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“I wouldn’t say theater helps me escape. It helps me get through.”
– Purple Dreams (2017)

A room of hundreds, sitting in darkness. Phones off. Simply waiting.

It’s a hush that’s anything but silent. I can hear my heart breathe, faster. A creak, as someone leans forward. All senses tuned, open, expectant, for the first glimmer of light to pierce the darkness. It’s a quiet, hopeful moment of unity among strangers. And I wonder: In the dark seasons of life, how do we stay open, anchored in community? How do we trust that light is coming, that the show will go on?

Celebrating its 20th year, the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival postured me in this way, sixteen times for sixteen films. And each lit a brilliant flame illuminating the strength, dignity, and beauty all around us. It’s amazing how photons and sound waves have the power to transport us from a buttery theater to the Holocaust memorial of the future, a vigil in Rio Negro, a tunnel of kids playing in plastic waste. Documentaries take us on journeys that demand something of us. They call us to action, inviting us to open our eyes, soften our hearts, and be changed. They transform us, so that we may transform our communities.

This festival, documentaries helped me remember.

I remembered that we are more connected than we let ourselves feel. That pigs can be friends, not food. That healing starts with acknowledging trauma. And that in the face of endless stigmas around disability, poverty, and more, loving yourself could be the bravest thing you ever do.

I remembered why I love stories. Sacred gifts that irreversibly connect us to each other. They stretch our souls to feel pain we’ve never felt and joy we long to experience. They name the reality of darkness, and the triumph of love in its very midst. Whether it’s student protesters singing their way to jail, Cambodian women fighting for their homeland, or Syrian civilians risking everything to rescue the buried-alive: Stories teach us how to get through, together. Darkness does not have the last word. It is, at best, a canvas for light.

In this remembering, I hear an invitation. Like a steady drumbeat, every frame builds on itself to ask, again and again, Will you pursue the truth? Will you practice hospitality? Will you be a witness? It’s this moral code of compassion, this commitment to celebrating life, that makes me proud to be part of the documentary community. Proud to work with StoryDriven.

Our mission at StoryDriven is to celebrate the goodness in this world. To lift up stories of resilience, and the ongoing, everyday overcoming of struggle. Ultimately, we hope to inspire people to share their stories, as witnesses of light in the darkness.

It is with great joy, then, that we share this mosaic of the festival community right here in Durham. Through our festival video and photo series, we invite you to imagine how stories tie us all together.

How do you feel connected to others? What gives you hope? We would love to hear your story!


Chrislyn Choo

Brand Journalist at StoryDriven (@strydrvn)

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