Hello from Hollywood! Or actually, the weird mirror image of Hollywood – Durham's Full Frame Documentary Film Festival (Thursday-Sunday).
Documentaries don't function like big time Hollywood films. Where blockbusters tout absolutes like happy endings, true love and stars who never have to use the bathroom, documentaries bask in ambiguity, haunting questions and pauses so pregnant they make Octomom look svelte.
All those qualities were present in "The Poodle Trainer," the short we took in at the Carolina Theater on Thursday night. Why has the title character given her life to dressing perplexed pooches in red wigs and snapping them through a circus routine?? We only know it has something to do with her mother (of course) and her beloved childhood dog. We don't get the details. Instead, we get the result: a lifetime of obsession and spider-like eye make-up.
"The Poodle Trainer" was followed by arthouse favorite Michel Gondry and his family documentary, "The Thorn in the Heart." We follow Gondry as he follows his beloved aunt's reminisces of loving, living and teaching in France. Like all of Gondry's movies (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Human Nature, Be Kind Rewind) all is not what it seems in this on-the-surface simple movie. Again with the ambiguity!
But that's not to say the festival doesn't have its share of rousing crowd-pleasers – the doc equivalent of "Avatar."
"Kings of Pastry," from the duke of docs, D.A. Pennebaker, opened the festival to rave reviews – and a dessert-bedecked after-party at the twinkling American Tobacco Campus.
We're especially looking forward to "Do it Again." Just imagine it: One fan's obsession with bringing back the ultimate rock band and his personal favorite, The Kinks! The movie features interviews with a bunch of rock legends.
We'll be back with lots more from the Full Frame Fest, so stay tuned!