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To Mourn Your Own Self: A Conversation with Laurent Becue-Renard About ‘Of Men and War’

In his first film War-Wearied filmmaker Laurent Becue-Renard discovered a role for the camera in therapy, observing group sessions with survivors of war in Bosnia suffering from post-traumatic stress. In his new film Of Men and War (T/F 2015) Laurent and his team developed a similar approach, filming with traumatized American soldiers over months and years, both during and after their stay at The Pathway Home halfway house.

 

 

I recently got the chance to speak with Laurent on the phone ahead of his film’s screening at True/False 2015. He’ll be in-person at the Fest to discuss the film further, as will David Wells, one of the men from the film who just happened to be from Columbia, MO.

-Dan Steffen

 

True/False: Can we start by talking about access? How you became involved with this particular program?

Laurent Becue-Renard: Prior to filming I made extensive research, meeting a lot of veterans, their families and sometimes their therapists. During the course of my first trip ten years ago I met Fred Gusman, who at the time was working for The National Center for PTSD. When he started this new program, The Pathway Home, I had known him for three years already. He had seen my previous film shot in Bosnia, also in therapy.

I asked him first for access to the facility when his first patients came in. He granted me access without a camera. I was allowed to be here the first two months like a fly-on-the-wall. That’s what I did; the two months became three, four, five months. After five months I asked him if I could use a small camera, just to see how the camera could take part in the therapy. I did that for several weeks, after which I was granted permission to film with professional equipment, first for three months, then for six, then for nine. All this is to say that when I started filming and when the guys who are in the film arrived I had already been there for several months. They never knew the Pathway Home without the camera.

That being said, it was not compulsory whatsoever for them to be filmed in therapy. At any time they could say that they wanted us to turn off the camera and leave the room, which never happened. In my first film it was the same, I was never asked to leave the room or stop filming.

With most of them I talked about my grandfathers who fought in World War One, and I showed them the picture that’s on the end credits of the film. The two guys who were my grandfathers came back from the war at the same age that they did and built up their families. They never spoke, not to their wives or kids or grandkids. I grew up with the silence over what was experienced in the war. That was something the men could understand very quickly. Those with kids could see very much how the kids were affected by the traumas of the father.

T/F: Could you explain the camera’s place in therapy?

LBR: The camera took a role in a therapeutic process on a daily basis, both in the first film in Bosnia and in this film. It’s mostly two aspects. The first one is acknowledgement. For the patient’s perspective there is in the room a guy coming from very, very far away — not only geographically but also culturally, socially — who seems to have plenty of time. His time is extensive. And he will be there in the room until they are done talking, from the very beginning to the very end. A guy with no agenda or even questions. There are no interviews whatsoever. The only questions the filmmaker is interested in are the questions they are asking themselves. All this put together is an acknowledgement and a validation that something really has happened to them, something that has made them who they have become.

Of course, this is what a therapist is doing on a daily basis. When you go to see a therapist, the very fact that he is allocating 45 minutes of his time and is only there to listen to what you have to tell him is an acknowledgement and validation of what has happened to you and the way you feel about it. The presence of the camera is kind of amplifying that.

The second point would be the mediation, in the fact that each and every one of them lives the trauma in a huge loneliness. And it is very difficult to share with their kids, their wife, their parents, in any circle. The film is a promise that some kind of ties with the outside world will be rebuilt through the story, first of all with the family, then the community, then the community of mankind. I think that’s very helpful in the therapeutic process.

 

ofmen1

image from Of Men and War

 

T/F: Is there any sort of explicit promise?

LBR: No, anything I’m saying right now is purely assumed, but it’s based on extensive experience, first with the Bosnian war and then with these guys. Something that we did for Of Men and War that we didn’t for the first film is see them with their families after therapy. We first shot nine months of therapy, then over the next four years we went back and forth to see several of the men with their families. Sometimes we would come three months after the last day in therapy, sometimes nine months, sometimes eighteen months. What was fascinating is that at the moment we would come and turn on the camera they would pick it up where they had left it in the therapy room months before, as if they very fact that the camera is back and that we were all together, even in the absence of the therapist, meant the setting of the therapy was back and they could continue with what they were on when they finished their stay at The Pathway Home.

