Updates

Explore the Films of the Gateway Packet

Note: Gateway Packets are now sold out. But do not fear, we’ll have thousands of tickets on sale for these and other films at our box office beginning March 5.

 

The Gateway Packet is now on sale until 6 pm on Friday February 27 for T/F 2015. For $40, the Gateway grants you the ability to reserve three tickets online. For a select set of screenings at True/False 2015, which runs March 5-8. You can reserve tickets for three different screenings or multiple tickets for the same one; it’s up to you. Gateway is a great to introduce someone new to T/F. Pick up yours here.

This year’s Gateway screenings are as follows:

(T)ERROR, Thursday at 6:45pm, Vimeo Theater @ The Blue Note

Those Who Feel the Fire Burning, Thursday 9:30pm, Vimeo Theater @ The Blue Note

Drone, Thursday, 10:15pm, The Missouri Theatre

Cartel Land, Friday 10:15pm, The Missouri Theatre

I Am the People, Saturday 10:00am, Geology

Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck, Saturday 9:30pm, Missouri Theatre

The Visit, Sunday 9:30am, Missouri Theatre

Spartacus & Cassandra, Sunday, 12:30pm, Missouri Theatre

Tales of the Grim Sleeper, Sunday 3:30pm, Missouri Theatre

Of Men and War, Sunday, 5:30pm, Geology

Finders Keepers, Sunday, 7:00pm, Cornell Hall

The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst (Episode 5), Sunday 9:00pm, Vimeo Theater @ The Blue Note

 

Below we gathered some info about this year’s Gateway selections.

 

(T)ERROR gains unprecedented access to an FBI counter-terrorist investigation, as its directors Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe explain in this video from Sundance 2015.

 

Those Who Feel the Fire Burning is a haunting look at life immigrant communities in Europe, as you can see in the mesmerizing trailer below.

 

Drone is a timely investigation drone technology, and the sticky, unresolved issues around its wide spread use in modern warfare.

 

Cartel Land a jaw-dropping look at the moral grey zone’s created by powerful drug cartels, as director Matthew Heineman explained at Sundance.

 

I Am the People is a unique and deeply humanist examination of the Arab Spring, an important film just now arriving in our hemisphere.

 

Brett Morgen’s Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck creates a frightening and fascinating portrait out of a wealth of amazing archival materials. Morgen recently discussed his intimate with a legend in an interview with Rolling Stone.

 

The Visit is a hypnotic philosophical provocation from filmmaker Michael Madsen, who simulates humanity’s first encounter with an extraterrestrial species.

 

Spartacus & Cassandra is a beautiful and affecting story Roma children at a life crossroads. The blog Cine Vue covered its screening at last spring’s Cannes Film Festival.

 

Tales of the Grim Sleeper explores the unbelievable story of a serial killer who preyed on women in a South Central LA neighborhood for 25 years.

 

Of Men and War is a direct, unforgettable look at American soldiers suffering from PTSD, and the difficulty of providing them the help they need.

 

Finders Keepers is the stranger-than-fiction story of a severed foot found in a BBQ grill, and the even more bizarre events that followed. The Guardian covered its recent screening at Sundance.

 

Finally, The Jinx a multipart HBO series, where filmmaker Andrew Jarecki presents a shifting kaleidoscope of perspectives around millionaire Robert Durst, who happens to be the center of multiple murders and disappearances. The Sunday screening that is part five, so those watching along on HBO or HBOGo can join in. If you’ve caught up, check out the analysis of the latest episode on Vulture.

 

Posted February 23, 2015

Back to School with Amanda Rose Wilder of ‘Approaching the Elephant’

Note: This interview first ran in April 2014, when Approaching the Elephant screened at the Sarasota film festival. We are sharing it again in honor of the film’s theatrical premiere at the Independent Film Project in Brooklyn, NYC where it is playing through February 26.

 

Amanda Rose Wilder’s debut feature Approaching the Elephant spies into the first year of a “free school”, a radical institution where all the rules are decided democratically and the teachers and students have equal say. An intimate observation reminiscent of the early direct cinema of Frederick Wiseman and the Maysles, the film captures an elemental power struggle between students Lucy and Jio, and their school director Alex Khost in striking black and white.

