True/False 2014 Fest Digest: Day Three

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.

tlfquintsmith

photo by Quint Smith

photo by Quint Smith

photo by Quint Smith

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.

photo by Frank Mendoza

photo by Frank Mendoza

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.

photo by Xiaojie Ouyand

photo by Xiaojie Ouyand

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).

photo by Frank Mendoza

photo by Frank Mendoza

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.”

photo by Derek Jenkins

photo by Derek Jenkins

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”.

photo by Sarah Hoffman

photo by Sarah Hoffman

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.

photo by Roxana Pop

photo by Roxana Pop

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.

photo by Corey Ransberg

photo by Corey Ransberg

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!

Posted March 2, 2014

Gimme Truth! 2014 Program

Here’s the program for tonight’s Gimme Truth!

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The Vimeo Theater at The Blue Note
Plays with Best Sound Dir. Josh Polon; 2014; 6 min.

:::::YOUR HOST:::::
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.

::::OUR CONTESTANTS::::
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

Posted March 1, 2014

True/False 2014 Fest Digest: Day Two

Friday is when True/False expanded into its full bandwidth. The Picturehouse, The Forrest Theater and Jesse Auditorium all came to life, showing their first films of the year, while the Odd Fellows Lodge hosted the first of our panel discussions. Our expansionist tendencies were manifested by our most conspicuous event, the triumphant parade through downtown Columbia known as the March March.

The scope of our ambition outstrips any blog post, but below we’ll recap a few of the day’s memorable events.

Filmmaking is an inherently collaborative art form, requiring trust and intuitive coordination between the creative forces behind and in front of the camera. And True/False itself is nothing more than a harmony emerging from the coordinated actions of hundreds upon hundreds of volunteers, staffers, guests, artists, sponsors and more. So it was fitting that Jarred Alterman’s second Magic/Realism segment takes up the subject of collaboration, introducing the nuances of Aaro and Sophie Froese’s magical teamwork.

Friday began with the first ever T.G.I.T/F, a free event for all Missouri high school and college students. At the Missouri Theatre a raucous and impromptu welcoming committee cheered the arrival of each additional group of students. In the lobby, artist Taylor Ross and members of Chimney Choir performed in coordination with Jupiter and Fyn, Ross’s incredible musical fox.

taylorrossjuniperandfynn

photo by Derek Jenkins

Everyone then took their seats for the screening of Particle Fever, a fascinating look at the most intricate science experiment in human history. Before the film, director director Mark Levinson gave a few opening comments explaining that the assembled group of students was truly his target audience. Afterwards, particle physicist David Kaplan joined Levinson on stage for the Q and A. “Science is not linear,” he explained “It’s not ‘This discovery is made, and then this one and this one, and there’s a set of instructions. It’s totally… you can run into dead ends. 6 months, or 6 years, or a whole generation until you actually figure out what the hell is going on. The purpose of the film was to experience the uncertainty that most of doing research is, and then the overwhelming joy when you understand something.”

After the film, T.G.I.T/F migrated to Orr Street Studios, where students created artistic pieces for the March March parade later that afternoon. Several games of hacky sack were accompanied by music from Les Trois Coups, Chimney Choir, Choff, and Paul Rucker.

Over at the The Picturehouse, our cinema inside the United Methodist Church, True/False began with Miraculous Tales, director Daniel Vernon’s film examining both an Irish miracle worker and an evangelical preacher. After the film Vernon expressed gratitude for the opportunity to screen this work in the church, because he sees it as grappling with questions of faith and doubt.

miraculoustalespicturehousesarahhoffman

photo by Sarah Hoffman

Early in the afternoon at the Missouri Theatre, a packed house was on hand for Rich Hill, which introduces us to three young teenage boys from a small Missouri community located 70 miles south of Kansas City. Afterwards, filmmaking cousins Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo (a former Columbia resident and a good friend of True/False) took the stage for a Q and A. MUTV captured the short clip below, where they explained how they went about building a relationship with their subjects.

At the Oddfellows Lodge, the “Lies My Subject Told Me” panel hosted by Hot Docs director Charlotte Cook brought together filmmakers Robert Greene (Actress), Maxim Pozdorovkin (The Notorious Mr. Bout) and Jesse Moss (The Overnighters). Below you can see a small taste of the panel, where Robert Greene explains his take on the idea of True/False.

At 3 pm at The Globe, our 2012 True Vision Award honoree Victor Kossakovsky returned to T/F with Demonstration, a film he created with 32 students from a Master of Creative Documentary course at the Pompeu Fabra University. He decided on a whim to send his students into the streets to film the massive protests in Spain. One of those students, Ainara Vera Esparza, was also present. In the Q and A Kossakovsky talked about viewing the protests as an elaborate dance, which led to the film’s incredible sound design. He argued that by replacing much of the real sound with a ballet, it forces the audience to see what is really happening.

Meanwhile, over on 9th Street, La Operacion Jarocha from Veracruz, Mexico performed the passionate music. Combining indigenous, Spanish and African influences, they see their music as an accompaniment for all of life’s occurences, both tragic and triumphant.

photo by Derek Jenkins

photo by Derek Jenkins

Then it was time for one of our signature events, the March March parade, a spirited, outward display of the inner psyche of festival goers. Two larger than life busts of T/F co-founders Paul and David advanced near the front, while Teletubbies brought up the rear with the percussion section. In-between, students who participated in T.G.I.T/F adorned masks and head gear they crafted just a few hours before.

photo by Quint Smith

photo by Quint Smith

photo by Quint Smith

photo by Quint Smith

photos by Roxana Pop

photos by Roxana Pop

At 7, The Great Wall came to life on the massive wall of the Picturehouse. Across the street at Shakespeare’s, Jim Bogan led a toast for his recently deceased friend Les Blank, who’s films are appearing on the Wall this year.

photo by Sarah Hoffman

photo by Sarah Hoffman

Meanwhile, the first film played at our largest venue, Jesse Auditorium. Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart a look back at the early 90s sensationalized trial of a New Hampshire woman convicted of being an accomplice to her husband’s murder. During the Q and A director Jeremiah Zagar explained the trial’s significance in light of today’s media saturated criminal justice system. “This is a precedent. And nobody knew it was a precedent when it was happening.”

captivatedquintsmith

photo by Quint Smith

At True/Folk Showcase at the Blue Fugue, Rae Fitzgerald, Dubb Nubb and Syna So Pro (seen below) filled the room with enchanting harmonies.

photo by Derek Jenkins

photo by Derek Jenkins

While over at Cafe Berlin, the second Toast/False showcase included a fiery performance from Yva Las Vegass. Our friends at the music blog Folk to Folk captured a song from her set.

Back at Odd Fellows Lodge, comedian Dave Hill hosted Campfire Stories, our intimate gathering where filmmakers share stories about the scenes that got away. In the clip below from our friends at Columbia Access Television, Miraculous Tales director Daniel Vernon tells a story about a crazy night in the arctic.

The night came to a close it with dancing and revelry our the @CTION Party! at Tonic nightclub. MNDR & DJ Gold E Mouf provided the music.

photo by Roxana Pop

photo by Roxana Pop

photo by Roxana Pop

photo by Roxana Pop

For one more look back at a celebratory T/F Friday, check out this short video from the team at Tiny Attic Productions. You’ll get to see more of the March March and @CTION!, scored with music from Jerusalem and the Starbaskets.

Onward to Saturday!

Posted

True/False 2014 Fest Digest: Day One

There’s nothing quite like the beginning of new True/False. Even for those of us who spend a large part of the year directing efforts towards these four days, opening night still feels like a revelation. The sense of collective curiosity around the streets of Columbia is truly singular, and even the strongest memory pales alongside the present. In this digest we’ll highlight just a fraction of the events that made opening night magical.

Each day at T/F you’ll be getting a different take on our 2014 theme, Magic/Realism. Director Jarred Alterman’s micro-films each introduce an important idea from the world of stage magic. In the first, Gary Oxenhandler explains the mechanics of misdirection, a tactic critical to magicians and filmmakers alike.

With the opening of this year’s Fest, our smallest (and by some accounts best) venue, the little theater at Ragtag Cinema, has been renamed the Willy Wilson Theater. This is in honor of a recently departed friend, whose years of support made both Ragtag and True/False possible. Artist Jesse Starbuck recently painted the cinder block wall with one of Willy’s favorite quotes, “Nothing is impossible. Impossible just takes a wee bit longer.”

At 5 pm, the first film played in the Willy Wilson Theater. This was Approaching the Elephant, a stunning black and white observation of an anarchist “free school” for young children, where all classes are voluntary and students and teachers have equal authority.

photo by Derek Jenkins

photo by Derek Jenkins

The film inspired a spirited Q and A, led by T/F programmer Chris Boeckmann and featuring director Amanda Rose Wilder and subject Alex Khost. The conversation ran for a solid half an hour, and could have easily kept right on going. Amanda expressed gratitude that she got to see a narrative unfold right before her eyes, while noting that children are both “complex” and “scary”.  Of the kids in the film, Alex remarked “Each day every one of these children has to go to school and say ‘What am I going to do today?’  Most of us that doesn’t happen until we’re 18, 21 years old.”

approaching2

photo by Derek Jenkins

Meanwhile, in the august setting of the historic Missouri Theatre, True/False began in style with our opening night Jubilee, a celebratory masquerade. Weaving your way through the crowd, buskers and bartenders seemed to be lurking around every corner. Joyous music rang out over the hum of excited conversation.

jubilee

photo by Catherine Meagher

The Jubilee led into an appropriately jubilant film. Jodorowsky’s Dune tells the story of how cult film director Alejandro Jodorowsky assembled a dream team of “spiritual warriors”, dedicated to carrying out his radical adaptation of the classic science-fiction novel Dune. As T/F co-director Paul Sturtz noted in his pre-film introduction, this film is particularly resonant for True/False, which also involves a remarkable group of people coming together to attempt to a seemingly impossible task.

After the film director Frank Pavish and editor Alex Ricciardi discussed the process of working with Jodorowsky, who they found both charismatic and terrifying. They also recalled how Jodorowsky was moved to tears when he saw Jodorowsky’s Dune for the first time at Cannes.

jodorowsky

photo by Derek Jenkins

Back over at Ragtag, the big theater hosted the first screening of Robert Greene’s  new film Actress. A unique collaboration, this film follows The Wire actress Brandy Burre’s return to acting after getting out of the profession to start a family. In a post-screening Q and A, Greene and Burre talked about the film’s use of music to create an impression of “theatricality”.

robert

photo by Quint Smith

Out in the lobby and over at the T/F box office, the gorgeous new poster for Actress went on display. It was designed by T/F graphic artist Theresa Berens and painted by artist Laura Baran.

actress poster

At Cafe Berlin, the first of our “Toast/False” showcases featured intricate soundscapes from Eric Rich, Ruth Acuff, Nevada Greene and the amazing Paul Rucker, seen below in the video captured by our friends at Folk to Folk.

Later on at the Vimeo Theater at The Blue Note, it was time for a journey inside the psyche of singer-songwriter Nick Cave with the chimeric 20,000 Days on Earth. When the lights came up, directors Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard discussed how they utilized psychoanalytic sessions to find a new way of asking questions. They also recalled how they stole Cave’s song books and found inspiration in his unwritten lyrics.

20k

photo by Derek Jenkins

Finally, long after the sun went down, opening night ended at Mojo’s with garage rock, blues and everything in-between from Molly Gene One Whoaman Band, Coward, and Jerusalem and the Starbaskets.

jerusalem

photo by Catherine Meagher

For one more look back at the magical atmosphere of opening night, check out this video from Chelsea Myers and Paul Mossine of Tiny Attic Productions, featuring thoughts from filmmaker Joe Callander (Life After Death), music from Bruiser Queen and gravity-defying performances by Les Trois Coups.

So much True/False still lies ahead of us. See you at the movies!

Posted February 28, 2014

Juniper and Fyn Interactive Sculpture Performance with Chimney Choir is Coming Friday at 10 AM

Artist Taylor Ross has constructed Juniper and Fyn, an interactive mechanical sculpture of a larger-than-life fox, complete with a music box mechanism built from recycled piano parts and wooden gears. This creation resides in the lobby of the historic Missouri Theatre.

unnamed (1)

unnamed

On Friday at 10 am, the Missouri Theatre’s lobby will host a one-time-only thirty minute musical performance, featuring the members of Chimney Choir. This piece was written especially to accompany the creatures Juniper and Flynn. Don’t miss it!

Afterwards, high school and college students can stick around for the free 11 am T.G.I.T/F screening of Particle Fever.

Posted February 27, 2014

True/False 2014 Fest Digest: Day Zero

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.

T/F 2014, Box Office, Pass Opening,

photo by Derek Jenkins

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.

forrest

photo by Quint Smith

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.

IMG_4829

photo by Derek Jenkins

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.

T/F 2014, Big Ragtag, Neither/Nor, AMPAS

photo by Derek Jenkins

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.

T/F 2014, Eastside, New Tongues

photo by Derek Jenkins

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!

Posted

True/False 2014 Apps

Taking your smartphone or tablet to the Fest? We’ve got a few apps that you’ll definitely want to check out. Our Android and iPhone apps, now revamped for 2014, offer newsfeed updates, film descriptions, the schedule and an interactive map. And new this year, our “don’t Fest alone” group scheduling app lets you coordinate your Fest with multiple other pass holders. We’ve worked out the bugs, so come check them out!

Posted February 26, 2014

‘Close-Up’, the First of Four Iranian Films in Our Neither/Nor Series, Plays for Free Tonight at 6:30 at Ragtag Cinema

Nonfiction cinema directors draw their inspiration from the real world and, in the process, cede some control to fate. Fiction filmmakers, meanwhile, exert complete control over their work. This simplistic dichotomy drives the film world’s taxonomists — be they film festival programmers or video store employees — to slot movies into “Narrative” and “Documentary” categories. In this process, we marginalize vital, innovative cinema that locates a healthy tension between these two authorial desires.

Now entering its second year, Neither/Nor is the True/False Film Fest’s annual inquiry into the history of “chimeric” cinema, i.e. films that contain elements of both fiction and nonfiction.

In our inaugural year, film writer Eric Hynes focused on chimeric cinema made in New York City during the late 1960s, in the immediate aftermath of Direct Cinema. This year, we decided to look outside of our own country and focus on Iran, a country that turned heads throughout the 1990s with its many inventive, self-reflexive films.

This year’s Neither/Nor guide is the estimable Godfrey Cheshire, who, since writing the 1993 Film Comment piece “Where Iranian Cinema Is,” has emerged as one of the world’s leading authorities on Iranian cinema. Godfrey has spent much time in Iran and has interviewed many of its most famous directors — including Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf — on numerous occasions.

In his invaluable essay, available at Ragtag in a free limited edition monograph, Godfrey traces the story of Iranian chimeric cinema, starting with its earliest films and leading all the way up to its 1990s blossoming. It’s an engrossing narrative revolving around mentorship and rivalry, ingenuity and tradition.

We’re incredibly grateful to Godfrey for sharing his immense insights into these films, and we look forward to continuing to explore more chimeric traditions next year.

Neither/Nor is presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. All screenings in the Neither/Nor series are free and will take place in Ragtag Cinema’s big theater. Tickets to tonight’s screening of Close-up are available at the Ragtag Box Office. Screenings during the Fest will be accessible via the Q.

Here’s a short introduction to each of this year’s selections.

Close-Up (dir. Abbas Kiarostami, 1990, 98 min.) In this 1990 landmark, director Abbas Kiarostami takes a bizarre case of identity theft and convinces its real-life subjects to participate in a creative reenactment. Hossain Sabzian is a young, underemployed lover of cinema. One day while riding a bus, he meets a woman and convinces her that he is film director Mohsen Makhmalbaf. When she is confused why such a famous man would be riding public transit, Sabzian explains that it’s important to draw inspiration from the real world. Under this pretense, he worms his way into her family’s home and bank account. When the family starts to become suspicious, they invite an ambitious journalist to come investigate. Plays tonight at 6:30 pm and Saturday at 8:30 pm

close-up

 

A Moment of Innocence (dir. Mohsen Makhmalbaf, 1996, 78 min.) In 1974, when Iranian director Mohsen Makhmalbaf was a 17-year-old anti-Shah militant, he stabbed a policeman at a rally. Makhmalbaf found himself in prison for six years, while the police officer suffered serious injuries. Many years later, after Makhmalbaf had found fame as a director, he ran into the same police officer during a film shoot, and they agreed to collaborate on a film. In the brilliantly structured A Moment of Innocence, we witness the two men as they work together to recreate this incident. As they go about this process, we discover that the men have very different memories of what transpired on that pivotal day. Plays Thursday at 5:30

momentofinnocence

 

The Mirror (dir. Jafar Panahi, 1997, 93 min.) In the center of Tehran, as the day comes to a close, a young first-grader named Mina (played by Mina Mohammad-Khani) walks out of her school and discovers that her mother is nowhere to be found. Impatient, and with one arm in a sling, she decides to find her own way home. Mina boards a bus and listens in on the various conversations unfolding around her. That bus, it turns out, is heading the wrong direction. Eventually, all of a sudden, a frustrated Mina does something surprising. Jafar Panahi, then a protégé of Close-Up director Abbas Kiarostami, directed this playfully reflexive 1997 film. Plays Friday at 12:30 pm

themirror

 

The Apple (dir. Samira Makhmalbaf, 1999, 86 min.) Directed by a then 17-year-old Samira Makhmalbaf (daughter of Mohsen Makhmalbaf, who co-wrote the screenplay), this 1998 film recreates a scandalous news story using the real life participants. In an Iranian neighborhood, a strict, unemployed father and his blind wife keep their 11-year-old twin daughters, Massoumeh and Zahra, locked in their house. After neighbors complain to the welfare ministry, a social worker comes to release them. Makhmalbaf’s quasi-documentary follows Massoumeh and Zahra as they receive their first taste of freedom and observes their father as he sits behind bars, reflecting on his actions. Makhmalbaf’s auspicious debut is a profoundly unsettling exploration of patriarchy. Screens with “The House Is Black” (Forough Farrokhzad, 1963, 22 min.). Plays Saturday at 10:30 am

theapple

- Chris Boeckmann

630

Posted

A Conversation with Filmmaker Robert Greene About ‘Actress’ and ‘Approaching the Elephant’

Robert Greene’s films have played at two previous editions of True/False. In 2010 he presented Kati With an I, an intimate look at the final days of an Alabama teenager’s childhood. In 2011 he returned with Fake It So Real, which follows a ragtag group of wrestlers pursuing their dreams in working-class North Carolina.

I recently got the chance to speak with Robert about two new films which will be unveiling at True/False 2014. His new film Actress is a unique collaboration with Brandy Burre, who played political operative Theresa D’Agostino on the unbelievably great television series The Wire. The film follows Brandy’s attempt to reenter the world of acting after starting a family in Beacon, New York. We also spoke about Approaching the Elephant, which Greene edited in collaboration with director Amanda Rose Wilder. This observational film follows two children and their school director during the first year of an anarchist “free school” where all classes are voluntary, and children and teachers have equal say.

-Dan Steffen

T/F: Could you start with how you decided to make a film about Brandy?

RG: I know Brandy really well. She’s my next door neighbor; we take care of each other’s children. She’s also one of the most theatrical people I’ve ever met in my life. She’s a really flamboyant personality, with a deep, gritty sense of self as well.

I’ve been writing and thinking about the idea of performance in documentary for awhile. It’s there in Kati With an I and especially Fake It So Real, where the wrestlers are performers and you’re seeing them perform themselves. So I had this idea of filming a direct cinema portrait of an actress living her life, being a mother. What effects would that have for the camera?

I like to get involved when I can see a narrative forming, which in this case was Brandy trying to get back into acting. In the movie she tells the story about how she got out of acting, about being a woman in her late thirties who couldn’t get a part for her age. That was a really clear starting point; I don’t think I’d ever heard that story before.

So I knew we had a beginning and this formal idea about watching a performance in a documentary. We started filming, and nothing much was happening at first. Then she went through something, a transformation, that I don’t want to spoil. It became the real narrative of the movie. The filming suddenly jived with what was going on in her life outside of the filming, and they became one thing. It was uncomfortable and scary and not something that we ever expected. But we latched on to it and took it where it needed to go. There were weird twists and turns, and things I couldn’t have imagined being present for.

It’s a little bit of a cliche to say that I consider her more of a collaborator than a subject, but it’s really true. What we were giving each other was really direct and interesting. And because we were so close already, it became really intense.

IN MIRROR W CURLERS

T/F: The film raises the question of the performed vs. the actual. Could you explain how that tension played out through the process of making Actress?

RG: What Brandy says is she’s not acting like an actor, she is an actor. When you turn a camera on her, she’s been trained to be an actor. She just is a theatrical person, who naturally wants to express herself through her language and her body. So it’s not like she’s turning it on and turning it off. There are degrees of who she’s being.

We did everything that most documentaries do. I would ask her to say things again. I would say, “give me a second while I get into position”. Or I would say, “hey, when are these things happening? Let’s get together and film.” That’s very much what every other documentary does, but generally they try to hide those things and give the impression that cameras are going 24/7 and they just happen to be capturing magic. Part of the formal idea is to say, hey, all documentaries are movies.

This is a very narrow version of the truth in many ways, but it is the truth. There were things that I wasn’t there for. There were things that I would never have recorded even if I was there. There are things that I know about that I would never put in the movie. So this is the very specific story that I wanted to tell, and she was willing to go along with me. But in terms of what’s 100% real and what’s not, it’s all an expression of reality. I want the audience to see these layers of reality as their watching, and to be questioning the film as well, to think about what documentaries really are doing and how they are constructed.

I also think that it says something about being a mother, being a wife, being a lover, being a passionate person. These are all social performances. We play these roles in society because it’s how we get by. Ironically, when Brandy tries to break through that, you see her performing herself. To me this says a lot about what we are. I don’t really know how to unpack it all completely, but I think it’s there for viewers to sort through.

T/F: One fascinating thing about how Actress is structured the film is how it changes, how it begins as direct cinema but mixes in these conspicuously composed shots and sequences.

RG: Yeah, one thing I was interested in doing is exploring the relationship between direct cinema and melodrama. Melodrama is this over-the-top expression of an idea. It’s inherently ironic. If you see the great Douglas Sirk films, there’s an ironic element to the drama and a distancing effect that actually elevates the emotion. You’re sort of pushed past the direct emotion and you get to this other formal level of over-the-top-ness. That was the idea, to get at the theatricality of performing yourself, the theatricality of everyday life and how we can make melodramas in our heads.

RED DRESS CLOSE

T/F: Let me ask you about Approaching the Elephant. How did you get involved in this project?

RG: Amanda has been making the film for a really long time. She’s a great filmmaker, she has a great eye for what she wants to capture. She spent a year in the life of this free school, and really captured the story through gestures and bodies and faces, the building blocks of cinema. But she got to a place where she wasn’t quite sure where to go next. The movie got into IFP labs twice over the years that she worked on it, which is a testament as to how good the material is. She just needed some help getting over the hump. I came on and I think was able to focus the film.

T/F: So how much material were you working with to cut down into the film as it exists now?

RG: She’s the only person who could know all of her footage, it would have taken me six months to really learn it all. She had a two and half hour cut before I came on. So we started by cutting it down from that. As we were shaping the film, she’d mention other cut scenes she’d like to get in there, material I didn’t even know about. She’d rely on me to figure out how to get these other scenes in. We would put them in, then take them back out. It was a lot moving pieces to get them in place.

T/F: Is it an intuitive process cutting a film down, or do you have clear ideas of themes you want to pick out?

RG: You need a director who you trust and who trusts you, that’s one thing. I think for me too, I’ve just done it so much, I’ve edited like 14 features. So, I think it just comes from sitting in dark rooms too much and watching too many films, you know rhythmically what it takes to tell a story. And I have a fondness for stories that develop organically. Instead of “we have to get this moment, and then now this other thing”, I just trust my instincts, and it becomes, “we need this feeling here” and “it’s great that that happens but it needs to feel differently”.

ATE-LUCY

T/F: What went into the decision to make the film black and white?

RG: We decided on black and white because we loved how “out of time” it made the film feel. It really is that simple. I feel like it elevates the story and makes everything cohere in a really nice, timeless way. As Amanda said, it’s easier to cut together when it’s black and white, because everything just makes more sense. It was a very intuitive decision. I believe we will have a color version as well at some point.

T/F: Could you introduce how you see the narrative elements in Approaching the Elephant a little?

RG: I think you spend the beginning of the film learning the rules of the place, which is cool, because the kids are learning the rules too. One of my favorite ways of narrative unfolding in a documentary is when you as a viewer feel like you’re on the same journey as the filmmaker. That’s how I hope Actress feels too. So, you’re thrown in the chaos and the mix, starting to pick up faces and meeting people. Then, suddenly, this narrative of the three main characters really grabs hold. It has one of the most dramatic last acts I can remember in a documentary, where on a totally small level you see these character’s faces and this story unfolding.

For me Approaching the Elephant is a movie about idealism meeting reality head on. That clash unfolds slowly at first. I think it’s the kind of movie that picks up momentum as you watch and gets you to a place you really didn’t expect to go.

ATE-JIO

Posted February 25, 2014

The Story Store is Coming to the T/F Box Office

Announcing The Story Store, a pop-up trading post that will take place during True/False 2014 at our box office, located at the corner of Hitt and Broadway. The store re-imagines the purchasing processes involved in our everyday experiences.

Here’s how it works. Participants contribute a small, meaningful object to The Story Store. Rather than selling it, they tell the story behind the object. They then have the chance to choose a story and object that resonates with them in exchange.

Take a story. Leave a story.

Emma Dessau and Andrew McFarland came up with the idea for The Story Store when they originally traveled cross-country producing Folk to Folk, a documentary project highlighting new and emerging traditions of folk music throughout the United States today. Folk to Folk created some amazing videos at T/F last year, and will be documenting the music of True/False again this year.

To get a better feel for The Story Store, visit the website to see objects and listen to stories already collected. For example, Nina from Brooklyn explains how she created a DIY deck of playing cards out of a used Metro Cards.

metro card

The Store will be open from 4 to 9 pm on Wednesday and from 11 am to 4 pm Thursday through Sunday. Be sure to check it out. And remember to bring a story to trade!

Posted February 24, 2014
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