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March 5, 2007 at 12:03 p.m.
The first time I attended the True/False festival was in 2005 and I only saw one film: Bradley Beesley’s Fearless Freaks, about the band, The Flaming Lips. That was my only experience with the festival, probably because I knew little about it, but I really enjoyed the film. Unknowingly, Beesley called the lead singer of the band, Wayne Coyne, after the film and talked to him while holding the phone to the microphone—I had no idea the directors attended the festival; this made me ecstatic.
The next year in 2006, I again saw only one film: Bradley Beesley and Sarah Price’s Untitled Camp Film. Although this was the only event I attended from the festival, my interest in documentary films grew even more. I loved the idea of documenting real life that I otherwise might not have known about because of a special passion that drives filmmakers.
This year’s festival seemed to sneak up on me as I was going to experience it from a new angle: with an all-access pass sent to write about the events. I felt like I could go and do anything that the festival offered.
I saw two emotionally moving films—Enemies of Happiness and Buddha’s Lost Children—that made me want to buy a pass to next year’s festival. I loved the intimate feelings these films gave me because I felt the emotions of the characters involved. I was especially interested in Buddha’s Lost Children because of the remote village and countryside it was set in that granted the director a rare opportunity that was both educational and very real.
Outside of these two films, the events I attended were all different. The Filmmaker Fête put me most out of my comfort zone (although as a reporter, this is what is most strived for) because all the filmmakers seemed to be in their own world and it was hard to mix my words in with theirs. The fête was rare for me though and the opportunity was much appreciated. The Gimme Truth! game show was the most fun with its charismatic host and interesting mix of local short films. If you want a good laugh, this game show is a must! The closing night reception was busy and bustling with people excited about Columbia’s own film, American Shopper. Unfortunately, I was unable to stay for the film due to academic obligations but I especially enjoyed watching the “Pine Hill Hanits”—an Alabama band that produced an eclectic sound.
Overall, my experience with the 2007 True/False Film Festival was exceptionally positive. I felt I was a part of the festival and my love for documentary films grew even more. Next year, I’m getting a pass!
March 4, 2007 at 9:17 p.m.
A line snaked around the Locust St. side of the Missouri Theatre as people waited to enter for the closing night reception.
Not having to wait (because I had a press pass), I sat on the stairs leading to the balcony and watched volunteers and directors as they stood around the food prepared by a local restaurant. On two buffet tables were three chafers of meatloaf, alfredo pasta and green bean casserole. The tables, in honor of American Shopper, were decorated with Schnuck’s “Crispy Rice” cereal, canned green beans and vanilla cookies.
While people still could not enter, festival organizer David Wilson seemed anxious as he held his hands together in prayer position over his mouth. There didn’t appear to be much to worry about, but being one of the co-founders of an up and coming documentary film festival probably doesn’t come without angst.
As the ticket and pass holders standing outside slowly made their way into the entryway of the theatre, the traffic inside picked up as they began to indulge in the free food. Since there were few places to sit and eat, some were found propped up on trashcans—I don’t think it registered that they were eating on top of a trashcan, as the food and excitement kept the trashcan out of mind.
Still sitting on the stairs people watching, I heard the warming up of instruments inside the theatre and decided to check it out.
On stage were the “Pine Hill Haints” from Huntsville, Ala. Their music is coined as “Alabama ghost country music” and to me it sounded like a mix of country western, bluegrass and early rock-n-roll. They had an interesting ensemble of instruments—a homemade bass, made from an aluminum wash tub turned upside down with a stretchy string-like material tied to a wooden stick, a single snare drum, two guitars, a mandolin and a harmonica. Fascinated by the bass and the band’s unique sound, I stuck around to listen for a while as people filed into the theatre for the “hometown sneak preview,” American Shopper.
Downstairs, while the “Pine Hill Haints” were still playing, free beer and wine were passed out as volunteers tried to get people to take their seats—it was a slow process.
On my way out, just before the film began, a line of people had formed. These were the ones without tickets who had to take a number in hopes to see the film. Looking at their numbers, the highest I saw was 84, but there were several others waiting with even higher numbers as I left the theatre.
March 4, 2007 at 6:57 p.m.
I’m more than thrilled to post about a powerful documentary I saw at True/False. But I can’t. I’m sworn to secrecy. Just before the curtain went up on this movie, which was advertised as the True Life Fund Screening, a director of the festival asked that the media keep quiet about this film because it has yet to be premiered at Tribeca.
