In a year marked by uncertainty and change, three longstanding festival programs will continue: honoring a visionary filmmaker, celebrating brave onscreen presences, and exploring the margins of nonfiction cinema history.
Rosine Mbakam, director of Delphine’s Prayers, will receive this year’s True Vision Award. The subjects of Sabaya, a film about the daring rescues of Yazidi women from Daesh-controlled refugee camps, will be the recipients of the annual True Life Fund. The annual retrospective sidebar, Neither/Nor, will be curated by Ashley Ray-Harris, who offers a highly subjective history of reality television.
TRUE VISION AWARD
True/False is delighted to announce that Rosine Mbakam will receive this year’s True Vision Award in honor of her achievements in and contribution to the field of nonfiction filmmaking. Her new film, Delphine’s Prayers, will screen at the festival along with her first feature, The Two Faces of a Bamiléké Woman.
Cameroonian filmmaker Mbakam now has three exceptional features under her belt: The Two Faces of a Bamiléké Woman and Chez Jolie Coiffure, along with her latest film, Delphine’s Prayers, cement Mbakam as a powerful director exploring intimacy, womanhood, and African identity in her work.
In The Two Faces of a Bamiléké Woman, Mbakam returns to her native Cameroon from her home in Belgium, where she moved to study film at the age of 27, married a European, and had a son. Her mother, Mâ Brêh, still lives in Cameroon, and returns to their familial village of Tonga to meet Rosine; the elder woman joins their other female relatives as they go about their daily tasks, sharing stories that reveal the strength of their solidarity in the face of many adversities.
Mbakam came to our programming team’s attention in 2019 with her sophomore film, Chez Jolie Coiffure (T/F 2019). In Chez Jolie Coiffure, Mbakam crafts a vibrant portrait of the titular beauty salon in central Brussels, a haven for West African women like herself. Though the camera never leaves the confines of the tiny shop, her skills as both storyteller and camera operator make the setting feel expansive.
Her newest film, Delphine’s Prayers, focuses singularly on Delphine, a Cameroonian woman living in Belgium, as she recounts her turbulent life of sexual exploitation and dislocation. Mbakam gives Delphine the space to reflect upon the trauma she’s sustained; there’s a grace we’re privileged to bear witness to in this conversation that examines the intersections of gender, race, class, and displacement. These moments, from playful to staggeringly painful, develop a palpable intimacy. Mbakam is not a distanced observer, but an equal participant, co-crafting a narrative with Delphine. Their bond is felt in every word and every glance at the camera.
True Vision is the only award given at True/False. Past honorees include Bill and Turner Ross (2020), Nuria Ibáñez Castañeda (2019), Dieudo Hamadi (2018), Claire Simon (2017), and Mehrdad Oskouei (2016).
The True Vision Award is sponsored by Dr. Timothy McGarity of Restoration Eye Care. For more about the True Vision Award, visit truefalse.org/true-vision-award.
TRUE LIFE FUND
Through the True Life Fund, True/False acknowledges the risks, sacrifices, and contributions of documentary subjects—those who appear in front of the lens and share their lives. This year’s film, Sabaya (directed by Hogir Hirori), follows Mahmud and Ziyad, volunteers who run the Yazidi Home Center outside the Al-hol refugee camp on the Iraq/Syria border. Their attempts to liberate Yazidi women who are being held captive in Daesh-controlled refugee camps place them directly in harm’s way—including being shot at in a high-speed car chase. But their efforts are equaled by the young women who voluntarily return to the camp—at massive personal risk—to serve as informants and guides to the escapees.
“The True Life Fund has never been a charity. Rather, we see it as a way to simply thank the recipients for opening a window onto their lives,” says True/False Interim Artistic Director David Wilson. “One of the great powers of nonfiction filmmaking is that it can introduce us to people and places we might never otherwise encounter. These connections, made across time and distance, still have the power to enrich and even change our own lives.”
The True Life Fund itself comprises thousands of individual gifts from festival attendees, which can be made in person at the screenings, via the website, by texting “TLF” to 202.858.1233, or by mailing a check made out to Ragtag Film Society with TLF on the memo line to 5 S. 9th St. Columbia, MO 65201 between now and July 1. Funds raised will be sent to the production company in Sweden. They, in turn, will work to support the Yazidi Home Center and those who appear in the film.
In keeping with this year’s theme, The Nature of Uncertainty, True/False’s Neither/Nor program moves online for the first time ever as its eighth edition explores the world of reality television. Writer and culture critic Ashley Ray-Harris charts the history of reality television, highlighting the form’s emergence and the impact of constructed reality during the Trump presidency.
Ashley Ray-Harris is a Los Angeles-based writer, comedian, and culture critic by way of Rockford, IL (and Chicago). Across mediums, Ray-Harris’ writing explores the intimacies of race, gender, queerness, and sexuality. Her writing has appeared in The A.V. Club, The Guardian, Cosmopolitan, Variety, and Jezebel, among others. A frequent Tweeter (before she was suspended) and podcast guest, Ray-Harris’ comedy has been covered in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Vulture. Her newsletter TV I Say was named by Marie Claire as “One of the Best 2020 Newsletters to Subscribe to That Will Keep You Informed and Entertained.” Her podcast of the same name features guests such as Seth Rogen & Roxane Gay dissecting everything that makes television great.
All Neither/Nor screenings, along with Ray-Harris’ writing, will be made available online, with episodes to be announced in late April. To read about past Neither/Nor programs, visit truefalse.org/neither-nor. The Neither/Nor program is made possible with a FilmWatch grant provided by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
David Wilson, Interim Artistic Director [email protected]
Amir George, Film Programmer [email protected]
Angela Catalano, Film Programmer [email protected]