Magic was a hard sell to a skeptical bunch, the True/False staff.

To them, it reeked of Arrested Development's Gob, the one who also ruined Segways.

We'd been inspired by our friend Jess, who found a cryptic sign in the Missouri countryside that read "Magic is Real." Or maybe "Is it True?" (Memories are unreliable.) This brought us to stage magic and dredged-up obsessions with Houdini. But magic's connection to nonfiction filmmaking was at first disguised.

Then appeared mid-19th-century watchmaker Robert Houdin, who built a mechanical orange tree that flowered and produced fruit. Here was nature and technology, with a nod to simulacra. We thought about how many hundreds of hours Robert Houdin fine-tuned his mechanism, an effort invisible to the audience.

Cinema also attempts to make the near-impossible seem effortless. And if you think this only occurs in fiction, well, we won't spoil the illusion, but your favorite filmmaker may have spent months getting to know her subjects before getting that one shot. Or distilling a key moment out of a mountain of archival footage.

Magic may be older, but since cinema burst on the scene at the turn of the 20th century, the two arts wedding science and imagination have been inextricably linked, and attracted ambitious tinkerers and storytellers.

With this year's theme "Magic/Realism," honesty and trickery may be strange bedfellows, but we posit that both magic and documentary deploy artifice and misdirection to illuminate a new reality.

Our core staff's initial skepticism was important because it's a sign of the fest's maturity that decisions are not made in a vacuum. Our core staff routinely comes together to solve the daily challenges, inspiring us to carry on fighting the thousand little battles necessary to make this fest special.

This is still, above all, a community effort--a brief shining moment when a Columbia made of our friends and neighbors takes center stage, stealthily hiding the year it took to pull it off. The same can be said for the films--months and years of work will flicker by in an hour or two, but, if they've done their job right, your lives will forever be changed. That's magic.

David & Paul