Was I to feel lucky or cheated? Just because True/False claims to be the anti-Sundance (as seen in Keepin’ It Reel), does that mean that we as True/False viewers are nothing more than curious movie-goers that get the chance to see a screening a few months earlier than the “real” premieres?
Certainly not. We should feel lucky to sit in one of a movie's first public screenings. We should also feel lucky to have the opportunity to financially support the characters in the movie.
After the curtain fell, the directors of the film asked the audience to donate to the True Life Fund. Donations would support the stars of the film. This particular film was a powerful glimpse into a world most Americans will never witness. (Sorry for being so vague, but I promised to be tight-lipped.) We should WANT to write about it now. And I do. But I can’t.
March 4, 2007 at 5:58 p.m.
Regardless of your political viewpoints on the war in Afghanistan, Enemies of Happiness is a movie that will forever touch your heart. After watching Malalai Joya’s struggle to bring democracy and women’s rights to her country, I found myself wondering why I didn’t watch more documentaries.
Joya, who is considered by many to be the most famous woman in Afghanistan, recently ran in and won a seat on Parliament in Afghanistan’s first-ever free election. Even though there have been multiple assassination attempts on her life, she was and is still willing to speak out against the horrible injustices of the Talliban. I doubt there was a single person in the audience who was not impressed with her bravery.
Aside from the main story of Joya’s election campaign, the film also revealed that Joya helped local community members with various problems such as spousal abuse and divorce. The story of Rahela, a teenage girl who was supposedly promised as the third wife of a man older than her father further highlighted the lack of power that women in Afghanistan have over their own lives. It made me glad that people like Joya are working to make a difference. The significance of her contributions to Afghanistan’s future is almost hard to comprehend, and all at the age of 28.
Filmmaker Eva Mulvad captured the everyday life of Joya and her people, and she did it in a way that will impact anyone who watches it. Mulvad said after the film that the difficulty of documentary filmmaking is that you have to trust reality to be interesting. Well, Mulvad lucked out, because in Joya’s case, interesting would be an understatement.
March 4, 2007 at 4:12 p.m.
I’m ashamed to say that during one of the most uniquely cultural events in Columbia, I was only able to attend one movie this weekend. But even though I didn’t attend the other screenings, I am going to confidently assume that the film I did see was one of the most disturbing, moving and influential films that True/False had to offer.
The Devil Came on Horseback is by far the most shocking thing I’ve ever seen. It’s told from the view point of Brian Steidle, a man who was sent into Sudan to observe the supposed cease fire of the civil war. The “devil on horseback” refers to the Janjaweed, an armed militia working with the Sudanese government to get rid of the citizens. With only a camera, a pen and paper, Steidle observed the genocide in Darfur for six months.
As the film progressed, I was able to sympathize more and more with Steidle’s frustration. At one point he commented that if only he were looking through a scope instead of a camera lens, maybe he could help stop the killings. But surprisingly, or maybe not so surprisingly, he wasn’t allowed to take a weapon with him.
The film addresses a sad truth in our society, where people seem to turn their heads when hearing or reading about bad things in other countries. Steidle is not one of those people. He came back from Darfur and told his story to anybody who would listen. But that’s about all those people did.
Steidle had numerous photo albums that proved the devastation. He even went back to talk to some of the survivors and get their accounts. But not much action was taken. The U.S. sent word to the United Nations, but nothing has yet to be done.
When Steidle went back to talk to the survivors, one man’s eyes filled with tears as he shook Steidle’s hand and thanked him. He said, “We pray for the Americans,” because they’re the only people who help. He said that no other countries have offered any assistance. After watching the film, I’m not sure enough Americans have either.
Towards the end of the film, Steidle commented that he knew that bad things were happening. He just didn’t know that so many people were sitting around letting it happen. Hopefully the release of this film, which was shown only one other time at Sundance, will bring awareness to those that usually turn their heads. For those who weren’t aware of the extent of destruction in Darfur, this film will enlighten you more than you can ever imagine. It is definitely the truth of True/False.
March 4, 2007 at 2:02 p.m.
Every year the people of T/F and the Blue Note seem to out-do themselves as far as bookings go, and this year is no exception. The musical line up for Saturday evening was Scream Club, a hip-hop duo from Washington; Casper and the Cookies, a pop group from Georgia; Mucca Pazza of Chicago; and power-pop headliners, Apples in Stereo.
