T/F needs YOU to volunteer at this year’s Boone Dawdle on August 16! It’s a super-fun, long, hot day spent on the trail and at Les Bourgeois. We’re particularly looking for folks who are willing to work on the Bike Loading Team — that means you’ll miss the movie and the party (we’ll feed you dinner from Les B, of course!), but you get all of the other volunteer perks, PLUS a General Volunteer Pass for T/F 2015! If you’re interested in being a Juggernaut in 2015, your Bike Loading hours will count towards the 40 required to receive a Juggernaut pass. Sign up here by August 1!
Technology continues to revolutionize documentary filmmaking. Increasingly light-sensitive cameras liberate filmmakers to capture nighttime scenes; miniature, waterproof cameras are cheap; skeleton crews allow subjects to feel more comfortable revealing themselves. In this year’s “Beyond Pretty Pictures” panel, these ongoing innovations serve as the jumping off point for a wide ranging conversation on the art of nonfiction. Moderator Omar Mullick (These Birds Walk) quizzed Linda Västrik (Forest of the Dancing Spirits), Ewan McNicol (Uncertain), and Victor Kossakovsky (Demonstration) on how they harness technology to tell better stories.
Check out this short clip, an exchange on how doc subjects see themselves on film and how they react to these reactions.
If this excerpt peaked your interest, you can watch the whole thing on our video page or download the conversation as an audio mp3. Our panels were filmed by our friends at Columbia Access Television.
Sarah Goodman, director of When We Were Boys (T/F 2010), just released the new short film Gallant Girl A Journey to True/False. In it a woman from the past journeys through the Missourian landscape to the present day and finds herself swept up in a spectacle that she can’t quite understand. This film is part of our new “Second Take” series of short films created at the Fest by T/F alumni. Check it out below.
An exciting series is happening each week in May at Ragtag Cinema. Thanks to the support of our friends at Landmark Bank, May is officially Doc Month at Ragtag, featuring the theatrical releases of five compelling new documentaries. The series includes three T/F 2014 selections returning to CoMo, a portrait of a fascinating artist and a film from our very own T/F co-conspirator David Wilson!
Let’s take a look at the films:
Opening May 2: We Always Lie to Strangers
David Wilson, a founder of Ragtag and True/False, and AJ Schnack, a Mizzou graduate and True/False alum (Kurt Cobain About a Son, T/F 2007amp;) co-direct this fascinating, tender documentary portrait of Branson, Missouri. Located in the Ozarks, Branson hosts more than 7.5 million tourists a year, but its population barely numbers 10,500. As they follow four different families over the course of five years, Wilson and Schnack offer a nuanced look at the city as its residents grapple with economic uncertainty and social change. “Elegant. The filmmakers’ biographical ties to the region, though never explicitly spelled out, show through in a deep-rooted mood of chivalry, the kind of bittersweet, affectionate tone one associates with home. ” (Leah Churner, Reverse Shot) Opening night 5pm screening only will include a special musical performance from the Lennon Family, who are featured in the film.
