By Saturday and Sunday of the True/False Fest I’d fallen into a comfortable pattern with the timing and layout of the event, cheerfully gliding from one theater to the next, gauging which restaurants, bars and coffee shops might be too crowded for a quick snack or drink, scheduling my viewing to be a rewarding mix of the obscure and the popular. Once again, the festival’s seamless organization made everything easy.
The weekend began with Ross Kauffman and Katy Chevigny’s E-Team, which shadows four “first responders” for the Human Rights Watch organization as they investigate possible crimes against innocent civilians in Syria and Libya. The film is a boots-on-the-ground example of access, that key ingredient which sets a festival-worthy film apart from the pretenders. Dynamic and unflashy (in contrast to the Oscar-nominated–and superficial–Dirty Wars), E-Team is engrossing in terms of both character and subject matter, striking a delicate balance between the dangerously exotic nature of the team’s work and their distinctive personalities. Of all the high-profile documentaries at the festival (re: invited from Sundance), E-Team struck me as the most accessible, least pretentious, and structurally consistent.
If my first full day of viewing films at the True/False Film Fest indicated anything, it’s that this festival’s primary concern is not with advocacy or call-to-action documentaries, those earnest, agenda-centric movies that invite viewers to text or call or join the conversation. Festival co-director David Wilson told me, in a nice way, that he’s seen enough of those “glorified power point presentations,” that “new wave” of issue-driven docs inspired by the success of An Inconvenient Truth. He and co-director Paul Sturtz are in this for the “visionary films,” looking for those filmmakers who “push their work a lot harder; visually, editorially, with music and sound…who take chances and explore the boundaries between fiction and non-fiction.” They’re not opposed to more conventional or commercial work (Jodorowsky’s Dune, Private Violence, Big Men). Not at all. The festival needs to make money to survive. But their shrewd programming strategy works by introducing viewers to challenging films while also satisfying their desire to be entertained. The four pictures I saw on Friday reflected this curatorial design.
The opening night of the True/False Film Fest presented the usual dilemma of any festival kick-off: watch movies or party. Since I’m here on a press pass, I dutifully attended two films, was late for a sold-out third, consumed a few beers and glasses of wine, and introduced myself to the director of the first film I saw, Approaching the Elephant.
Director Amanda Rose Wilder opts for a patient, observational style in her depiction of an experimental New Jersey elementary school in Approaching the Elephant. Based on a model developed by educational radicals in Barcelona, this “free school” is the 262nd of its kind in the world, a system based on letting children develop individual personalities through spontaneous play and democratic problem solving. Read the rest of this entry »
Some locals call it “CoMo” as in Columbia, MO, the county seat of Boone County, and once inhabited by mound-building Native Americans. It is the nation’s 13th most highly educated municipality (thanks, Wikipedia), home to the University of Missouri and, during the last weekend in February, the site of the True/False Film Fest, one of the most respected non-fiction film festivals in the country.
I’ve been here less than 24 hours, but I already know Seattle film lovers would embrace Columbia’s historic downtown core. The walk-friendly grid of graceful brick buildings contain an inviting collection of bars, coffee houses, cozy restaurants, and music venues. The Ragtag Cinema, a half-block off the main drag, is a medley of all of the above, as well as a two-screen movie theater and video store. By the looks of things on this Thursday afternoon, a few hours away from the festival’s first screening, it’s a busy nexus of activity, with passholders munching croissants, Mizzou students hunched over Apples, musicians carting instruments to the backroom stage, and the festival shuttle driver stopping by every half-hour to call for passengers. The Ragtag started out in 1997 as a film society after Columbia’s last downtown movie theater closed. It was a labor of love nurtured by eventual film festival co-founders Paul Sturtz and David Wilson. The program notes say, “the Ragtag is sometimes credited with saving Columbia, but people tend to exaggerate such things.” Read the rest of this entry »
Join us Tuesday, February 25th, for a Meet & Greet with the producers of KCTS’s Reel NW and 9 Media Lab. This is the first of several events we have planned with KCTS this spring and will be a terrific opportunity to learn about the Reel NW program and tour KCTS’s new media lab. Check out the event listing on our FB page. And stay tuned for details about the SeaDoc/KCTS Works-in-progress screening in March!
Mark your calendars for our annual potluck party. It will be held Saturday, Feb 1st, 7pm, at Patricia Boiko’s house. Bring your gear, your latest work to screen and a dish.
Also, we’re planning several events with KCTS and will announce the details in January.
Remember, you can find us and each other on our Facebook page: