Rivalries are fierce at the World Taxidermy Championships. Judges, armed with flashlights and magnifying glasses, examine anatomy and artistry. And taxidermists, who fancy themselves artists, vie for the legitimacy of their craft.
Nicole Triche’s new documentary, “Taxidermists,” premiers at the annual Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. Triche is also an assistant professor at Elon University in the school of communications.
The film follows Wendy Christensen and Dennis Harris, two full-time taxidermists.
Harris, in particular, pushes the envelope of taxidermy. He competes with a mount featuring eight wolves attacking a moose.
"I would like to get rid of the word taxidermy. Because it will never, ever, ever leave the stereotype. Wildlife artist is what we are. It has gone from animals hanging on the wall that look dead to full-blown, art sculptures that can compete with the greatest flat artists and the greatest sculptors in the world," Harris says in the film.
Triche started the film believing that taxidermy was a dying profession. Not long into filming, she realized she was wrong. She had stumbled into a thriving field.
"There are thousands of taxidermists in the country, and there's a big presence in North Carolina," said Triche in an interview with Frank Stasio on The State of Things.
While Nicole Triche is one of several local filmmakers who will be featured at Full Frame, the festival also welcomes national and international talent.
Jessica Yu won an Oscar in 1997 for her film "Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien." The film features a man confined to an iron lung. At the time of filming, O'Brien was only able to leave the lung for three hours, once every two or three weeks. His voice is the only dialogue in the film.
"His voice is hard to understand a lot. And he had been the subject of some local news stories like that, and usually they wouldn't let him speak at all. You know, he always had something he had to say," Yu said.
Yu compensated by subtitling O'Brien's speech. The film narrative braids together his reflections on disability and his poetry.
The Full Frame Documentary Film Festival will screen "Breathing Lessons" and other films from Yu's oeuvre from the past 20 years.
Yu's collection reflects a range of interests from the water crisis, to art, to mental health. At this year's festival, she will premier a new film called “The Guide.”