Opening May 9: Particle Fever (T/F 2014)
You could hear the cry go out last October when two physicists were given the Nobel Prize for discovering the Higgs boson: “Would someone please explain?!” Fortunately, physicist-turned-filmmaker Mark Levinson had trained his cameras on the Large Hadron Collider since its opening, awaiting this moment. The LHC is the largest science experiment in history: a 17-mile-long tunnel on the French-Swiss border with immense data collection systems, designed and operated with 10,000 scientists and engineers from 150 countries, in hopes of replicating the instant after the Big Bang in order to see what we can learn about the atom—and life itself. “Particle Fever is that rare, exhilarating science doc that’s neither dumbed down nor drabbed up.” (Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York)
Opening May 16: Finding Vivian Maier
In 2007, young Chicago historian John Maloof attended a storage unit auction and bid $400 on a box of photographs and negatives. Never publicly displayed, they were the work of a mysterious nanny named Vivian Maier, who secretly took over 100,000 photographs during her lifetime. Maier is now regarded as one of history’s greatest street photographers. In Maloof’s riveting documentary, he uncovers the strange, fascinating backstory by interviewing those who knew Maier. “More connect-the-dots detective thriller than traditional doc, John Maloof and Charlie Siskel’s revelatory riddle of a film unmasks a brilliant photographer.” (Chris Nashawaty, Entertainment Weekly)
Opening May 23: The Unknown Known (T/F 2014)
“All generalizations are false. Including this one.” So runs the central paradox in the body of wisdom known as “Rumsfeld’s Rules.” The secretary of defense under Gerald Ford (he was appointed at age 33) and George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld claims his rules guided the policies he championed, including launching wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. Oscar-winning director Errol Morris offers up history through the prism of the Rumsfeld Doctrine, but this is more an inquiry into the philosophy of language than an unpacking of historical fact. “A cat-and-mouse game in which each player thinks he’s the cat, making it both thrilling and disconcerting to watch.” (AO Scott, The New York Times)
Opening May 30: Jodorowsky’s Dune (T/F 2014)
It was a match made in trippy heaven: in 1975, cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky (El Topo, The Holy Mountain) optioned the rights to Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic Dune. Mick Jagger, Salvador Dali, the graphic artist Moebius, and Pink Floyd signed on to help. A phone-book-thick script was prepared and the 14-hour hallucinatory project that Jodorowsky called “the most important picture in the history of humanity” seemed to be on its way. But it was not to be. Director Frank Pavich’s inspiring tale of ambition and failure revisits the film that could have rendered Star Wars superfluous. “Fun. A loving testament to ambition.” (Joshua Rothkopf, Time Out New York)
Each film will play for one week. Daily showtimes for the following week are posted here every Monday by 5pm. Ticket sales become available each day beginning at midnight online here or at the Ragtag box office beginning at 10am each day.
See you at the movies!
The True/False 2014 Fest Digest provides a day by day recap of this year’s Fest. Written in the midst of the excitement, each digest entry recalls a handful of the previous day’s events with commentary, pictures and videos. Look back at the Magic/Realism:
True/False 2014 has come and gone. The four days always seem to fly by like a heady whirlwind, leaving us dizzy and happy with too many experiences. We hope that you too left T/F 2014 with a wealth of ideas and impressions, enough to unpack and reinterpret throughout the months until we all come together again.
Sunday was yet another day stuffed to the brim with True/False. We brushed off a bit of snow and ice and pressed ahead with a plethora of screenings and events. Below we’ll recap just a few of the amazing things that happened on the final day of True/False 2014.
For us in the middle of the Fest, aiming a year’s worth of brainstorming, planning and production at just four days makes for an unusual feeling. It may be similar to what filmmakers experience while screening their films at T/F, watching as years of their life and work are condensed into mere minutes of images projected on a screen. For this reason, it’s more than fitting that the final installment of Jarred Alterman’s Magic/Realism focuses the role of hard-earned craft in the art of stage magic. “You may spend ten hours on something that takes thirty seconds”, magician Steve Ferris remarks. “But for those thirty seconds, you’re doing the impossible.”
At the Odd Fellows Lodge, Sunday began with the Weird Wake-Up, a breakfast where Fest-goers wipe the sleep from their eyes and refuel their bodies for the home stretch.
After chowing down, the crowd headed into the theater for Dusty Stacks of Mom, experimental animator Jodie Mack’s journey through the clutter left in her mom’s out-of-business poster shop. Mack sang her reimagined and relyriced version of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon live from the back of the theater as a cascade of images danced across the screen. When the performance ended, the crowd expressed their appreciation with a roaring ovation. A giddy Mack explained how she sees the piece as being in part about culture’s continual reappropriation of ubiquitous images, making the pairing with Floyd’s iconic album apropos.
At the Missouri Theatre, Sunday afternoon featured a screening of Happy Valley, the new film from this year’s True Vision Award honoree, Amir Bar-Lev. This work is a thoughtful examination of the culture surrounding Penn State football in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky sexual abuse scandal. On stage after the film, Bar-Lev talked about how we all use narratives to construct an identity and what happens when a whole town is forced to reexamine how it sees itself.
Early in the afternoon, Samuel James and Les Trois Coups played a raucous free show before a packed house at Sparky’s Homemade Ice Cream, one of downtown CoMo’s hippest hang-outs.
The Fest concluded with a variety of events at our three biggest venues. At the Missouri Theatre, a crowd gathered to watch The Overnighters, which chronicles the startling consequences when a North Dakota pastor allows homeless men to sleep in his church. After the film, director Jesse Moss talked about adding a surprising final revelation to a work he thought was already near completion.
photo by Roxi Pop
At the Vimeo Theater at The Blue Note, the Racso Party gave T/F attendees a chance to check-in on a very prestigious ceremony where movie types give each other small, but surprisingly heavy statues.
And at Jesse Auditorium, our official closing night film was a one time only screening of a truly singular work. Director Richard Linklater’s Boyhood is a work of fiction, depicting an adolescence in 21st century Texas from age 5 to 17. The film’s remarkable 12-year production allows you to see the actors grow and change along with their characters. After a rapturous 162-minutes of cinema, Fest co-director David Wilson was joined on stage by producer Cathleen Sutherland and star Ellar Coltrane, who spent his own boyhood playing the film’s main character, Mason. Coltrane spoke about collaborating each year with Linklater on the screenplay, a process which caused him to grow closer to closer to Mason. He also talked about his real relationship with his on-screen father Ethan Hawke.
Back at the Missouri Theatre we all huddled together in the lobby for the always bittersweet Busker’s Last Stand. The Schlafly flowed as the music opened with supergroup Chimney Choir/Les Trois Coups/Raya Brass Band along with rotating, quickfire performances by Toughcats and Yes Ma’am.
For those of us who stayed up way too late, comedian Dave Hill hosted the first ever edition of Toasted at Cafe Berlin. This late-night talk show featuring buzzed conversations with T/F filmmakers alongside musical performances. In the appropriately raw excerpt below, Dave chats with Kitty Green of Ukraine is Not a Brothel and Maxim Pozdorovkin of The Notorious Mr. Bout ahead of a performance by Yes Ma’am.
The final video from Tiny Attic focuses on the many invisible hands that build the fantastical world of the Fest. We go on a short tour of Neon Treehouse and Taylor Ross constructions, with music provided by Prahlad, MNDR and James Cathcart’s SPACE IS THE PLACE.
Try as we might, there’s just no way to express the gratitude we feel for the dedicated staff, volunteers, sponsors, guests and patrons who continue to make this whole thing possible. What do you say we do it all again next year? True/False returns March 5-8, 2015!
Saturday is the busiest day of True/False, with so much to see and to do, and even to feel. It’s an idea that was discussed by director Joe Callander after the screening of the tonally complex Life After Death at The Globe. Contrast makes the funny parts hilarious, and the sad parts even sadder. At True/False, sometimes it seems like we’re feeling everything all at once.
The inadequacy of any summary is inevitable, but we’ll try our best in this post to give a small taste of the T/F Saturday.
In a cinema, the sense of wonder can come on in a flash, often when you least expect it, when a detail that was previously mundane suddenly becomes profound. True/False also aims to create this effect all weekend long, locating it in a re-imagined utopian Columbia. Wonder is the essence of the art of stage magic, as you can see in the third installment of Jarred Alterman’s Magic/Realism intro films. David Klachko provides the explanation and Steve Ferris the demonstration.
