‘Evolution of a Criminal’ among nine award winners at Full Frame

Apr. 06, 2014 @ 04:05 PM

“Evolution of a Criminal,” a documentary by filmmaker Darius Clark Monroe, took the Reva and David Logan Grand Jury Award and the Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award during Sunday’s ceremony at the final day of the 2014 Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Monroe was an honor student in high school, but he was acutely aware of his family’s difficulty in paying monthly bills. At age 16, he and a friend robbed a bank to get money. Monroe was tried as an adult, accepted a plea deal and served three years of a five-year sentence.

When he got out of jail, he used his camera to explore what led to the robbery and its effects on himself and his family.

In presenting the award, CDS Director Wesley Hogan said Monroe’s film explores a side of society that many do not see, the fact that “most people in America live paycheck to paycheck.”

The CDS award was created “to honor and support documentary artists whose works are potential catalysts for education and change.”

Monroe could not be at the award ceremony, but through an email stated that “I hope that this film will be used to uplift, inspire and inform.”

“Evolution of a Criminal” was among 48 new documentaries in competition for a variety of awards.

The Audience Award for best feature went to Rachel Lears’ and Robin Blotnick’s “The Hand That Feeds,” about New York City restaurant workers who unionize for better wages and working conditions. In accepting the award, Blotnick said the Full Frame audience had shown that North Carolina is willing to have a conversation about this issue.

“I hope the rest of the country will follow,” Blotnick said.

The Audience Award for the best short documentary went to Scott Calonico for his film “The Silly Bastard Next to the Bed.”

During John Kennedy’s presidency, a modest place was set up at a nearby Air Force base where Jacqueline Kennedy could have her baby. After a newspaper reported the story, someone in the Air Force converted the simple room into a VIP suite, angering President Kennedy, who tried to figure out the pattern of events.

Filmmaker Cynthia Hill, co-founder of Durham’s Southern Documentary Fund, took home the Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights for her film “Private Violence,” which explores the complex emotions surrounding domestic violence and abuse. Hill, whose previous films include “The Guestworker” and “Tobacco Money Feeds My Family,” thanked the festival for its support for her career.

“I would like to credit this festival for helping me to define my craft,” she said.

The Nicholas School of the Environment Award went to Margaret Brown for her film “The Great Invisible,” which chronicled the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that spilled millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

Bill Chameides, dean of the school based at Duke University, praised the film for its balanced and “nuanced” look at an environmental disaster.

Documentarian Steve James, whose films include “Hoop Dreams” and “The Interrupters,” received the Full Frame Tribute Award.

Several of James’ many films were screened during the four-day festival.

“It’s been such a pleasure to celebrate his work again on the big screen,” said Sadie Tillery, Full Frame programming director, who presented the award. She praised the “deep understanding and humanity” his films express.

“They show us what the documentary form is capable of,” Tillery said. 

Here is a list of the other awards Full Frame gave out Sunday:

  • Full Frame Jury Award for Best Short:  “White Earth,” by J. Christian Jensen
  • Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award: “Return to Homs,” by Talal Derki
  • Full Frame Inspiration Award: “The Overnighters,” by Jesse Moss
  • Full Frame President’s Award, given to a student filmmaker: “Santa Cruz del Islote,” by Luke Lorentzen