Double's Documentarians

Cannes on the French Riviera. Sundance in Ski Country. And DoubleTake, the nation's premiere documentary film festival, right here in Durham.

Who knew?

In fact, DoubleTake Documentary Film Festival (DDFF) is co-produced by Duke's Center for Documentary Studies. This weekend marks its fifth year of bringing together the world's foremost documentary films and filmmakers for four days of screenings, panels and good old-fashioned hob-nobbing.

Over 100 films will screen throughout the festival's stay at the Carolina Theatre. Martin Scorsese will present his documentary love letter to Italian cinema, in the Southern Premiere of Il Mio Viaggio in Italia. Daughter from Danang, the Grand Jury prize winner at Sundance, will screen Friday morning. And the opening film, Journeys with George, chronicles the presidential campaign of our dear Dubya.

But DDFF isn't just an opportunity to mingle with the big boys of documentary--it's a celebration of compelling slices of life. At this year's DDFF, you can get acquainted with beagle trainers and Samosa makers, a piano prodigy and a Palestinan lightweight boxer, and Miss America to Mr. U.N. Films at DoubleTake tackle issues such as religion, race, education reform and gay adoption but save space for karaoke contests and the watermelon seed spitting world championship. There's truly something for everyone.

This year's theme is "Score! Music and Documentary." Guest curator D.A. Pennebaker has collected a number of documentaries that showcase the importance and scope of music within documentary film--from narrative score to subject matter. The series features scores by Duke Ellington, films featuring Bob Dylan and Thelonius Monk and, of course, the famous mockumentary This is Spinal Tap. In perhaps the coolest event of the weekend, eclectic musical trio Yo La Tengo will be performing live to the early 20th century underwater films of doc legend Jean Painlevec. Two other sidebar showcases--the Southern sidebar and "9/11: Films of Tragedy and Hope"--will also bring together films of both known and unknown filmmakers. Most filmmakers, whether screened as part of sidebars or the larger festival, will be present for a Q&A discussion after their screenings.

DDFF was started by Nancy Buriski in 1998 and has since blossomed into the nation's premiere documentary film festival. This year the festival was recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences as one of the five national qualifying festivals for the Short Documentary Oscar. This year over 600 films entered the DDFF's New Docs: Films in Competition program. Only 67 made the cut. Prizes awarded include the DDFF Jury Prize, the DDFF Audience prize, and the White House Project Women and Leadership Award.

Tickets are, shall we say, a bit "Hollywood"--a Priority Pass to the entire Festival runs a cool $400 (and yes, they are already sold-out). The $50 all-access pass for students seems reasonable in comparison, and $8.50 pays for an individual screening (throw in the ability to meet the filmmaker, and it sure beats Blade II). See the Film page for a list of a few of the documentaries at the festival, but go to for schedules and synopses of all the films.


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