And then also a kind of a therapy triangle appeared, the guy, the family member — be it the kid, the wife or the parent — and us. Each of them would use the camera to tell the other things that they wouldn’t tell in their daily life. It was unconscious in the way they were using the camera again in a therapeutic role. That was very, very interesting.

And again, I spent fourteen months on a daily basis in this facility and I shot for nine months. This is very long, you know. And any of them could ask us to leave the room at anytime. So every day, every hour even, it was a re-acknowledgment of their agreement.

T/F: Are you literally not saying anything to them? “Good morning? How’s it going?”

LBR: In the corridors or in the daily room or in the kitchen, of course we are talking, definitely. I’ve done sports with them, I’ve gone on a bike ride to get an espresso at the French bakery downtown. We have daily activities.

T/F: But none of them involve the camera?

LBR: They don’t involve the camera and they never mention what we have taped in the therapy room. There’s a lot of bonding. There were some other volunteers in the half-way home. Some were doing drama work, stage work. Some were doing photography. And I was kind of just another one, you know, belonging and not belonging to the place.

T/F: When I was watching the film, even though it is a very naturalistic film, I felt a certain abruptness in the pacing, and the way scenes ended. Was that something that a feeling you were trying to achieve?

LBR: As a filmmaker I’m trying to address the unconscious of the viewer. I don’t want to address their consciousness, I want them to work while they’re watching the film, without knowing that they are doing so. So when we were editing each of the sessions, we were really focusing on what is at stake in the session for the guy and for the group. Where does he come from at the beginning of the session and where does he go? Of course that means that you don’t have to respect the chronology of the session, neither inside the particular session nor among the sessions. You’re really focused on the meaning and where there’s meaning in the session.

Fred’s sessions, on average, were lasting around two hours, approximately the length of the film. The sessions in the film are on average is forty five seconds to three or four minutes in duration. Our aim while editing was that the viewer would never feel like something was missing in the session. But still they could work on it on their own and still get the feeling that they got it. That’s perhaps what you mean by abruptness.

Abrupt also comes from the fact that that’s how they interact in the sessions with Fred and the others. A session is rather chaotic, you know? Fred’s sessions with trauma related to war, or any session for anyone.

I also sometimes wanted sessions that were very far apart in time in the real chronology to bump into one another. Some of the meaning comes out of the segments bumping heads together. The work of editing is to have the sessions kind of speaking to each other and then also including scenes of the future and family life shot over the next four years.

 

ofmenandwar_laurentbecuerenard_photo1_1_1

image from Of Men and War

 

T/F: A take-away from the film for me was the variety in the things that these men experienced in war and I think a variety of what they needed from therapy. That the specifics of their stories of trauma in each case were really important, know what I mean?

LBR: Right. As I said, I spent months working at the Pathway Home and I have known more than one hundred guys and filmed in therapy. And of course before filming doing my research I had met hundreds of veterans. So, I had in my mind a broad spectrum of what was war trauma for a young warrior, all the kinds of experiences they could go through and how they would react to those experiences. They won’t say everything, but everything would be said in the room at some time.

A lot of time your trauma will be expressed by your peers sitting next to you and speaking before or after. That’s one of the dynamics of group therapy. For a young man in this culture it’s very difficult to say how they’ve been deeply, deeply wounded in their soul. It’s not part of your culture. They say these things because they are all saying things together. They accept looking at their weakness because the others are also looking at their own weakness.

When they themselves or other veterans watch this they always say you have my story, it’s there in the film. It’s amazing, no matter the culture, the distance, the different types of war, it’s the same story.

T/F: One of the other things I wanted to ask you about are scenes in the film showing how our culture formally recognizes veterans, for example in a parade or at a ceremony of a football game. They aren’t presented ironically, but seeing those scenes alongside the therapy gives them a new context.

LBR: Yeah, I’ve seen how much veterans are around us. But as much as we acknowledge them in the public sphere, it’s not sure that we do really get it. Of course, veterans are touched when people come towards them at the airport and say “thank you for your service”. And of course it is honest for people who do that. But most veterans I’ve met, they say “yes, they come and say that, but they expect us to go back on track the next day. And we will never recover our lives from prior.’The rear’, those who haven’t been to war, don’t really get it.”

I guess they would rather have their PTSD acknowledged. Yes, life is going to be tough, they don’t react to things how they used to. Sometimes it goes from zero to ten just like this. It’s like missing a limb, but you don’t see it. It’s inside; the wound is within. They know that they can’t go back to the person they were before. They’d like that acknowledged. It’s very difficult to mourn your own self. It’s frightening, it’s painful and it’s an ongoing process that will last all their lives.

So I guess the scene of daily life are more talking about the misunderstanding, the profound misunderstanding between those who went to war and those who didn’t.

T/F: Is there anything else you want to include?

LBR: I want to say I have a great respect and admiration for these young men. I think it’s very, very courageous for each and everyone of them to go into therapy. By going into therapy, they kind of chose life. It’s choosing life when death is all around in their psyche. It’s courageous. It’s courageous to keep being alive, to have a family, to be a part of a community. I think it takes as much courage as being on the front line. I admire their dignity also.

I want to say too that my quest was to go after the words and the sentences my grandfathers could have told me, or could have told my grandmothers or my parents. I think that thanks to these guys I have a kind of access to the trauma that built up in my family and in all of our families in the western world that have this experience of war.

 

 

Posted March 11, 2015

Read and Listen to Interviews with True/False 2015 Filmmakers

True/False 2015 may be past, but you can still read and hear more from the many brilliant filmmakers we were able to bring to town. To begin with, we’ve conducted three interviews here on our blog:

Joshua Oppenheimer discusses The Look of Silence and The Act of Killing

Morgan Knibbe discusses Those Who Feel the Fire Burning

Laurent Becue-Renard discusses Of Men and War

We’ll have more of these interviews throughout the year ahead.

 

Meanwhile, KBIA has completed the 2015 edition of their series True/False Conversations which features short chats with filmmakers available as text and audio. They include:

Qi Zhao talks The Chinese Mayor

Ed Cunningham talks Finders Keepers

Michael Madsen talks The Visit

Jimmy Chin talks Meru

Dan Rybicky and Aaron Wickenden talk Almost There

Liz Garbus talks What Happened, Miss Simone?

Eri Daniel Erlich talks Life According to Ohad

Laurent Becue-Renard talks Of Men and War

 

And from the first night of the Based on a True Story conference at the University of Missouri, you can now watch video of critic Dana Stevens in-depth conversation with Joshua Oppenheimer.

Posted

True/False 2015 Fest Digest

The True/False 2015 Fest Digest provides a day-by-day look back at some of the events that made up this year’s Fest with stories, pics and videos. Explore each entry below:

Beginnings

Opening Night

Friday

Saturday

An End

Posted

Watch True/False 2015 Videos from Our Video Team

Throughout the festival, the T/F Video Team put in long hours and late nights creating daily recap videos for each day of the Fest. A big thank you to videographers Paul Mossine, Chelsea Myers, Samuel Ott, Matthew Suppes, Ben Hendricks, Matt Schacht, Thomas Brinegar and Jonathan Sessions for capturing the feel of True/False 2015. Check out their work below:

 

Thursday

Music by: Miss Jubilee & The Humdingers – “I Found A New Baby”
Edited by Thomas Brinegar

 

Friday

Music by: David Wax Museum – “Will You Be Sleeping”
Edited by Paul Mossine

 

Saturday

Music by Messy Sparkles – Untitled, Pat Sajak Assassins – “Cave Bacon”
Edited by Samuel Ott

 

Thank You Volunteers!

Music: Yes Ma’am
Edited: Chelsea Myers

Posted

True/False 2015 Fest Digest: An End

We have all once more parted ways. It’s always a little sad to realize that the festival is now part of the past. But hopefully True/False 2015 is now part of a past we can carry with us and live together inside of for years to come.

Jarred Alterman’s final prefeature micro film “The Bottle Hunter” considers messages sent through time, arriving in the present through a window of time. Hopefully a few of the thousands of ideas, impressions, feelings and experiences that we shared this weekend will arrive suddenly in your present at a time you least expect it.

 

 

We sprung forward into the final day of T/F 2015, meaning the 9:30 screening of The Visit came extra early at the Missouri Theatre. Michael Madsen’s hypnotic simulation of humanity’s first encounter with alien intelligence features interviews with international officials who actually develop protocol for such an occurrence.

 

photo by Rebecca Allen

photo by Rebecca Allen

 

Meanwhile, at the Oddfellows Lodge everyone chowed down at the Weird Wake-Up before entering the theater for a double bill mid-length films about art curation and time: Abandoned Goods and Jeff, Embrace Your Past.

 

photo by Megan Stilley

photo by Megan Stilley

 

On Sunday, long time friend Gabe Williams guided the ever-popular Art Ramble through downtown Columbia, highlighting the art installations during True/False. He spoke about the ephemeral nature of True/False’s art and the temporary nature of all of our human achievements. One of the pieces considered was Duncan Bindbeutel The Frozen Man located outside of Ragtag Cinema.

 

photo by Megan Stilley

photo by Megan Stilley

 

Sunday afternoon at The Missouri Theatre hosted director Nick Broomfield’s Tales from the Grim Sleeper, which investigates the community and police response (or lack thereof) to a serial killer’s 20-plus year killing spree of young women in South Central L.A. Broomfield was joined on stage by Pam Brooks, a woman from the area who becomes an ad hoc investigator in the film.

 

photo by Billie Stock

photo by Billie Stock

 

At our rookie venue Cornell on the MU campus, T/F 2015 concluded with a screening of Finders Keepers, a hilarious and poignant film about the custody battle over a severed foot.

 

photo by Ryan Henriksen

photo by Ryan Henriksen

 

Later at the Vimeo Theater at the Blue Note, T/F concluded with a screening of Episode Five of The Jinx: the Life and Deaths of Robert Durst, the HBO nonfiction series. Before hand, David explained his excitement about the potential for long form nonfiction on television that the series represents. Afterwards, filmmaker Marc Smerling discussed episode’s startling developments, while carefully avoiding spoilers for next week’s finale.

 

photo by  Jarred Gastreich

photo by Jarred Gastreich

 

And at the Missouri Theatre, a huge crowd gathered for the always bittersweet Busker’s Last Stand, where a huge array of T/F 2015 musicians performed in unison.

 

photo by Sarah Hoffman

photo by Sarah Hoffman

 

True/False is only possible because each and every year hundreds upon hundreds of volunteers joyfully contribute their time and labor. We can not let the fact that they show up each and every year make us complacent in recognizing how remarkable this is. Thank you to our volunteers. You are incredible.

The hardworking T/F Video team put together this short piece as one expression of our gratitude.

 

 

Another way we try to say thank you is our Sunday night volunteer party. Our party team spent countless hours transforming an undisclosed location into an indescribable party space. Once again, it was the best party of the year. Each room offered specific delights as we all spent a feel hours drinking, talking and dancing inside of some sort of strange utopia.

 

photo by Billie Stock

photo by Billie Stock

photo by Billie Stock

photo by Billie Stock

 

Thank you again to everyone who made this possible. True/False 2015 may be past, but we will try to keep the conversation about the art of nonfiction cinema going, both here on our website and out in the world, through the weeks and months ahead until we all come together again March 3, 2016.

-Dan Steffen
Minister of Propaganda
True/False Film Fest

Posted March 9, 2015

True/False 2015 Fest Digest: Saturday

True/False 2015 barreled ahead through a glorious, jam-packed Saturday. With so much to see and hear and think and feel, you find yourself forgetting to eat and sleep. Inside the Fest, time seems to move differently.

In Jarred Alterman’s third microfilm, “The Beekeeper”, Jim Thaxter explains something similar, how organisms like bees experience the flow of time not as individuals, but as a collective.

 

 

Saturday began bright and early with our the True Life Run, a surprise-filled journey through the heart of Columbia to benefit our True Life Fund. The weather was great, and a run felt like just the thing after two days of cinema.

 

True Life Run start

photo by Stephen Bybee

 

At the Forrest Theater, Saturday began with a screening of Heaven Knows What, one of the few films at T/F this year which could clearly, if not cleanly, be described as “fiction”. Afterwards, brother filmmakers Josh and Benny Safdie described meeting their star Arielle Holmes while she was living on the street, and persuading her to right a memoir about her life, which eventually became the basis for the screenplay. They also talked about shooting from blocks away, so that their actors could authentically inhabit New York.