I arrived at the Blue Note as Apples in Stereo were beginning their infectious pop-rock set, and as the show progressed, the crowd continued to bob along to every song. During their set, I noticed a significant number of the audience dressed in various vintage marching band uniforms. At first I thought this to be a bit odd, but then again, this is Columbia, so I didn’t think about it twice. After Apples in Stereo wrapped up, the crowd parted and it seemed to be the end of things until I noticed that the members of the audience dressed in marching band uniforms began to take the stage.
It turned out that Mucca Pazza, a 31-piece ensemble that brands themselves as being an “astounding circus punk marching band,” would be the closing act. And what a finish it was. Mucca Pazza started their set with a gypsy-like piece that sounded as if it should have been on Frenchman Yann Tiersen’s “Amelie” soundtrack. During the opening number, the accordionist and two guitarists remained on the stage playing while the rest of the band weaved throughout the audience with trombones, tubas, drums, and a number of other instruments. Then there was a pause and an explosion of sound followed from the band members dispersed throughout the Blue Note. The show was on.
For the next hour, Mucca rocked the crowd with genre-bending, cheerlead dance grooves that even the late James Brown would have been proud of. At one point, Mucca had the entire crowd swaying back and forth to a breezy, free-floating song, and immediately afterwards the crowd was hypnotized by a muted melody. Then the dancing began again. Mucca was by far the most exciting and enjoyable act I’ve ever encountered.
If my high school marching band were even half as entertaining and innovative as Mucca Pazza, I would have attended a lot more football games and actually looked forward to assemblies.
March 4, 2007 at 1:49 p.m.
The True/False festival wasn’t kidding when they said the secret screenings were worth your while. It was one of the best films I’ve ever seen. I was a little worried because when I think of a documentary film I automatically think boring. This experience changed my mind.
The “green” film was (NAME REMOVED DUE TO PRESS EMBARGO) and it followed two musicians around the world as they played an instrument that is unique to the Basque country. It is made of four planks of wood and it takes two musicians to play it. Because is takes two people to play, the music doesn’t belong to anyone. They take their instrument and travel around the world. Through their travels they prove that music can truly transcend all languages. No matter whom they share their music with, the Adivasi of India, the Sami of Laponia, the Mongol, or the Saharan people, the reaction is always the same, joy, laughter and a blending of cultures.
Even though the film is in several different languages, the music tells the story better than words ever could. The film was shot in 35mm and it was stunning to look at. From ice-covered landscapes to sweltering deserts, every place featured in this film was amazing to view.
After the film was over, the musicians came onstage at the Missouri Theatre to play a song on the instrument. Seeing them play live, with their arms moving so fast you couldn’t tell which arms belonged to which person, was really incredible.
March 4, 2007 at 10:15 a.m.
Anyone walking past Shakespeare’s Pizza this weekend must have seen it: a large white trailer sitting in the parking lot adorned with teamFOTO logos along the side. teamFOTO, an idea started by MU photography students in 2002, is an organization that tries to inspire art by creating art. Initially, the idea was to create a traveling art show in the back of a U-Haul to take to a Kansas City First Friday, but soon after, it died off, until this year.
The 25 photos on display were taken by MU art students. The subject matter of the photos ranged from landscapes to nudes, polariods and prints, and even a few naughty things. All photos were on sale and prices ranged from $25-$300
Another aspect of teamFOTO, is “Art Attack.” “Art Attack” is a program designed to bring creativity and artistic expression in to small communities by sharing work with high school and grade school students. Last semester, teamFOTO set up shop at a Fulton high school art class and taught the students how to use a pinhole camera. After having the students go out and take photos, teamFOTO selected the best shots and will display them at Bek’s, a local restaurant in Fulton.
March 3, 2007 at 10:01 p.m.
On a stage decorated with pink and yellow circular cutouts, some blank and others bearing the True/False letters—T and F—stands Johnny St. John in a polyester suit that looked like it came out of the seventies. John was the host of the second year game show that was introduced at last year’s festival.
The game show, held at The Blue Note on Sat., included several two-minute short films directed by locals that were previewed and then followed by three questions that attempted to uncover the truth behind the film. The questions came from three directors of this year’s festival: Marco Williams (Banished), Annie Sundberg (The Devil Came on Horseback) and Gary Burns (Radiant City).
The short films varied in content from a woman addicted to daylilies that she dried to get high (false) to the man who designed the image on Missouri’s quarter and had his image stolen by the U.S. mint (true) to a vegetarian German Shepherd that preferred eating salad over dog food (false).
Another highlight of the short films was about a girl who found pleasure in training her cat to use the toilet. She used several techniques such as placing the litter box next to the toilet, locking her cat in the bathroom as punishment for pooping behind the toilet and putting the cat’s food and water in the bathroom. The (true) film never revealed if the cat reached her goal.
The films were judged and prizes were awarded to the top three best films. First place winner was director, Hannah Robbins’ Vegetarian Shepherd. Robbins took home $250 dollars and several other prizes. Directors Williams, Sundberg and Burns took home original artwork from a local artist.
March 3, 2007 at 8:17 p.m.
I must say I felt out of place, but under the circumstances—mingling with talented artists in a rare opportunity—it was quite thrilling.
The Sycamore Restaurant provided an elegant atmosphere for the fête. They offered (free) appetizers consisting of grilled shrimp with fresh avocado on a shish kabob, a fancier version of hot wings, small pita wedges, stuffed mushrooms and some sort of a wrap, all compiled on a table sprinkled with rose petals. The hostesses, wearing all black and smiles on their faces, squeezed their way through the sea of people changing out appetizers.
The bar was surrounded with filmmakers and passholders immersed in conversation, sharing thoughts on the festival and stories about life. Walking from front to back of the restaurant, in its shotgun style layout, I heard a mix of accents and languages, many British and some undeterminable.
Filmmaker Bruno Ulmer is here from Spain with his film, Welcome Europa, shown Sat. at 2:30 p.m. at the Ragtag Cinemacafe. When asked where he’s from, he said three different countries: Morocco, France and Spain, as he’s lived in all of them and considers them all home. This is his first trip to Columbia and it’s been enjoyable, he said.
I left the fête and headed to the Cherry Street Artisan, where I found a band in the process of setting up, and left just as they began their neo-bluegrass session to attend the Gimme Truth! game show.
March 3, 2007 at 1:07 p.m.
Perhaps it was just me. It could have been that my own excitement and anticipation created a false perception of liveliness in others, but I don’t think so. Maybe people weren’t talking louder and more hurriedly than usual. Perhaps there weren’t more people out and about downtown. No, I think it was pretty evident: downtown Columbia was electric.
Every year, the True/False Film Festival turns Columbia into a well of excitement and energy, and this year is no different.
As I hurried around downtown trying to take in everything I could, I couldn’t help but laugh and say aloud, “This is awesome.”
The Artisan hosted four bands with varying takes on the singer/songwriter, folk-pop genre. And even in the subdued environment the music created, the Artisan was still a buzz.
At the Blue Note, people waited outside to see the Reverend Horton Heat and Murder by Death.
But the prize of the night was the No Quarter party, which took place at the former Lumia Gallery on Walnut St. Inside, the white walls were decorated with varying sizes of antlers, four different projection screens, and in one corner, a forest of tree branches. There were two bars set up, each dedicated to its corresponding sponsor: Belvedere Vodka and Schlafly Brewing (I feel it is worth mentioning that the drinks were free). Bodies were packed in close as the Water Babies of Chicago, shook the house with their infectious electro-afro beats and calypso soul.
One thing is certain- there were no disappointments.
March 3, 2007 at 2:05 a.m.
I have to agree with Paul Sturtz (I think it was him that said this) and say that I didn’t have high expectations when going to this movie. I mean a movie about the moon? I already saw Apollo 13, right? WRONG! This was such an amazing movie. Listening to all the astronauts tell about their experiences on the Apollo missions touched me deeply.
I laughed. I cried. I felt inspired. Listening to Mike and Buzz retell their story about landing on the moon hit me hard. I wasn’t alive when it happened, but this movie made me feel like a part of this historic event. Hearing Armstrong utter those famous words and see the crew relive one of the biggest moments in history was an amazing experience.
This movie was a surprising delight. I am so glad that I went, despite my original hesitations over seeing another “moon” movie. David Sington did an amazing job on this documentary.
The interviews were so funny. Did anyone else feel that the clips he chose fit so perfectly together? There was always a wise crack when you were least expecting it. I thought Mike had some of the best comments. I also loved hearing him tell about Armstrong’s personality and listening to the everyone tell about the inner workings of NASA during the Apollo missions.
Overall, amazing experience, and I challenge anyone to disagree.