Beer and Pavement

CITIZENFOUR

Posted in Film, Review by SM on October 22, 2014
Syna So Pro busks before the first Midwest screening of 'Citizenfour'.

Syna So Pro busks before the first Midwest screening of ‘Citizenfour’.

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to properly express how much True/False means to us in terms of providing that one yearly jolt of intellectualism, creativity, and life we need at the end of every winter. Really, it’s not just that. This is a hard place in which to live. True/False makes it bearable for one long weekend every year.

However, this past year brought us the birth of our son, Theo. He’s our True/False baby, born on March 1st. The doc fest didn’t happen for us. Sure, it went on, but it didn’t happen for us. Of course, we could have gone to the Boone Dawdle for the first time, but the film this year didn’t interest us enough to bike 20 miles in the heat. Maybe next year?

So, we are long overdue for our True/False fix, to put it lightly.

That fix was supplied in the form of Laura Poitras’ Citizenfour, the documentation of Edward Snowden’s coming out as an NSA whistleblower. This was an intense way to get back into the True/False groove as the fest put together a one-time (well two times, actually) screening of the highly anticipated film.

Poitras is a bit of a legend in T/F lore. She won the fest’s True Vision award in 2010 given to “a filmmaker (or filmmaking team) whose work shows a dedication to the creative advancement of the art of nonfiction filmmaking.” Her arguably most popular film at the fest was The Oath in which Poitras hangs out with a cab driver who was once Osam bin Laden’s bodyguard. The cab driver’s life is contrasted with his brother-in-law’s who finds himself detained in Guantanamo Bay. It’s even more intense than it sounds. Poitras also made a film about gentrification in my old home of Columbus, OH. It’s very different from her recent works, but totally a good watch, especially if you keep in-mind that this was her first film.

Citizenfour was not exactly what I expected. I honestly did not read up on it except to realize that it was about Edward Snowden in some way. Like many documentaries, I assumed it was a collection of interviews and pieces of a puzzle put together in order to recreate the events leading up to Snowden’s whistleblowing, making us all acutely aware as to how our government invades our privacy on the daily. I also caught that this was the third in a trilogy including The Oath and 2006’s My Country, My Country. However, what I was not prepared for was the amount of access Poitras had in documenting Snowden’s story.

Usually when a documentary covers a story, it comes in after the fact. There are interviews with people about what they remember. There’s archival footage or recreations. Rarely is a documentary documenting major, historical events in real time. Citizenfour does this, however. Poitras is there, in the room when Snowden is spilling the beans on how the NSA basically watches and listens to every electronic transmission we make. She follows as Snowden’s identity is revealed and he has to make a mad dash for a friendly embassy and eventually Russia. Poitras is only physically in the room with Snowden while he stays in a Hong Kong hotel for interviews with Glenn Greenwald over the course of a week+. Then, as the chase is on, she documents the fallout for various players in the game to uncover how our government watches and collects data on our every move. She communicates now and again with Snowden until she finally provides evidence of his new life in Russia.

What’s interesting is how intimate Poitras is able to get with Snowden without being intrusive. The privacy of his moment is completely documented by Poitras’ camera. It would be ironic had Snowden not asked her to be there, but he did ask her. The difference between Poitras and the NSA is that Poitras was asked to be there and to document the whole thing.

The story which evolves is really quite breathtaking. No narrative is forced. All the drama is real and that might be the scariest part. Poitras typically crafts narrative with a heavy hand. This isn’t a knock. She’s good at telling stories. With Citizenfour, you get the sense that she lets this story tell itself. She’s just there to make sure it gets to an audience.

If Citizenfour screens in your town, go see it. Several of Poitras’ films end up on PBS. So, you might be able to see it there. And don’t just watch it to get informed about the NSA. Sure, there’s that part, but it pales in comparison to the story told. Watch it for the story and do your research on the NSA.

Now I feel like I’m on some sort of list.

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Indie-Craft Interview #3: Kim Sherman

Posted in Film, Indie-Craft, Interview by SM on May 2, 2012

Kim Sherman is a really busy person. So busy that I thought for sure she’d never get around to this “interview.” Not only did Kim prove me wrong, but she went above and beyond the call of duty by contributing the many interesting bits of information you find below the picture I lifted from her Facebook profile. There’s indie filmmaking and indie rock-making she does, filling every open slot on her calendar. She used to head the music scheduling at True/False before returning this year with both a film to screen (V/H/S) and busking gigs for her band, Jerusalem and the Starbaskets, to fulfill.

Speaking of True/False, it was suggested that Kim was the real story of this year’s fest. How often does someone go from volunteering/working for a major film festival to a contributing filmmaker? This doesn’t even mention Jerusalem and the Starbaskets’ thrilling set at one of the fest’s showcases following a year where the band found some well-deserved acclaim for their album, Dost. In other words, Kim is a big part of the best thing that happens in Middle Missouri.

All of this makes Kim Sherman an ideal subject for the Indie-Craft Interview series… 

1. Describe your craft(s).
I am an independent filmmaker and the drummer for Jerusalem and the Starbaskets. My day job is producing for feature films. In independent cinema, this usually involves being pretty hands on in all aspects of the creation of a film. My role and job shape shift a bit, depending on the project and my relationship with the project’s director. For some director’s, I deal more with the practical aspects of the project. Things like hiring cast and crew, working with unions, securing permission for locations. Really, the things no one likes to do on a film set. For other director’s, I work in a more collaborative sense, and help guide the story with them. In either case, I work very hard to make sure the director has everything they need to tell the story, and that they have the space and freedom to insert their voice in that story. If the audience takes something away from the film, hopefully a strong emotional or academic response, and the director feels like people really understand what they were trying to convey, I feel like I did a good job. Though, it helps when the film sells and everyone involved makes money.

2. What’s the importance or benefit of remaining indie?
Choosing Independent Filmmaking was really easy for me, being from the Midwest. I wasn’t exposed to studios, early on, and I never really dreamed of working for a studio. Though, I respect that the industry needs both halves to survive. Some of my favorite films came out of studios. I know that “independent film” meant something different in the 90’s, when that meant a film cost less than $3 million. Now there is a much wider range for independent financing, so films are made for under 10K pretty regularly and with great success. Technology and talent are available in abundance at all levels of that financial spectrum. So for me, the biggest reason for staying in the Independent realm, is simply being able to work on stories that I find interesting, that I feel are important, and that maybe break the rules a bit.