 

Copy of Benny-&-Joshua-Safdie-Q&A-at-Forrest

photo by Frank Finley

 

That afternoon at the Missouri Theatre, it was time for the biggest screening of our 2015 True Life Fund film, The Look of Silence. David Wilson and Crossing Church Pastor Dave Cover introduced the film and the fund benefiting Adi Rukun, who in the film confronts perpetrators of the 1965-66 Indonesian genocide. After the screening, filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer translated while Adi joined us from Indonesia via Skype. When asked about revenge Adi said, ”I never wanted to take revenge. What good would it do?  It would just perpetuate violence forever.”

 

photo by Parker-Michels Boyce

photo by Parker-Michels Boyce

 

At Reynolds Journalism Institute, our second day of panels featured a discussion about working with subjects on the margins. Filmmakers Hanna Polack (Something Better to Come), Morgan Knibble (Those Who Feel the Fire Burning) and Khalik Allah (Field Niggas) considered numerous pitfalls in conversation with moderator by Omar Mullick (These Birds Walk).

 

photo by Megan Stilley

photo by Megan Stilley

 

A little later, back at the Missouri Theatre, former True Vision Award winner Alex Gibney took the stage following a screening of Going Clear, his comprehensive expose on the history and methods of the Church of Scientology. Gibney talked about preparing for the ongoing legal battle that followed the film’s premiere at Sundance and capturing the right tone for this stranger-than-fiction story.

 

photo by Parker Michels-Boyce

photo by Parker Michels-Boyce

 

Later at The Globe, an audience gathered to watch the hilarious Rules of the Game, a French film following three teens as they progress (or regress) through a program designed to prepare them for the workforce. Even the film’s chapter introductions drew huge laughs from the crowd, who watched the film beneath the glow of Camellia Cosgray’s lighted megamap.

 

photo by Corey Ransberg

photo by Corey Ransberg

 

At 9th and Broadway, The Great Wall featured short films and news reports from our late friend Malik Bendjelloul, who won over T/F audiences with his earnest charm when appearing with his film Searching for Sugar Man (T/F 2012). Beneath The Wall, David Wilson led a toast for Malik “who will always have a place at True/False.”

 

Copy of TF15-MalikToast-RA-01

 

Then it was time for one of True/False’s signature events, Gimme Truth! In our always raucous game show, a panel of filmmakers must try to discern if short films are 100% True or 100% False.

 

photo by Morgan Lieberman

photo by Morgan Lieberman

 

In this short clip captured by our friends at CAT TV, panelists Ioanis Nugent (Spartacus & Cassandra), Lyric R. Cabral ((T)ERROR) and Nick Broomfield (Tales of the Grim Sleeper) appraise Snip Snip: A Story of Childhood Loss by Mike Sleadd & Matt Schacht.

 

 

Meanwhile at the Missouri United Methodist Church, Anonymous Choir performed in a first-of-its-kind Sanctuary Showcase, sending beautiful melodies echoing off of the walls.

 

photo by Rebecca Allen

photo by Rebecca Allen

 

While over at Rose Music Hall, Shilpa Ray tore through the place with her harmonium and voice as part of our Saturday Showcase.

 

photo by Whitney Buckne

photo by Whitney Buckner

 

Only one days remains, but there is no slowing down. It is time to spring forward into the final day of T/F 2015. But before we do, lets take one last look back at Saturday with the latest offering from the T/F Video Team, who pulled yet another all-nighter to bring you the sights and sounds of T/F.

 

Posted March 8, 2015

Program for Tonight’s Gimme Truth!

Here’s the program for tonight’s Gimme Truth! tonight at the Vimeo Theater at The Blue Note.

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 eighth 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 eight 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 seven years it’s hard to argue with results.

CONTESTANTS

Ioanis Nugent- director of Spartacus & Cassandra

Ioanis (ee-wah-nees, we think) plays the part of our befuddled foreigner. He’s used to running amok with two Roma children and a no-nonsense trapeze artist. Here’s to hoping he finds something transferrable between that and this stage. We make no promises.

Lyric R. Cabral- director of (T)ERROR

Lyric is hell-bent on interrogating each of the contestants. She lived next to an FBI informant for years and unlike the rest of us, she not only knew but made a movie about it. By the end of the show she may very well discover all the secrets of our very own Johnny St. John.

Nick Broomfield- director of Tales of the Grim Sleeper

Don’t let his British accent throw you off–with his morbid curiosity he’s influenced American pop-culture about as much as anyone. We think forbidding him from taking the stage with his boom pole AKA bullshit detector should level out the playing field.

