Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is an annual international event dedicated to the theatrical exhibition of non-fiction cinema.

The festival is a program of the Center for Documentary Studies, a non-profit, 501(c)(3) at Duke University, and receives support from corporate sponsors, private foundations, and individual donors whose generosity provides the foundation that makes the event possible. The Presenting Sponsor of the Festival is Duke University. Additional sponsors include: A&E IndieFilms, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences, National Endowment for the Arts, Merge Records, Whole Foods, ilili Hospitality Group (parent company for Saladelia Cafe and Madhatter Bakeshop and cafe),and the City of Durham.

The festival began in 1998 with no more than a few hundred patrons and has grown tremendously since then. Full Frame is now considered to be one of the premier documentary film festivals in the United States.[1] The Festival was founded by Nancy Buirski, a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo editor of The New York Times and documentary filmmaker.[2]

Full Frame became a qualifying festival for the Producers Guild of America (PGA) Award for Best Documentary in 2012,[3] and a qualifying festival for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject in 2013.[4]

Full Frame also presents documentary work in other venues both locally and nationally, partnering with organizations like the American Tobacco Historic District/Capitol Broadcasting Company, Des Moines Art Center, Duke University, the IFC Center, the International Affairs Council of North Carolina, the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, the National Association of Latino Independent Producers, PNC Financial Services, Rooftop Films, and the University of North Carolina (UNC) School System.

Over the years, those attending have included Michael Moore, D. A. Pennebaker, Martin Scorsese, Danny DeVito, Ken Burns, Joan Allen, Al Franken, and Steve James.[5]

Curated series

Each year the festival invites a member of the documentary filmmaking community to curate a series of films on a specific topic. The curated series have included:

Tribute award

From 1998 to 2011, the festival presented a filmmaker with the Full Frame Career Award. In 2012, this award was changed to the Full Frame Tribute. Past recipients include:

Industry award

Occasionally, the festival honors an industry member who has made important contributions to the field with the Full Frame Industry Award. Past recipients include:


The festival offers a number of prizes at each festival.

The prizes awarded at the 2016 festival were:

  • The Reva and David Logan Grand Jury Award for the best feature film.
  • The Full Frame Jury Award for Best Short for the best film of 40 minutes or less.
  • The Full Frame Audience Award for a short film and a feature film chosen by ballot of the attendees of the festival.
  • The Center for Documentary Studies (CDS) Filmmaker Award for the film that best combines originality and creativity with firsthand experience in examining central issues of contemporary life and culture.
  • The Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award for the best first-time documentary feature filmmaker.
  • The Full Frame President's Award for the best student film.
  • The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights for a film that addresses a significant human rights issue in the United States.

Past Grand Jury Award winners are:


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