documentary Development grant two years ago, and now they're back to show the finished film."