Films

1. Snip Snip: A Story of Childhood Loss

dir. Mike Sleadd & Matt Schacht

2. Kinda Famous

dir. Diggy Splash & Justin Gregory

3. Sparky’s

dir. Tucker Morrison & Aaron Persky

4. On the Fence

dir. Kate and Jimmy Moore

5. John B. Thompkins and the Special Shaving Equipment

dir. Pat Holt

6. My Name is Billie

dir. Livvy Runyon

7. Living History

dir. Jilly Dos Santos, Jess Christensen, Alex Isgriggs & Maddy Mueller

8. Gyno Might

dir. Benjamin J Hedrick

9. Flossy Flossy

dir. Autumn Brown & Heather Beger

10. Family Heirloom

dir. Paul Mossine & Chandra Heartland

BONUS FILM:

Call of Duty

dir. Matt Lenski, 2015, 6 min.

Posted March 7, 2015

True/False 2015 Fest Digest: Friday

On Friday True/False expanded into more and more venues, events, screenings, concerts, panels and parties. This makes our job in the Fest Digest even more of a fool’s errand, but we’ll try to provide a little bit of cohesion to the day that was. Below you’ll find descriptions, images and video of just a few of the things that happened yesterday.

Before each program on Friday, fest-goers saw Jarred Alterman’s second microfilm “The Clockmaker”, in which “Pendulum” Bob King considers time as something we think we grasp, but is ultimately mysterious.

 

 

In the august setting of the Missouri Theatre, Friday began with an extraordinary event in T/F history. For the first time, T/F partnered with Columbia high schools to bring each and every 10th grader from Columbia public high schools to a special showing of What Happened, Miss Simone at Missouri theater.

 

Copy of TF15-DIYDAY-SH-13

photo by Sarah Hoffman

 

The film charts the life of the combustible, brilliant jazz singer Nina Simone. After the film, students asked questions to director Liz Garbus, who discussed Simone’s psychological afflictions and their complicated relationship with her ability to produce incredible art.

 

photo by Ryan Henriksen

photo by Ryan Henriksen

 

Afterward, students migrated to the greater Orr St. area for our DIY (Do It Yourself!) Day! Orr St. Studios housed a large parade preparation workshop, with glitter galore, and mask and banner creation for the March March. Smaller individual breakout sessions focused on filmmaking, music, screen-printing and advice from those with success in creating a life of artistic expression.

 

photo by Ryan Henriksen

photo by Ryan Henriksen

 

photo by Ryan Henriksen

photo by Ryan Henriksen

 

In an attempt to dig deeper into the minds of the many brilliant guests we bring to town, we put on a series of conversations at the Reynolds Journalism Institute. In our first, panelists Kevin B. Lee (Transformers: The Premake), Zhao Qi (producer of The Chinese Mayor) and Dean Ming Yang and Dr. Zhenzheng Wang discussed the state of documentary filmmaking in the People’s Republic of China and different models that filmmakers there have attempted to try to reach audiences.

 

photo by Corey Ransberg

photo by Corey Ransberg

 

True/False presents but a single award each year. Our True Vision Award honors the career of a working filmmaker who has made significant contributions to nonfiction cinema. This year that honor went to Adam Curtis, who for over twenty years at the BBC has reevaluated history through brilliant archival montages.

At noon Friday Curtis presented a unique program at our second home, Ragtag Cinema, titled Unstoryfiable: Where Journalism Fails and Modern Power Begins. Talking in-between short films, segments and clips, Curtis’ wide-ranging, audacious and frequently humorous presentation argued that new systems of power, grounded in predictive systems for risk management, hide in plain sight because they are impossible to capture with either narrative or imagery.

 

Copy of TF15-Unstoryfiable-JG-1457

photo by Jarred Gastreich

 

Immediately following Unstoryfiable, Adam was whisked away to the Missouri Theatre, where Paul presented him with the True Vision Award ahead of a screening of his new film Bitter Lake, which examines the tortured history of Afghanistan in light of a fateful agreement between the United States and the House of Saud.

 

photo by Billie Stock

photo by Billie Stock

 

When the bright and sunny afternoon Friday afternoon rolled around it was time for the March March, in which we usher in a new season with a joyous parade down the center of downtown Columbia, featuring music, costumes, puppets and more.

 

photo by Sarah Hoffman

photo by Sarah Hoffman

 

photos by Ryan Henriksen

photos by Ryan Henriksen

 

Meanwhile at the Picturehouse, it was the first screening of Spartacus & Cassandra, an artful blend of verite intimacy and lyrical interludes about the lives of two Roma children at a crossroads. Director Loanis Nuguent and subject Camille Brisson were on hand afterwards for a spirited Q and A.

photo by Corey Ransberg

photo by Corey Ransberg

 

And at Rhynsburger Theatre, Sam Green presented The Measure of All Things, a constantly evolving live-documentary featuring live musical accompaniment. As still images and video clips appeared on screen, Green narrated a interwoven series of tales inspired by entries in The Guinness Book of World Records, including the time the world’s second tallest man saved the life of a dolphin.

 

photo by Whitney Buckner

photo by Whitney Buckner

 

A little later filmmakers and festgoers come into close contact at the Oddfellows Lodge during Campfire Stories, an intimate event where filmmakers tell stories of “the scene that got away.” In one of this year’s entries, Khalik Allah of Field Niggas described gaining and then losing a subject, and a friend. Our friends at CAT TV captured his tale on video.

 

 

The night ended at Tonic with the @CTION Party. By the time midnight rolled around, the dance floor was crammed with bodies in motion to the sounds provided by DJs Gold E Mouf and Cousin Cole.

 

photo by Jarred Gastreich

photo by Jarred Gastreich

 

Friday’s gone, but there’s so much more T/F to come. Time to head out back into the festival. But before we do, let’s take one last look at Friday through a video recap, amazingly created overnight by the diligent T/F Video Team.

 

 

Onwards to Saturday!

Posted

True/False 2015 Fest Digest: Opening Night!

T/F Opening night brings with it adrenaline and jitters, followed by the sudden ecstasy of being once more in a crowd of fest-goers and a feeling of that excitement echoed back. No matter your preparation, True/False only truly exists in the present, right now.

Before all of the opening night films, the first of Jarred Alterman’s T/F 2015 microfilms examining our concept of time screened. “The Astrophysicist” introduces us to Angela Speck, who explains how, in her extra-intuitive domain of inquiry, time becomes a measurement of distance.

 

 

The promise of a new True/False weekend manifests in our annual fancy pants gala, The Jubilee. Costumed T/F fans packed the august Missouri Theatre, enjoying drinks, hors d’oeuvres, the joyful noise created by a menagerie of performing buskers.

 

Copy of TF15-Jubilee-JG-1010

photo by Jarred Gastreich

 

Copy of TF15-Jubilee-JG-1154

photo by Jarred Gastreich

 

Eventually, we all found our seats for a screening of Best of Enemies a film which offers fascinating context to the vital archival footage of William F. Buckley and Gore Vidal’s seminal televised debates of the late 60s. Afterwards co-director Morgan Neville tried to explain the feeling of finally sharing a film with an audience after being alone with it for so long. He also said he wants to provoke discussion about “civil and uncivil discourse.”

 

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photo by Megan Stilley

 

Later at the Vimeo Theater at The Blue Note, Morgan Knibbe’s impressive feature debut Those Who Feel the Fire Burning screened for the very first time in the United States. By forcing us into the perspective of a hovering ghost, the film aims to “throw the audience into the deep” of the difficult and often hopeless lives of recent immigrants to Europe. Afterwards, Knibbe talked with the crowd and T/F programmer Chris Boeckmann about wanting to find a poetic approach to this problem that went “further than the numbers and factual information.”

 

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photo by Taylor Blatchford

 

Opening night came to an end at Cafe Berlin with the Toast/False busker showcase, featuring the bittersweet music of Cindy Woolf & Mark Bilyeu, Jack Grelle & Ryan Koenig and The Strangled Darlings, seen below.

 

Toast/False

photo by Corey Ransberg

 

Thursday night was but a warm-up for what is in store for us today. But before we plunge ahead, let’s take one more look at the excitement of opening night via the T/F Video Team, whose work features Miss Jubilee & The Humdingers’ song “I Found A New Baby”.

