Rogue Element, Mid-Missouri Carnivale


Illustration by Jacky Adelstein

The Mid-Missouri Carnivale
Jonathan Casey

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.

Posted February 24, 2017

Jonathan Casey, Rogue Element



Illustration by Jacky Adelstein


An Introduction
Jonathan Casey

I’ve stayed pretty well connected with Columbia since leaving years ago, and I always enjoy coming home. I’m close enough that I don’t feel like a complete stranger and far enough removed that I’m still jolted by how much and how little changes. New faces mingle with the old; entire blocks are so different that I’m momentarily disoriented, then I’m waving at the lady who’s still smoking a pipe on the same old porch all these years later. The building around him may be brand new, but that guy at Shakespeare’s is in the same barstool he’s occupied since I graduated from high school.

I think I was reading the Tribune’s reliably fascinating “Trib Talk” one day after Christmas when I decided to maybe stick around for awhile, to not just go straight back to Minneapolis. Trib Talk has a certain power over me; it’s everything I love about Columbia. In fact, replace a few key words in the following actual Trib Talk quote, and you’ll have an idea of how I feel: “I read my comics faithfully everyday, and no one approaches ‘the Lockhorns’ for real humor and originality. It’s the best thing on the comics page, and if you’re not reading it, you’re missing out.” Someone took the time to call Jim Robertson at the Tribune office to share this. There’s really nothing quite like this quaint, analog message board where perfect strangers anonymously call each other “dummy” and complain about their neighbor’s dog, and it makes me proud to be a Columbian.

As my Columbia visit stretched into weeks, something dawned on me: I’ve never been to the True/False Film Fest. I’m not sure how I managed this for so long. I’ve known about it for years, of course, and have always had a hard time reconciling the size and scope of the event I was hearing about with the town I grew up in. How could a world-class film festival and Trib Talk co-exist?


Well, apparently they do. And this year I’m here, I’m curious, and I aim to do a little behind-the- scenes digging for my edification and yours. I’ve chatted up the right people, infiltrated certain work spaces and requested interviews. Maybe no one’s responded to my interview requests, sure, but I have a feeling they’ll come around—so, then, won’t you join me, an outside-inner, an inside-outer, a hometown stranger, as I see just what this whole True/False business is all about?

The festival’s theme, “Out of the Ether,” was touched on at Tuesday’s volunteer orientation in Jesse Hall, and what a pleasure to see David Wilson and Paul Sturtz banter about the Periodic Table of the Elements to an auditorium of slightly bewildered volunteers! The staff of True/False, it was noted, is comprised of 95% volunteer labor, and the festival’s smooth operation and Midwestern kindness are the envy of film societies the world over. It was also noted that Xenon lamps would light every projector in True/False and that a couple of Scottish chemists were able to isolate the Noble Gases in 1894. A year-long discussion of the metaphorical and literal importance of understanding the elements led to this year’s theme, and I would certainly agree that anything from making a film to getting a thousand people together to make sure that film is seen involves some sort of alchemy. “We went deep on these elements,” said David. “The metaphor we got into was how documentary filmmakers are the people we look to, perhaps now more than ever, to look at the world, the same world we’re all looking at, and see the things we don’t see, and translate it—make it into a film, make into a piece of art.” Small bumper films before the features will touch on the theme throughout the festival.


Or so says Paul. I was off to Breakout CoMo on N. 8th to help out with and attempt to fathom this year’s very exciting, very special event, “Elemental: the Building Blocks of Matter”I should probably admit before going any further that until last week I had never heard of an “escape room,” but that’s what they do at Breakout CoMo. T/F’s last foray into this world, “Lost Letters” has been described to me as an intensely narrative, immersive experience. “Elemental” moves away from narrative toward a more game-based model, focusing on the thematics and texture of the elements as you work through a series of puzzles in a room that is “spare, wide open, but full of hidden wonder.” “Lost Letters”was a bit theatrical, “Elemental” is closer to an art installation; in all of these rooms, you have to complete the puzzles to gain your freedom.

Ben Harris is the charming Australian in charge of electronics and 3D fabrication for “Elemental,” and he seems to be doing a lot of work.  I recently spent an afternoon stripping and soldering wires with him, occasionally burning myself. I asked him if people ever got frightened being locked in one of these puzzle rooms. Whatever he said sounded reassuring, but I can’t be sure. I can envision an “escape room” where your team can only escape by deciphering 100% of what  Ben’s saying, Australian slang included.

