T/F 2014 Buskers!

We strive to make the four days of True/False feel unlike any other. Essential to achieving this effect is the legion of buskers who fill our town with music for the entire extended weekend. They perform at our showcases, in the streets and before each and every T/F screening.

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Our 2014 lineup is coming together nicely, a mix of returning favorites and exciting rookies. Here are a few of the acts you’ll be hearing in just over 6 weeks!

First off, we’re very excited about bringing Yva Las Vegass to Columbia. Yva combines Venezuelan folk traditions and a punk rock attitude into a unique, passionate style perfect for T/F. See for yourself in this short concert below recorded at NPR.

Walt McClements was at True/False in 2012 as part of Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship? He returns in 2014 as Lonesome Leash, this time playing all of the instruments himself. Check him out below performing a soulful tune.

Speaking of one-person-powerhouses, look out for Molly Gene One Whoaman Band tearing it up around town. Her no-nonsense blues is on full display in this music video for “Waitin’”, a scorching ballad about her man stumbling home at 3 AM.

The blues-based singer/songwriter Samuel James will be coming in from Portland, ME. His guitar playing prowess is on full display in this performance of his song “Camus”.

It won’t all be new faces around town this Fest. Our friends at music blog Folk to Folk will be returning to document the music of T/F. They created an outstanding collection of videos last year, so we’re looking forward to seeing what they capture this time around. And it just so happens that three of the bands they filmed in 2013 will also be returning: Yes Ma’am from the streets of New Orleans, Mountain Animation from Brooklyn and La Operación Jarocha from Veracruz, Mexico!

Check back for more T/F 2014 buskers real soon!

Posted January 13, 2014

Over 100 T/F Films Available to Watch Online

Announcing the new True/False video page. Give it a look and browse through over 100 films from past True/False Film Fests available to stream online for free. You can sort by the year they played the fest, or by whether they are a short or a feature. These films are gathered from a variety of sites which legally stream docs, including Vimeo, YouTube, Hulu, SnagFilms, Crackle, P.O.V. and The National Film Board of Canada’s online archive.

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We’ve also collected videos of classic docs, musical performances, interviews and much more. Come take a look around and see what catches your eye.

Posted January 6, 2014

2013 in Review

Another year has come and gone, and 2014 is already upon us. But as we prepare for everything that lies ahead, we wanted to take a look back at an extraordinary year for documentary film. 2013 was the year film critics woke up to nonfiction’s essential place in the cinema. This was reflected in the best-of lists, where a strong consensus emerged that documentaries were among the year’s best.

A good place to start is Scott Tobias’s Year in Documentary piece for The Dissolve, which praises 2013′s docs for their formal innovations. Tobias argues that 2013 was “a year in which documentary filmmakers liberated themselves from past formulas and found new ways to express the truth”; where docs were “committed to veering away from the realm of magazine pieces or Wikipedia, and finding truths only the camera can reveal”.

He opens his article by looking at Leviathan, which used tiny, light-weight GoPro cameras aboard a commercial fishing vessel to discover a new standard of cinematic immersion. Filmmakers Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Verena Paravel of Harvard’s Sensory Ethnography Lab received our True Vision Award at a screening of this work at last year’s fest. It was recently named the film of the year by the staff at L Magazine, who noted “This heaving, churning epic defies pat classification. In this case it’s only reasonable to invoke a critical cliche: you have to see it for yourself.”

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Tobias also cites These Birds Walk, which spies into the lives of the homeless and runaway boys of Pakistan with a sustained eloquence reminiscent of the cinema of Terrence Malick. This film is the first to play True/False twice, first as a work-in-progress in 2012 and then as a completed film in 2013. Peter Rainer of the Christian Science Monitor named it among his ten best, noting that Birds is “flooded with piercing sequences that open up an entire country and way of life”.

