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The documentary film “F11 And Be There,” about the life of internationally acclaimed photographer Burk Uzzle of Wilson, will be shown twice this weekend at the River Run International Film Festival in Winston-Salem.
The film on Uzzle, 80, was also featured April 4 at the prestigious Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in Durham to a standing-room only crowd at The Carolina Theatre.
“A lot of friends were there, and a lot of people I didn’t know were there,” Uzzle said. “The Full Frame is an international festival. It shows big, long feature films that are out in the world as well as documentary films. It is a very prestigious film festival and people come from all over to be in it, so to have the film accepted for both festivals was a great honor and, frankly, a little surprising.
“It’s a great honor first of all to have the film ‘F11 And Be There’ be made by the wonderful filmmaker Jethro Waters,” Uzzle said Wednesday at his studio in Wilson.
Uzzle called Waters’ work “extraordinary.”
The film premiered in Austin, Texas, at the Austin Film Festival a couple of months ago and got good reviews there, Uzzle said.
Uzzle was the youngest photographer to be brought on as a staff photographer for Life Magazine.
“I have been at it now for more than 60 years,” Uzzle said. “My archive starts way back when photography was a very different sort of thing. And now it’s come a long way, and I have seen all of the iterations of it for all practical purposes — except for the things that were happening in the late 1800s — wars and back roads, the studio and the Magnum years, the Life Magazine years, so I have had a very rich and privileged life to have seen all that I have seen, and the film encompasses all of that.”
“Cornell Capa told me when I joined Life Magazine, he said, ‘OK now, you are a very lucky fellow. You were just hired by Life Magazine. You’re 23 years old, but what you need to know is you are only as good as your legs, and you are only as good as your last picture, and don’t ever forget that. You’ve got to stay busy, and you’ve got to stay on top of it. And you better stay healthy because you’ve got to hump.’ I have never forgotten that.”
Uzzle said at 80, he is a smarter and way better photographer than he was as a young man.
“I make better use of my time,” Uzzle said. “I get up at 4:30 and ride an hour on my bicycle, and I ride it hard. I sprint and I stay in shape, and I come back and do a who batch of yoga and stretches.”
Uzzle has kept his mind sharp by keeping up with the changes in modern photography, like embracing digital cameras when Fuji stopped making the film for his 8x10 camera.
“I didn’t start learning Photoshop until I was 78,” Uzzle said. “Learning Photoshop is like learning harmonica, and then all the sudden you want to want to compose Mahler’s Fourth Symphony.”
SEE THE FILM
“F11 And Be There” will be shown Saturday, April 13, at 5 p.m. at the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art at 750 Marguerite Drive in Winston-Salem. On Sunday, the film will be shown again at 2:30 p.m. at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Babcock Hall, ACE Exhibition Complex, Winston-Salem.
Uzzle said future showings are being planned the Chelsea Theater in Chapel Hill and the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, but the dates have not been set.
Allen Thomas Jr., one of Uzzle’s longtime supporters in Wilson, is working on finding a venue where the film can be shown in Wilson.
“He is determined to have it shown in Wilson,” Uzzle said. “The people in the film are from Wilson. A lot of the people in the film I found in black churches a block and a half from here.”
Uzzle said it is sobering seeing his life condensed into a film.
“I was very happy to see it, and I was very happy to see that people liked it,” Uzzle said. “Of course, I am proud of the fact that a film was made. I would never have thought anybody would bother to do that, and Jethro did.”