This year True/False music expands its signature, rootsy folk sound, reaching out into the wide sea of American talent and pulling in a diverse display of fiercely independent, internationally influenced musicians.
With acts ranging from the Ghanaian gyil/xylophone of L.A. based SK Kakraba, to the big Balkan sounds of Boulder’s ten piece brass band Gora Gora Orkestra, to the Iraqi lute-like oud of Rahim AlHaj out of Santa Fe, the globally infused buskers represent a new era of American folk, one highlighting cultural variety and innovation.
Cross genre acts dot the line up with musicians like the alternative pop/R&B/gospel of DeQn Sue and the avant-garde, electric blues guitar of Marisa Anderson, sounds that unhinge expectations and merge together the heritage of American sounds. The distinct roots of the True/False tone rings out too with fest favorites The Creek Rocks (Cindy Woolf & Mark Bilyeu) and new favorites The River Kittens, a sweetly harmonizing trio hailing from St. Louis.
The Blue Note will co-host an Opening Night Party featuring Louisiana natives Seratones, a band whose spirited live performance beams with the essence of original – and future- rock n’ roll!
Headlining the Blue Note show is Lee Fields & the Expressions, strong soul with a long legacy that grooves across the stage with the natural ease of slow jam heartbreak and the upbeat rhythms of love.
Check back for ongoing additions and a complete showcase schedule. And be sure to secure a Busker Band for entry into all music related events, available here.
Film, music, and art installations are the three creative tributaries feeding, growing, and evolving the festival. December in the True/False office is full of passionate brainstorming and discussions as we work to curate this living thing. Talented makers are beginning to emerge, and we’re too excited to keep a lid on it. Here’s a brief teaser of what’s to come at the 2016 fest.
After reading that T/F’s theme this year, Off the Trail, was all about exploring secret missions and hidden spaces, Boston-based filmmaker Jesse Epstein was compelled to write to us. For the last several years, she and a team of cinematographers, photographers and musicians have been sneaking into the former Bethlehem Steel plant in Pennsylvania to document its transformation into a casino…and just to poke around. Bethlehem Steel, and its shipbuilding corporation were two of the most powerful symbols of American industrial manufacturing muscle. Their demise, and final closure in 2001 after filing bankruptcy, was the beginning of the era in this country when the economy shifted away from this kind of large-scale factory manufacturing and also failed to compete with cheap foreign labor, causing tens of thousands of steel workers to lose their jobs and their livelihoods.
Epstein says, “It’s been a wild adventure: walking more than a mile down train tracks and climbing over fences with a Bolex, hiding from security inside old lockers until the sun went down.” She and her cohorts have collected lots of original material, consisting of super 8, digital video, stills, music composed with recorded ambient sounds, and more. “The plant was built as a sort of cathedral to industry and it’s hard to even describe the feeling of being in there.”
After watching Epstein’s short, 2,200 °F, we were intrigued with the beauty of her footage and the scope of the project and commissioned Jesse to edit a special piece for our 2016 Great Wall film installation. The piece will “aim to capture the sense of excitement and intensity we felt when sneaking in, exploring this industrial ruin, and finding the various clues of the people who had been there.”
Jesse will be at the festival in person to not only present and exhibit The Bethlehem Steel Film, but will also be one of the Ringleaders conducting film introductions and question and answer sessions, as well as one of our workshop leaders for DIY day since she is also passionate about working as a youth media educator. A Sundance Award-Winning filmmaker, Jesse received an MA in Documentary Film from NYU, and was named one of “25 Filmmakers to Watch” by FILMMAKER Magazine. Her films have screened in many film festivals worldwide, at The Museum of Modern Art, The Peabody Museum, and Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam. Jesse’s shorts, Wet Dreams and False Images and 34x25x36 played at True/False in 2006 and 2008, respectively. Her three-part project on media and physical perfection called Body Typed is distributed with New Day Films.
Hearing Things hail from Brooklyn, NY where they have lead the neo-surf rock wave over the past few years. Combining organ, drums and sax, they are part loungey jazz throwback and part Middle Eastern rockabilly, a sound that is both foreign and familiar all at once, an auditory time machine that seamlessly travels between the past, present and even future. The musicality of the band is strong and undeniable, each member rising from a solid lineage that they groove around with precision.
