This January, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival is conducting its fifth Winter Series. With three Thursday screenings to start off the new year, the 2013 Winter Series will present Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, Searching for Sugar Man and How to Survive a Plague.

Full Frame has long aimed to bring documentary to the public—particularly targeting those that could not attend the four-day annual international festival in April—by providing as many screenings as possible throughout the year. The Festival, programmed by the Center for Documentary Studies and sponsored in part by Duke, showcases contemporary non-fiction cinema and aims to stimulate conversation between audience and artist.

The Winter Series was created specifically for the Durham community as another step to further Full Frame’s mission statement. Last year, Full Frame provided more than fifteen free screenings in the Durham area. “This is also an opportunity for us to reconnect with our community before we become so busy with the April festival,” said Executive Director Deirdre Haj.

The Festival, once held in Bay 7 at the American Tobacco Campus, moved two years ago under the new leadership of Bob Nocek to the Carolina Theatre, where it would have a better screening experience. The Carolina Theatre is now viewed as Full Frame’s “home away from home,” explained Haj.

The films for the Winter Series are chosen at the discretion of Full Frame Director of Programming Sadie Tillery. The works are chosen because they were popular at Full Frame (Ai Weiwei and How to Survive a Plague played at last year’s festival) or because they were unavailable at the time of the Festival. Furthermore, the screenings, spaced throughout the month of January, are held just prior to the nomination announcements for the Oscars, which offers a chance for viewers to look closely at films that might be up for awards. All three titles have been short-listed for Best Documentary Feature for this year’s Academy Awards. Although there is no overarching theme among this year’s titles, all films in this series focus on individuals and their remarkable impact on the world.

Directed by Alison Klayman, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry starts off the series on Thursday, January 10. The film covers the compelling and visionary artist in the context of China’s current state while also attesting to the capacity of art to carry political messages and cultural implications. Amid strict censorship, Ai’s continued expression through various art forms and social media has made him China’s most internationally renowned artist and critic.

On Thursday, January 17, Malik Bendjelloul’s Searching for Sugar Man tells the true story of Rodriguez, a 1970s musician whose debut album was a commercial failure in America but went platinum in South Africa. His anti-establishment music resonated with a young and disillusioned generation living under apartheid. Rodriguez himself was shrouded in mystery, believed by many to have committed suicide onstage. The film follows two South African fans who set out to find the fate of the man behind the music that fueled a movement.

How to Survive a Plague concludes the Winter Series on Thursday, January 24. Directed by David France, the film follows the story of the men and women who successfully reversed a possible AIDS epidemic in America. With no training, the activists infiltrated government agencies and pharmaceutical industries to identify promising treatments, save lives—including their own—and inspire empowerment and activism.

All screenings for the Full Frame Winter Series take place in Fletcher Hall at the Carolina Theatre. Screenings begin at 7:30 p.m. and are free and open to the public.