 

Posted March 6, 2015

True/False 2015 Fest Digest: Beginnings

True/False 2015 is right now.

Welcome to our daily digest. Here we’ll be covering the Fest each day as it happens and trying to talk about True/False as a whole. Paradoxically, the only way to do this is to look closely at a few individual parts. In these daily updates, we’ll be covering just a fraction of the film screenings, Q and As, panel conversations, concerts, parties and art exhibits happening this weekend in coordination with the T/F photo and video teams.

In 2015 we want to talk about time. Among the arts, cinema’s relationship with time is unique. A film only truly exists inside of its brief run-time, yet inside of that sacred set of minutes, great cinema dominates time, underlining it or erasing it, chopping it to pieces or stretching it out before us. Likewise, our festival is a mere four days, but we aim to offer an experience which opens temporally both backwards and forwards, outward into the years.

To look at T/F we need to start not at the beginning, but at many beginnings, conceptual, temporal, geographical of the threads which have gathered together into our festival.

To help explore the daunting theme of time, we once more called upon the services of filmmaker Jarred Alterman, who crafted the microfilms you’ll see before each and every screening. Here’s an enigmatic preview of what he has in store for us.

 

 

True/False exists to investigate the contradiction at the heart of cinema, a medium which can faithfully capture slivers of reality while constantly manipulating our experience. A couple years ago we began an important new part of this inquiry thanks to the generous support of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Neither/Nor is an annual partnership with a visiting film critic to map a history of chimeric cinema, films which aggressively embrace cinema’s central paradox. This year in our third Neither/Nor program critic Ela Bittencourt is presenting a series of shamefully under seen work from Poland, covering the last two decades of that nation’s Communist rule. Ela created a beautiful monograph featuring essays and interviews on all six programs in the series, available right now at the Ragtag Box office.

Months of preparation and research for Neither/Nor culminated last night in a kickoff for the series at Ragtag Cinema, downtown CoMo’s 365-day a year cinema born of the same parent organization and inseparable from the Fest in innumerable ways. In the Hittsville gallery space hosted a photography show of the work of filmmaker Bogdan Dziworski, one of the Polish masters we’re honoring this year.

 

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photo by Taylor Blatchford

 

Inside Ragtag’s big theater we held a reception for Ela with authentic Polish food from Columbia’s Cafe Poland. We then settled in for a presentation of Arena of Life, a program of unforgettable short films by Bogdan. Afterwards Bogdan spoke excitedly as Ela translated about his desire to blend the surreal and the real through aggressive sound design and told an unbelievable story about a planned prison break.

 

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photo by Rebecca Allen

 

Meanwhile, our annual fundraising effort for a documentary subject, the True Life Fund, is already well underway. Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer, the man responsible for The Act of Killing and it’s companion film The Look of Silence has made appearances at all four Columbia high schools, discussing with students how Adi Rukun, The Look’s protagonist, heroically confronted the still powerful men who killed his brother along with hundreds of thousands of others in Indonesia’s anti-communist purges of 1965-66.

 

DIGEST

photo by Allison Coffelt

 

At our venues around town and on the University of Missouri campus, our army of volunteers has once more sprung into action, transforming spaces into temporary, yet glorious cinemas. Below you can see the ball room of the Tiger Hotel in the process of becoming The Forrest Theater once more.

 

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photo by Morgan Lieberman

 

Our production team has already spent months and months in T/F’s secret lab, constructing the numerous art installations which will reveal a hidden utopia inside of our city. Here Glenn Rice installs his “light cone” piece in downtown’s central artery, Alley A.

 

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photo by Rebecca Allen

 

And our central hub of operations, the T/F Box Office, has settled into its new home in Imago Gallery at Hitt and Broadway. The bustling crowds picked up their tickets and passes and scooped out the merch underneath chandeliers and murals dedicated to a creature with extraordinary longevity.

 

Beautiful artwork overlooking the box office. Photo by Billie Stock

photo by Billie Stock

 

Finally, last night T/F eve came to an end at Eastside Tavern, where Relevant Hairstyles where part of a weird and wild start to our 2015 music program. Buskers will be playing before each and every screening this weekend.

 

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photo by Jon Asher

 

It’s about time. The preparation is finally at an end. Let’s get started.

-Dan Steffen
Minister of Propaganda

Posted March 5, 2015
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