Front man Matt Bauder began his musical career studying saxophone under classic bebop artists, making roots in the world of standard jazz. Since then he has expanded far beyond the genre to explore the challenging realms of sound installation, experimental composition and soundscape creation. Bauder has also lent his talents to the likes of Iron and Wine, Arcade Fire and is a frequent collaborator with NYC visual artist Aki Sasamoto. Rounded and ambitious, his breadth of knowledge can be heard gyrating behind each note he releases on stage.
Keyboardist J.P. Schlegelmilch has been playing music since the age of six, rounding out his education at the Berklee College of Music and SUNY Purchase on piano, accordion, and electric keyboards. Like Bauder, his work transcends classification touching on hybrids like indie-jazz-folk with his outfit Old Time Musketry, to playing with indie-classical chamber group Fireworks Ensemble, to even appearing on film soundtracks, most notably the critically acclaimed Beasts of the Southern Wild. After years in various backing positions Hearing Things’ drummer Vinnie Sperrazza founded his first band just last year, releasing his debut album Apocryphal on Loyal Label. His compositions hint at jazz progressions but there is a signature, textural approach with a trace of rock ‘n’ roll that adds an extra layer of depth and listenability.
Like all of the programming at T/F, Hearing Things exhibit a high level of artistry and craft but it is their desire to explore that space just outside the boundaries that aligns best with the fest. Their sound is a reimagining of genre that moves beyond its history, landing in completely new and uncharted territory: a blending of tradition with a visionary twist. Hearing Things’ possess a technical clarity but it is how they challenge their own abilities that make them an embodiment of the T/F experience.
Even though Hearing Things is brimming with musical technique, listening to them is far from belabored. There is a spirit that haunts their songs, seeps out from the stage and makes you want to rumble onto the nearest dance floor. As their bandcamp provokes, “Prudes, ghosts and tittyshakers; the hustlers and sweet talkers alike, will sway to this brand new beat.”
Artist in Residence, Taylor Ross, Returns
True/False is excited to welcome back Taylor Ross, an artist who embraces the power and mystery of what it means to wander. Ross’ T/F 2016 piece is built around the joy of exploration; she trails off the trail and into the fields and forests of Missouri and Iowa. There, she gathers plants like Milkweed, Dogbane, Yucca, and Velvetleaf. These dead plants ripen anew as she works them into fibers, and eventually garments. The beauty of these hand-harvested, handmade garments reminds us that clothing is, in fact, the first architecture of the body.
Ross says, “The purpose of collecting, spinning, and weaving coverings for people to try on is to offer a direct, physical, emotional, tactile, olfactory experience of that land and materials surrounding these people as they shuffle in from all over. We are so cut off from the bounty that lays beyond the well-trod path and this is very exciting for me, because it means that there is something to be illuminated, offered, shared that might give an experience of place in a direct way.”
Taylor’s original piece will be on interactive display –go ahead, try it on!– during the festival.
About a month ago, Taylor drove down to Columbia from her home in Iowa, and gave a community artist talk followed by a fiber-finding session. Together, we scoured the area alongside one of our own Katy trailheads, and other local fields and forests, for the plants Taylor will work into her final T/F product. Taylor will be visiting Columbia several times between now and the festival to wander and find her materials. If you’re interested in participating in her next trip, email email@example.com.
Stay tuned for more news about artists, musicians, and films in the new year! See you at the fest…
If one of your favorite parts of True/False is chatting with our visiting guests, you’re not alone. The festival environment is an auspicious one for fest-goers and filmmakers to connect – both groups energized by the weekend and excited to share ideas about their experiences.
Elaine Sheldon and Sarah Ginsburg have been working on a new podcast in the same spirit. She Does: Conversations with Creative Minds launched in January of this year, and has since been consistently connecting listeners with women artists of all stripes. These conversations are personal and professional – maybe the kind you’d have over coffee at Uprise right after watching a new film?
From their site:
“Whether up and coming or well-established, She Does features notable women of all generations, working at the intersection of media, film, journalism, art and technology. We bring you stories of what makes these women tick, their beginnings, their roadblocks, and the delightful bits in between”
It’s clear that the ladies of She Does have great taste, because they’ve featured tons of True/False makers, musicians, and guests:
T/F Opening night brings with it adrenaline and jitters, followed by the sudden ecstasy of being once more in a crowd of fest-goers and a feeling of that excitement echoed back. No matter your preparation, True/False only truly exists in the present, right now.
Before all of the opening night films, the first of Jarred Alterman’s T/F 2015 microfilms examining our concept of time screened. “The Astrophysicist” introduces us to Angela Speck, who explains how, in her extra-intuitive domain of inquiry, time becomes a measurement of distance.
The promise of a new True/False weekend manifests in our annual fancy pants gala, The Jubilee. Costumed T/F fans packed the august Missouri Theatre, enjoying drinks, hors d’oeuvres, the joyful noise created by a menagerie of performing buskers.
photo by Jarred Gastreich
photo by Jarred Gastreich
Eventually, we all found our seats for a screening of Best of Enemies a film which offers fascinating context to the vital archival footage of William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal’s seminal televised debates of the late 60s. Afterwards co-director Morgan Neville tried to explain the feeling of finally sharing a film with an audience after being alone with it for so long. He also said he wants to provoke discussion about “civil and uncivil discourse.”
photo by Megan Stilley
Later at the Vimeo Theater at The Blue Note, Morgan Knibbe’s impressive feature debut Those Who Feel the Fire Burning screened for the very first time in the United States. By forcing us into the perspective of a hovering ghost, the film aims to “throw the audience into the deep” of the difficult and often hopeless lives of recent immigrants to Europe. Afterwards, Knibbe talked with the crowd and T/F programmer Chris Boeckmann about wanting to find a poetic approach to this problem that went “further than the numbers and factual information.”
photo by Taylor Blatchford
Opening night came to an end at Cafe Berlin with the Toast/False busker showcase, featuring the bittersweet music of Cindy Woolf & Mark Bilyeu, Jack Grelle & Ryan Koenig and The Strangled Darlings, seen below.
photo by Corey Ransberg
Thursday night was but a warm-up for what is in store for us today. But before we plunge ahead, let’s take one more look at the excitement of opening night via the T/F Video Team, whose work features Miss Jubilee & The Humdingers’ song “I Found A New Baby”.
Welcome to our daily digest. Here we’ll be covering the Fest each day as it happens and trying to talk about True/False as a whole. Paradoxically, the only way to do this is to look closely at a few individual parts. In these daily updates, we’ll be covering just a fraction of the film screenings, Q and As, panel conversations, concerts, parties and art exhibits happening this weekend in coordination with the T/F photo and video teams.
In 2015 we want to talk about time. Among the arts, cinema’s relationship with time is unique. A film only truly exists inside of its brief run-time, yet inside of that sacred set of minutes, great cinema dominates time, underlining it or erasing it, chopping it to pieces or stretching it out before us. Likewise, our festival is a mere four days, but we aim to offer an experience which opens temporally both backwards and forwards, outward into the years.
To look at T/F we need to start not at the beginning, but at many beginnings, conceptual, temporal, geographical of the threads which have gathered together into our festival.
To help explore the daunting theme of time, we once more called upon the services of filmmaker Jarred Alterman, who crafted the microfilms you’ll see before each and every screening. Here’s an enigmatic preview of what he has in store for us.
True/False exists to investigate the contradiction at the heart of cinema, a medium which can faithfully capture slivers of reality while constantly manipulating our experience. A couple years ago we began an important new part of this inquiry thanks to the generous support of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Neither/Nor is an annual partnership with a visiting film critic to map a history of chimeric cinema, films which aggressively embrace cinema’s central paradox. This year in our third Neither/Nor program critic Ela Bittencourt is presenting a series of shamefully under seen work from Poland, covering the last two decades of that nation’s Communist rule. Ela created a beautiful monograph featuring essays and interviews on all six programs in the series, available right now at the Ragtag Box office.
Months of preparation and research for Neither/Nor culminated last night in a kickoff for the series at Ragtag Cinema, downtown CoMo’s 365-day a year cinema born of the same parent organization and inseparable from the Fest in innumerable ways. In the Hittsville gallery space hosted a photography show of the work of filmmaker Bogdan Dziworski, one of the Polish masters we’re honoring this year.
photo by Taylor Blatchford
Inside Ragtag’s big theater we held a reception for Ela with authentic Polish food from Columbia’s Cafe Poland. We then settled in for a presentation of Arena of Life, a program of unforgettable short films by Bogdan. Afterwards Bogdan spoke excitedly as Ela translated about his desire to blend the surreal and the real through aggressive sound design and told an unbelievable story about a planned prison break.