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Another T/F 2013 selection receiving attention is After Tiller. The documentary debut of Lana Wilson and Martha Shane profiles the only four doctors left in America who perform late-term abortions. Taking on this most divisive of issues with a delicate and intelligent approach, the film takes us inside the confidential counselling sessions where women face impossible decisions. Naming it her number three film of the year, Katie Walsh at The Playlist observed “the remarkable thing about a film like After Tiller is the way in which Wilson and Shane take such a political topic and turn it into something so personal”.

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The Act of Killing was named film of the year by both the Guardian and Sight & Sound magazine. The later, run by the British Film Institute, publishes a top 30 list every year after surveying over 100 international critics, curators and academics. The Act of Killing enlists the perpetrators of Indonesia’s mass killings of the 1960s to reenact their crimes in garish cinematic set-pieces. This truly startling work has already generated a massive secondary literature, including Sight & Sound’s latest piece by Carrie McAlinden. 

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Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell turns the revelation of an awkward family secret into an investigation of a deeper mystery, the role that narratives play in all of our lives. Stories came in 13th overall on the Metacritic meta-pollElizabeth Weitzman of the NY Daily News named it her film of the year, calling it “intimate in scale, but enormous in scope”.

Sarah Polley in a still from Stories We Tell

Critics have also rallied around a T/F 2013 film perhaps too strange to be regarded as a documentary (or then again, maybe not). Andrew Bujalski’s undefinable Computer Chess takes us back to the dawn of the information age, to a strange hotel convention where a group of computer programmers are attempting to develop an artificial intelligence. Ignatiy Vishnevetsky at the A. V. Club picked this bizarre sci-fi comedy as his film of the year.

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Other T/F 2013 films mentioned in critics best-of lists include No, Blackfish, The Gatekeepers, 20 Feet From Stardom and Cutie and the Boxer.

2013 also saw the launch of an excellent new online resource for documentary fanatics. Christopher Campbell’s new site Nonfics features news, reviews, pieces on classics, a podcast and the first annual Nonfics critics poll, which collects a plethora of nonfiction only best-of lists.

Finally, filmmaker Robert Greene shared his list of the year’s best cinematic nonfiction in his Unfiction column at Sight & Sound. Greene’s “highlights of a triumphant year for the art of documentary” include T/F 2013 pics Sleepless NightsThe Last StationWinter Go AwayDeclaration of War, A Story for the Modlins and the shortest film ever to play True/False, Tina Delivers a Goat.

Tina Delivers a Goat from Joe Callander on Vimeo.

These are clearly exciting times for documentary film. We can’t wait to see what lies ahead in 2014, and share it with you in just a couple months.

Posted January 3, 2014

‘Aaron Burr, Part 2′ and a Chat with Director Dana O’Keefe

Aaron Burr was a major figure in the American revolution and early republic. But the legacy of our third vice president was ruined forever on July 11, 1804 when he killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. In Aaron Burr, Part 2 (T/F 2012) Burr himself returns to finally clear the air about that fateful day and the events leading up to it. Check out the short below, as well as my chat with the filmmaker Dana O’Keefe, the man also responsible for Vladimir Putin in Deep Concentration (T/F 2013).

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T/F: How did you first become interested in making a film about Aaron Burr?

DO: I was initially fascinated by the idea that political figures resolved their differences through this highly ritualized form of combat. And then when it became clear that there were discrepancies in the accounts of the duel, that presented an opportunity to explore the idea that there isn’t really a stable version of history. That it depends on your perspective.

If there was a moment of clarity in conceiving the project, it was when we went to the actual site where the duel took place and realized that it was a parking lot. History, especially in New York, is all around us. It’s sort of hiding in plain sight. Using the actual locations where these things happened and embracing the fact that they looked modern forces the spectator to think about the relationship between past and present.

One thing I soon realized is that I knew absolutely nothing about what really happened during the revolutionary war. In this short period a time a relatively small group of people made a series of decisions which in turn determined what would happen over the next two hundred years.

T/F: What’s True/False about your film?

DO: I think the entire premise is “is there empirical, objective historical truth?” Aaron Burr was arguably as important a political figure as Alexander Hamilton. But he wrote himself out of history by killing another man, who in turn was enshrined as a national treasure.

To me it’s the epitome of how I interpret True/False, playing with these questions of documentary versus narrative. We tried to use a narrative filmmaking grammar to approach a documentary subject.

T/F: Could you tell me a little more about this narrative grammar?

DO: I think the idea was to figure out a way to present historical subject matter in a way that was both dynamic and relevant to a younger audience. The style is very music driven and utilizes highly composed shots, things that you don’t usually see in documentary. It’s very easy in shooting this sort of material to backslide into something that looks stagey or artificial.

T/F: Yeah, it almost feels like a film trailer in some ways . . .

DO:  Yeah, that’s funny, I guess it is somehow, it’s sort of like shorthand. I’ve never really worked extensively with dialogue in films, so a lot of what I do involves music and silent film storytelling techniques, occasionally title cards and things like that. So I try to convey as much as I can visually.

T/F: I thought Burr as a character was quite interesting. You made him arrogant and somewhat unlikeable, even though this is his chance to tell his story. How did you think about Burr as a character and a narrator?

DO: Gore Vidal wrote a historical novel called Burr which quickly eclipsed all of the other source material. The film is heavily indebted to that work in terms of presenting the jaundiced perspective of this guy who sort of wrote himself out of history and therefore has a very critical attitude about the cherished mythology of the period. That book really helped clarify how to portray his psychology.

T/F: Burr’s voice in the film has a weird, sort of otherworldly quality to it.

DO: Here’s a one way of thinking about it. We’re presented with this one version of history which we rarely question, right? And then Burr’s point of view about this incident is completely different, and he presents this version which contradicts the received wisdom. And he does so in a way that at first seems very objective and detached, almost robotic. But I think as the film builds you realize that his point of view is also delusional. Elements of megalomania sort of creep into this impartial narration. Hopefully, it highlights the impossibility of any stable interpretation of a historical event.

 

Posted December 5, 2013

Prepare for the Magic Realism of T/F 2014!

The True/False Film Fest returns February 27- March 2, 2014 with Magic Realism!

“Magic realism” first described a literary genre rooted in the everyday but peppered with the fantastical. In 2014, we’re recasting the phrase for our own subversive purposes. On the surface, Magic Realism describes how the festival weekend transforms the everyday, casting our quotidian downtown streetscape in a new light. Fresh surprises are as likely to lurk in a hidden alley as a darkened theater. Likewise, documentary filmmakers are every bit the masters of illusion, misdirection and sleight of hand as their fiction-focused brethren. The history of prestidigitation is one steeped in questions of Reality and Fantasy, exploring the intersection between the mundane and the fantastic.

This will be brought home in the 2014 poster which quotes “The Marvelous Orange Tree” illusion invented by Jean Eugène Robert-Houdin, the father of modern magic. In it, a small barren tree is coaxed to produce first flowers and then fruit by a persuasive magician.The intricate cogs and gears of the mechanism, though in many ways every bit as wondrous a feat as the suggested illusion, are hidden from sight. This is the magic of all filmmaking- the careful cloaking of the watchworks to produce passion, marvel and delight. True/False 2014 aims to be steeped in this wonderment, whether the art is visual, musical or cinematic.

All passes for T/F 2014 are on sale now. For those who want to help create the magic, we are also accepting volunteer applications.

Posted November 26, 2013

T/F Awarded Three Year Grant by AMPAS for the Neither/Nor Series

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has awarded a three-year, $75,000 grant to the True/False. The funds will help produce our Neither/Nor series, which celebrates “chimeric” works that straddle the line between fiction and nonfiction.

Being recognized by the Academy in such a significant way is one of the greatest milestones in our history. Because of their support, we’ll be able to delve deeper into the exhilarating work suggested by our name.

