WCU reels in Half Frame Film Fest

Western Carolina University will launch the Half Frame Film Festival, a daylong celebration of documentary filmmaking, on Monday, April 9, featuring Laura Poitras, director of the Academy Award-nominated “My Country, My Country.”


Western’s new event is called the Half Frame Film Festival in recognition of the university’s connections to the Full Frame Film Festival, which is held in Durham in late April and is widely regarded as the nation’s premiere documentary film festival. Western faculty and students participate in the event every year.

“I am thrilled that Western’s association with the Full Frame Festival gives us an opportunity to bring Laura Poitras and other talented filmmakers to campus,” said Elizabeth Heffelfinger, who leads the motion picture studies program in WCU’s department of English and coordinates the Half Frame Film Festival.

“Both the motion picture studies concentration in the English department and the motion picture and television production program in the communications department are really just now getting into full swing,” Heffelfinger said. “I think it’s so important that students from these programs and from across the university have access to award-winning documentaries and documentary filmmakers, especially since we are enjoying a documentary renaissance.”

In “My Country, My Country,” Poitras tells the story of the war-torn nation of Iraq through the eyes of Dr. Riyadh, an Iraqi medical doctor, father of six and Sunni political candidate. The Village Voice has praised her work as “the most valuable piece of film to emerge about the war.” Among the nominees for this year’s Oscar for best documentary film, “My Country, My Country” was edged for the prize by Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth.”

Poitras will introduce “My Country, My Country” at 7:30 p.m. in the theater of A.K. Hinds University Center with a discussion of the film to follow. The screening will cap a full day of Half Frame Film Festival activities scheduled to get under way at 10 a.m. in Hinds University Center.

From 10 a.m. until to noon and from 1 until 3 p.m., the festival will screen a selection of documentaries chosen by mountain-area filmmakers who say the films were influential in helping them hone their craft. Paul Bonesteel of Bonesteel Films will present “If The People Will Lead,” a film shot in the former Soviet Union that focuses on the role of the media in encouraging democratic change in that country. Bonesteel will lead a discussion of the documentary, concentrating on what he learned about filmmaking.

Francine Cavanaugh of the Mars Hill production company Mountain Eye Media, WCU instructor Ken Abbot, and Asheville filmmaker Rebecca MacNeice will discuss documentary filmmaking with students. A screening of films by panel participants will begin at 3 p.m., with the panel discussion from 4 until 5:30. Following a dinner break from 5:30 until 7:30 p.m., Poitras will introduce “My Country, My Country.”

Admission to the Half Frame Film Festival is free of charge. For more information, contact Elizabeth Heffelfinger at 828.227.3930.

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