photo by Rebecca Allen
Meanwhile, our annual fundraising effort for a documentary subject, the True Life Fund, is already well underway. Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer, the man responsible for The Act of Killing and it’s companion film The Look of Silence has made appearances at all four Columbia high schools, discussing with students how Adi Rukun, The Look’s protagonist, heroically confronted the still powerful men who killed his brother along with hundreds of thousands of others in Indonesia’s anti-communist purges of 1965-66.
photo by Allison Coffelt
At our venues around town and on the University of Missouri campus, our army of volunteers has once more sprung into action, transforming spaces into temporary, yet glorious cinemas. Below you can see the ball room of the Tiger Hotel in the process of becoming The Forrest Theater once more.
photo by Morgan Lieberman
Our production team has already spent months and months in T/F’s secret lab, constructing the numerous art installations which will reveal a hidden utopia inside of our city. Here Glenn Rice installs his “light cone” piece in downtown’s central artery, Alley A.
photo by Rebecca Allen
And our central hub of operations, the T/F Box Office, has settled into its new home in Imago Gallery at Hitt and Broadway. The bustling crowds picked up their tickets and passes and scooped out the merch underneath chandeliers and murals dedicated to a creature with extraordinary longevity.
photo by Billie Stock
Finally, last night T/F eve came to an end at Eastside Tavern, where Relevant Hairstyles where part of a weird and wild start to our 2015 music program. Buskers will be playing before each and every screening this weekend.
photo by Jon Asher
It’s about time. The preparation is finally at an end. Let’s get started.
Shilpa Ray is as raucous a harmonium player as you will find and possibly the first in the history of True/False buskers. The Brooklyn musician is coming to True/False with her backing band to play the Saturday Showcase at Rose Music Hall and even sneak in a few busking gigs throughout the Fest. She’s a documentary film fan and sandwich lover. So, she’ll fit in just fine.
I got the chance to chat with Shilpa via email a few weeks back while New York was facing down a possible blizzard.
True/False: As you know, True/False is a film festival primarily focusing on documentary film. The films at the fest play with ideas of fact and fiction and what lies in between. Considering this, what would the synopsis of a film about your life and career be?
Shilpa Ray: A woman dreaming of a life like Bonnie and Clyde becomes Dillinger instead.
T/F: Are you a documentary fan? Do you have a favorite documentary film and why is it a favorite?
SR: I do love me some documentaries. I enjoy a lot of music ones but I also draw a lot of inspiration from non-musicals as well. I’m a huge Ken Burns fan. Jazz and The West are my favorites. I also love Ric Burns’ New York, Werner Herzog’s Grizzly Man, Robert J. Flaherty’s Nanook of the North, and Martin Scorcese’s The Blues. I suppose the documentary series that had the greatest impact on me was the PBS Rock and Roll mini series. I recorded it on to VHS when I was a teenager. My parents were incredibly strict when I was growing up, so for fun I read a lot of books, listened to tons of music and watch this series on repeat. I got my mind blown watching footage of the VU, The Doors, the Stooges, David Bowie, the Animals, The Yardbirds, Pink Floyd, Jimi Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Janis and Big Brother Holding Company, The Jefferson Airplane, The Byrds, Sly and the Family Stone, P-Funk, Television, Patti Smith, Blondie, Grand Master Flash, Afrika Bambaatta and Kraftwerk . I watched it so religiously. I’d jump around in my bedroom miming all the parts. It was my world.
T/F: The theme for this year’s fest is ‘The Long Now’. How do you and your band fit into this idea of the long now? What does ‘The Long Now’ mean to you?
SR: Isn’t that just defining reality? I suppose documentaries are feeding into a certain kind of fantasy. Condensing one’s subject into highlights, climaxes and rock bottoms. In the meantime we’re all making sandwiches, sleeping, working, getting high and paying bills– lots and lots of bills.
T/F: You will be performing both as a busker and with your band at the Saturday night showcase. How will your busker and showcase performances contrast for fest attendees looking to catch you in both settings?
SR: Whoa! Busking? Really? I had no idea. Sounds like fun though. From what people tell me I’m “really intense” so we’ll see how that works out in-between making sandwiches.
T/F: Sandwiches? What made you bring up sandwiches?
SR: I was so hungry. We are going through “Snowmaggedon” right now and everyone got hysterical. There’s no food left at my grocery store. It’s crazy out here, with not enough snow.
