Beer and Pavement

A True/False Diary, part 1

Posted in Film, Live by SM on March 7, 2011

I am still recovering from four days of docs, drinks, and dancing[1] at this year’s True/False Fest. The following is a rundown of all the things I saw and did over that time. Last night, I had trouble just remembering which films I had actually seen, but it’s all coming back to me.

Blood in the Mobile; Thu, Mar 3 5:30PM; Big Ragtag
What a great way to start the fest. Of course, it made me feel a little guilty for using my phone so much[2], but it was a strong start to an excellent weekend. Maybe one of the most powerful moments of the entire fest happened when the filmmakers ventured down a coltan mine in the Eastern Congo[3]. It’s the most claustrophobic I’ve felt watching a film since the director’s cut of Das Boot many years ago. Plus, it was interesting to see the contrast in the mines, the surrounding miners camp and Nokia headquarters in Finland. Two characteristics that seemed to run throughout the fest were Scandinavian filmmakers and a focus on African and African-American subjects.

The Jubilee (w/ Benda Bilili!); Thu, Mar 3 7:30PM; Missouri Theatre
The first film made us a little late to fully enjoy the fest’s newest event, the Jubilee. While my partner searched out some food, I grabbed a Schafly APA and enjoyed mingling with drunk, middle-aged folk. We settled into the beautiful Missouri Theatre. What I witnessed was the maybe the best rockumentary[4] I’ve seen in a while. The film had holes and there was a bit a cheese involved in the happy ending, but second-straight film set in the Congo was a lot of fun. I particularly loved the representation of the disabled as capable[5].

Secret Screening Purple; Thu, Mar 3 9:30PM; Forrest Theater
I can’t really tell you much about this film. The fest has an agreement with a few bigger festivals (Hello, SXSW!) that they won’t reveal the titles or specific details about certain films so that those fests can claim premier status. What’s interesting is that many films have their first screenings at True/False, but for whatever reason, other festivals get the credit. It’s an aspect of the industry I don’t get. However, I feel lucky enough just to get a chance at seeing these films and will respect the arrangement by not telling you too much about these films. That said, SS Purple was a pretty cool film and featured maybe the best soundtrack I’ve heard in a T/F film.

The Black Power Mix Tape 1967-1975; Fri, Mar 4 3:00PM; Big Ragtag
We reserved two screenings for this one as I had work commits that could have caused me to miss out on my first Friday film. I was on the road at 5 AM, drove three hours out, sat for three hours, and drove back. Luckily, I made it in time. Ironically, halfway through the doc, a tornado warning caused the volunteers to stop the film. The audience all wondered why bother to stop as they called their loved ones. We weren’t going anywhere.

The Black Power Mix Tape was another Scandinavian film about African(-Americans) and told me more about the Black Power movement than I’d previously known[6]. It was a rather unbiased and factually-based look at the movement, bringing home the idea that every major social movement needs an extreme presence to push through. Every high school in America should have this film in their media centers.

The Woman With Five Elephants; Fri, Mar 4 5:00PM; Forrest Theater / North From Calabria; Fri, Mar 4 6:30PM; The Chapel
We made the mistake of not eating on Thursday and we wouldn’t make that mistake again. These were “extra” films we chose to fill the time slots[7]. The second of the two films overlapped the next, so we chose to attend a parade and eat.

March March; Fri, Mar 4 5:15PM
Said parade was rained on, but that didn’t dampen the marchers. The best part was that we were able to get our kid out of preschool in time to check out the parade. I’ve never made it out to see the March March, but I’m glad I did this time. It’s a ramshackle affair where anyone can join and those who do dress in the most original costumes.

To Be Heard; Fri, Mar 4 7:30PM; Little Ragtag
I’m a little weary of films about schools. These films (fiction or nonfiction) are often preachy, devoid of reality, and/or circle-jerks over an egotistical teacher. Rarely do these films focus on reality or the lives of the students. To Be Heard actually gets it right. Smart, savvy subjects and some really great poetry dominate this film. It wasn’t all uplifting, but the film’s reality was a welcome addition to the “inner-city-schooling-achievement” film genre.

Shut Up Little Man! An Audio Misadventure; Fri, Mar 4 10:00PM; Little Ragtag
My partner called it a night as she had been traveling all week and I settled into one of the Ragtag’s infamous couches for what promised to be the funniest film of the fest. I don’t know that Shut Up… lived up to that promise, but it did bring up some interesting ethical issues. Basically, two young guys record the drunken arguments between their neighbors and eventually turn those recordings into an underground phenomenon. Questions arise as to who owns content that’s been taken under dubious circumstances. The film was more interesting than hilarious, but it was still good for a few laughs.

@CTION! Party; Friday, Mar 4, 10:00PM
I don’t normally do parties at T/F[8]. I tend to just focus on the films, but this year’s involvement in the fest made me want to check this event out. Basically, it was a lot of free booze and multiple rooms with multiple DJ’s letting folks get their grooves on[9]. One room featured soul and 80’s revivalist soul and the other featured music for young folks and a hipster stench. I thought this would be my last stop of the night, but I ended up at an after-party where chatting up T/F staff and filmmakers was actually possible[10]. Plus, Hellbender provided some beer. That’s always a good reason to show up for a party.

There is a second half of this post-T/F diary. However, I will be posting something about the bands I saw in the meantime[11]. So, be on the lookout for two new posts in the coming 48 hours.

1I don’t actually dance anymore, but I saw and heard a shit-ton of great music. I just liked the alliteration.
2I was the unofficial fest Tweeter. While someone on the fest’s core staff was technically in charge of all the social media efforts and did his own share of Tweet, I had access to the Twitter account and was constantly Tweeting the events of the weekend. It was fun, but I will want to prepare much earlier in the game next year if they allow me to participate. Still, it afforded me a lot of access to the fest, which made it the best of the six I’ve attended.
3Coltan is one of the main minerals used in constructing cell phones. The mining of this mineral is being exploited to fund warlords in the Congo.
4I mostly say this because it feels as if the fest has ignored a film genre I happen to love. Maybe there’s a way to highlight new and old rockumentaries in future fests. Keep that in mind as I will post suggestions for next year’s fest later in the week.
5Too often, we are presented with images of the so-called “disabled” as unable to do pretty much anything. While I don’t think the fest has done a ton to dispel this myth, this film and 2005’s Murder Ball suggest otherwise. In Benda Bilili!, the subjects overcome numerous obstacles (in addition to their inability to walk on their own) to support families and become rather successful musicians.
6For one thing, the leaders in the Black Power movement were not nearly as violent as the media and history books would want you to believe.
7This means that there were two extra seats for those waiting in the “Q.” You’re welcome.
8To be honest, I don’t do parties too well. I prefer less-structured get-togethers.
9Despite my unanimous selection has my high school senior class’ best dancer, I don’t really dance much these days, unless it’s with my two-year-old.
10I actually didn’t talk to any filmmakers at this event, but I did talk to To Be Heard‘s Pearl.
11This was the main reason I received a press pass. So, I should probably follow through with that commitment.

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2 Responses

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  1. Karen said, on March 8, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    I agree that “rockumentaries” are under-represented, so I’m really hoping *Revenge of the Mekons* (currently in editing) will make the bill next year. PLEEEEEEEEEEASE!!

    • builderofcoalitions said, on March 8, 2011 at 10:41 pm

      Yeah, I read about that one. Of course, there have been others that the fest has passed up. Maybe next year they’ll bring in a few to even things out.

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