Approaching the Elephant was unveiled at True/False 2014, screened last weekend at the Wisconsin Film Festival and plays for the second time today at the Sarasota Film Festival. I got the chance to chat with Amanda about her film and its inspiration a couple weeks ago.

-Dan Steffen

T/F: How did you first hear about the idea of a free school?

Amanda Rose Wilder: My father is an elementary school teacher. When I was ten we took a trip to visit Summerhill, the most well-known free school.

T/F: Where’s that at?

ARW: Suffolk, England. It was founded in 1921 by A.S. Neill.

We visited for a couple days. It was a memorable and in some ways shocking experience. In elementary school I was the girl that followed the rules – but liked kids who stirred things up. Summerhill was full of uninhibited energy. The kids were all ‘characters’…self-confident, bold, frank.

I remember I sat in on a writing class that began with a free write, something I’ve done since but hadn’t at that point. I remember sitting there thinking, “what do they want me to free write?” while everyone else was furiously scribbling whatever they wished. I vividly remember a boy shouting during a democratic meeting, ‘fuck off and die!’ and went home quoting that phrase.

T/F: So how did you decide on a free school as a setting for a film? Was it an idea that formed that early on?

ARW: Well, it came about after I graduated from Marlboro College. Marlboro is a progressive college; the last two years you spend working on a thesis of your own design. My thesis was titled “The Poetic Documentary and the Documentary Poem” and I had gotten really into documentarians the Maysles and Wiseman and poets Marianne Moore and William Carlos Williams and how poetry intersects with documentary. After I graduated, my film professor, Jay Craven, asked if I wanted to make a documentary with him on progressive education. So, we scraped together a little money and I went to the Alternative Education Resource Organization (AERO) Conference. I conducted about 15 interviews with anyone I could grab. One of those people, who I just met on the street, was Alex Khost. He told me he was months away from opening a free school in New Jersey, 20 minutes from where I was living. He was open, charming, comfortable in front of the camera. After the interview I asked if I could show up on their first day.

From the first day at Teddy McArdle Free School I could tell it would be an incredible thing to document and would fit nicely with the kind of direct cinema filmmaking I’d grown to love. There was a story unfolding before the camera, and a fascinating group of people, most of whom were children.

I shot for two school years. The film comprises the first year, from the first day to the last day. I amassed about 240 hours total.

T/F: So, what’s true/false about your film?

ARW: Oh man, good question . . .

Well, here’s why I decided this was a story I wanted to tell: I quickly realized that the free school model allows for kids to be themselves in a way most schools do not. Their personalities are really able to come out. And as a filmmaker I have an interest in capturing people honestly, as their full-blown selves, warts and all, you might say, but lovingly.

I think you see this in similar ways in documentaries that are about kids outside of school, films like Streetwise, Children Underground. Kids’ lives, as much as adults’, are messy and complicated. I thought, wow, this model is allowing for me to capture the lives of children, something very true and rarely shown.

So I began the film because I had an interest in free schools and then realized I could capture this incredible social dynamic, these complex personalities. The model became a means to an end, a context for a story I wanted to tell.

 

ATE-LUCY

Lucy in Approaching the Elephant

 

T/F: Yeah, it really reminded me of how intense childhood was, how important every conflict was in the moment.

ARW: Yes, and more and more kids are being stripped of their ability to take risks and figure out conflicts, which leads to them not knowing how to. I came across a great article recently called “The Overprotected Kid”. In The Atlantic. There’s a line that describes well what I think is happening in child-rearing, “the erosion of child culture.”

As much as I am inspired by Wiseman and the Maysles, I’m inspired by Cassavetes. Love Streams and A Woman Under the Influence as by Gimme Shelter and High School. Cassavetes is my model for showing people honestly. Perhaps there’s a link between the erosion of child culture and the erosion of independent cinema. Films are less wild, less messy, less alive and energetic. More documentarians should take cues from Cassavetes and less from advertising and grant qualifiers.

T/F: It’s interesting how much Cassavetes influences documentary. His work always seems to come up . . .

ARW: I feel like Cassavetes and the Maysles are soul sisters, two sides of a coin. Another of my influences on this movie was the Dardenne brothers. Have you seen Les Fils (The Son)? So much woodworking in that film. And a central man/boy relationship.

So, getting back to your question, what I hope is true about the movie is the depiction of childhood, in this full, vital, energetic, Cassavetes inspired way.

