If you’ve been anywhere within earshot of me for the past month, you’ve probably heard me mention True/False at least a handful of times. No, I wasn’t talking about an exam, even though I think we can all agree that those are the best kinds.
The True/False Film Festival is a documentary film festival that roots itself in downtown Columbia every winter. For the past eight years, filmmakers and musicians have come from around the world to show off their work to thousands of documentary enthusiasts, converging in the Midwestern college town for one weekend of cinematic splendor. In its ninth year with no signs of slowing, the festival weekend now includes events such as the March March kickoff parade, the True Life Run and to benefit the chosen True Life Fund film of the year, panels with filmmakers, and plenty of visual and auditory pleasures for the now four-day celebration.
I saw my first T/F film during my sophomore year of high school. Thanks to a social studies teacher who brought filmmakers to the school to give presentations and special screenings, discounted passes for students, and a newfound eagerness to explore downtown with a freshly-acquired driver’s license in tow, I found myself at the Blue Note queued up for the Friday night showing of American Teen. The film itself wasn’t altogether inspiring, but as a festival-going experience, I was hooked.
Since then, I’ve volunteered in some capacity for the past two years. Senior year I had the opportunity to help out with the Filmmaker’s Fête where I dressed up in fancy clothes and served fancy hors d’oeuvres to filmmakers and higher-up pass holders. Last year I worked theater operations at The Chapel and this year I’ll be camped out at Ragtag Cinema.
I guess what I love so much about the festival is how Columbia truly comes alive during the event. After living here for 17 years, the college town routine gets old. But throw in the artistic drive of international filmmakers all wanting to show somebody’s experience or allow the audience to live their own through film and we’re on to something. People come here wanting to hear a good story, and that’s what the festival is all about. From the aesthetically pleasing Life In a Day to the politically-charged Burma VJ, there’s so much to gain in participating in the fest. Through film, music, stimulating discussion and new introductions, it’s a way to find a bigger world in the small community here. And even though it’s gotten so big in the last several years, the volunteer-run weekend still maintains an air of friendly support and camaraderie. Every year, I learn so much not only about the films that come through and the issues they raise, but also about the community that has helped sustain this event and keeps it thriving. I look forward to it every February and can’t see myself growing tired of it anytime soon.
Good storytelling has me here to stay.