Full Frame 2020 Cancelled Amid COVID-19 Concerns

Full Frame 2020 Cancelled Amid COVID-19 Concerns

Coronavirus has left a mark on nearly every industry and line of work, and the world of documentary filmmaking has not been spared. As the pandemic rages, the consequences are becoming more visible not only to those within the industry, but to the general public as well.

One of many film festivals to face cancellation this year is the Full Frame Documentary Festival: normally held at Duke University. Duke has suspended all in-person events until further notice.

What is Full Frame?

Full Frame Festival is a film festival event dedicated to theatrical releases in the genre of non-fiction. It takes place every spring, attracting creatives from every corner of the industry. This four-day annual event has become a staple of its local culture. Last year, the event featured as many as 100 films, panels and discussions centered on the art of documentary filmmaking. The festival also featured an award ceremony, the outcome of which was known to carry significant weight within the industry.


The event is typically sponsored by big-names such as HBO, Netflix and National Geographic, as well as annual host Duke University. Applications from filmmakers total in the hundreds each year, as the festival’s notoriety steadily grows. While not entirely surprising, news of the cancelation is being taken quite hard.

Official Statements

Duke University has issued an official statement concerning the cancellation and their reasoning behind it.

“Yesterday, Duke University canceled all sponsored events through April 20, 2020, which includes this year’s Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. At this time, we are in the process of notifying filmmakers, sponsors, donors, ticket buyers, and all of our stakeholders.   We humbly ask for patience as our team works through the many details involved with canceling an event of Full Frame’s scale. Updates will be posted here on our website as more information becomes available.  We are deeply grateful for the understanding of our incredible Full Frame community, along with the continued support from Duke University. Know that we remain committed to our mission of celebrating and enhancing the documentary art form and now look ahead to next year’s festival, running April 8­-11, 2021.  Our hearts go out to all of the people and communities impacted by COVID-19.”

The Impact

Many sectors will see a lasting impact as a result of this year’s cancellation. Most obvious is the impact on the filmmaking community, who rely on the festival in order to garner audiences and showcase their work. Beyond this lies the impact on local community which hosts the event each year. The festival reliably provides a sizeable boost to the Durham economy, but that won’t be the case this year.

The Films

Full Frame’s main role is the platform it provides to showcase films to a wide audience. Many deals are reached in the aftermath of the event, due to the festival’s size and its wide variety of film selections. At this point, there are no announcements as to alternatives for showcasing 2020’s lineup of films. It is not clear if the festival has access to the streaming technology necessary to host a virtual event, as many other film festivals have opted to do.


Full frame is one of the country’s most beloved and influential film festivals. As we face an uncertain future, its absence will be felt deeply by the film community and Durham area alike.