The True/False Film Festival begins in earnest today in the college town of Columbia, Missouri. The festival, whose praises I have sung in the past, specializes in documentary films and all the wild, diverse, and sometimes experimental forms it can take. The festival’s name shares roots with an answer to a common fest FAQ – These movies are all true, right? The festival quickly points out that nothing is fact-checked on their part, which isn’t to say that they program bull, which isn’t to say films are selected on the basis of their unimpeachable veracity. At the risk of sounding like a politician, a film at True/False is likely aiming for something truer that just true.
Documentaries can have extraordinary access to tension and emotion unavailable to fiction films. This second type of film is usually dubbed “narrative” films, though you’ll find people around the festival ready to debate you on that terminology, implying as it does that documentaries don’t have shaped narratives. As though their stories are just found lying around ready to be scooped up whole or that the shots are the objective testimony of unmanned cameras. But as anybody who has punished themselves with a dull documentary on an interesting subject knows, it’s never what the movie’s about but how it’s about it. Any film that is satisfied to report the facts of the matter and leave it at that is unlikely to be one playing to the sold out crowds in Columbia this weekend.
Inspired by Doug Laman (nerdinthebasement)’s dispatches from the North Texas Film Festival last year as well as other festival coverage on the site in years past, I’m going to drop some posts of my own as I attend. I don’t have a fancy-pants press pass like Doug did (due to my fancy-pants lack of sustained effort in the area of criticism) so my sampling of the films will be a little more haphazard. I will be seeing the latest from Kirsten Johnson, a few darlings out of Sundance and at least one headed to Netflix so the posts can hopefully be a somewhat useful if not comprehensive source of opinion on films soon headed into the wider world.