Begun earlier this year with a survey of films shot in New York during the ‘60s, the Neither/Nor series is an ongoing project. Each Fest, T/F will collaborate with a visiting film critic to map the history (and present) of chimeric cinema. We believe that by championing a more permeable line between forms, both the non-fiction and fiction film can be reimagined in fresh and provocative ways.

For its second Neither/Nor edition, we plan to highlight Iranian chimeras, a rich tradition of unclassifiable, self-reflexive cinema that received international attention in the 1990s. Critic Godfrey Cheshire, who has written extensively on Iranian cinema, will produce a limited-edition monograph and present four films at the festival.

Posted November 18, 2013

‘Revolving Doors’ Panel

The T/F 2013 “Revolving Doors” panel brought together two filmmakers with work traversing the fuzzy boundary between fiction and documentary. Sarah Gavron spent a year in a remote Greenland community creating her doc Village at the End of the World (T/F 2013) and is currently developing Suffragette, a fictional film staring Carey Mulligan as an early feminist foot solider. Joshua Marston is responsible for the grounded, reality-infused films Maria Full of Grace and The Forgiveness of Blood. In conversation with moderator Eugene Hernandez, the pair tried to discover just what the two branches of cinema have to say to one another. How do fictional films capture the documentary “sense of discovery”? How does a documentary “honestly” utilize fictional elements? Do “based on a true story” movies cheat?

Our T/F 2013 panels were recorded by our partners at Columbia Access Television. If you’d like to take “Revolving Doors” with you as a podcast, you can download an mp3 here.

Posted November 12, 2013

‘These Birds Walk’ Now Playing in NYC

These Birds Walk throws us into the chaotic world of the Pakistan’s lost boys, observing the residents and employees of one of the Edhi Foundation’s shelters for homeless and runaway children. The film’s poetic grace mirrors the startling eloquence of the children themselves, as face their predicament and search for something to hope for.

These Birds Walk is the first film to play True/False two years in a row, in 2012 as a work-in-progrss and in 2013 as a completed film. Just yesterday it captured the coveted Black Pearl Award at the Abu Dhabi Film Festival. Now New Yorkers can see the film for the for themselves at Village East Cinema.

John Oursler at The Village Voice called These Birds Walk “a touching portrait of youthful resilience” while at The Dissolve Scott Tobias declared the film “essential viewing”. And on Indiewire, co-directors Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq offered compelling advice on how to make a documentary rise above the “social issues” cliches.

But perhaps the best endorsement for the film is this trailer, which captures These Birds Walk‘s masterful scoring and photography.

Posted November 1, 2013

‘The Revolution Will Be Criticized’ Panel

Do film critics approach documentaries differently than fiction? Should they? When evaluating nonfiction, do critics mistakenly elevate “importance” over form, story over storytelling? Is it fair to always expect documentaries to be art?

These are just a few of the questions taken up by moderator Robert Greene and critics Eric Hynes, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Miriam Bale and Vadim Rizov in our panel “The Revolution Will Be Criticized: Do Critics Miss the Boat on Nonfiction Filmmaking?” which took place at the Odd Fellows Lodge during T/F 2013.

This panel was occasioned Robert Greene’s Cinematic Nonfiction 2012 piece for Hammer to Nail. In this article, Greene expressed frustration over Manohla Dargis’s New York Times review of Only the Young (T/F 2012), a review he considered symptomatic of critical culture’s failure to understand documentary not as a rigid genre but as a “way of seeing”.

The entire panel is available in the video embedded below thanks to the work of our friends at Columbia Access Television. You can also take this entire conversation with you as an audio podcast by downloading an mp3 here.

Posted October 29, 2013

Watch ‘The Waiting Room’ Online

The Waiting Room (T/F 2012) carefully observes the frustration, uncertainty and compassion on display in one overcrowded public safety-net hospital. Watch this timely film online right now thanks to PBS Independent Lens.

 

Posted October 24, 2013
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