“Documentaries – my God, there is so much going on in our country and in the world today that every time you open the newspaper or turn on the radio or watch the news on TV there is another documentary subject. We’re getting the headlines for a second, shaped by corporate delivery most of the time, but what’s really the story there?” [Jonathan Demme]
“But I can say what interests me about documentary is the fact that you don’t know how the story ends at the onset – that you are investigating, with a camera, and the story emerges as you go along.” [Errol Morris]
In the Midwest heartland last weekend (March 2nd-5th), the city of Columbia Missouri hosted an important and ever growing film festival celebrating the art of documentary film-making. Conceived in 2003, the event gives voice to a circle of artists in their pursuit of capturing real stories that can affect us in big and small ways. The 2017 True/False Film Festival held its fourteenth gathering with 72 film-makers carrying their 37 feature films and 22 short films with its largest audience ever at 52,400 tickets sold; yours truly among them. A creative collective shining a light on such subjects as war, race, love, justice, hope, sex, politics, and cultural differences to name just a few.
The documentary is an important art form that requires a patient and curious mind willing to listen to stories that may speak outside our comfort zones or talk directly to the inner voice we sometimes deny. The documentary opens minds and hearts. It displays worlds that may not directly affect us, but gives us pause to consider such other viewpoints and arguments.
True/False begs to ask the question whether we continue to just read headlines or choose to ask for the full story on issues and events. The festival challenges us to contemplate where we are and where we are heading. You do not leave this event unscathed. One film, or several, can change a preconceived perception and educate the mind. If one leaves thinking of just one issue in a different light, the festival has done its job, for it desires the change for a better world for all of us. Isn’t that what we all want? For our kids, as well as ourselves?
This writer spent three days and four nights, along with a festival partner-in-crime, viewing thirteen films of our choosing based on subject matter and personal interest. A formidable undertaking, but filled with excitement and passion for this world…and it exceeded our expectations with the choices made without first hand knowledge of the film-makers involved. The next few future pieces will focus on those films and their importance both aesthetically and socially, based on impressions and discussions. Some of these films have since been written about by major magazines, as well as the festival itself. The importance of this festival is one of social awakening and the communal spirit of exploring the world through subjects both controversial and intimate. It is time to join in on the adventure. It is time to act and participate. True/False Film Festival of 2017.