I still want all the world to see my work, and that is certainly easier to achieve in the studio system. But the more overhead a film is associated with, the more money it has to make just to break even. The more money a film has to make, the more creative decisions are made solely on that point. The more a film compromises just to make money, the more contained the vision becomes. Its hard to do something different when you are only thinking about the people that are happy to see the same story over and over again. As a filmmaker and an audience member, I want to see stories that are maybe dirtier, darker, and that challenge the way life is portrayed on television and in theaters.

3. How does your craft contribute to society?
Independent Filmmaking, as I stated, can allow for more freedom of storytelling. The actual filmmaking process has become more accessible to more people, which opens the medium up for interpretations by various cultures. The idea is that independent film and audiences will gravitate towards stories that haven’t been told and recycled a million times over.

Until recently, I had been working mostly in horror films. I was fortunate to work with a few friends that know the genre very deeply, and wanted to see the old conventions given new life. They developed stories with a woman as the central protagonists. The women in these films survive where others would break. I really loved this element. I recognize that Horror is an inherently sexist genre, but I do see more and more audiences growing tired of watching women mercilessly tortured. There is a trend towards women overcoming the demons, serial killers, mutant rapists, and abusive spouses from another planet, and not just because they are pure and virginal. Horror, like sci-fi and other genre work, is a great way to point out the evils of society and hopefully make a path to the solution of these evils.

More recently, I have been involved with dramas that feature women on the verge of falling out of society. Caught between their crimes and the reality of the punishment, I ran towards these stories for their polarizing central characters. This is an idea that had been reserved for male characters, with women playing sidekick and savior. I love being a part of something that provides strong and challenging roles for women.

Beyond just women too, I hope to always work on films that push forward groups that would otherwise be marginalized in film, on and off the screen. Hopefully these stories won’t seem so fringe, in the very near future. In this way, I feel like my craft contributes to society.

4. What other indie-craft products inspire you?
Several times a year, I record and tour with my bandmates, Jeremy Freeze and John Garland, as the drummer for Jerusalem and the Starbaskets. My bandmates are like family, and I very sincerely love the music we make. I’ll sometimes blush when I hear it playing in Uprise or other public spaces, but I really do love listening to our albums always. Jeremy Freeze is one of my favorite songwriters, and I never get sick of listening to his voice and lyrics.

When I work on films, I spend a lot of time on my computer. I have a hard time concentrating if I’m not listening to music. It’s better for my brain than coffee even.

Recently, Jeremy and John contributed music to a film I produced. For me, it was the start of something I have been working up to. I want to combine my two loves, film and music. I am currently co-writing a film with Jeremy, that we are hoping to make late in 2013.

5. What is your dream of success?
I have more immediate goals for success, that include sustainability. It’s hard for people in my profession to balance time and money. It’s especially hard when you work in micro-budget independent films. Long term, I am starting to get back to directing, and it is my hope that I can find a successful balance between directing, producing, and drumming. If I can do this, live comfortably off of the things I have dedicated my life to, and still be there for my friends and community, I will feel like a huge success.

If you get a chance, check out Kim’s work. V/H/S hits On Demand and theaters this fall. Dost is available in exchange for your dollars. And I’m sure Kim has something else up her sleeve in the meantime.

[Full disclosure: Kim is the only person to ever call me a journalist. This can be both good and bad. Make of it what you will.]

 

True/False Recap

Posted in Film by SM on March 6, 2012

As I mentioned before, all my time outside of work was spent on the True/False Film Fest, our local documentary festival. I was busy Tweeting (both live and scheduled) throughout the week and weekend. Additionally, I wrote a few of bits for the T/F blog which will eventually get director’s cut treatment here. Also, I have a music recap of the fest that will make an appearance at some point this week. All of the following posts can be found at The CoMo Collective, a collaborative community blogging project of which I’m part, or just scroll down and read about my fest.

Wednesday

Courtesy of Rebecca Allen

Normally, we don’t have a February 29th. So, that may explain why Wednesday is the new Thursday for True/False, another day we rarely get to enjoy. Usually, things don’t get started until Thursday, but Wednesday was a busy one in CoMo. Yes, crews are always prepping venues up until the last minutes, but this Wednesday had a different vibe. It really did feel as though True/False was underway, one day early, a day we only receive every four years.

Ticket & Pass Pickup (5:00 – Box Office)
Have you ever seen a cooler space than the True/False box office? No, you haven’t. Rebecca has documented it well in her photo essays, but you need to see it for yourself. Installations are everywhere. Even the floor was a sight to behold. My words won’t do it justice. You just have to stop in at the corner of Broadway and Hitt to see the best interior of any building in CoMo for yourself.

Of course, I didn’t go there for the aesthetics. Although, they didn’t hurt. Nope, I was there to pick up passes and reserved tickets. T/F has always maintained an efficient ticketing process, but this may have been the best setup I’ve seen in the seven years I’ve attended the fest. The space didn’t hurt, but the efficiency of the ticket and pass reclamation was so smooth and pleasant, I could hardly believe it. I mean, usually in these situations, one build up anticipation which soon turns to anxiety as volunteers stumble to move the line and retrieve your packets. Not this year. My hat goes off to the staff and volunteers running the show. The box office experience was easily the best I’ve had yet.

And in just the other room, the merch is – as always – loaded with must-haves. T-shirt designs by some local artists/crafters really give the merch that authentic feel that can only be found at True/False. I walked away with a hoodie (now I have a green one!) and a t-shirt designed by our own Ben Chlapek. It also didn’t hurt that the merch was under control thanks to the guidance from Butterfly Tattoo’s Amanda Vander Tuig.

;

Also in the merch area was the music crew. Amanda Rainey greeted me and chatted for a bit. A little later, Justin Nardy showed up with a stack of his hand-printed posters featuring the bands at this year’s fest. The music merch section looks way more formidable this year and should be a place for me to lose more money.

Based on a True Story Conference (6:00 – MU campus)
I was supposed to register for this conference with T/F tie-ins at the J-School, but I spent too much time chatting with the many fine people at the box office. So, this one will have to wait, but I’m excited to catch a panel or three over the next couple of days. More to come on this conference…

I arrived in time for part of the Q&A, but Ashley and David did not. Their flight was slightly delayed, causing them to miss their Mo-X shuttle. So, they eventually Skyped in for the Q&A after the film while riding in a van from St. Louis. For all the intrigue and questions the film conjures, their stories in relation to the film only add more. This is why we stay for Q&A as often as possible throughout the fest.