What’s false? I tried to be as true to what I saw as possible. But, of course, what I hope everyone knows, I was only there on certain days, I only captured when I hit record, and we edited.

But I feel the story is the story of the year. I think we accomplished realizing that.

T/F: What effect did you think the camera had on what was going on?

ARW: Not much. Because I was there from the first day, I was taken as a part of the community. I find if you relax and don’t get in the way, people relax. Being a one-person band helps (I did camera and sound). I tried not to be a dominating personality over the kids, and I think they accepted me among them because of that.

Lucy especially was very comfortable from the get-go in part I think because her mother is an avid photographer, so Lucy was accustomed to a camera in her face. Lucy would say to new students, “That’s Amanda, don’t look at her camera, she just wants us to act natural.”

T/F: Haha.

ARW: They picked it up quickly. Kids in general are less self-conscious than adults.

T/F: It was really fascinating to see Alex, an adult, get pulled into all of the conflict between the kids because of the nature of the school?

ARW: Well, it was his school as much as theirs. One of my favorite scenes is the meeting where Lucy and Alex are debating whether Alex should be allowed to make safety decisions by himself or if they should be voted on democratically. More specifically, whether Alex telling Lucy to not jump off a high storage bin was harassment. I love it because they both take the meeting so seriously. Lucy holds her ground against Alex and Alex treats her with complete respect while at the same time stating his points. They’re complete equals. And after the meeting, they go about their ways and are cordial.

How conflict is resolved between Lucy and Alex and between Jio and Alex is, of course, very different. And between Lucy and Jio. The trio was so fascinating. I felt so lucky to have not just one but three incredible people, and the dynamics between them, to focus on.

T/F: When I talked with Robert (Approaching the Elephant editor Robert Greene) he said that the decision to use black and white made the story feel more timeless. Could you talk about that decision?

ARW: While I was editing, before Robert came on as a collaborator, I’d now and then throw the material in black and white. The editing always seemed to just come together more naturally that way. I think it has something to do with going with the elemental, pure nature of the story. It looks so beautiful in black and white, like it could be from any time.

T/F: Yeah, the conflict really feels elemental.

ARW: Yeah, it highlights for me how it’s about social dynamics, personality, people’s faces . . . I think that’s all I have to say about it. It was a pretty intuitive choice.

 

ATE-JIO (1)

Jio in Approaching the Elephant

Posted February 20, 2015

A Look Inside the Lab by Photographer Stephen Bybee

For months now, the True/False production team has labored tirelessly in their secret lab, engineering the strange alternate universe we’ll all soon inhabit. Photographer Stephen Bybee recently gained access to their lair and brought back these mysterious images of the team at work and the weird objects they are creating. Take your first peek into the world of True/False 2015 as it comes into being.

 

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Posted February 4, 2015

Adam Curtis is the 2015 True Vision Award Recipient

We’re delighted to announce filmmaker Adam Curtis as the recipient of our 2015 True Vision Award in honor of his dedication to and advancement in the field of nonfiction filmmaking. Curtis has a long-standing relationship with the Fest, starting with his appearance in 2005 with The Power of Nightmares and again in 2010 with It Felt Like a Kiss. He’ll be in-person again this year presenting his new film Bitter Lake as well as some other selections.

Over the course of a 20-plus year career at the BBC, Curtis has refined and perfected a unique cinematic approach to history’s savage ironies. His perennial concern is power, specifically the ability to warp systems of thought intended for understanding the world into tools utilized for controlling it, with unpredictable results. His incisive, frequently audacious films, commonly narrated by Curtis himself, combine original interviews with an unmatched command of archival material. Curtis repurposes existing bits of audio and video from the massive BBC archives into pointed direct citations, whimsical metaphors and abstract cinematic onslaughts. The result is a dreamlike atmosphere where everything we think we know feels suddenly uncertain.

Curtis first gained widespread acclaim for 1992’s Pandora’s Box: A Fable from the Age of Science, a six-part series examining the consequences of the failed technocratic management of society, comparing Soviet communism, cold war systems analysis and industrial agriculture’s introduction of the insecticide DDT.

His second major film was 1995’s The Living Dead: Three Films About the Power of the Past, which studies the exploitation of the history of the Second World War by multiple generations of British politicians.

