We’ve extended the deadline for True/False 2015 art installation proposals. You now have until September 8 to give us your take on “The Long Now”. Check out our Call to Artists page for more info.
T/F is in search of a few more members of the 2015 Canary Screening Committee. We are looking for folks who are are thoughtful, articulate writers, can help us identify films of interest to the festival programmers, and are available for 2 meetings per month. Screeners are required to watch at least 50 submissions over 5 months, and will receive a pass to the 2015 fest. See the application for more detail - Apply here by August 6. Questions? e-mail us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
We’re still reeling from the punch to the gut we received a few weeks ago, the news of the sudden death of our friend, the Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul. We met Malik in 2012 when he came to T/F with his first and sadly only feature, Searching for Sugar Man, the story of the rediscovery of lost singer-songwriter who inspired a generation half a world away. Both the film and its energetic and endearing director connected profoundly with Fest goers, especially at a packed closing night screening at the august Missouri Theatre.
Malik also participated as a judge in our signature game show, Gimme Truth!, happily filling in at the last moment after a cancellation. He immediately struck up a friendship with GT coordinator and all around T/F get-shit-done specialist Jaime Goncalves. Jamie recently noted “Malik treated an intern 12 years his junior as an equal. What could better show a man’s values?”
You can watch Malik’s performance on Gimme Truth! below.
To our surprise, Malik returned to T/F and the Missouri Theatre stage in 2013, just a week after winning the Best Documentary Oscar for Sugar Man. He also met with area high school students as part of the True/False Academy.
In the weeks since his death, memories of Malik have begun coming in around the web. Michael Dunaway at Paste Magazine wrote Malik a Thank You Note, recalling their meeting at T/F 2012. And at The Talkhouse, directors and fellow T/F alum Ondi Timoner, Peter Nicks and Alison Klayman shared their impressions.
Finally, the Swedish television program KOBRA produced an entire episode in memoriam. It contains samples of Malik’s work and interviews on his approach and philosophy. You can watch the episode here.
In his “Forever Young” dispatch from True/False 2012, critic Eric Hynes noted:
Viewed in a certain light, Only the Young’s attractive cast, hip subculture, and sunny California setting, could work alongside MTV’s reality soaps. But you won’t find any typecasting here, no genre boxes, no preconceived notions of youth imposed upon the subjects—or at least none that the supremely articulate characters wouldn’t cop to on their own. For Garrison, Kevin and Skye (who, at 16, has an emotional intelligence that outdistances pretty much everyone I know), fashion is fun but not defining, religion is relevant but hardly central, and class is negotiated but not exactly transcended. Co-directors Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet are both in their early 20s, just a few years removed from the experiences of their subjects, this age proximity serves to repel intergenerational objectification as well as “state of the youth” sloganeering, freeing the filmmakers to make a movie out of what and how they see. They frame on-camera parries as deadpan two-shots, playfully score slow-mo skate-stunts to classic soul (because why the hell not), and never stoop to exclamation when ellipses work just fine.
Also covering the Fest, Hammer to Nail’s Michael Tully boldly announced “after only one viewing, I’m ready to file Only The Young in the all-time coming-of-age canon”. And T/F associate programmer Chris Boeckmann, collecting his thoughts on the film, declared Only the Young “one of the most exciting documentary debuts of the past decade”.
But please, don’t take their word for it. See Only the Young 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 delicate dance between filmmaker and subject took center stage in the “Lies My Subject Told Me Panel” at T/F 2014. Filmmakers Robert Greene (Actress), Jesse Moss (The Overnighters) and Maxim Pozdorovkin (The Notorious Mr. Bout) chatted about deceit and deception, what they decided to leave out and poetic vs. factual truth in documentary art. Here are a few excerpts featuring each of the three directors:
David Serva Jones is one of the only Americans to ever become a world-class flamenco guitarist. He is also a heartbreaker who has left numerous women and children in his wake. One of these children is writer/director Rachel Leah Jones, who set out over the course of a decade to get to know her estranged father and collect stories from the people who he left behind. This includes her own mother, a Brooklyn girl who became a flamenco dancer and began a family with David in Berkeley in the early 70s. Gypsy Davy (T/F 2012) combines these investigations with haunting archival footage and elegant and biting narration. The result is a compelling examination of one man’s hard-to-pin-down legacy.
