Friday, March 5, 2010

The True/False Film Festival

Last week I was given the opportunity to attend the True False Film festival in Columbia, MO. I don’t get to travel very often so any chance I get I’m out the door... but to be completely honest, as far as places I’d like to go, Missouri never even crossed my mind. I was traveling with Untravel Media collaborator/director Michael Epstein (originally from St.Louis). Michael was invited to speak about our Walking Cinema project on a panel about New Media and the future of documentary storytelling, and I was invited to tag along and film the amazing Timothy “Speed” Levitch (Waking Life, The Cruise) as he gave an off the cuff walking tour of the city of Columbia for the festival. My trip got off to a rough start - waiting 5 hours in the St. Louis airport while Michael got a root canal at his local dentist, and then spending a night in a cockroach infested Travelodge motel. Luckily I was able to switch hotels, and the festival itself quickly made it all worthwhile. I found downtown Columbia – a college town - to be a very quirky artsy community that I quickly warmed up to. The people were exceptionally welcoming and the folk- indie music scene was really fun.

Most importantly I found the quality of the films shown at True/False and the depth of the panel discussions to be really inspiring. What struck me about many of the films we saw was how free they were from the more traditional and overdone aspects of documentary production – talking head interviews with lower thirds, long montages of photographs, reinactments etc. Some of the films we saw were character studies - such as ridiculously funny "Invention of Dr. Nakamats" which followed a Japanese inventor or the more subtle “When we were Boys” which examined the everyday interactions of prep high school boys. Other films followed intense stories such as the heartbreaking "As Lilith".

The most traditional film I saw was the documentary “Waking Sleeping Beauty”which gave a behind the scenes look at Disney animation from 1984 – 1994. As an animator I was obviously completely psyched to see that film. What I loved most about it was the way they juxtaposed emotionally charged clips from Disney animated films with archival footage documenting the highs and lows - struggles and successes of the people who created them.

I also got a chance to view the work of two of the other filmmakers who Michael shared his panel with and was very impressed with their innovative approaches to documentary storytelling. Sam Green performs a live voiceover and music with documentary "Utopia in Four Movements" bringing a more poetic touch to his work .

Adam Curtis’s documentary “It felt like a Kiss” was part of an experiential theatre production put on by England’s Punchdrunk theatre company. Similar to Punchdrunk’s recent production

"Sleep No More" which took place in Boston this fall – audience members are set loose to explore a building filled with intricately constructed rooms – sort of like a sophisticated haunted house. As an audience member you are able to touch anything you like. Sporadic performances by actors add intrigue and encourage the audience to further explore their surroundings. Curtis’s "It felt like a kiss" a documentary video played as a part of such a theatre piece in England, but screened by itself at True/False - I would have loved to have seen the whole piece.

All in all, I got to see some amazing work and meet some really interesting people. So thumbs up to the True/False film fest in Columbia, MO. I’d recommend it in a heartbeat!

No comments: