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True/False film fest recap

The True/False Film Fest in Columbia is like homecoming weekend for liberal arts and journalism majors. Instead of tailgating and a football game, it’s all about buskers and documentaries. I’d never turn down a crisp fall afternoon at my alma mater, but the spring film fest crowd is more my scene.

photo from Bully Q&A via Lucy Hewitt

We got down to Columbia on Friday night and in the span of less than 48 hours, we saw eight films. This is by no means a comprehensive recap, but I’ll let you know what we saw in case you’re looking to spice up the documentary section of your Netflix queue:

Queen of Versailles — From the description, I was worried this would be a vapid portrayal of the super rich. The filmmaker set out to chronicle the construction of the country’s largest private residence, but the 2009 financial crisis added unexpected depth to the storyline. The film does show some pretty ridiculous consumerism, but it also gets down to the truth of money’s inability to buy happiness (or good taste!), the psychology of greed and how not even the 1% came out unscathed.

Gypsy Davy — This movie chronicles the filmmaker’s deeply personal quest to understand who her father was and why he abandoned his family (families, really) for Flamenco music. How much of ourselves do we owe our children after we bring them into the world? How do our parent’s paths help us make sense of ourselves? Also, after watching this movie, I will never hear the Counting Crows song Mr. Jones in the same way again.

<Title redacted> There were a number of “Secret Screenings” of documentaries that haven’t yet had their official premiere. The T/F fest organizers asked everyone to abide by a code of silence as to what the films were, and I’ll honor that. In short, it was like this trip, but seen through the eyes of a boy under the age of 10.

¡Vivan las Antipodas! — If human beings packed a satellite with information about Earth and shipped it off in the hopes it would be picked up by some other intelligent life, this is the movie they should include. The documentary felt like being inside of a National Geographic magazine, with breathtaking visuals of four antipodes (places diametrically opposite each other on the planet.) The cinematography was unbelievable, and there were moments of quiet humor and heartbreak, too. The oppositeness of some of these parallel places was striking, but the strange similarities were more so. Joe and I both would have awarded this movie the best of the fest (that we saw), even though it was so hard to compare them, since everything was very different. Filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky won the “True Vision” award at T/F this year, but unfortunately, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to track this film down because it’s not on DVD or anything.

Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope — This was by far the most lighthearted of the films we saw. Directed by Morgan Spurlock (although this movie doesn’t feature him at all), it follows some pretty likable geeks through the annual Comic-Con excitement. The tension comes from how genuinely these people want to be a bigger part of this fantasy/sci-fi world, and how the convention is evolving into more of a pop culture phenom than simply a celebration of comics. The crowd was super into this one, especially since a local guy is featured as one of the main characters and a few scenes were shot in Columbia.

Detropia– Go inside the crumbling walls of a city and see for yourself the challenges that globalization, race relations and sprawl have heaped upon Detroit. The retired schoolteacher/ nightclub owner in this movie was one of the smartest and most entertaining characters in any of the films we watched.

The Island President — Will climate change submerge the Maldives? This movie follows Mohamed Nasheed, the island nation’s president (who was recently deposed) in his brave attempt to bring about real change at the Copenhagen summit. Nasheed is a political prisoner turned president turned global gadfly whose compassion and tireless work for his people is admirable, even against insurmountable odds.

Bully — Kids cruelty to other kids, up close and personal. Hardly an eye in the packed house was dry after this movie, which hit home a lot more than many of the other issues. Families (one of them in Sioux City, Iowa), grapple with how to protect their kids, and with suicides prompted by the torment of their peers. This is a must-see for educators, parents and anyone who works with kids. Currently, it’s rated R, due to foul language and violence (coming from the mouths and at the hands of pre-teens), but this movie would be a great conversation starter for families. You can sign an online petition to get the rating reduced to PG-13.

We didn’t see everything (full list here), but that’s my recap from the eight we did get to watch!

What’s your favorite documentary?

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