This film is now available on Hulu (embedded below) for viewers in the U.S. You can also watch it on a wide variety of digital platforms, including iTunes, Amazon, YouTube and Sundance Now and buy a DVD/CD combo pack including a soundtrack of David’s incredible music.
A few months back, I got the chance to speak with Jones about her film via Skype while she waited for a train in Tel Aviv.
T/F: How did you get interested in telling a personal story in a film? Is this something you always thought you’d do?
RLJ: Well, I set out to tell this story without “taking it personally”, without talking about myself. Then finally, towards the very end, I had to capitulate and accept the fact that I was the reason there was a story. Everyone else was just living their lives and I was the one who wanted to stop and examine things.
Gypsy Davy was the first film that I started shooting and the third that I actually finished. It was good that it was already my third movie, because that way it was less painful to finish.
T/F: So when did you actually start filming?
RLJ: So it’s quite literal in the film, the very first shot in the movie is pretty much the very first shot I took. This is when I get called to his side after the accident where he broke his pelvis and shattered his wrist. That doesn’t mean I edited chronologically, but when I asked myself “What is the story I want to tell?” and “Where does it begin and end?” it made a lot of sense to say “Okay, where did it really begin?”
So, I just started filming. It took a long time to figure out what I actually wanted to do and muster up the courage to go and meet everybody. I had a life to live, jobs to work, other movies to make, kids to have; there was a whole decade of life that happened at the same time. And although this wasn’t how I intended to make the film, in the end I think there is some satisfaction, both for myself and hopefully for the viewer, in seeing us change over time.
T/F: So how does that process interact with the narration? It’s written in the second person as a letter to your father. Was that planned from the beginning?
RLJ: No, I had hoped that there wouldn’t have to be narration. Eventually, it became clear to me that that was out of the question. At the end of the decade, at the end of the day, I understood that the only person who went through any kind of change was me.
It starts with the big drama of his broken wrist. Will he ever play guitar again? And then more drama: he adopts his fifth kid, he gets married for the fourth time. All of this stuff happens to him and yet nothing happens to him. The man doesn’t change over the course of that decade. These twists and turns are all sort of par for the course; it’s what he’s been doing for 50 years.
So then, it was me who transformed in this period. I had to go figure out where I was at 40 where I may not have been at 30. I had to create that character and write a voiceover for her. And that was kind of the worst, not because I don’t like to write. I can write voiceovers for other people really well, but writing your own voice is tricky. How much of it was going to be true? Who was that girl going to be?
For the longest time I couldn’t figure if I should do it in the second person addressing him or in the third person addressing the audience. I kept changing it this way and that way. Like, “I was born in Berkeley California”, I don’t need to tell him that, he was there. But, “When I was ten years old, I started telling people he was dead”, that’s not as intense or interesting as “I started telling people you were dead”.
So, I did what probably a lot of documentary filmmakers secretly do when they’re finishing their personal movies. I went back to my therapist. I came with my laptop and these two voiceovers and said, “I’m sure one of them is truer than the other”. She just looked at me and said “why do you have to choose?”
Finally, I broke it down on paper, and realized every time I spoke in the third person I had put archive and every time I spoke in the second person my father was on screen. So it had already been resolved structurally, I just didn’t see it. And save for one or two adjustments, it was already written and written in both voices. When I ask people if the narration was in the second or third person they can’t remember. My therapist was right, why do you have to choose?
T/F: Could you talk some about how you structured the film? You use a non-linear structure to create mystery quite effectively.
RLJ: I don’t think I was looking to be mysterious at all. There are two obvious ways you could go. You could go from the present and roll it back from 100 to 0 or you could go forward from 0 to 100. But I asked myself, where does my story begin? It begins with my mom and me and we’re smack in the middle. So it begins with woman number three. And then what happened? Woman number four. And then what happened? Woman number five. But wait, where did it really all begin? Woman number one. But listen, there’s also woman number two . . .
