What is the Thin Line?

Published on: Sun, Feb 15, 2015

There is a thin line between love and hate, humor and sarcasm, genius and madness.

These are just some of many idioms in the English language that refer to a thin line as a reference point. What is a thin line exactly?

After google search results delivered scores of “thin line betweens,” I stumbled across a website called learningdictionary.com that offers this explanation of a thin line: “In this sense, fine means thin. So a fine line is a very thin line, used figuratively to refer to a small difference or distinction between things.”

This Wednesday, Thin Line Fest opens at the Campus Theatre in downtown Denton, running through Sunday, February 22. Thin Line Fest is the only all-documentary film festival in Texas.   More than 50 documentary films will screen over the five days interspersed with music events and a multi-venue photography exhibit.

So, what does thin line mean in the festival’s name?   According to thinlinefest.com, “’Thin Line refers to the space between two conflicting ideas such as educational and entertaining, fact and fiction, punk and country music, beauty and sadness, knowledge and apathy. There are two sides to every issue and the thin line represents the conflict between the two. Therein lies the drama. It can be seen in every documentary film. It can be heard in every musical performance. It can be studied in every photograph. Life is full of thin lines, and we celebrate them.”

I have to be honest. When Thin Line Fest opened in Denton for the first time eight years ago, I had never watched a documentary. Hold on before you gasp! Of course I sat through hundreds of documentary and educational films in school. I’m old enough that my academic life spanned that of film’s from flickery 8mm to high-def.   So I’ve watched my share of docs. What I mean to say is that it had never occurred to me to watch a doc for the fun of it.

Now don’t judge. This is not a creative or intelligent measurement – whether one opts for docs or not. I don’t even watch much TV in general. I’m a reader. But then along came Thin Line. Since our job in the Denton Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB) is to promote Denton and all of our happenings, I went, and let’s just say I got it. A few Christmases ago, our kids gave Tim and me Apple TV, and it still sometimes surprises me when a doc is our pick over a box office flick for a relaxing evening.

Campus Theatre Pro PicWhat I’ve learned to love about documentaries is that they surprise. I love that. What I expect by its title that a film may convey is based on my personal expectation. I read a bit about the topic and anticipate the film will unfold in a certain way. But that is rarely how it happens. The doc unfolds according to the filmmaker’s experience. We see the story through his lens, his feelings and his original, independent interpretation about why the story should be told at all. You know the old adage “perception is reality?” Line up 10 people and ask them to view the exact same scene, and each one will perceive unique nuances the other 9 didn’t see at all. This is the documentary magic of Thin Line Fest.

I, along with several members of our CVB staff, am part of a nine-member team of bloggers previewing this year’s films. We watch and review them on the discoverdenton.com/blog. Read through the blog posts and notice that several of us have reviewed the same film from uniquely different angles and attitudes. For any readers not sure about investing in a documentary outing, our blogs alone may change your mind. You’ll get a good handle on content, tone, and what you might expect.

Through Thin Line’s storytellers, we encounter. We don’t just “take in a film.” We walk in the shoes of people we do not know in situations we will likely never find ourselves. And we are more complete because of it. Our world is enlarged and our understanding of it broadened. You will leave each film, concert, and photograph with your own original, independent perceptions. Did you like it or not? Did it touch you or turn you off? Did it validate what you know or teach you something new? Did you laugh, cry or leave indifferent? Likely, you will feel some of all of these opposites, perhaps even in the same film. And that is the thin line.

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