The Mid-Missouri Carnivale
There’s a definite energy surrounding the build up to True/False, an energy that feels remarkably familiar to me. It didn’t occur to me why until I found myself somewhat nervously sitting in circle of folding chairs at a meeting of core T/F staff members and a few of their babies. People were introducing themselves, saying what they did in the festival and giving a brief update on how things were going. An enormous amount of coordinated effort goes into making this thing happen, more than I could’ve imagined, and I was beginning to feel like something of a fraud as I waited my turn. Saying “I just sort of showed up a couple weeks ago and started writing about y’all,” seemed a bit weak but ultimately true. In the end, I introduced myself as a “benevolent spy” and muttered something about how I’m looking forward to writing about the dog one of the incoming filmmakers is adopting and taking home to France, how that’s a very good story. The dog’s name is Punkito.
Anyway, it was when a staffer mentioned that she’d just gotten in from New Orleans and was a little sad she’d be missing Mardi Gras that it struck me: Mardi Gras. This whole manic True/False energy has been reminding me of Mardi Gras. If you’re picturing bared breasts, ugly plastic beads and public urination, I assure you that is not the Mardi Gras I’m talking about. I’m talking about the working on floats, assembling elaborate costumes, practicing in marching bands, the mounting nervous excitement as you wonder if it’ll all come together in time, the absolute joy when it does. Carnivale is a serious business if you’re doing it right, and the vibe backstage at T/F—the cheerful, busy, anticipatory, all-hands-on-deck camaraderie—feels, yes, remarkably familiar.
The energy around town seems to be subtly shifting as well. Most of the conversations I’ve overheard regarding the festival tend to be full of excitement and slightly tinged with dread, the way people sound when preparing for a long trip overseas. It’s the dream of a lifetime, they can’t wait, but they need to remember to pace themselves, stay hydrated and get plenty of rest. Upon hearing this will be my first True/False, people offer a great deal of breathless, knowing advice, but at a certain point words seem to escape them. I’m left wondering whether I’m actually covering a film festival in my hometown or some altogether new, impossible-to-explain experience, like watching miniature golf at a rodeo during Burning Man or something. It’s a film festival, right?
I’m still wrapping my head around just how much more than a film festival it actually is. Recent visits to the multi-purpose workshop affectionately known as “the Lab” have shown me just a sample of the many wonders in store for festival-goers, my favorites being the three “tensegrity” structures built by Mark Steck and friends. Tensegrity is a term coined by futurist architect Buckminster Fuller to describe a structure in which the primary components don’t actually touch but are held in place by a continuous tension, in this case by using ropes. Tensional integrity, get it? Yes, I had to research this, and no, I have no idea if I’m explaining that properly. What I can tell you with certainty is that these three pieces are strikingly beautiful, and they will be on display at Café Berlin, Rose Music Hall and the Methodist church at 9th and Elm all weekend long. I love the beauty of these pieces, but I also love them as metaphor. I like the idea of separate pieces, pieces that don’t actually touch, forming a coherent and absolutely solid structure. It seems like all of my favorite things are like this, things that don’t seem like they should work but absolutely do, that always come together in the end. I’m very much looking forward to the coming week. And if I’m getting a bit too lofty here, I’d like to remind you that very soon I will telling you everything I can—and I mean everything—about Punkito the Death Valley dog and her impending move to France.