Eastside Showcase
This is the unofficial official start of the fest and it’s hard to believe that any showcase will outdo the one at Eastside Tavern last night. Three bands – two local, one from Milwaukee – whipped the crowd into a pretty good frenzy for Wednesday.

Enemy Airship opened the night and one could say the entire festival.If I wanted to hear Broken Social Scene, I’d probably watch them on Pitchfork TV, but this was a close enough facsimile. I certainly don’t mean that in negative way. The band is fun, even danceable, especially as compared to their previous incarnation, Nonreturner. The set was topped off with a particularly earnest cover of New Order’s “Age of Consent”. It’s too bad no one could hear the keyboards.

Another local, Hott Lunch, played second. I had heard a lot of good things and the band did not disappoint. From punk to classic rock, this band was all over the place aggression, hitting all the right influences. I’d like to hear them focus in on one thing, but they do so many so well. Maybe that’s not so bad. Either way, it was an enjoyable set.

The closers were CATACOMBZ. With a light show few have witnessed in Eastside, the band beat the audience into submission and told them to dance without directly telling the so, yet they obeyed. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a band come in and just move the entire crowd into convulsions.

It was an excellent start to the fest. I can’t wait to actually sit down and watch a film. That will start around 4:30. Expect a full report tomorrow…

Thursday

Thursday is the new Friday, or something like that. I was able to fit in a #BOATS panel, three films, and a showcase. Remember when nothing happened on Thursday? Good thing I’m taking a day off today. Anyway, here’s the rundown.

Based on a True Story Conference (1:30 – J-School)
Maybe the smartest thing the J-School has done (I said maybe) is align themselves with the fest. The panels are filled with filmmakers and film experts/journos/bloggers while an audience mostly made up of journalism academics grill them. It was friendlier than that, but only mildly.

Sometimes it’s hard to live in a town of so many journalists. Everyone’s looking for a particular kind of truth. So, during a panel on transparency, the journalists wanted more transparency while the film folk didn’t care for it. They didn’t run from transparency, but they also didn’t see the need for announcing that scenes were staged or the fact they, as filmmakers, were interfering with their subjects’ lives. I have to side with the filmmakers on this one. There are many truths, even some not taught in the J-School. When I watch a well-crafted nonfiction film, I’m not always concerned with the filmmaker’s manipulation to get a shot. If that shot is beautiful, let it play and just enjoy. These films are more art than newscast. Yes, they tell true stories and feature real subjects, but it’s art.

There were more intellectual discussions than that, but that’s another discussion for someone else’s book.

The Waiting Room (4:30pm – Forrest Theater)
What a way to start the fest. The Waiting Room is gut-wrenching watching people down on their luck spend a day in the ER waiting room. Each story is harder to watch than the last. I knew I was in for a tough watch as soon as the father worrying about his daughter was introduced within the first five minutes. The film shines a light on what a disservice our current (pre and post-Obamacare) system does for people’s well-being while simultaneously capturing the subjects’ humanity. Really, this was an excellent start to the fest.

Nature Walk were the buskers. I got a big Violent Femmes vibe as they ripped through their set, doing whatever they could to keep the crowd entertained. The video below shows them in a somewhat more somber tone, reminding of One Foot in the Grave-era Beck.

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (7:00pm – The Blue Note)
I Tweeted this…

From my perspective, it seemed as if the filmmaker sort of stumbled upon a feature film, finding a great subject and being smart enough to let the camera roll. Ai Weiwei is maybe the most engaging subject I’ve seen at T/F. For what

1/2 Revolution (9:45pm – The Blue Note)
Maybe the most incredible footage I’ve ever seen took place in this film. I felt like I was in Cairo during the people’s uprising. However, the dude needs an editor. There’s no story and I can only watch so many minutes of dudes shouting f-bombs into their cell phones from their apartments. So, the whole experience was chaotic, even amazing, but I would have liked a story.

Busking in the Blue Note were the Toughcats. The ‘Cats are part of a contingent of Maine residents who make an annual pilgrimage to CoMo for the fest. Their drummer is the most energetic thing I’ve seen.

Mojo’s Showcase (Bassdrum of Death, Jerusalem and the Starbaskets, and Ming Donkey One-Man Band)

I missed the openers, but Jerusalem and Bassdrum were plenty to make the late night worth it. Jerusalem and the Starbaskets added a second guitarist that really filled out their sound. This was followed up by Bassdrum of Death and their punk rock dirge. I swear they were eighteen-year-olds from 1992 behind all that hair. They were pretty great, even if they did rip us a new collective…

Check Day 1 here and come back for day 3.

Photo credits: top photo is Rebecca Allen’s; screenshot of the Tweet is mine, and the rest belong to Benjamin Gross

The Weekend

Image courtesy of Rebecca Allen

There are not enough hours in the day for all the music and film I attempted to take in this past weekend. I tried to find moments to blog it all for our dear readers, but there was no time for that as well. Besides attending the fest, I spent a large amount of time Tweeting from the fest’s account. So, I was effectively volunteering the entire fest, joining my 900+ brothers and sisters. Although, they were all working hard while I was watching film after film.

Either way, I saw and experienced a lot. You can check my recaps from the first two days (1 & 2), but this is what I saw over the weekend. Feel free to contribute your own good times and impressions in the comments. Much of the fest is a blur, so I’ll need your help.

Friday:

The Vanishing Spring Light (12:00pm – Little Ragtag)
Typically, films like this one suck. The filmmakers hung out with a Chinese matriarch during her last days. She’s had a bad fall and her health is deteriorating by the day. It’s hard to watch someone die, but the filmmakers somehow made it all bearable. Interestingly, the film is supposed to be the first in a trilogy that documents the “re-purposing” of an entire city. Throughout this tale of one person’s final days above ground, you begin to notice that neighbors are being moved out. A large “X” is taped on nearly every door in the neighborhood… It really was an intriguing film that makes me anticipate parts two and three. Believe it or not, it didn’t feel like anything near the two hours it took to tell this story.

Secret Screening Orange (2:30pm – Big Ragtag)
Full disclosure: this film was created by friends of mine. That’s about all I can tell you as secret screenings are strictly confidential. You see, T/F can show certain films as long as they can maintain premier status at other festivals. Amazingly, folks are really good about not sharing information all over the web concerning these films. This one was good as were the other two secret screenings I saw. Again, that’s about all I can say.

