True/False Film Fest 2012: A personal recap

Alright, filmies! This last weekend was Columbia’s very own True/False Film Fest, and for the second year in a row I got the opportunity to cover some of it for a publication! This year: Vox Magazine, of course!

For those who don’t know what True/False is (because you clearly haven’t talk to me before), here’s the commercial they ran this year:

It’s a documentary festival that happens throughout downtown Columbia in that first weekend of March. We get people and films from all over; Project Nim and Buck showed here last year and this year it was rumored James Franco was in town. Music acts come in from all over, like Brooklyn’s Pearl and The Beard (the best one I saw all Fest!).

Thursday: Let the documentaries begin…tomorrow!

Thursday night I didn’t have anything assigned, so Hannah Burkett and I headed out to see Undefeated, the 2012 Oscar winner for Best Documentary. Unfortunately, the show was sold out and there was no hope for non-passholders like ourselves. That’s what Redbox is for, I suppose.

Friday: Graphics and Heroin Addicts

Friday afternoon, I sat in a panel with Erik Buckham. You probably don’t recognize the name, but maybe scrolling through his portfolio will give you a hint as to just how often you’ve seen his work. Not only did he design the “influencing machine” that acted as True/False’s logo this year…

I just wanted a reason to put this in, it’s so cool.

…but he also has credits working on posters for AtonementThe Social NetworkI’m Still HereWhere the Wild Things AreThe Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (of which he was very disappointed in the studio’s choice of poster, as were the rest of the books’ fans), The Informant! and Burn After Reading. Needless to say, I felt like I was in the presence of Hollywood behind-the-scenes royalty.

Vox coverage started for me on Friday night with the 7:30 p.m. showing of The Connection, a 1962 documentary by Shirley Clarke that hasn’t seen a screen in the US since its initial release. Now that it’s been remastered, it debuted at True/False and I was witness to its first American showing! The film is shot like a documentary, but based on a living-theater play about a group of heroin addicts waiting for their fix in a 1960s New York tenement apartment. The movie got out around 10:00 p.m., and I whisked myself away to the office to write up a quick review.

Saturday: American Idiots and American Nerds

Saturday morning started off with a 2-hour drive into St. Louis to see American Idiot at the Peabody Opera House.

When we got back around 6 p.m., it was time to head over to Jesse Hall for a 9:30 p.m. showing of the new documentary by Morgan Spurlock (of Fast Food Nation and Supersize Me fame), Comic Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope. Spurlock himself was there, and introduced the film as one we would all enjoy because “I’m not in one shot of this one.”

The movie actually opens with a shot of the District here in Columbia, Mo. One of the subjects of the film is Skip, a bartender and aspiring comic book artist who hosts Monday Nerd-Out nights at Eastside Pub. “How were you not aware of this weekly phenomenon of geekdom?” you ask? I don’t knowbut I think it’s time to bust out the Batman tee and Harry Potter trading cards.

Comic Con went on to document the 2010 convention in San Diego, making nerd and non-nerd alike thoroughly jealous of those who get to go. Interviewing everyone from Joss Whedon (a producer on the film), Stan Lee (another producer), Eli Roth and Olivia Wilde to Robert Kirkman (author of The Walking Dead graphic novels), Seth Rogen, Lauren Conrad and Kevin Smith, there was no end to the amount of applause each one got their first time gracing the screen from an audience they couldn’t hear or see. We walked out entirely entertained and desperate to get our Wonder Woman and Princess Leia costumes out and fly to San Diego this summer.

Sunday: Manic Pixies and The Undefeated

I had my second Vox duty Sunday morning at a panel called “Manic Pixie Dream Girl Subverted: Real Women in Documentary Film.” The panel was hosted by The Onion’s Nathan Rabin, who coined the MPDG phrase after seeing Kirsten Dunst’s performance in Elizabethtown (but Natalie Portman in Garden State and Zooey Deschanel in just about anything also counts). The four directors present discussed how the women in their pictures, unlike the MPDG, had actual substance and lived for themselves rather than the brooding, depressed main (male) character. After the panel finished, I was back in the office to write a blog post on it.

We ended True/False with the film I thought we’d see at the very beginning. Undefeated played to a full house at Jesse Hall at 6:30 p.m., and the response to it was nothing less than what Oscar voters provided. I’m not a football fan, and I don’t believe we should be stressing the importance of sports over the importance of education in high schools. This movie struck a chord with me, anyway. Set in North Memphis, one of the worst neighborhoods in the country, the story centers around a volunteer high school football coach as he gets his Manassus Tigers into the game. It’s an uplifting story with dynamic characters, with times when the audience cheered and times when there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. To cap off the fest’s activities: the two directors (one is an MU alumn) spoke after the film, and even brought their little buddy, Oscar. The people taking pictures of the statue during the Q&A session definitely showed that the little gold man was just as big a hit as directors Dan Lindsey and TJ Martin. All I know is that I was within a few feet from the statue that defines what we Americans consider good film. For a cinephile like me, that’s heaven.

So that’s the recap of True/False 2012. I’ve only got one more to experience while in school here at MU, so I’m torn between volunteering next year and just buying a pass. If any of my dear readers (what, are there, like 8 of you now? Although that Hunger Games post got a lot of attention…63 views the first day!) who may or may not have gotten to go, make sure you go next year!

Here’s to another year of great documentary film, art and music. Even more so, here’s to another!

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