Movie: Documentaries are often the proving ground of the better directors in the world, numerous examples of such directors that honed their craft away from the Hollywood Blockbusters so many film lovers go to see. In particular, the short film is a popular method of testing the water for budding young directors, as it costs less and allows them to have far more personal impact on the subject they choose to depict. One of the more popular festivals for such documentaries is the Full Frame Documentary Festival which was founded in 1998 and features works from all over the world. I reviewed Full Frame Shorts 1 almost exactly a year ago and now the sequel, Full Frame Documentary Shorts Vol. 2 is out for more bizarre film shorts to enjoy. If you liked the first release, you'll like this one too, and here's a quick look at the seven shorts it had to offer:
Director Edward P. Davee shows us the world of the crow from a unique perspective, as the birds hang around the periphery of the human world. I'd be lying if I said I understood the short so I won't try and fake it.
2) Ms. Alabama Nursing Home:
Director Anne Paas shows the world what it takes to compete in the world of nursing home beauty pageants. The crew followed around an 82 year old woman as she sought the title against much younger competition in what amounted to a bizarre look at such contests.
Director Ted Gesing showed a documentary that looked at an amphibious mammal that looked a lot like a large rat and it's impact on the economy in Louisiana. Once raised on commercial farms for their pelts, the creatures escaped and bred like wildfire. The creatures contribute to crop damage and erosion so a plan to promote them as a food is looked at rather closely.
Director Barbara Bird took scores of old 8mm family films from her own family archives and has her family members narrate the events behind the scenes that took place. At first, they seemed straightforward but as they progressed, there was an underlying subtext to them that seemed somewhat elusive (it was a very personal project for the director) but it provided an interesting commentary on the changes of family over the years too (the films used to make this ranged from quite a span of time).
5) Wood Island:
Director Kate Williamson used a real community in the Boston area to explore how some things never change in relation to life around a metropolitan area airport. For the most part, it was a slice of life film that used the backdrop of Boston's Logan Airport to show an almost surreal way of life.
6) Have You Seen This Man?:
Directors Ryan Fleck and Anne Boden take a look at a man, Geoff Lupo, the ultimate salesman, as he sells anything and everything in this biting satire. This was easily one of the best short films on the DVD.
7) Iwo Jima: Memories In The Sand:
Directors Beret Strong and John Tweedy took a look at the events that took place on 2/19/1945 and the people that survived them during the American campaign in the Pacific. Particularly moving were the many anecdotal stories by combat veterans who saw scores of friends killed in action but also the way many of them have dealt with their stories by revisiting the island in modern times.
I'm going to rate this one as a Rent It due to the nature of the films presented on the DVD. Technically, the shorts were somewhat of an improvement on the previous edition but the material didn't seem as strong this time. Many of the shorts would've benefited from an audio commentary too since the more obscure releases didn't exactly lend themselves to thoughtful analysis.
Picture: The pictures were presented in their originally shot 1.33:1 ratio full frame color (mostly). Some of the older footage was in B&W and the quality of the footage here varied a lot, often depending as much on the budgets as the technical expertise of the directors, but none were so bad as to be unwatchable. There was a lot of grain and other visual problems though so don't expect a glossy look from any of the short films here.
Sound: The audio was presented in 2.0 Dolby Digital stereo English with some of the shorts in monaural. In some cases, the audio was very mixed and in others, it wasn't bad so I can't really give you a single comment that will cover all of the shorts here. Some directors were more talented in the visual arts and others with the use of audio so your mileage will vary.
Extras: The only real extras were trailers, biographies of the directors, catalog of Docurama titles, and credits. This was fine since that allowed more space for the short films themselves but a lot of fans like their extras.
Final Thoughts: If you want to see some of the best documentary film shorts released in the last year or so, this DVD will be a good selection for you. It had enough diversity of topics to give most viewers something interesting to watch and the humorous titles were usually good for a chuckle or two. While the technical issues varied a whole lot, the interesting nature of some of these shorts made the DVD worth renting at least once to see what's out there.