T/F: Last year, 20,000 Days on Earth, the film about a day in Nick Cave’s life, showed at T/F. You have toured with Cave and released a solo record on his label. What has that been like to work with someone of his stature?
SR: He’s a lot of fun. One of the funniest and real people I’ve ever met. He used to make me sandwiches on the tour bus. They were pretty damn good.
T/F: Other than Nick Cave, who are some other musicians you have worked with who influence your music?
SR: Steven Bernstein. He’s more than a stalwart in the New York jazz scene. He’s worked with John Zorn, Lou Reed, John Lurie, tons and tons of rad people. I got to work with him for the Sly Stone and Shell Silverstein tributes held in NYC a few years ago. What a fierce arranger! I was floored by how he can command a large jazz ensemble. Such a magical presence. He’s my favorite.
T/F: Often times, musicians who aren’t white, heterosexual males get pigeonholed based on their identity. Somehow, all they sing about is this perceived identity while white, heterosexual males sing about themes and topics that are more universal – or so the thinking goes.
SR: That’s not true. Musicians play and sing about whatever they want regardless of color and gender. We’re all universally self absorbed hedonists. Sure my life has not been lived the same as a white man, but I don’t feel that what I’m doing is marked by my race or gender. I actually feel that white male culture doesn’t take enough risks and modern music has become incredibly boring. If the music industry is constantly looking for another Kurt Cobain it is and it has been fucking itself over. Everyone knows that.
This Thursday, February 12 is 5% for T/F day at Lucky’s Market. We’ll receive 5% of everything you purchase all day from 7am-10pm, so come on in, get some healthy food and help support the Fest.
In addition in between 4-7 PM in the Lucky’s Cafe, there will be music from T/F buskers The Flood Brothers playing, a Chocolate sampling fair, give-aways of 4 Gateway Packets and 4 Busker bands and T/F Merch for sale, including the new 2015 designs. We hope to see you there!
Get into the T/F state of mind with over 120 films from True/False past available to stream for free on our newly revised and expanded video page. Films now feature descriptions along with links to essays and filmmaker interviews to further inform your viewing. You can use the categories function on the left of the screen to sort by the year the film played the Fest or by shorts or features. These films are gathered from a variety of sites which legally stream docs, including Vimeo, YouTube, Hulu, SnagFilms, Crackle, P.O.V. and The National Film Board of Canada’s online archive. If you are outside the US, access will vary based on the hosting site, but you should still be able to find plenty of interesting docs to explore.
Music is the life blood of our festival, providing the vital energy that keeps the whole organism in motion. We’re excited to announce three more of the musical acts who will be performing at T/F 2015.
Making their first ever appearance at T/F is Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers, a Brooklyn-based band fusing blues and punk rock behind the searing, charismatic vocals of their front woman. Below you can see a live music video for their song “Erotolepsy”.
From closer by in St. Joseph Missouri, this unusual, dreamy pop group Dreamgirl will also be making their first trip to T/F. Check out their track “Stranger Feelings” for a sample of their sound.
Returning to T/F is Anonymous Choir, the Minneapolis group which performs choral versions of popular songs. For example give a listen to their beautiful version of Neil Young’s classic album After the Gold Rush.
If you want to make music a central part of your True/False, consider picking up our $30 busker band. It gets you access to all of our concerts plus more. It works well either on its own or as a compliment to a Simple Pass.
Music plays an essential role at T/F. Our buskers perform before each and every screening, at 15 music showcases and throughout the streets and sidewalks of downtown Como, cordoning off the experiential space in which the Fest exists. We’re excited to make out first announcement of just a handful of the acts that will be transforming our town March 5-8.
Strangled Darlings, a self-described Americana Doom Pop duo featuring cello and mandolin, will be making their first trip to CoMo from their home base of Portland, Oregon. Check out their music video “Snake and the Girl.”
Returning to T/F is the Raya Brass Band, a five-man group hailing from Brooklyn who draw from the sounds of both the Balkans and New Orleans. You can catch them performing in the video link below.
Also joining us for their first T/F are El-Haru Kuroi, an East Los Angeles trio with roots in Mexican, South American and African melodies and rhythms. Below you’ll find them playing their song “Sin Saber.”
If you want to make music the central part of your T/F 2015, consider picking up our Busker Band, which allows access to all of our showcases plus more. It makes sense on its own or as a compliment to a Simple Pass. Find out more here.