March March

The Ambassador (7:00pm – Jesse)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EFyymgLsSYg&feature=BFa&list=PLDCAF87D8D73775D5&lf=plpp_video
Mads Brügger is a genius. From the man who brought us Danes for Bush and The Red Chapel comes a film about a man who takes whatever measures necessary to set himself up as an a diplomat in the Central African Republic in order to obtain blood diamonds. Through “envelopes of happiness” and a fake match factory, Brügger utilizes absurdity to demonstrate just how easy it is to smuggle blood diamonds from Africa. Maybe the most absurd moment is the transition in which he plays a cassette tape of sounds produced by whales for two Pygmy men. I don’t know that I understood it all on the first watch, but it’s easy to identify  Brügger’s genius and sense of the absurd.

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope (10:00pm – Forrest Theater)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZN41gXXUlLI&feature=BFa&list=PLDCAF87D8D73775D5&lf=plpp_video
For documentary film geeks, Mads  Brügger is a superstar. However, for the average film-goer, two names are at the forefront. One is Michael Moore and the other is Morgan Spurlock, creator of Super-Size Me. Spurlock made it to the fest with his highly entertaining documentary on the annual event for geeks that happens every year in San Diego. Unfortunately, Spurlock didn’t make it for this screening. However, two of the subjects were on hand, including CoMo’s own Skip Harvey, an aspiring comic book illustrator and bartender at Eastside Tavern (where Spurlock eventually showed up Saturday night).

@ction! Party/Friday Night Showcase
All that you need to know about @ction Party is that there are two primary rooms for dancing. (The rest of the space is utilized for socializing, drinking, and getting a portrait taken in the T/F photo booth.) The first is out in the open, just below the go-go dancers and is primarily populated with aging hipsters dancing to the music of their youth. The second is a cramped, closed-in space that you’ll smell way before you ever enter. Being of a certain age, I stayed out of this second room, but I can’t deny the fun being had inside.

Saturday:

Secret Screening Lavender (10:00am – Forrest Theater)
Saturday is a marathon day. We all still have energy and just enough sleep from the night before to carry on. However, this excellent film nearly took the wind out of our sails as it depicted some rather disheartening and devastating events. As mentioned before, I can’t tell you a thing about this film except that it joined SS Orange as two of my top three or four films of the fest.

Summer of Giacomo (12:30pm Forrest Theater)


Somewhat experimental, this film barely matched its own description as a story of a boy experiencing cochlear implants. For the first 4/5 of the film, it was a nearly-perfect summer love story, ending with a nearly-perfect closing scene. Then, it attempted to hint at the story in the description. Still, even with this disconnect between film and “extra” scene, Summer was a pleasant surprise.

Bully (3:30pm – Jesse)


So, Lavender was gut-wrenching and the next film was beautiful. The third film of the day nearly did me in. Bully never let up. From one segment to the next, I cried as one story after another of kids being victimized and sometimes re-victimized by the adults in charge of protecting them was told. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house and I was a little exhausted from the entire experience. It’s an important film every educator and middle school student should see. It’s criminal that this film is rated R. If you missed it, every student accompanied by a parent will get in free to the Ragtag. Keep an eye on the Ragtag’s sitefor further information.

The Queen of Versailles (6:30pm – Jesse)
After Bully, we were too exhausted to see another film. A drink was in order… several in fact.

Argentinian Lesson (8:30pm – Forrest Theater)
At this point in the evening, I was still not in the mood for a film. I won’t say anything bad about this film as my wife assures me that it was better than I remember, sweet even. So, I’ll leave it at that. The problem was me and not the film. Queue it up on Netflix and give it a go. I may give it a second chance myself.

Building Babel (10:00pm – Little Ragtag)
If Bully had sucked out my will to see films, there was no way I’d make it though another. So, I skipped my second film of the fest and opted for Mojo’s A-Go-Go instead…

 Mojo’s A-Go-Go (10:00 – Mojo’s)
By this time of the night, there was a full-on buzz in the air.  I was ready to rock out and leave the worries of Bully behind me. Highlighting what proved to be a fantastic musical lineup, the Saturday night show at Mojo’s certainly did not disappoint. I missed Cassie Morgan (although great as a busker), but Dark Dark Dark, Why Are We Building Such a Big Ship?, and Believers completely brought the house down. (I’ll report more on the music lineup later this week.)

More happened late Saturday, early Sunday, but I’m not at liberty to tell. Just know that the Saturday of True/False weekend is easily the most eventful of every year in CoMo. (Note: Basically, there was a party I’m not at liberty to write about. At said party was a pretty big celebrity whom will remain anonymous so that I can maintain a good relationship with the fest.)

Sunday:

Detropia (10:00am – The Blue Note)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZec5s2-l0M&feature=BFa&list=PLDCAF87D8D73775D5&lf=plpp_video
With very little sleep at this point, we rolled into the Blue Note for Detropia. This was a well-told story of the fastest dying in the US. It’s a sad love story for a town that was once so prominent, only to fall to the dangers of depending too much on just one industry. The film was strangely paired with Meaning of Robots which would have been more appropriately named F***ing Robots, IMO.

Going Up the Stairs (1:00pm – The Picturehouse)
After two infotaining and heart-warming shorts, Going up the Stairs painted the portrait of an Iranian artist, her process, and her struggle to make her Paris premier. Under the story, we found an interesting commentary on the relationship between husband and wife in a society such as Iran’s. There are criticisms to made, but the portrayal of the film’s subjects suggests a more thoughtful response than to simply dismiss gender inequalities of an Arab nation.

Secret Screening Blue (3:00pm – Little Ragtag)
Again, there’s nothing I can tell you about this one. It was good. The one thing you should take from this is that the secret screenings are definitely worth checking out at future fests.

Canícula (5:30pm – Little Ragtag)
Exhaustion meant that we had to skip this film in order to eat and save ourselves for the final film of the fest. It sounded somewhat anthropological and tired eyes aren’t intended for such things. So, rather than take up a seat that could be better suited to someone waiting patiently in the “Q”, I opted to eat.

The Imposter (8:00pm – The Blue Note)
The last film of the fest not located in Jesse or the Missouri Theatre was the intense story of a man who passes himself as a runaway, opening up many questions about a Texas boy’s disappearance. Full of suspense and mystery, The Imposter recalls Forbidden Lie$, also a former T/F doc. It’s hard to imagine the twists and turns this film takes, but it was an excellent way to close out our fest.