The irrepressible Jon Westhoff, co-owner of Breakout CoMo and co-designer of “Elemental” can be found flitting around the place, making things happen. He’s excited about the possibilities inherent in projects like “Elemental” and “Lost Letters”, escape rooms that don’t rely on jailbreak tropes, that instead challenge traditional structures and expand what the experience can be. I think that’s what he’s excited about. I think he’s fine with the jailbreak ones, too. I find that exciting too, but what do I know? I’ve only burned my fingers in an under-construction puzzle room attempting to understand an Australian, but I can already feel the magical elements at work.


Jonathan Casey is our outside-insider, inside-outsider reporting on different elements of True/False 2017 on a bi-weekly (maybe more, who knows, he’s rogue) basis. Look for his column here, and on our various, far-reaching social media platforms. 

Posted February 20, 2017


Grabbing a Gateway Packet and want to do some planning? Here are the films that will be available to Gateway Packet purchasers, in handy grid format and a list of film descriptions.*

Just a reminder, the Gateway Packet gives you the unique ability to reserve any combination of three tickets (multiple tickets for one film, or single tickets for different films) online before the festival begins. Gateway sales will begin at 10am on February 21 and end at 6pm on February 24. Just a reminder that you select your films at the time of purchase, so have those wish lists ready!

*Note, these are the films that are available at the beginning of Gateway reservations! Some films may go NRT as reservations continue.

Secret Screening Krypton Mar 2, 2017 7:00 PM The Picturehouse
Communion Mar 2, 2017 7:00 PM Rhynsburger Theatre
Long Strange Trip Mar 2, 2017 7:15 PM Showtime Theater at The Blue Note
Rat Film Mar 2, 2017 9:45 PM Missouri Theatre
Dina Mar 3, 2017 7:00 PM Jesse Auditorium
Casting JonBenet Mar 3, 2017 9:45 PM Jesse Auditorium
Dina Mar 4, 2017 9:30 AM Jesse Auditorium
Secret Screening Krypton Mar 4, 2017 3:45 PM Jesse Auditorium
Casting JonBenet Mar 4, 2017 6:30 PM Missouri Theatre
Still Tomorrow Mar 5, 2017 9:30 AM Missouri Theatre
The Force Mar 5, 2017 12:30 PM Jesse Auditorium
Shorts: Young Money Mar 5, 2017 1:30 PM The Globe
Quest Mar 5, 2017 3:30 PM Jesse Auditorium
Dina Mar 5, 2017 6:00 PM Showtime Theater at The Blue Note
Step Mar 5, 2017 7:00 PM Jesse Auditorium
Brimstone & Glory Mar 5, 2017 8:30 PM The Picturehouse
The Road Movie Mar 5, 2017 8:45 PM Showtime Theater at The Blue Note




Brimstone & Glory
Dir. Viktor Jakovleski; 2017; 64 min.
Saturday, Mar 4 / 9:30AM / Showtime Theater at The Blue Note

Tultepec, Mexico is known for just one thing: fireworks. The city manufactures more than half of all fireworks made in Mexico, a good percentage of which will be set off at the small town’s annual festival for San Juan de Dios. With that background, you can let statistics fall by the wayside and fully immerse yourself in this spectacular, thunderous film, a true marvel of nonfiction filmmaking. Employing every trick in the cinematographer’s handbook (and making up a few new ones), Jakovleski keeps his camera in the midst of the action, as explosions flower around him and smoke fills the scene. Paired with a symphonic score by Dan Romer & Benh Zeitlin (Beasts of the Southern Wild), Brimstone & Glory is an adrenaline-fueled kaleidoscopic thrill ride for the ages. (DW) Presented by Spirit of ’76 Fireworks


Danika Toolson, Emma Winslow, Elle Walker, Aeona Cruz, Hannah Cagwin, Liv Bagley, Shylee Sagle and Nicole Hamilton appear in Casting JonBenét by Kitty Green, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Michael Latham.

Casting JonBenet
Dir. Kitty Green; 2017; 80 min.
Friday, Mar 3 / 9:45PM / Jesse Auditorium


The story of this beauty pageant princess’ murder holds a lurid place in American popular culture – a recurring standby at the supermarket checkout lane. But unlike those who’ve come before her, smelling dollars in the exploitation of true crime and family loss, Kitty Green is up to something grander. Casting JonBenet may share a starting point with those other tawdry tales, but its technicolor journey is far more ambitious – an effort to engage with the very fabric of American culture. And like a series of Russian nesting dolls, Green’s story unfolds on and off the set of a fictional feature film (or maybe it’s a fictional fictional feature film?) The end product, as sumptuous as anything by David Fincher, is also as emotionally and intellectually satisfying as any film in recent memory. (DW)



Dir. Anna Zamecka; 2016; 77 min.
Thursday, Mar 2 / 7:00PM / Rhynsburger Theatre

This exquisite work of deep-focus nonfiction cinema testifies that observational work is alive and well. Our hero, the 14-year-old girl Ola, is tasked with looking after her brother Nikodem as he prepares for his communion. Nikodem’s autistic tics soon become just a small part of a memorable character who’s both mischievous and irreverent. First-time director Anna Zamecka demonstrates her knack for capturing subtle gestures: Ola jostling her brother as he sits uncomfortably in a pew, their mom assembling a crib in an agitated state—and the siblings are seriously good at playing themselves. A capricious, Lonergan-esque tragicomedy, Communion delivers on a great Polish tradition of character-based documentaries. It also reminds us that most teenagers are ready for any challenge. (PS) Preceded by a provocation from Destiny Watford


Dina Buno and Scott Levin appear in Dina by Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Dir. Dan Sickles & Antonio Santini; 2017; 102 min.
Friday, Mar 3 / 7:00PM / Jesse Auditorium
Saturday, Mar 4 / 9:30AM / Jesse Auditorium
Sunday, Mar 5 / 6:00PM / Showtime Theater at The Blue Note

Meet Dina. She gets her nails done, she rides the bus, and, once again, she has fallen in love. Despite a “smorgasbord of issues” (her mom’s words), Dina shines, engaged with both the world and her soon-to-be second husband, Scott. The couple’s idiosyncrasies are captured by an empathetic camera as she prepares for her wedding. Yet something lurks in Dina’s heart: a frightening past that she can’t shake. The carefully quirky visuals of an indie rom-com pair with Michael Cera’s bubbly pop-tastic soundtrack to capture the plastic surfaces of a distinctly American landscape. But the heart of the film is a truly unique love story, and Dina herself is a contagious smile, warming her TV-lit bedroom. (DK)


Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Bill Kreutzmann and Phil Lesh appear in Long Strange Trip by Amir Bar-Lev, an official selection of the Documentary Premieres program at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Andrew Kent.

Long Strange Trip
Dir. Amir Bar-Lev; 2017; 259 min.
Thursday, Mar 2 / 7:15PM / Showtime Theater at The Blue Note

2014 True Vision recipient Amir Bar-Lev spent 15 years chasing down his bucket list project: an era-spanning portrait of the iconic counterculture band The Grateful Dead. Unearthing rare film footage, audio recordings, photos and live tracks, Long Strange Trip makes a mind-expanding case for the band as a utopian, cosmic phenomenon. We are plunged deep into the band’s acid-test experiments as leader Jerry Garcia emerges as a humble but driven shaman raised on Beat poetry and Frankenstein movies and transformed by psychedelics. The band’s ambitions are visually expressed in the outlandish Wall of Sound, a concert rig that took nearly all day for their rogue pirate crew to assemble. Over the course of 240 glorious minutes, plus a short intermission, Bar-Lev delivers a miracle to make even non-believers grateful. (PS) The runtime includes a 20-minute intermission.



Dir. Jonathan Olshefski; 2017; 105 min.
Sunday, Mar 5 / 3:30PM / Jesse Auditorium

Epic in scope but finely etched in its details, Quest introduces an American family unique in cinema history. First-time director Jonathan Olshefski spent a decade following Christopher “Quest” Rainey and Christine’a, aka “Ma Quest,” who run a basement recording studio in their tight-knit North Philadelphia neighborhood. Olshefski originally set out to capture this unusual community project, but was present as the Raineys’ endearing daughter PJ gradually came of age. Breathtakingly intimate, tenderly assembled, and rich with the drama of life, Quest sets a new bar for the labor-of-love film. Framed by presidential elections, it also serves as a bittersweet elegy for the Obama era in all its frustrated promise. (PS) Presented by The Crossing



Rat Film
Dir. Theo Anthony; 2016; 87 min.
Thursday, Mar 2 / 9:45PM / Missouri Theatre

Rats, the most under-loved rodents on the planet, live in the shadows, mostly confined to cages, sewers and trash cans. What does the ghettoization of rats tell us about our own species? In his feature film debut, director Theo Anthony creates a sweeping map of Baltimore through this denigrated animal. An eerie, futuristic narrator guides you on your journey through the streets of the city, stopping in an alley where rats are baited with peanut butter-wrapped lunch meat and inside a 3D simulation of the life of a caged pet. Each sharp, beautifully distinct scene coalesces into a precise and poetic portrait: a dystopian underworld of rats intersecting with a human environment determined to control these furry varmints, affecting every other living being within the city limits. (DK) Preceded by a provocation from Sarah Jeong.



The Road Movie
Dir. Dmitrii Kalashnikov; 2016; 72 min.
Sunday, Mar 5 / 8:45PM / Showtime Theater at The Blue Note

Russian drivers depend on dashboard cameras to provide video proof when filing insurance claims and police reports. Composed entirely of dash-cam videos pulled from YouTube, this road trip nightmare takes us on a raucous, expletive-laden and very occasionally hopeful tour of the Russian countryside. Out of this wreckage director Dmitrii Kalashnikov deftly crafts a nightmare of epic proportions, full of eye-popping sights and morbid beauty, such as an endless burning forest, a runaway wedding guest and countless rounds of car crashes. Masterful editing and a keen sense of poetic justice add up to a dire warning of the future. Just try not to laugh as we all go down in flames. (AS) Preceded by a provocation from Stacy Kranitz.



Secret Screening Krypton
2016; 84 min.
Thursday, Mar 2 / 7:00PM / The Picturehouse
Saturday, Mar 4 / 3:45PM / Jesse Auditorium

Shot over three years, this gritty drama opens like an age-old hero’s journey tale but then veers into something deeply contemporary: a look at the intersection of working-class desperation and determination. The director found a match for his own artistic struggle in his jumbo-sized counterpart: a gentle, wounded soul, in search of validation and meaning between dusk and dawn. (JS)


A film still from The Rabbit Hunt by Patrick Bresnan, an official selection of the Shorts Programs. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Patrick Bresnan.

A film still from The Rabbit Hunt by Patrick Bresnan.

Shorts: Young Money
68 min.
Sunday, Mar 5 / 1:30PM / The Globe

Youth is not wasted on the young in these four tactile portraits. A masterful, alluring work, “The Rabbit Hunt” (dir. Patrick Bresnan, 12 min.) takes us to a sugar farm in rural Florida, where a high school senior deploys his troops with tactical precision. Then we cross the Atlantic for “My Daughter Nora” (dir. Jasna Krajinovic, 16 min.), a riveting, close-up portrait of a brave mother in the aftermath of her daughter’s sudden decision to join the fight in Syria. We traverse the Mediterranean and land in Tunisia, where young boys breakdance, hop trains and contemplate escape in the slice-of-life “Fares” (dir. Thora Lorentzen, 21 min.). Finally, with “Koropa” (dir. Laura Henno, 19 min.), we land in the frighteningly dark Indian Ocean, where a young orphan is learning how to covertly pilot speedboats full of migrants.


A still from STEP by Amanda Lipitz, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Dir. Amanda Lipitz; 2017; 83 min.
Sunday, Mar 5 / 7:00PM / Jesse Auditorium

Blessin, Tayla, and Cori were only twelve when they first met, all newly enrolled at a Baltimore charter school. That first year, they formed a dance team, channeling their enthusiasm, frustrations, hopes and fears into the precise rhythmic dance form known as “step.” And that same year, Amanda Lipitz showed up with her camera, hoping to tell their stories. Six years later, they are seniors, each still working to attend college, but also wrestling with real life along the way. And, though their step team has matured into a powerhouse, they’ve still never won the prestigious Bowie State competition. Director Lipitz displays expert storytelling chops in her feature debut, delivering a deeply satisfying dance narrative while finding ways to surprise at every turn, especially as we meet each girl’s mother. Step is a joyous film, full of moments that will make you grin, make you cry and 100% make you want to dance. (DW) Presented by Veterans United Home Loans



Still Tomorrow
Dir. FAN Jian; 2016; 88 min.
Sunday, Mar 5 / 9:30AM / Missouri Theatre

Yu Xiuhua was raised to hope for little from her life in the rural Chinese province of Hubei. At 19, Xiuhua’s mother encouraged her to marry a man nearly twice her age, fearful no one else would accept a wife with Xiuhua’s condition––cerebral palsy. But as her 20th anniversary approaches, Xiuhua’s poetry goes viral, and she becomes the voice of a rising feminist movement throughout China. Director Fan Jian’s deeply affecting portrait traces an empowered woman coming to terms with the complications of finding her own identity in the midst of becoming a celebrity. As she balances those in her family, including her husband, who expected too little of her, with the pressures of newly found allies expecting too much, Xiuhua learns to define herself in her own words. (NB)




We’re proud to announce that Claire Simon will receive this year’s True Vision Award in honor of her achievement in and contribution to the field of nonfiction filmmaking.

True Vision is the only award given out at the fest. Simon is the 14th recipient of this honor. Last year, the award was given to Iranian director Mehrdad Oskouei. Other winners of the True Vision Award include Laura Poitras (2010), James Marsh (2011), and Adam Curtis (2015).



Photograph by Guérin Nicolas


Simon will be appearing at the fest with her newest film, The Graduation, as well as a selection of her previous work. The Graduation observes a team of judges interviewing prospective candidates to La Fémis, France’s most prestigious film school. A former instructor at the school, Simon gained unguarded access to heated behind-the-scenes debates, which she captures with characteristic grace and insight.

Of The Graduation, True/False senior programmer Chris Boeckmann says, “Claire tends to focus on small-scale stories, but they invariably resonate in grand ways. She is both attuned to the poetry of everyday gestures and the large societal forces that shape our behavior.”




Simon, a French director born in London who began as an editor, will be making her first appearance at True/False. She has made a dozen features in a 30-year career playing at the line between documentary and fiction.

In her startling 1992 breakthrough, Récréations (also featured at T/F), Simon embeds with a class of young children. Her camera studies their dynamics during recess, the only time of the day they exert autonomy. Simon finds genuine drama here plus some primal truths.

The idiosyncratic path Simon has followed since Récréations is full of unpredictable, exhilarating turns.

In Coûte que Coûte (1995), Simon rooted the cutthroat capitalist world in the struggle of a man trying to keep a catering business afloat. Simon has also mined her own life: her daughter’s love travails in 800 km de différence / Romance (2001) as well as a friend reflecting back on her life in the ambling masterpiece Mimi (2002), also playing at T/F. Constructed from seven years of real-life dialogue collected by Simon, God’s Offices (2008) features celebrated actors as family-planning counselors.


The award is given with support from Restoration Eyecare. The award is designed and cast in bronze by local Mid-Missouri artist Larry Young.


Posted February 17, 2017



In 2017, True/False Film Fest is partnering with Kickstarter to expand its staff childcare initiative to include visiting filmmakers, artists, and musicians. True/False will provide free, professional daycare during the four-day weekend of the Fest in order to make the festival more accessible to artists with young children.

Through this initiative, True/False & Kickstarter seek to support the real, current needs of all parents, especially low-income and single parents, as well as model possibilities for other festivals on how to be more feminist and equitable.


At the March March Parade during True/Fasle Film Fest 2015 (photograph by Jon Asher)

At the March March Parade during True/False Film Fest 2015 (photograph by Jon Asher)


“Festivals play a vital role as gathering places for the film world” says True/False Co-conspirator David Wilson. “If our guests can’t travel because of young children, they risk missing out on making connections that could lead to future projects.”


Family obligations, especially as they pertain to young children, impact more women than men. While these maternity issues ­mirror the problems affecting many women in male-dominated workplaces, they are heightened in the film industry: filmmaking demands long hours, erratic schedules, and extensive travel. These factors create obstacles that wedge women without a financial cushion out of the film industry.

With the support of Kickstarter, True/False hopes to offset the cost of expensive child care and help parents give birth to their films, build essential industry relationships and remember why documentary filmmaking is an urgent art.


“A lot of our attention and resources at Kickstarter are going towards contributing to sustainability within the documentary community,” says Liz Cook, Kickstarter’s Director of Documentary Film. “While we are thrilled this will be able to support both male and female directors, this collaboration really stemmed from a conversation with True/False about our internal initiatives centered around supporting female filmmakers. This is a totally new type of partnership for us at Kickstarter and we are incredibly excited to be collaborating with True/False to offer this important resource for creators with children.”


The Cradle, True/False’s new daycare will be held at the Picturehouse Theater (inside the United Methodist Church, located in the epicenter of the festival) and run by trained child care providers employed by the church. In collaboration with The Atelier, a Columbia-based children’s arts studio, there will also be creative educational programming for children old enough to participate. The activities are tied to the theme of the festival, “Out of the Ether,” in that they encourage discovery of ideas related to the elements, and how small elements can be built together to achieve something larger than the individuals themselves. Many of the activities also involve aspects of light, video, literacy, and free play.

Posted February 14, 2017


Introducing our latest endeavor in nonfiction storytelling: the True/False Podcast! Presented by KBIA, this podcast is where documentary lovers, watchers and creators come together. Each episode features a conversation between a noteworthy nonfiction filmmaker or film critic and a True/False curator.  Discussions are centered on a particular craft-of-storytelling theme (such as building character or creating an immersive experience) that True/False selects based on the strengths of the filmmaker interviewee.  The podcast offers insider insight into the challenges and joys of making today’s most cutting edge nonfiction films.  


A sample:

  • Craig Atkinson and Laura Hartrick, filmmakers of Do Not Resist, discuss how they won access to high-security locations.
  • Eric Hynes, film critic (Film Comment, The New York Times) and curator at Museum of the Moving Image, discusses the future of documentary cinema.
  • Bill and Turner Ross — the filmmakers of Contemporary Color, Western, and Tchoupitoulas — explore creating documentary as real-life experience.


At interludes during episodes, we will feature soundscapes of the Fest. In these brief pieces, the audience is placed amid festival experiences such as the infamous March March parade or an interactive art installation. Through interviews and sounds of True/False, each episode evokes a mini-Fest in which listeners can revel in the joy and thought-provoking nature of True/False’s four-day ephemera.


The first full-length episode is set to premiere Feb. 23 on iTunes, Stitcher, and wherever podcasts are available. The second episode will be released on the first day of True/False, March 2. The third episode will be available March 9. After that, episodes will be released every other Thursday. In addition to iTunes and Stitcher, listeners can find the show at and Production of the podcast pairs the expertise of journalists and audio professionals at KBIA as well as the students at the University of Missouri School of Journalism with True/False films and filmmakers.
A preview of the podcast is now available on KBIA’s website and on iTunes.



Posted February 11, 2017



With generous support from the Ford Foundation, True/False presents its second year of Provocations: a curated selection of incendiary thinkers.

These whip-smart presenters will appear before feature films, injecting a mini “ideas-fest” into True/False,  offering challenging ideas in five-minute blasts. These five individuals stand ready to rearrange worldviews with the power of their words:


Destiny Watford: Now a university student, this unstoppable force won last year’s 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize for leading the successful opposition to the nation’s largest trash-burning incinerator, proposed for her Baltimore neighborhood. Provocation before screenings of the feature Communion.


Linda Tirado: A self-described “completely average American,” Linda Tirado, author of Hand To Mouth: Living In Bootstrap America, writes about poverty, media and politics. She has reported on militant movements such as Ammon Bundy’s armed occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. Provocation before screenings of the feature The Challenge.


Sarah Jeong: Trained as an attorney, Sarah is a contributing editor at Vice Motherboard, where she writes about technology, policy, and law. Her book The Internet of Garbage considers online harassment. Provocation before screenings of the feature Rat Film.


Sarah Kendzior: This St. Louis-based journalist and Twitter legend covers politics, media and the economy. For the last decade, she has researched authoritarian states of the former Soviet Union, an increasingly relevant topic. Provocation before screenings of the feature Stranger in Paradise.


Stacy Kranitz: Born in Kentucky, Stacy’s photographs document those outside mainstream American culture. In her celebrated photographs of Appalachia, she is demystifying some well-entrenched stereotypes. Provocation before screenings of the feature The Road Movie.


On the Sunday morning of the Fest, the five piquant Provocateurs will gather to present their provocations at the Chautauqua, an event named after the adult education movement popular in the 19th and 20th century. Like early Chautauquas, True/False’s event comes complete with music and storytelling.


