Every year True/False attracts an amazing collection of the sharpest minds in nonfiction film. Q and As are great, but to get the most out of this assembly of intellects you’ll need to check out our panels. This series of eight conversations runs Friday through Sunday at The Odd Fellows Lodge at the southwest corner of Tenth and Walnut. All of these discussions are free and open to the public. Don’t miss your chance to hear in depth from filmmakers and other guests as they bounce ideas off of one another and probe deeper into the science and art of documentary filmmaking.
Things get underway on Friday at 10:30 AM with “The Revolution Will Be Criticized: Do Critics Miss the Boat on Nonfiction Filmmaking?” Robert Greene, director of Kati with an I and Fake It So Real, moderates this discussion on the state of documentary criticism with critics Eric Hynes, Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, Miriam Bale and Vadim Rizov. This panel is inspired in part by Greene’s recent Hammer to Nail piece on cinematic nonfiction, in which he wrote of film critics:
What are they missing? Well, almost no one is talking seriously about the collapsing walls between fiction, nonfiction and art cinema. Nonfiction cinema would best be described as a way of seeing and less a rigid and prescriptive “genre.” The most interesting documentaries push narrative bounds, re-shoot situations (as opposed to the somewhat tired practice of reenactment), play with the idea of performance, etc. They break the rules. Most interesting fiction, to me, is rooted in the observational camera, staging the action with the soul of cinema verité. How do so-called fiction and nonfiction films speak to each other? How do the stories being told or the situations being captured change according to approach? No one is asking these questions.
This idea of fiction and nonfiction films speaking to one another will be taken up again at 12:30 with the “Revolving Doors” panel. Sarah Gavron, director of the documentary Village at the End of the World and Josh Marston, director of the fictional films The Forgiveness of Blood and Maria Full of Grace will attempt to elucidate what their disciplines can teach each other.
Friday’s panels conclude at 2:30 with “Military Secrets: Filming in the Armed Forces” moderated by Steve James of Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters and most relevantly The War Tapes. Participates Rick Rowley and Sebastian Junger both have war related films in this year’s festival (Dirty Wars and Which Way is the Front Line From Here respectively) while the third panelist Kirby Dick recently captured an Independent Spirit Award for best documentary for his film Invisible War. Despite their shared interest in military matters, these are all very different films and the contrasts should make for an interesting exchange.
Saturday things get started again at 10:30 with “Docs in the Land of the Short Attention Span”. Panelists Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar are documentary veterans with impressive filmographies. Their latest collaboration is Reinvention Stories, a just launched web-based interactive film about Dayton, Ohio. In this panel they’ll share what they learned from this project and ponder the promise and peril the internet represents for documentary film.
Next, at 1:00 it’s “Strongmen and Dissidents: Filming in the Former Soviet Union” moderated by Dana O’Keefe of Vladimir Putin in Deep Concentration. This discussion will explore the difficulties of documentary filmmaking in the face of creeping authoritarianism. The panelists are Tinatin Gurchiani of The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear, Maxim Pozdorovkin of Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer, Askold Kurov of Winter, Go Away! and the director of Secret Screening Red.
Saturday wraps up at 3:00 with “DIY or DIE! Do-It-Yourself as a Way of Life”, a panel especially relevant to this year’s theme, “The Collective Architecture of the Impossible”. Panelists will discuss the importance of the DIY ethos both inside and outside of the film world. They are Emma Dessau of the Folk to Folk music project, Emily Hemeyer of the St.Louis based art collective Spore, Thomas Sallings of Columbia’s newest music venue, the Hair Hole and the director of Secret Screening Green. Moderated by Julie Shapiro of the Third Coast Film Festival.
Our final two panels take place on Sunday. First at 1 it’s “The Future of What? Staring at the Horizon of Nonfiction Filmmaking.” Ben Fowlie of the Camden International Film Festival will interrogate three filmmakers, each with a singular approach to the creative treatment of actuality. They are Signe Byrge Sørensen of The Act of Killing, Josh Fox of Gasland and Zachary Heinzlinger of Cutie and the Boxer.
Finally, things come to an end at 3:30 with “Every Cut is a Lie: Editing the Truth”. Moderated by David France, director of last year’s Oscar-nominated T/F hit How to Survive a Plague and recent New York Times interviewee, this panel explores the editor’s manipulative art of reassembling reality. Panelists are Robin Schwartz of America’s Parking Lot, Bill Ross of Tchoupitoulas and the editor of Secret Screening Orange.