Sadie Tillery

Sadie Tillery, artistic director of the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, poses for a photograph at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, NC, Friday, June 8, 2018. The Raleigh native has been artistic director for a decade now and is responsible for the festival’s annual line up of films. She says she watches at least 300 documentaries a year during the selection process. (Eamon Queeney for WALTER)

“It’s just as exciting to bring films to this area as it is to bring filmmakers to the audience in North Carolina.”
Sadie Tillery, artistic director, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival

photographs by Eamon Queeney

Sadie Tillery has known that she wanted to work in film for as long as she can remember. She says she fell in love with it at an early age, citing fond memories at local theaters like the Rialto and the Colony. “I’ve always loved movies. Seeing a movie in a theater is a powerful thing,” she says. “Seeing a film with 100 or 1,000 people is very different from watching a film in your living room … and there’s something magical about watching alongside other people, experiencing the stories on screen collectively.”

After graduating from Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia, the Raleigh native is now in pursuit of that magic; she curates films for Durham’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. As artistic director, she selects roughly 70 titles from the almost 2,000 submissions annually. Tillery says that although documentary films sometimes get a bad rap, they’re really just as cinematic and rich as a traditional film. “Many people think documentaries are full of dry content, but usually they are so deserving of a theatrical showcase.”

The international festival brings worldwide guests to downtown Durham during its main weekend each April, and Tillery says she’s proud to showcase the Triangle. “It’s especially rewarding to bring that experience back to the place that I grew up.” Currently, Tillery is curating the Full Frame Road Show, a year-round thematic program that’s free and open to all; plus she’s already gearing up for the 2019 festival lineup. Tillery says she’s most excited each year to represent her home as the ideal area for a cultural festival like Full Frame. “All of our theaters are within a few city blocks, which is incredibly rare in the festival world … it’s a desirable destination for what’s happening both inside and outside of the theaters.”   —Catherine Currin