That logic presented itself almost immediately. And save for a little bit of tweaking around woman number two, I never had to rearrange it. Something that seems really thought out was completely intuitive and just sort of took care of itself.
T/F: Watching the film, I found my attitudes towards David’s art very interesting. The virtuoso of his guitar playing is undeniable, but I also regarded it with a Darwinian cynicism, that it’s fundamentally a seduction technology or something. And that ambivalence comes through in the narration as well. So I wanted to ask you, do you enjoy David’s music?
RLJ: Today, totally. When I was younger, flamenco altogether, David’s or not David’s, I had a hard time with. I don’t know that I ever hated it, but I had a hard time with it. I had a hard time with it for white middle class reasons: the funky aesthetics; the throaty, growling vocals.
But it totally grew on me, and I totally learned to appreciate it, because, having heard it all my life, I also knew it deep down inside. I don’t play music, I’m the only one in the family that doesn’t do music or dance. I’m the brainy, mouthy one, those are my tools. But if I hear flamenco, I anticipate what’s coming. Now I can really enjoy flamenco, including his. Also, I can actually recognize his playing, which I couldn’t do when I was younger.
Bottom line is, he’s a really, really good musician. He’s not a flashy player. He doesn’t really care for the notion of solo guitar. For him guitar is all about accompaniment. Flamenco is basically about rhythm and song, or cante in Spanish, and the other stuff: guitar, dance, are additions. He understands himself in that supporting role, first as an accompanist, the person that brings out the best in the singer. Also, he really understands negative space. He understands the lack of sound as the place where the last sound you made reverberates. It’s a gentle and intelligent understanding of what music is about.
So I appreciate him as a musician. What I don’t appreciate is everybody’s romance of the artist as somebody who can’t do family and can’t do commitment. I don’t buy the notion that there’s an either/or. I’m not a brilliant filmmaker, but I’m assuming I’m not a bad filmmaker. I still have a kid, I still change diapers, I was still pregnant and nursing in the editing room. Very few women and way too many men get away with this notion that it’s either/or.
The music is fantastic and wonderful and it’s a perfect vehicle for him to express himself emotionally. All of that I buy, just not the either/or thing.
T/F: Last thing I wanted to ask about is the archival of your childhood that you use in the film. What is it that makes it so evocative? I’m always at a loss for why super 8 footage has such a cinematic quality.
RLJ: There’s a mixture of footage there, some is 16mm that my mom and her friends shot with an experimental filmmaker named Damon Rarey who was pretty active in the San Francisco Bay area at the time. He shot the garage sale footage where the two women go chasing after the guy who, because they’re so busy fighting over him, manages to rip off all of their stuff. They go running after him, and finally realize when he’s out of reach that all they have is each other.
I’d never even seen that footage until quite late in the editing. There was a point where I was like “How should this movie end?” and I had this vague recollection that I had asked my mom this very question, but I didn’t remember her answer. So I went back to some interview with her that I had thrown out a long time ago and found her answer, where she mentioned the garage sale film. I didn’t think much of it at the time of the interview, but now that I was editing I was like “I need that footage!” Someone located the one remaining copy on a farm in Northern California and telecined it for me. When I saw it I was like, it’s the story! It’s the movie of the movie! I had already written the voiceover about being born in the middle of a garage sale, so it was too perfect.
A lot of the other footage is Super 8 that my grandfather shot when he’d come out to visit from New York. The thing about all of the archive in the film is that Gypsy Davy is also a portrait of a generation. It’s a generation of bohemian baby boomers. It’s a self-aware yet unselfconscious generation; these people felt they had the right to reinvent themselves culturally, to change their names, even to assume new ethnic identities, to some extent. You can see it in the footage and photographs, it’s the bold and the beautiful. It’s not my generation, which gets all uptight and confused with identity politics. We’re much more self-conscious about the way we image ourselves. Whereas our parents were of that modernist era that took itself for granted and had a ball playing make believe. We, their children, on the other hand, are the products of post-modernism’s deconstructions, reconstructions and, let’s admit it, malcontents.
Our photography team worked long hours preserving striking images from True/False 2014. The full fruits of their labor are on display in our photo albums for Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, with even more pictures available in our Facebook photo albums.
