By Don Simpson | March 7, 2011
As I ride on an airport shuttle bus from Columbia, Missouri to the Kansas City Airport, I try to piece together exactly why I enjoyed the last four days so damn much. First of all, despite the frigid (at least for a Texan) temperatures, my first ever foray to Columbia for True/False was amazing. I loved the restaurants (a big shout-out to Main Squeeze!), cafes and bars; the local people (many of whom worked as volunteers for True/False) were incredibly friendly and accommodating; and Columbia was just a great city for walking around.
That brings me to my next point: the layout of the festival and accessibility of the venues. I relied solely (mind the pun) on my feet for transportation to, from and around True/False. I do not think any venues were farther than a 10 minute walk from each other, and most were within two to five minutes from each other. So besides the shortage of downtown hotels (I stayed at the Travelodge on Rt. 70 which was a 20-minute brisk walk to/from downtown), motorized vehicles were totally unnecessary.
Most of the theaters were not traditional theatrical venues (meaning the projector and screen were not permanent fixtures in the venues); instead, True/False converts hotel ballrooms, music venues and churches into uniquely atmospheric theaters. (My past experiences with makeshift theatrical venues at film festivals has been sour at best, due primarily to poor projection quality and seemingly unavoidable technical problems, but the projection and sound at True/False was consistently exemplary.) To add to the atmosphere, True/False brilliantly interweaves live music into the festival – most screenings feature an opening band or busker who perform while festival-goers settle into their seats (some of my personal favorites were Bramble, Cindy Wolfe, Nature Walk, Richard the Lionhearted, and Run On Sentence).
Depending on the priority level of one’s film pass, True/False allows its attendees to reserve tickets on-line for the screenings that they want to see the most. Some “lower” pass levels (including the press and volunteer passes) are limited to using the infamous Q in order to access screenings. The flamboyantly costumed queen (or king) of the Q doles out numbered tickets one hour before each screening. Once you snag a Q number, you can judge if you should head over to another Q for a plan B. I quickly learned that I needed to become familiar with the size of the venues and how to determine if all of the reserved tickets were claimed on-line. The Q number designates your place in line and True/False encourages the Q to support Columbia’s plethora of local restaurants, cafes and bars for the following 45 minutes or so; another benefit to keeping the event centralized in a vibrant, downtown community.
For a niche film festival in a small Midwestern city, the attendance was absolutely amazing. I was turned away from enough Q’s to know that sold-out screenings were the norm, rather than the exception, this year. Luckily there were plenty of opportunities to see each film! Of the twelve screenings that I attended, only one (on Sunday) did not achieve 90-100% capacity.
Most importantly, the selection of films was impeccable. I suspect quite a few True/False alumni will be contenders for the Best Documentary Oscar. It is also worth noting that True/False does not care about high profile premieres; their most noteworthy screenings are kept secret – in fact, the entire audience must promise to never ever mention that they saw the film at True/False. I saw four of these color-coded secret screenings (Black, Purple, White, and Green); and in accordance to my promises to True/False, no one will ever know that I saw these four films at 2011 True/False. I will state, however, that these films were my favorites of the festival.
I wish I was able to see more films, but I also wanted to get the full True/False experience…in other words, I could not miss the parties and other random events.
First off, I am still pretty amazed by the @CTION! Party. Maybe it was the unlimited supply of free Schlafly beer, but the @CTION! Party was a fantastic experience – and that is coming from someone who pretty much just stuck to the sidelines and observed the impressive simultaneous dance parties (orchestrated by DJ Name Names and the Chances Dances DJ collective) as a mere wallflower.
The Gimme Truth! game show, in which three featured filmmakers (Dennis Ho, Ameena Matthews and Secret Screening White’s producer) competed against one another to guess which of a series of ten locally produced short films were nonfiction versus fiction, surprisingly escalated into playful fisticuffs. It seems as though some of the short film directors were not being honest when stating whether their film was true or false.
Then there was the intimate Kings Go Forth gig (with the fantastic Netherfriends opening) at the Mojo’s A-Go-Go party. To be honest, Kings Go Forth never appealed to me in recorded form, but their incredibly energetic live show – as I suspected that it would – has converted me into a fan.
Most importantly, check out my True/False film reviews of: The Arbor, Armadillo, Benda Bilili!, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975, Project Nim, Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles, Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure and The Troll Hunter.