Volunteer Party
 Although I volunteered, making what many think is the best party of the fest was just not in the cards for me. This fest would not happen if it weren’t for the volunteers. They deserve more than a party, but I believe the continued success of the fest is reward enough.

No worries if you missed this year’s edition of True/False. The tenth fest will happen at the end of February next year. So, there will be opportunities to have your own T/F experiences before you know it.

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The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra

Posted in Film, Live by SM on June 26, 2011

This is a review I did for The Collective. Sorry for posting two of these in a row, but I just haven’t had the time for unique content. There’s a post coming regarding the best albums so far (not as long a list as you’d suspect, not really a list). I’ll probably do something on a brewery as well as those get the most traffic.

In the age of THX and 3D film, it’s hard to believe anyone would want to see a silent film made in 1925 Soviet Union, much less play music for said film. However, that’s exactly what The Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra of St. Louis did Thursday night. On the screen was Sergei Eisenstein’s Strike, the story of a pre-revolutionary strike and violent suppression.

For the time period and lack of soundtrack or dialogue, Strike is a rather…well…striking film with fine performances, an impressive amount of action, and some interesting use of file footage of factories and slaughtered cattle. Silent film is often known for the appearance of over-acting. Not only did actors have to make up for the lack of audio dialogue, but the unusually fast pace of the film often gave the impression of hyperactivity. That said, the cast in Strike were incredibly engaging and convincing in their roles. Several scenes were rather exciting and included some intense physical acting not seen in today’s film as stunt men and CGI tend to suck the life from today’s films. Eisenstein expertly mixed in footage of factories and slaughtered cattle to demonstrate both the hard working conditions of the early industrial age as well as the savagery of union busting in Russia prior to Soviet takeover. All in all, Strike is a film well-deserving of revisiting even 85 years later, especially in light of all the labor disputes of our own time.

Considering all of that, Strike still would have been severely lacking in context and drama had The Rats & People not played the soundtrack. Where dialogue was missing or could not be adequately translated in subtitles, the orchestra filled this void with an expertly composed and emotionally performed piece that rivals the best soundtracks of today. In fact, where a soundtrack for a modern film only has to suggest pace and urgency, performing an original piece for a silent film has to do so much more. The composer’s challenge is to write music that tells the story where the images leave us wanting more. The musicians’ purpose is to convey emotion and exigency only through the squeals of their strings, thunder of percussion, and the bass’ groove. The Rats & People do all of this extremely well.

Although the film is unavoidably dated, the themes and drama are pertinent to our times and the orchestra’s performance went a long way in making that apparent. Although much of the instrumentation comes off as classical, a close listen reveals something more post-rock like Louisville’s Rachel’s. Like Rachel’s, The Rats & People apply a punk sensibility to chamber music, understanding the impact images have on the live performance and work within that environment to make some pretty amazing art. All this was achieved in about 80 minutes Thursday in the big theater at Ragtag.

A True/False Diary, part 2

Posted in Film, Live by SM on March 9, 2011

Saturday is typically the big day to attend. Starting at 9:30 or 10:00, you can fit in a 5k run, 4-5 films, a rock show, and an after-party in the wee-hours of Sunday. I did all of those except for the run. Next year[1].

Hula & Natan; Sat, Mar 5 10:30AM; Windsor Cinema
Hula & Natan was supposed to be a laugh-out-loud riot. It was at times, but how funny can you be when you live just outside the Gaza Strip? Still, the two mechanics demonstrate an odd-couple affinity for one another, much like the tape-recorded drunks in Shut Up Little Man! and that created a lot of funny material. Interestingly, one of the most poignant scenes of the film occurred when the protagonists went out to a hill overlooking Gaza. Several Israelis were camped out there watching the territory get bombed and even cheering[2]. Hula was disgusted as he regularly did business with the Palestinians and could see them in a humane way.

Habana Muda; Sat, Mar 5 12:30PM; Little Ragtag
I’ll admit it. I didn’t want to see this film. However, it was easily one of my top-3. The filmmaker beautifully told this story of a Cuban family looking to make their life better through a Mexican man’s generosity[3]. The catch is that the patriarch of the Cuban family was preparing to marry the Mexican, go with him to Mexico, and work to support his family back in Cuba. It is easily one of the more complex love triangles[4] I’ve witnessed. Luckily, in the hands of filmmaker in full control of his craft, Habana Muda captured the humanity, love, and desperation of the situation like few films can.

The Burger and the King; Sat, Mar 5 3:30PM; Blue Note
From True Vision recipient James Marsh came this interesting biography of the King of rock ‘n roll and fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches[5]. Although not the film we wanted at that moment, The Burger and the King demonstrated just what kind of influence Marsh has had over documentary film over the last couple of decades.

The Redemption of General Butt Naked; Sat, Mar 5 5:30PM; The Hive
Terrifying penises. Lots of terrifying penises. I’m not even kidding. Still, this was not what I thought it would be. If it is possible to believe that a man has changed after being directly or indirectly involved in the killing of 20,000 people (mostly while naked[6]), then this is the film that can do it. A top-3 pick for sure.

The Arbor; Sat, Mar 5 8:00PM; Little Ragtag
This was a really interesting method of telling a story. The filmmaker used actors who lip-synched audio from interviews with the subjects, intertwined with scenes from the play The Arbor. The issue was that the filmmaker should have chosen to tell either Andrea Dunbar’s story or her daughters, not both. I left before it ended because I was tired of hearing how Dunbar’s biracial daughter continued to use drugs, prostitute herself, and have babies. Like mother, like daughter, I guess.

Mojo’s A-Go-Go; Sat, Mar 5 10:00PM; Mojo’s
The Arbor made me antsy. I needed some rock ‘n roll, and that’s what I got. I already wrote about this show in my music post, but you should know that the lineup was excellent. Haii Usagi filled the space expertly with keyboards, MacBook, and drums. Netherfriends are developing into a solid rock band that just make you wan to dance. Kings Go Forth are leading the way in this soul revivalist time we’re living. I had to laugh at all the people who scoffed at the $10 cover[7]. They missed out.

