Last year I heard about the True False Film Festival in Columbia, MO. The timing wasn’t right for me so I didn’t attend. I was determined to make it this year. I’ve never attended a film festival before now. The location is close enough, the price is fair and the films are all documentaries which is just fine with me.
The drive to Columbia was about four hours for me. I stayed at the Wingate hotel, which I mention only because I find it helpful to know where people stay at when they go to events like this. After getting a first room that smelled like Don Draper and crew had spent the night there puffing on their Lucky Strikes, I was given a satisfactory room. Nothing special but I got it for $50 a night thanks to an early Priceline booking. I’m happy I got it back in the fall when I did. This hotel and nearly every other in the area is said to be booked solid this weekend.
The festival is about a five minute drive from the hotel. As I made my way there I had to laugh at the Honda Civic in front of me sporting a “save the earth” bumper sticker spewing smoke like a coal burning locomotive. I parked in one of the nearby decks which are apparently free if you stay past 6pm. The gates were wide open when I left. I hope that’s how it’s supposed to work because I didn’t see anywhere to pay the 50 cents per hour I was told I’d have to pay.
Once you’re parked everything is within easy walking distance. There is no shortage of restaurants and there should be no fear of having to run from one end of the earth to the other to make your next film.
There are seven theaters spread around the area. Some are in event halls, others in churches and two in an actual theater. My first experience was with a small theater (Little Rag Tag) and a large event hall (The Blue Note). Both were good viewing experiences. Sound and picture quality were solid. My only complaint was The Blue Note had seats made for people under five and a half feet tall.
I ended up seeing three films on Friday. I bought a “Simple Pass” which entitles you to reserve up to 10 films and also allows you to get in the “Q” line for films you don’t have tickets for in hopes of grabbing an early number that will give you entrance if there are seats remaining about 10 minutes before the film starts. My first film on Friday didn’t start until 7pm but I wanted to see if I could get into one at 5pm. I was number 24 in the “Q” for Herman’s House. Numbers 1-26 were called. Nice. An even better bonus is that it stopped raining right before I parked the car which made for a much nicer experience waiting in line outside.
My reviews of the films will be intentionally short. I’m jotting down general thoughts and providing links to more details where possible.
Herman’s House is the story about a man locked up in solitary confinement for the past forty years and an artist (Jackie Sumell) who designs the man’s dream home. Solitary confinement for forty years. That is pretty insane. Yet that is the reality for Herman Wallace who is in those conditions because he was convicted of murdering a prison guard. One of the more interesting challenges for a director I’ve seen in a while is the fact that we’re never able to see Herman, as the director was unable to get permission from the state. Thankfully Herman has a lively voice and a quick wit about him that comes through clearly over the many phone calls we hear him talking through. The film isn’t as much an activist film as it is a narrative mostly focused on the relationship between Herman and Jackie. The editing could be tighter overall as there are far too many scenes that are explained with title screens and the story drifts a bit at times. An overall solid film that deserves credit for not going the activist route but instead tries to tell a story to make its point.
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A near perfect film. Beautifully shot. Memorable characters. Twists that still have me thinking about them. The Imposter tells the story of a 13 year old Texan boy who goes missing and is reported found in Spain a few years later. To say much more is to spoil the surprise. If you only see one documentary from 2012, I’m going to say you have to make it The Imposter. Yes, it’s that good.
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Me @ The Zoo
Digital gnosticism. Celebrity obsession. Gender identity. Hatred. Love. Narcissism. Internet phenomenas. All are on full display in Me @ The Zoo, a film that follows YouTube sensation Chris Crocker through the insanity that is his life – online. Made up of mostly existing material from the internet (of wild degrees of quality) and traditional media, the task of putting together a coherent story is a tough one. The filmmakers mostly pull it off, though the film feels about 15 minutes too long. If there weren’t so much inappropriate material for kids, I would say Me @ The Zoo would make a terrific film to discuss with teens and pre-teens. There are so many relevant topics touched on that it’s a goldmine for thought provoking dialog.
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