We asked the members of the team to send in two favorites from the pictures they took at the festival. Their picks can be found below under each photographer’s name, which also serves as a link to their personal website. There you can explore their non-T/F work or even contact them about documenting your own events.
This post is our collection of our favorite press coverage of True/False 2014. We’ll be adding more to it in the weeks ahead, as the articles continue to come in.
Lauren Sandler at the New York Times reported on our unique relationship with The Crossing, the Columbia Church which sponsors our True Life Fund.
Actress director Robert Greene wrote a piece in Filmmaker Magazine about debuting films at True/False, and our decision not to publicize screenings as “premieres”.
Local NPR affiliate KBIA talked with T/F education coordinator Polina Malikin about our educational program which introduces area high school students to documentary all school year long.
Noel Murray at The Dissolve looks at fact and fiction at True/False 2014. “True/False has built a reputation over its first decade of existence as one of the world’s more innovative, well-curated documentary festivals. That’s because True/False holds to a loose definition of what documentary means, making room for narrative features with documentary qualities, and non-fiction films that use expressive, fiction-like techniques.”
Eric Hynes wrote about the many “blurred lines” of True/False in an elegant piece for Moving Image Source. “Considering the dwindling theatrical market for documentaries, it’s hard to overestimate how important it is for a formally frisky filmmaker to be celebrated at a fest like True/False, to have his or her odd ducklings prized by and puzzled over by packed houses of doc-smart Midwesterners.”
Robert Green wrote a piece at Sight & Sound about True/False’s “slash mentality” and the “unclean cinema” we champion, including T/F 2013′s controversial film The Act of Killing. Don’t forget to check out the excellent video at the bottom!
Nick Pinkerton also covered the Fest for Sight & Sound, considering this year’s program as part of a changing landscape in documentary film. “There is a feeling of giddy upheaval in documentary, no longer aesthetically the redheaded stepchild of fiction.”
Ben Sachs reported on T/F 2014 for MUBI’s Notebook, highlighting the way the Fest melds with the city of Columbia. “The theme of True/False seems to be that nonfiction cinema, which takes its subject matter directly from life, is better-suited than other forms when it comes to ingratiating itself with the world at large.”
Sam Adams at Criticwire went meta, asking about what it means for T/F to pay for travel and lodging for critics covering the Fest. He also introduced the new video of “The Critical Takedown” panel, which he moderated.
Paul Dallas at indieWIRE wrote about the community ethos that makes True/False possible. “True/False has evolved in just over a decade from a rough-hewn upstart into a destination festival and arguably one of the most vital and exciting platforms for documentaries in North America. And it’s achieved this precisely by sticking to what it does best: making it all fun.”
Vadim Rizov of Filmmaker Magazine published two T/F diaries covering a selection of this year’s films. In the first, he looks at Approaching the Elephant, which “works as a parodic demonstration of a nascent democracy, as a portrait of feckless youth, and a study in how charismatic jerks abuse their leeway”, Demonstration, which he argues “finds middle ground between unflappable activist zeal and reactionary scorn” and the “hypnotic reverie” of Sacro GRA. In the second, he considers the “collaborative psychodrama” of Actress, Killing Time, “a patiently infuriating chronicle of Texas at its racially polarized worst”, and Boyhood, where “pain is quick, introduced early, fleetingly formative and not forgotten”.
Vadim also appeared in this video, getting together with three other film critics over drinks at Broadway Brewery. The foursome chatted about their favorite T/F 2014 films, The Vanquishing of the Witch Baba Yaga, Killing Time, Manakamana and Dusty Stacks of Mom, in this video created by Kevin Lee for Fandor.
Paige Pritchard at The Riveter wrote about five inspirational women at True/False, filmmaker Tracy Droz Tragos of Rich Hill, subject Fabiola Gianotti of Particle Fever, musician MNDR, T/F design master Camellia Cosgray and musician and community space coordinator Emily Downing.
And finally, KBIA’s True/False Conversations returned with another series of short chats with T/F filmmakers, available to either read or download as a podcast. In this series:
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!