Super Secret Party; Sun, Mar 6 1:30AM; ???
I’m really not supposed to tell you anything about this party. It’s not open to everyone[8], but I was invited to see the band Believers play their debut set. I’ve written elsewhere that this was maybe the most enjoyable set of music I witnessed, buskers or otherwise. Seriously, the band was just great. Sure, to the lazy ear, it sounds like Vampire Weekend or whatever, but there’s not all that shitty-ass pretension or  Graceland schtick. Despite the connotations they conjure, Believers are original, engaging, and sure to be among my favorite local bands in the coming years, but you didn’t read it here. The party was pretty great, too.

Sunday was a bit slower, as can be expected. Two consecutive nights of after-parties did me in. So, I took it easy as I somehow fit in films 12, 13, and 14 of the fest.

Secret Screening Black; Sun, Mar 6 10:00AM; Little Ragtag
Again, there’s nothing I can really tell you about this one. Just know that our government cannot be trusted. This might be the one film to sneak out and win the Oscar a year from now. Watch[9].

The Black Power Mix Tape 1967-1975; Sun, Mar 6 12:30PM; Forrest Theater
Since I already saw this on Friday, I decided to take a well-deserved break and pick up some lunch and actually take it easy for change.

Here Comes Everybody: Journalism in 2011; Sunday, Mar 6 2:00PM; Columbia Art League
I was so ready to get in a fight with all the journos on the panel, but I ran out of time and had to run. To summarize, journalists are scared as shit they won’t have any jobs in the future. Join the club.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth; Sun, Mar 6 3:00PM; Forrest Theater
Pruitt-Igoe was a famous housing project in St Louis. It failed miserably for several reasons (white flight to the suburbs, lack of care, detrimental welfare laws, etc.). But what has been missed over the decades since its demise are the stories of the people who lived there. A pretty conventional doc utilizing archived footage, The Pruitt-Igoe Myth was a nice companion piece with films such as The Black Power Mix Tape 1967-1975 and The Barber of Birmingham (a short on a civil rights era barber who also happened to be a foot soldier in the movement).

Moving Windmills: The William Kamkwamba Story; Sun, Mar 6 5:30PM; Little Ragtag
I had no interest in this film, but gave my ticket up to a friend. Instead, I decided to hang out with “Team Booze” or the group of guys in charge of delivering beer and spirits all weekend. I sipped on some DIPA’s[10] as the films moved along. After noticing several people exiting the theater, I used my press pass to get inside for the Q & A. The poor filmmaker was taking a beating as this was a work-in-progress and the audience didn’t necessarily understand which suggestions would be beneficial.

Life in a Day; Sun, Mar 6 8:00PM; Missouri Theatre
We finished the night with an experiment in crowd-sourcing. Thousands of filmmakers (amateur and professional) filmed their day on July 24, 2010. The producers and directors sorted out 4500 hours of footage from all over the globe to piece together a surprisingly coherent narrative of the human experience. It was a bit cheesy for my taste, but an appropriate ending for the fest.

All I can say is that I can’t wait for next year’s fest. Even if we were to somehow move[11], I think we’d return for the True/False Film Festival every year. I believe this so much that I’ve collected nearly every blog post I’ve written about the festival over the last five years on a page in this blog. Expect the content on that page to grow. Now, I have to wait another year for T/F to shake me out of my winter doldrums.

Notes:
1Probably not.
2I don’t care which side you align yourself in the Israeli/Palestinian cluster-fuck. People are being bombed. You don’t laugh and cheer. It’s pretty sick to think people get off on dying and suffering.
3It’s so interesting to think of a Mexican as the rich guy someone from another country goes to financial assistance. I recognize that Mexico, like any country, has wealthy people. However, I’m not sure many Americans would admit to knowing this. They have a very warped sense of the world, particularly of our neighbors to the south.
4Aren’t they all complex?
5There’s a lot of butter used to fry up one of these mothers. It’s a wonder the man lived as long as he did.
6General Butt Naked and his “men” (read: “boys”) would often fight in the buff. From the video footage and images of these fighters, one can imagine just how terrifying that could be. I mean, it’s crazy to fight naked and there’s nothing scarier than crazy.
7Give people a laminated piece of card stock to wear around their neck and they think they can go anywhere. The issue might have been that there was another T/F-sponsored show around the corner that was free to pass holders. I’ll have suggestions to fix this in my last T/F post, if I ever get to it.
8Although they call the party “Super Secret,” plenty of folks seem to know where and when it was. Still, not everyone got in. I felt pretty special getting waved into a party two nights in a row. That’s never happened to me. Thanks, Mary.
9Although I’ve revealed nothing about the film for you to confirm my prediction, you’ll just have to trust me. Maybe I can say something after its official premier happens.
10Founder’s Double Trouble. Good stuff, that.
11Always a possibility when married to an academic.

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True/False Bands

Posted in Film, Intersections, Live by SM on March 8, 2011

Besides being the premier documentary film festival in the country[1], True/False features a somewhat eclectic bunch of bands to not only serve as buskers, serenading audiences waiting for films to begin, but they often rock out at after-parties and showcases throughout the weekend, all over town. I was asked to blog some of these bands. I didn’t see every band, nor did I attend every show, but what I saw was overall pretty enjoyable. Here’s the rundown…

Buskers
Busking is when musicians practice and/or perform in a public place, often for tips. One of the unique aspects of T/F is the presence of buskers all around town and particularly in theaters. I saw 14 films over four days. Before every one of those films some busking occured. And I’ll admit, I’m a sucker for busking. So, my reviews are all pretty positive, but for various reasons. Here’s what I saw/heard:

  • Bramble might be the quintessential busking band of this year’s fest[2]. Lovely harmonizing, acoustic layers, and ancient percussive methods carry a Bramble song to the heavens.  Not jarring, but certainly not forgettable, Bramble put audiences at ease before learning about bloody mobile phones, the Black Power movement, and troll hunters. Support them on Kickstarter and keep your eyes open for a return to your favorite film festival.
  • Columbia’s own Nature Walk take their sound from the Ozarks, rocking a traditional Americana groove and exploring both the darkness and hope in nonfiction film. The band set up much like Bramble, but the aesthetic was very different. Where Bramble was of the sky, Nature Walk tasted of the earth, making the experience feel all the more authentic and taking us all home to the backwoods and hills of southern Missouri.
  • I witnessed Jeremy Freeze of Jerusalem & the Starbaskets provide two very different performances. Before To Be Heard, the gruff-looking one-time-Columbian played a somber set of country standards and originals. It was dark, Jeremy mumbled, but it seemed to set a serious mood for a pretty serious film. The old folk behind me complained a bit, but sometimes that’s what a festival likes this needs to keep it strange and abnormal. Of course, those old fogies missed out on the real fun as Jeremy spent most of his set before Shut Up Little Man! tuning his electric guitar and hollering out something about “fucking documentaries” and “fuck yeah, True/False.” He played one or two songs, tried to leave his guitar where the filmmakers typically stand after a screening, and walked off with 15 minutes to kill before the film. A volunteer convinced him to come out. Once Jeremy realized his tiny amp was all the way at the other side the stage area (maybe five feet away), he opted to just sing a couple of covers a cappella[3]. Evidence here.
  • Richard the Lionhearted is another Columbian band playing the fest. Their brand of alt.country is the kind where every song just sounds familiar. That’s comforting. They also may have been the largest band (six-piece) in the fest’s smallest theater (Little Ragtag).
  • Pearl & the Beard were often cited as the most impressive of the buskers. The Brooklyn three-piece may have also been the most versatile as they could quiet the crowd with soothing harmonies and fill a large venue like the Blue Note with the raw power of their voices. Seriously, this is one of the bands we could see some big things from in the coming years.
  • Lizzie Wright was a most unlikely busker for The Redemption of General Butt Naked[4], but she was a welcome change-of-pace, nonetheless. Imagine a chipper Joanna Newsom singing Moldy Peaches songs about robot love and you’d land somewhere near Lizzie’s aesthetic. She’s new to Middle Missouri. I look forward to hearing her play around town.
  • Mexi-Americana super-cute trio(?) David Wax Museum pulled a Arcade Fire and worked their way through the crowd at some point during their set[5], but what else should buskers do? Just stand around? The energy in their songs necessitated some movement if we were all just going to sit there. The NPR-darlings came to us from Boston and I hope they make it back next year as well.
  • Dubb Nubb were billed as the “only twindie-pop band in America” and they weren’t lying[6]. The twins were the other act that sang like Joanna Newsom, but they harmonized, creating an effect only heard on Newsom’s overdubbed aural masturbations disguised as 30-minute “songs.” I digress. Dubb Nubb were quite good at aping Newsom’s vocal stylings[7] over acoustic guitar. I enjoyed it. My Joanna Newsom-loathing wife did not.
  • Robert Sarazin, more of a storyteller than busker, closed the fest as is (becoming) tradition. He brought the house down with accompaniment from Maine’s Tough Cats before Life in a Day. The festival thrives on such personalities placing their own mark on the festivities and Robert has this talent of warming up the crowd for a grand send-off.

There were other events throughout the weekend, but I had my limits. I made some, but had to skip others. Here’s what else I saw/heard:

  • Mojo’s A Go-Go featured one of the most diverse lineups you’ll find anywhere[8]. Despite that diversity, the upbeat, danceable nature of the three bands fit perfectly together. Haii Usagi opened the gig with their version of electro-thrash, calling up the ghost of Brainiac, sans vocals and guitar[9]. I once dismissed them as sounding too Animal Collective, but that was lazy on my part. Haii Usagi bring the bleeps and blips that drives and veers as opposed to superficially just addressing your need to dance the night away. I’m happy they’re local as it should afford me more opportunities to see them again.
  • Also on the Mojo’s lineup was Chicago and Emergency Umbrella band Netherfriends. I saw them play an EU showcase a summer ago and Pitchfork last summer. Since that time, the band has really worked out the kinks. Danceable indie rock is not an easy thing to pull off without sounding fleeting, but Netherfriends is figuring things out. Netherfriends plays like Animal Collective[10] with soul and seemingly stuck in the seventies. This was truly a fun set. It was nice to see.
  • The night’s headliner was Milwaukee’s Kings Go Forth, another in a long line of soul revivalists flooding the indie scene. This band was good at what they do and caused the crowd to dance up a frenzy like few I’ve seen in this town[11]. Honestly, I don’t get this new obsession with soul music and I’m not sure Kings Go Forth really changed my mind, but they certainly were entertaining.
  • The other set I witnessed Saturday night (or Sunday morning) was that of Columbia’s Believers at a party I’m not allowed to tell you about[12]. There was certainly a palpable energy in the room created by the band as they ripped through a set that left folks wanting more (always a good sign). They’re like Vampire Weekend with balls, White Rabbits with irony, and The Walkmen if they wanted to sound like they’re from this century and not the last. This was a set that made me smile and that doesn’t happen that often anymore. This really was the best set of the fest. Too bad only a few witnessed it.

For those who think True/False is just about the films, you’re sadly mistaken as the music aspect is slowly growing into a major event of its own. I feel bad for those fest-goers who pay no attention to the buskers or avoid the rock shows and showcases. However, it just means there’s more room for me to attend, a practice I will surely include in future True/False fests.

This post originally appeared in The CoMO Collective, a site I am collaboratively working on with a few other Columbian bloggers. The only difference between that post and this one is that this one has some revisions and footnotes. So, consider yourself lucky.

Notes:
1That’s right. I said it. Name one that’s better. All I know is that every filmmaker who comes through talks about how much they love our fest or they say it’s the best documentary film festival anywhere. They don’t have to say that. I think that because it is primarily focused on documentary film, it gets about as much mainstream attention as docs typically get.
2Before this year, I would have tagged Brody Douglas Hunt as the quintessential T/F busker, but sadly, Brody didn’t make it out this year.
3I suspect he was a bit tipsy, but it was a happy tipsy. Nothing wrong with that.
4I described this film with two words on Twitter: terrifying penises. That’s all you need to know.
5This made it really hard to eat my burrito.
6What I mean to say is that they’re actually twins, possibly identical. I don’t know that they’re the only “twindie” act in America, but they certainly looked alike.
7Who would have guessed that folks would copy Joanna Newsom’s voice? I guess it shows that’s she’s more influential than we may have once expected her to be.
8Typically, “diverse” lineups include a bunch of white dudes and a hip-hop act. This was not the case. It’s possible to have diversity without hip-hop. Now, had they included some women on the bill, that would have made the lineup more diverse.
9This is something I would have assumed was impossible, but Haii Usagi made me think “Brainiac” the whole time. Really, that’s quite a feat.
10Sorry. This time the reference was meant as a compliment and was particularly apt. I recognize compare bands is lazy, but it’s also an effective way to communicate. Besides, I’m barely professional at this.
11We don’t dance here. I’m not sure why.
12It’s not just a secret, it’s a super secret party held at a secret location. You know you’ve been in a town for a long time when the the person running the door takes one look at you and says, “Zac, you’re okay to go in.” (Thanks, Mary!) I was on the list thanks to my role as T/Fweeter and music blogger/guerrilla journalist.

