Entertainment Magazine

True/False Fest Preview

Posted on the 29 February 2012 by Plotdevice39 @PlotDevices

Well, I finally did it.  I managed to post for a month long about nothing but documentaries.  I enjoyed this little exercise in focusing on one genre of fillmmaking for a month and it was all for my lead up to the True/False Film Fest in Columbia, MO.  The fest takes place on March 1st through March 4th and the focus is on the art of documentary films.  While there are a few that toe the line to non-fiction genre, the aim of the fest is to open a dialog channel between audiences and filmmakers.  I have been excited about this fest as it will be my first, heavy film festival to take part in.

So with my pass purchased, the hotel booked and my time off from work put in, I am poised to experience around 17 films within the span of 4 days.  It might seem daunting and not much of a vacation for most people, but I am going for the experience and enjoyment of film.  Also this will give me a ton of content to write about and also gain experience on festival writing.  So if any potential film sites want to send me to, oh, Sundance or anything, please let me know.  Just throwing that out there.

My aim is to do micro-updates, highlighting short blurbs on the films and experience each day and then taking a bit of time later in the month to fully review each film.  If you aren’t following me on twitter, do so to get tweets from me while I am there and my attempt to get a photo with Morgan Spurlock and other filmmakers there.  Follow me at @PlotDevices on twitter!

So to get you pumped or somewhat interested in my little venture, I am posting some trailers and synopsis about some of the films that I am seeing at the True/False Fest.  Just a taste before you dive into what I have to say.  Enjoy!

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope:

Have you ever imagined a place where Vulcans and vampires get along? Where wizards and wookies can be themselves? Welcome to Comic-Con San Diego. What started as a fringe comic book convention for 500 fans has grown into the pop culture event of the year that influences every form of entertainment, now attended by over 140,000 strong. COMIC-CON EPISODE IV: A FAN’S HOPE- a film by Morgan Spurlock explores this amazing cultural phenomenon by following the lives of five attendees as they descend upon the ultimate geek mecca at San Diego Comic-Con 2010.


Among the most skilled filmmakers working in nonfiction today, Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady (Jesus Camp, 12th & Delaware) have never shied away from difficult subjects, nor allowed audiences to finish one of their films with their preconceived notions intact. Detropia takes us deep into the shell of the city that was once Detroit. Lonely, grainy nighttime shots punctuate stories of struggle told by the survivors that still call the Motor City their home. A blogger and urban explorer sneaks us into once-palatial homes; a nightclub owner shares the highs and lows; and an anonymous opera singer practices his craft in an abandoned theater. Avoiding easy moments of false hope, Ewing and Grady capture the pride that many still feel for Detroit. Even as it provides an elegy to a once-great city, Detropia won’t let you count Detroit out just yet.


Alex returns to seventh grade knowing that once again he will be punched, choked, and called names, with every school-bus ride a terrifying test of endurance. School officials turn a blind eye to the bullying that 16-year-old Kelby suffers every day—even after she’s deliberately struck by a car. For Ty Field-Smalley, who killed himself when he was just 11 years old, constant bullying was something he couldn’t cope with. Filmmaker Lee Hirsch makes the bullying epidemic in American schools intensely personal, demonstrating how, for kids like Alex and Kelby, mere survival can be a daily battle. The experiences of these kids will stay with you long after the film is over. Unsettling and deeply felt, Bully is essential viewing for parents, kids, and anyone who cares about the safety of American students.

How to Survive a Plague:

In 1987, as the death count mounted for New York’s gay community, Senator Jesse Helms blamed the victims for their disease and President Reagan refused to speak the disease’s name—let alone launch a national policy to address it. Into this void came an activist force called ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power). This take-no-prisoners group agitated on every front to find a cure: from noisy rallies outside the National Institutes of Health to becoming experts on human physiology and drug testing. This landmark film taps into a motherlode of archival video footage from the ’80s and celebrates a little-told triumph of activism: how a few charismatic activists, plus some less-showy pharmaceutical researchers, endeavored to end a crisis. Rigorously journalistic yet intimate and cathartic, How to Survive brings its subject and its epoch to life more than any other film before it.

The Island President:

The Maldives, a tropical paradise for tourists in the Indian Ocean, faces a big problem. Global warming has led to rising ocean levels, leaving the hundreds of tiny islands that make up the country at risk of disappearing. President Mohamed Nasheed is on a mission to stop this from happening. With extraordinary access, filmmaker Jon Shenk documents the challenges of Nasheed’s first year in office, which also include the struggles to build democratic government after years of brutal military rule. A former political prisoner himself, the charismatic Nasheed knows how to get attention, holding a cabinet meeting underwater for the press. Yet he is no show pony, as his game-changing, impassioned speech at the Copenhagen Climate Summit makes clear. As he puts it, “It won’t be any good to have a democracy if we don’t have a country.” Beautiful cinematography and a haunting soundtrack by Radiohead deepen this urgent real-life drama.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry:

There’s nary a paintbrush to be seen in this document of the Chinese dissident Ai Weiwei, named by ArtReview as the most influential artist in the world. Ai’s big-concept projects include a room filled with tens of millions of hand-painted faux sunflower seeds, crafted out of porcelain; the phenomenal Bird’s Nest, the Olympic stadium in Beijing; and a spreadsheet documenting each of the more than five thousand students buried alive in shoddy public buildings after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. Whether tweeting an upraised middle finger to Chinese officials, getting beaten by police, or spelling out a poem with five thousand backpacks on the front of a Munich museum, Ai transmutes protest into a mind-expanding, heartfelt, and sometimes brutally funny form of expression. With perseverance and a steady hand, director Alison Klayman captures the passion and commitment of the man who best represents a China at war with its conscience.


“Football doesn’t build character. Football reveals character.” So says Bill Courtney, a lumber salesman turned volunteer high school football coach in North Memphis. And as he inspires his rough team of inner-city teens to turn a perennially losing program into a contender, we are treated to one of the greatest sports docs of all time. There’s a truism in the film business that says that documentary audiences don’t like sports movies, and vice versa. Please, if you find yourself on either side of that divide, consider Undefeated the peanut butter/chocolate meeting of these two genres. Like a real-life Friday Night Lights, Undefeated tells a powerful, inspiring story that, at its root, is about what it means to care. Nominated for an Oscar, this is a masterful work from a pair of young filmmakers, one of whom is an MU grad.

This is just a taste of what I am seeing and I will be writing about them at length once the festival is over.  But I can’t wait to experience the films that have been selected for True/False and hope that you enjoy what I have to bring.

*description provided by TrueFalse.org


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