The day kicked-off bright and early with the True Life Run, a surprise filled walk/run through the streets of Columbia, made possible by the support of the Columbia Orthopedic Group, and benefiting our True Life Fund. Runners had to take on challenges on course including ultimate hopscotch, Newspaper Labyrinth, Foam Noodle Freeze Tag, Catch the Rabbit (seen below) and the Mayor’s Council obstacle course. The winners were were Ian Chillag and Sara Spoede, but congratulations are due to everyone who participated.
Over at the Odd Fellows Lodge, Omar Mullick of These Birds Walk oversaw Linda Västrik (Forest of the Dancing Spirits), Ewan McNicol (Uncertain), and Victor Kossakovsky (Demonstration) in the Beyond Pretty Pictures panel. The conversation explored the evolving technology of nonfiction filmmaking, and its promise and peril for doc makers.
The Missouri Theatre, The Unknown Known examined the career of Donald Rumsfeld through a series of interviews and readings by Rumsfeld of his “snowflakes”, the thousands and thousands of memos issued by Rummy as Secretary of Defense. After the film, editor Steven Hathaway talked about building the film out of 35 hours of interviews, before director Errol Morris appeared on screen via Skype. Morris noted with a laugh “I’m a talking head!” and reflected on the element of performance in everything Rumsfeld does.
Gabriel Viles gathered a crowd at our box office for the Art Ramble, a free guided tour of our many wonderous art installations. Viles reflected on the transitory nature of all True/False’s art, which only adds to its poignancy. The tour covered Leland Drexler-Russell’s glowing nest-egg-polyps “TransPlant”, Duncan Bindbeutel’s “Camera Obscure” on The Picturehouse Lawn and Yulia Pinkusevich’s imagined two-dimensional city scape “Stilted” in Alley A (seen below).
Later in the afternoon at Jesse Auditorium, the screening of the True Life Fund film Private Violence, was one of the most powerful events of the whole weekend. Before the lights went down, pastor Dave Cover of The Crossing explained his church’s sponsorship of the TLF, and the issue of domestic violence that the film addresses. Afterwards, T/F co-founder David Wilson was joined on stage by director Cynthia Hill and subjects Kit Gruelle and Deanna Walters, the recipients of this year’s Fund. The Q and A was interrupted by frequent bursts of applause from the crowd. Kit noted, ”We just don’t have this crime worked out yet. This is the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, but we still aren’t addressing this crime in ways which I think we should, which is seeing it as the petri dish, the root crime, for almost all the other criminal behavior that we end up reacting to.”
Back at the Missouri Theatre, Ukraine is Not a Brothel depicted the complex and oftentimes paradoxical world of radical activism. It examined the case of the Ukrainian feminist group Femen, famous for staging topless demonstrations to protest the treatment of women. Following the showing, director Kitty Green and Femen leader Inna Shevchenko spoke with the crowd. Talking about the group’s controversial use of nudity, Shevchenko argued “this peaceful but provocative action is at some level more effective than stones or guns”.
Inna Shevchenko went from the Ukraine screening to The Vimeo Theater at The Blue Note. There she served alongside Actress star Brandy Burre and Particle Fever physicist David Kaplan as judges in our signature game show, Gimme Truth! hosted by the always witty Johnny St. John. The three judges evaluated the veracity of 11 2-minute films, taking breaks laughter and drinks in-between.
Finally, late at Mojo’s it was time for Saturday’s installment of Mojo’s-a-Go-Go. SpaceIsThePlace, Née, and MNDR created an emotive trance for the synth-pop dance party.
Check out even more of day three and hear a few thoughts from T/F 2014 filmmakers Sherief Elkatsha (Cairo Drive), Jesse Moss (The Overnighters) and Andrew Droz Palermo (Rich Hill) alongside music from Paul Rucker and Lone Piñon in video three from Chelsea and Paul at Tiny Attic Productions.
Saturday rolled into Sunday, the weather here in CoMo took a turn for the worse. But we aren’t letting that slow us down one bit. Only one day of T/F 2014 remains. Lets make some magic!
Here’s the program for tonight’s Gimme Truth!
The Vimeo Theater at The Blue Note
Plays with Best Sound Dir. Josh Polon; 2014; 6 min.
Johnny St. John -
This disgraced former game show host continues on what appears to be an interminable comeback trail. Paroled once again to host his seventh consecutive Gimme Truth!, Johnny St. John is here to relive his glory years before scandal brought him to his knees. Marrying the sardonic wit of ‘60s-era quiz show hosts with the razzmatazz of a pool shark, St. John has collected restraining orders from at least seven T/F filmmakers. Please don’t report him, and join in when he starts singing his self-penned Gimme Truth! theme song. Though we don’t condone his methods, after six years it’s hard to argue with results.
Brandy Burre – star – Actress
Brandy is a show tune chanteuse and stage and screen actress best known for her portrayal of campaign fixer Theresa D’Agostino on seasons three and four of The Wire. Her unflinching honesty and penchant for the spotlight makes her the quintessential Gimme Truth! contestant.
David Kaplan – star – Particle Fever
David is a theoretical particle physicist, which is a lot more impressive than a theoretical physicist. David works on the Higgs Boson and contributed rhymes to the Nick Cave song, “Higgs Boson Blues.” And don’t worry, he has plenty of time to entertain rudimentary questions about the universe.
Inna Shevchenko – star – Ukraine is Not a Brothel
As the leader of the controversial feminist organization, FEMEN, Inna’s bared it all for the betterment of women. Inna is trilingual (English, Ukrainian & Russian), and like most James Bond heroines, is a knockout beauty who’s been kidnapped by the Belarusian KGB. If the Cold War was still happening, the CIA would be carefully monitoring Gimme Truth. Instead, it’s the NSA.
ORDER OF PROGRAM:
1 – The Life of Wylie – Chase Thompson
2 – Ted Foulkes – Ken Ridgeway
3 – Toni – Brock Williams & Meedith Berkowitz
4 – Snake Charmer – LeeAnne Lowry & Hannah Bilau
5 – The Wizard of Odd – Aubrielle Maginness
6 – The Storage Medium – Tron Jordheim
7 – Rice Rice Baby – Kirsten Izzett & Livvy Runyon
8 – No. 8 – Maria Brenny & Mark J. Spencer
9 – Freedom Walkers – Chelsea Myers & Paul Mossine
10 – Cock Biting – Tucker Morrison & Jonas Weir
11 – Pat’s Life – Pat Holt
Welcome to the True/False Film Fest 2014 Fest Digest! Here we’ll be gleefully taking on the impossible task of recapping the Fest, collecting stories, photos, videos along the way. Don’t forget to check back in, we’ll have a post each morning to help you relive the day that was.
It’s both marvelous and tragic that there’s just too much True/False to go around, and no way for any one consciousness to process it all. This digest, like all of you, will be plotting its own idiosyncratic course through the maze of music, art, panels, parties and cinema stretched out before us.
The theme of True/False 2014 is “Magic/Realism”. This alignment of words and symbols is perhaps a bit cryptic. One way we like to read it is as Magic sitting atop Realism, the fantastic’s victory over the mundane. Central to this conquest is the transformation of downtown Columbia, a place familiar to many of us, into somewhere very different for these four weird days. This was affected by the Herculean efforts of the T/F production team, numerous visiting and local artists and hundreds upon hundreds of T/F volunteers. Films will be playing at nine different locations, all within walking distance of one another downtown. All around and in-between you’ll find numerous art installations and surprises.
Our box office is always a central hub of True/False, where you’ll find tickets, merch and much more. This year it’s located at the corner of Hitt and Broadway. Artists Sabrina Braden and Sasha Goodnow reimagined this space as a Victorian-era parlor, cozy yet off kilter. As it opened for hustle and bustle of pass holder pick up, you could feel in the air that the T/F is finally here.
Most of our theaters are ephemeral, sliding in and out of existence with the Fest. For example, the ballroom of Columbia’s most prominent building, the Tiger Hotel, once-more became the metallic woodland of the Forrest Theater, so named for Forrest Rose, a well-loved Columbia columnist and stand-up bass player who we lost much too soon.
The major exception is Ragtag Cinema, downtown CoMo’s 365-day-a-year movie theater. Ragtag is our other half, a conjoined twin sharing numerous vital organs, including its dedicated staff and loyal patrons. Its two screens are located in the building now known as “Hittsville”, the home it shares with Uprise Bakery, Ninth Street Video and Hitt Records.
It was here our Neither/Nor series got underway for its second year. This program, presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is an ongoing collaboration with a visiting film critic to map a history of “chimeric” cinema, films which defy classification as either fiction or documentary. This year Godfrey Cheshire is introducing four meta-cinematic Iranian films from the 1990s. He wrote an excellent limited edition monograph, available for free at the Ragtag box office, which skillfully situates these works within the broader history of Iran and its cinema.
The first film in the series to screen was Close-Up, Abbas Kiarostami’s 1990 masterpiece built around the true story of a man arrested for impersonating filmmaker Mohsen Makhmalbaf.
After the film, Godfrey told the incredible story of how he was instrumental in getting the Iranian government to allow Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry to screen at Cannes, where it went on to win the Palme d’Or. He also talked about his visits to Iran, where conversations with Kiarostami and Makhmalbaf led him to see Close-Up‘s reconstructed reality as a “series of bamboozlements” by Kiarostami.
Later on, our music program began with a blast of punk rock at the hip downtown hangout Eastside Tavern. The first of 13 T/F music showcases featured performances from Fliight, Bruiser Queen, Comfort Zone and New Tongues.
Now the real excitement begins and we can’t wait to share it all with you. See you downtown and let the Magic/Realism commence!
The Great Wall is True/False’s outdoor movie screen: the massive, Shakespeare’s-facing wall of the Picturehouse Theater (aka the Missouri United Methodist Church). Join us for this free walk-up cinema on Friday and Saturday nights of the Fest from 7 – 11 pm.
This year, we will be celebrating the life and work of the renegade filmmaker Les Blank who passed away in April of 2013.
For more than 50 years Les Blank’s films preserved American subcultures that otherwise might have been forgotten. With a signature idiosyncratic style all his own, Blank captures the essence of a moment and brings it to life. Instead of the fly-on-the-wall method of his contemporaries (Wiseman & Pennebaker) Blank immersed himself in the communities of the people he turned his lens upon. It’s no surprise that Les Blank was only the second white man Lightnin’ Hopkins trusted.
His most well-known film Burden of Dreams is a fantastical look at Werner Herzog’s epic struggle to make his masterpiece Fitzcarraldo in the Amazon. Herzog once said of Blank “He has his own little universe that he creates with Burden of Dreams. If Burden of Dreams was only the making of Fitzcarraldo it would have been lousy. He was beyond my comprehension. I only knew the man was a very, very good filmmaker.” Blank had a particular knack in establishing a strong sense of place: everything in the frame relates back to the environment in which it occurs.
Blank’s films serve as an important anthropological preservation while pushing the cinematic form of documentary forward. True/False has decided to feature four of his earlier works which would go on to establish him as a force. Dry Wood (1973, 37 min.) and Hot Pepper (1973, 54 min.) capture the daily life of French-speaking blacks in southwestern Louisiana’s Cajun country. A Well Spent Life (1972, 44 min.) and The Blues Accordin’ To Lightnin’ Hopkins (1970, 31 min.) are two great ethno-musicological films lit by Blank’s fascination in the cultures, history and music of the now well-known blues musicians Mance Lipscomb and Lightnin’ Hopkins.
At 7:10 on Friday, Jim Bogan, a writer, filmmaker and professor who is also an old friend of Blank’s, will kick-off The Great Wall by leading a toast in honor of Blank’s life and work.