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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.

Notes:
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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My True/False Preview: 5 Things

Posted in Film by SM on March 3, 2011

While I am not the most experienced, not most in-the-know person attending this year’s fest, I do have five of these buggers under my belt. So, that has given me some insight into a few things you should keep in-mind for this year’s edition. Here are my top-5 things to remember as you enjoy 3-4 days of docs, drinks, and dancing:

  1. Plan your Q carefully. The Q is what non-ticket-holders use to get into films they really want to see. The key to the Q is to show up at least an hour ahead to get your number. Once the numbers are passed out, you’ll have 45-50 minutes to kill. It used to be that one could get into almost any film on the Q, but that’s not the case as the fest has grown. I’d suggest Q’ing it up for films in the larger venues such as the Missouri Theatre, Blue Note, or the Windsor Cinema on the Stephens campus.
  2. Take your own food and water. On paper, the schedules look spacious. It appears there’s a lot of time to grab a bite between screenings. However, after staying to hear some Q&A from the filmmakers and enjoying the walk from Stephens College to the Missouri Theater, passing crowded eatery after eatery, you’ll come to realize that there just isn’t time to eat. Take some food with you. I suggest any kind of sandwich that fits under the “pocket” or “wrap” category. Also, take a water bottle and rehydrate whenever possible.
  3. When you do have time to eat, I’d suggest breakfast at Uprise, Booches Burgers for lunch (and hangover cure), Kaldi’s for that afternoon caffeine jolt, and happy hour sliders and beers at Sycamore. Sure, those are some decadent options, but it’s a festival. Be festive!
  4. Don’t carry all of your tickets at once. It’s too easy to lose that manilla envelope your tickets come in or accidently let one ticket slip out as you pull from your stash. I always organize my tickets by day and leave the rest in a safe spot at home, ready for the next day’s onslaught of nonfiction.
  5. Enjoy like there’s no tomorrow. If you can see ten films this weekend, go see eleven. If you are done with the films for the day, there’s sure to be a party or band showcase you can attend. Don’t worry about overload. You can rest next weekend. Besides, like Xmas, True/False only happens once a year.

Those are my “things.” Some other Middle Missouri bloggers have other ideas. Most are captured at Capturing COMO. Show-Me Eats has your menus all picked out. That and there are a million and one Twitter hashtags in use for the weekend:

I’ll recap here after the weekend is through. You can also go to a new spot, CoMO Collective, if you want more T/F reflection.

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My True/False Preview: Events

Posted in Film by SM on March 2, 2011

Some people actually attend True/False for the parties. I typically don’t, but an upgrade in passes and a request to blog this thing has me scheduling in some non-cinematic events. Here’s a rundown…

The Jubilee
This is a new event that coincides with Benda Bilili!. Columbia’s best bartenders will be serving drinks, which just means they’ll be pouring me beer. We have a tight window to make this one, but I think we can sneak in a drink. I’m mostly looking forward to seeing folks spiffed up for the event (more on my own attire later).

March March
The current plan is to run from our first Friday film to our kids’ daycare and back to the March March location. Basically, it’s a parade where everyone marches and they all dress for the occasion. Hopefully, the rain their calling for doesn’t fall.

Reality Bites
Directly following the March March, there will be refreshments in the Missouri Theater, the endpoint for the parade. We used to be able to attend this party with a Simple pass. This year, we’ll return with the necessary Lux pass. Various local restaurants serve up some of their finest appetizers to washed down by some Schlafly Beer.

@ction Party
My first T/F featured my stint as a volunteer, getting the opportunity to clean up what’s supposed to be Columbia’s best party of the year. I’ll come late as a I have a late film to catch, but it will be fun to check out for the first time from the party-goer side.

True Life Run
OK. We’re not doing this. We talked about it, but it never happened. Besides, I haven’t worked out in two weeks. I’m not ready for such an event. We may have to make time to cheer on those brave enough to party all night and run all morning.

Filmmaker Fete
It was suggested that I get into this. I don’t know that there’s room in my schedule, but the food comes from my favorite restaurant in town (Sycamore) and it’s loaded with filmmakers. We’ll see if I get the call or just stick to my film schedule.

Mojo’s A-Go-Go
After a film, I’ll sprint over to Mojo’s for a rock show of the highest order. It’s maybe the hottest ticket in town and I have one. Kings Go Forth, Netherfriends and Hai Usagi make up one of the most interesting lineups of the last year. It should be a good way to end my Saturday night.

Some Party
I’m not at liberty to really say anything about it, but I’ll be partying into early Sunday morning. I’ve already said too much.

Closing Night Reception
I once chose a film that was not the closing night film and sort of felt like the fest didn’t really have any closure. This riot in the Missouri Theater lobby is a good time to recap the weekend and stuff our faces.

Plus, bands, lots of them.
Besides the Mojo’s gig and possibly that party you know nothing about, I will see lots of bands. It’s basically the reason I have a press pass. The bios and a few tracks can be found at the T/F site, but I look forward to hopefully catching some of these bands busking as we wait for films. Among those who have me most intrigued are Believers, Bramble, Malone, Run On Sentence, and probably another band whose blurb and mp3 don’t do their busking justice. With somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-16 films and the events listed above, I’m sure to hear something I haven’t heard before and I’ll like it.

Oh, and friends
I have lived here for five and half years. That has not always been an easy time. It’s felt like five years of transitioning. That is, until recently when I started to feel a part of this community. I will see a lot of friends this weekend. It sort of boggles my mind how many people I know in this town. I never knew this many people in any town or city I’ve lived. It’s kinda cool and makes me appreciate living here that much more.

I’ll have one more post for Friday that will accompany these in creating a BICTBAP Guide to True/False. Then, after the weekend is over, look for posts featuring the events, bands, and films of the 2011 True/False Film Festival.

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Posted in Film by SM on March 2, 2011

I was working on a post for today in order to keep up with my three-a-week goal. However, things got busy. So, to hold you over, I’m posting the following pic and will continue my T/F preview later this evening. I’m posting on Wednesday, just later on Wednesday.

I'm legit, I guess.