Kaitlin Prest, host of Chautauqua, the first provocateur on Sunday, March 6, 2016, in Rhynsburger Theatre. (Photo by Stephanie Sidoti)

Kaitlin Prest, host of Chautauqua 2016, in Rhynsburger Theatre. (Photo by Stephanie Sidoti)

Posted February 7, 2017

Second Take: ‘Strabismus’ by Vanessa Renwick

Vanessa Renwick, director of LAYOVER (T/F 2015), just released a new short film STRABISMUS. Vanessa Renwick narrates her experience with Strabismus, a disorder in which the eyes don’t look in the same direction at the same time. While we watch tender faces and eyes slowly bring the camera into focus, Vanessa unpacks what blurred vision means to her. This film is part of our “Second Take” series of short films created at the Fest by T/F alumni. Watch below for a second look at some familiar faces:


2017 Music Lineup Announced!


In our 14th year, we’re excited to announce our most diverse lineup of musicians yet! From local lo-fi rockers to jazz-tinged crooners to insightful practitioners of observational hip-hop, we’ve got a wide array of artists from across the continent sure to please your ears and feed your soul.

This year’s lineup has a classical tone at its core, pushing traditional musical sounds into beautiful, cross-genre murmurations. Harpist Mary Lattimore bends her songs into new sonic territory, entering realms of electronic wonder. Indie darling Mirah will perform with a quartet of budding virtuosos from the Missouri Symphony Society Conservatory. The hip-hop stylings of Open Mike Eagle will showcase his self-described “Art Rap,” which compresses his wide range of interests from Kurt Vonnegut to cartoons. And Jack Grelle will bring his country best, a local favorite gaining national attention with his strong folk roots.


MNDR reigns supreme at our Friday Night After Party DJ set at the Blue Note

MNDR reigns supreme at our Friday Night After Party DJ set at the Blue Note


Throughout the four days of the festival, musicians will take the stage at Café Berlin, Eastside Tavern, and Rose Music Hall and also the more nontraditional “stages” of the Landmark Bank Courtyard and the Missouri United Methodist Church Sanctuary.

This edition of the fest will embark on a new venture with The Blue Note — a Friday Night After Party featuring a DJ set by MNDR – electro-pop chanteuse, Duran Duran keyboardist, Mark Ronson collaborator and T/F legend.  

As always, buskers will provide festival-goers with a varied medley of eclectic sounds before each film screening.


If you want access to all of the music T/F has in store, Busker Bands are on sale now at Busker Bands are great by themselves or paired with a Simple Pass.

For information on all of the artists appearing at the fest, visit


Posted February 3, 2017

Our Statement on the Travel Ban

Ragtag Film Society’s mission is to champion independent film and media art and serve film communities both locally and globally. True/False showcases the very best nonfiction films, music, and art from around the world. The recent restrictions on immigration directly affect us and our ability to fulfill our mission.

At True/False, we bring the filmmakers to our audiences. Last year, True/False hosted two Iranian citizens making their first trip to Columbia, Missouri: Mehrdad Oskouei (True Vision honoree for Starless Dreams) and Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami (Sonita). Our audiences were moved by these films and the presence of the filmmakers added immeasurably to their experience. Today, both filmmakers would be blocked from entry to the U.S. because they are citizens of Iran.

As we work to finalize our program for this coming fest, our ability to secure participation and attendance from international filmmakers is gravely threatened. Whether directly blocked or deterred by the chilling effect of the recent executive order, many of our international guests no longer feel welcome in the United States.

While we experience direct losses to our programming from these restrictions, we recognize the much broader threat they pose to American values. To target one religious group for registration and suspicion violates the highest values that underpin our First Amendment, and imperils the free exercise of religion for all who worship in America. But the First Amendment does a lot more.

The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights (1791): Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

In a very real sense, the First Amendment is the banner that protects everything we do. It protects our ability to present innovative cinema from around the world. It protects the artists, both cinematic and otherwise, who bring and install provocative work to True/False. It protects our sponsors and allies’ ability to worship and share their space and their resources with our organization. It even protects our festivalgoers’ right to peaceably assemble and march a few blocks down the streets of downtown Columbia for the sake of the arts.

For the democratic future of our children and their children’s children, cultural and civic organizations must forcefully uphold our country’s highest values. As a festival, we thrive when assembling artists and thinkers from diverse backgrounds. Our very existence is dependent on a union that celebrates pluralism, a welcoming of differences.

Today we affirm that the First Amendment is the bedrock of our society and of events like True/False. We hope everyone will understand the vitality of these rights and take appropriate steps to join us in their defense. We want to bring the best global artists to the United States, but we cannot do so if they are detained at our borders.

See you at the Fest.

The Ragtag Film Society:

True/False Film Fest & Ragtag Cinema 

Posted January 31, 2017
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