In 2002 Curtis created the unforgettable Century of the Self, a four-part examination of psychoanalysis and its under-recognized role in the emergence of a public relations industry, which in turn came to dominate 20th century life.

 

image from Century of the Self

image from Century of the Self

 

In The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear (T/F 2005), Curtis traces parallel histories of neo-conservatism and radical Islamism, beginning from the fascinating biographies of the movements’ founders, Leo Strauss and Sayyid Qutb.

 

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image from The Power of Nightmares

 

Curtis’ most radical experiment, It Felt Like A Kiss (T/F 2010), was originally conceived as an installation piece in collaboration with theatre company Punchdrunk. This work drops Curtis’ trademark narration for simple, declarative onscreen text and confronts the viewer with images of America’s cultural and political dominion, presented as the fragments of a fading dream set to infectious pop music.

 

image from It Felt Like a Kiss

image from It Felt Like a Kiss

 

2011 saw the release of Curtis’ All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace, a three-part film exploring the political implications of misguided techno-utopianism, Ayn Rand’s dedicated circle of followers and a cynical, biological understanding of human motivation.

 

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image from All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace

 

In 2013 he collaborated with the band Massive Attack on a mixed media project Everything is Going According to Plan. Also well worth visiting is Curtis’ blog “The Medium and the Message” which like his films draws clips from the BBC archives to reexamine the way we view the world.

Curtis’ new film, Bitter Lake, takes its title from a fateful meeting in February 1945 between president Franklin D Roosevelt and King Ibn Saud of Saudi Arabia on the “bitter lake” of the Suez Canal. Curtis argues a deal struck during their meeting set the course for much of the rest of the 20th century, particularly in the nation of Afghanistan.

 

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Image from Bitter Lake

 

The True Vision Award is the only award given out at the Fest, this year with the support of Restoration Eye Care. Curtis is the twelfth recipient of the True Vision Award.  Each year, the award has been designed and cast in bronze by mid-Missouri sculptor Larry Young. Past winners include Laura Poitras, James Marsh, Victor Kossakovsky and Amir Bar-Lev.

Posted February 3, 2015

‘The Look of Silence’ is the 2015 True Life Fund Film

We are proud to announce Joshua Oppenheimer’s The Look of Silence as this year’s recipient of the True Life Fund.

 

 

The True Life Fund offers support to a film’s subjects in appreciation of their choice to share their stories with audiences. The Look of Silence‘s subject, Adi Rukun, bravely challenged Indonesia’s collective silence by speaking out about the atrocities committed against his family during the Indonesian genocide that took place during 1965 and 1966. His steady, calm confronting of men responsible for the death of his brother stands as an exemplary display of bravery. This act of courage has forced his family to relocate in order to avoid backlash. Funds raised through the True Life Fund will assist Adi and his family in their relocation process.

 

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Adi Rukun in The Look of Silence

 

The Look of Silence is the companion film to The Act of Killing (T/F 2013) which will also screen at this year’s Fest in its extended director’s cut. Together, the two films complete an incredible eleven-year project exploring the Indonesian genocide and the horrifying shadow it continues to cast over that nation’s culture and politics. Unlike other mass killings, the perpetrators of Indonesia’s anti-communist purges remain part of the power structure with their crimes officially excused or even celebrated, making Oppenheimer’s present tense investigation indispensable. These two films bring energetic innovation and flawless craft to this stunningly under-reported story.

 

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Image from The Look of Silence

 

Director Joshua Oppenheimer will be in-person at all screenings. We’re also working to bring Adi to Columbia, but, due to the film’s highly charged content, his international travel is being curtailed and he may not be able to leave Indonesia.

We’d like to thank The Crossing, a local Columbia church, for their continued partnership. The Crossing will be sponsoring the True Life Fund for the eighth time this year. The Fund itself is comprised of thousands of small, individual gifts, matched through a grant from the Bertha Foundation.  We hope to raise more than $20,000 for Adi and his family.

The Look of Silence is the ninth True Life Fund film. Last year, Cynthia Hill’s Private Violence received the True Life Fund. The fund was split between domestic violence survivor Deanna Walters and advocate Kit Gruelle.

 

 

Posted January 19, 2015

Three More Bands Headed to T/F 2015

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.

Posted January 14, 2015

Digital Versions of the Neither/Nor Monographs Now Available

Neither/Nor is an open-ended project exploring and discovering the history of “chimeric” cinema, our term for films which defy categorization as either nonfiction or fiction. For the past two years we’ve collaborated with a visiting film critic who selects and introduces a series of screenings covering a particular important time and place in cinematic history. This undertaking is made possible by generous support from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

In addition to presenting the films, visiting critics create an original monograph featuring essays or interviews exploring the works they selected. Now, we’ve made both the 2013 and 2014 monographs available to read online in a digital pdf version you can find linked below.

 

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In the 2013 Monograph, New York City, 1967-1968, critic Eric Hynes approaches the creative and political ferment surrounding William Greaves’ meta-film Symbiopsychotaxiplasm, the Jean-Luc Godard, Richard Leacock, D.A. Pennebaker collaboration 1 P.M., Peter Whitehead’s The Fall and Jim McBride’s prescient David Holzman’s Diary. The monograph features a short essay and interview for each film.

 

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In the 2014 Monograph, Iran, 1990-1998, Godfrey Cheshire weaves a consideration of major works into a larger essay exploring Iran’s unique and complex relationship with the cinema. The films studied are Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-Up, Mohsen Makhmalbah’s A Moment of Innocence, Jafar Panahi’s The Mirror and Samira Makhmalbah’s The Apple.

 

Neither/Nor returns as part of the 2015 festival where we’ll explore revolutionary, formally groundbreaking work from a former communist state.

Posted December 22, 2014

Announcing Three Bands Coming to T/F 2015!

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.

Posted December 15, 2014

Two Earlier Works from ‘CITIZENFOUR’ Director Laura Poitras

This Sunday the exciting new doc CITIZENFOUR comes to the Blue Note in our special T/F event. This film reveals the behind-the-scenes story of Edward Snowden, who contacted filmmaker Laura Poitras with startling classified information about NSA surveillance, a decision with world-altering ramifications.

Before delving into this incredible tale, you may want to catch up with or revisit a couple on important precursors from the career of this important nonfiction auteur.

CITIZENFOUR can be seen as the final entry in a trilogy of films exploring foreign policy and security culture in a post-9/11 world. The first was My Country, My Country, which examined the difficulties of electoral politics in US Occupied Iraq. The second was The Oath (T/F 2010), available streaming below from Hulu. This work focuses on a pair of men with direct ties to Bin Laden, Yemeni cab driver Abu Jandal and his brother-in-law Salim Ahmed Hamdan. The former is a dominant and paradoxical screen presence, the latter a haunting felt absence.

Snowden was inspired to contact Poitras because of her New York Times Op-Doc The Program, a short constructed around an interview 32-year NSA veteran turned whistle-blower William Binney.

Posted October 15, 2014

Announcing Surprise Screenings of Laura Poitras’ ‘CITIZENFOUR’ at The Blue Note October 19

We are very excited to announce our Secret Screenings coming to The Blue Note October 19. True/False is proud to help launch CITIZENFOUR, the much-anticipated, real-life suspense story by Laura Poitras.

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CITIZENFOUR reveals the story of whistleblower Edward Snowden, who leaked classified information about the NSA and global surveillance to Poitras and her reporting partner, Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald. Snowden, who called himself CITIZENFOUR in encrypted emails with Poitras, set off global shockwaves with his revelations. As Poitras documented arguably the biggest spying revelation in history, she became part of the story herself. Poitras and Greenwald still hold hundreds of unreleased intelligence documents given to them by Snowden, putting them in continued danger of retaliation by the US government.

This film is the final work in Poitras’ trilogy documenting security and foreign policy in the post-9/11 world. Her first film in the trilogy, My Country, My Country, explored electoral politics in US-occupied Baghdad and received an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary. Her second, The Oath, was an intimate portrait of Abu Jandal, a former driver for Osama Bin Laden. It’s available to watch right now on Hulu. Poitras appeared with both films at T/F 2010 where she received our True Vision Award for her persistent creative advancement of nonfiction cinema.

CITIZENFOUR premieres today, October 10 at the New York Film Festival. It will play twice at The Blue Note on October 19, at 4:30 and 8:00 PM. Both screenings will feature live music from Syna So Pro and post-film Skype chats with Poitras. Tickets are available online now or in person (cash only) at the venue the day of the show.

Both screenings of CITIZENFOUR are underwritten by the Jonathan B. Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Posted October 10, 2014
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