Our take: One of the most universally-beloved festivals on the circuit draws filmmakers to the middle of Missouri where appreciative sold out crowds and lovingly homemade activities await. True/False is one of the very few American festivals that pays for everything. Its reputation amongst filmmakers is nearly unmached: without the pressure of deals being made or competition status, filmmakers are able to spend quality time together. T/F is also one of the more innovative fests on the circuit, constantly re-imagining what panels and parties (and even parades!) can be. There's enough press and other programmers attending that it's also a place where a film can burst on the scene (OCTOBER COUNTRY last year, FORBIDDEN LIE$ the year before) and leap into the national documentary conversation.
The downside: You won't find us grumbling about the 2 hour drive from St. Louis or Kansas City but others do. There is pretty universal agreement that the fest hotel is one of (if not) the worst on the circuit. There's a question of whether the festival's long-standing policy of not promoting premieres is actually benefiting filmmakers who screen there, a few films had their first screenings at True/False and then effectively disappeared for months, caught in a kind of had-a-premiere/waiting-for-a-premiere limbo. Despite a handful of industry, T/F hasn't yet been able to translate its cred amongst filmmakers to the larger community in the way that Full Frame and Silverdocs have. The festival's heavy focus on titles just out of Sundance makes it awfully reliant on the quality of that year's Sundance films.
Important recent premieres: They don't call them premieres but they had one of the first public screenings of OCTOBER COUNTRY as well as films that screened "secretly" and would later show up in competition at SXSW and Tribeca.
Selection of films screened at 2009 Fest: BURMA VJ, WE LIVE IN PUBLIC, NO IMPACT MAN, THE HORSE BOY, ROUGH AUNTIES, LOOT, BIG RIVER MAN, SERGIO, AFGHAN STAR, REPORTER
Our coverage of True/False here.
Filmmaker: "This is the perfect
festival - hard to describe just how infectious the passion is that exudes from
every corner of cold, Columbia MO. This is a festival designed not just
to screen films, but to question the very essence of what nonfiction film
making is and can be. I left feeling like I'd found a home in this
Filmmaker: "Simply put, the best American documentary festival and best festival experience I ever had and ever will have. Period. No one else came close. It's in large part because David and Paul curate not just films, but people. This is such a rarity in life alone, I'm beside myself in understanding how they made it happen in a festival context. The friendships we have forged over the last year have everything to do with this singular experience. David and Paul believe and support filmmakers who are taking chances with the form. They are the best there is."
Filmmaker: "still my very favorite. love just about everything about it. even that shitty hotel. hope to keep going back, if they'll have me. hope it stays small and cozy."
Filmmaker: "I went a couple years ago and it was great -- similar vibe to Full Frame. Good films, excellent sense of community. It's a nightmare to get there, though. Easier to get to (some European festivals)."
Filmmaker: "best all around film festival experience I've had in the u.s."
Filmmaker: "fun, but not important. Good for comraderie with other doc folks."
Filmmaker: "my favourite... nicest people + whole town gets involved"
Filmmaker: "Always where you get to know the other filmmakers that are on the circuit with you. And of course the programming is impeccable with a few stand out surprises that are nowhere else. How do David and Paul find these gems?"
Filmmaker: "One of my favorites, and in my opinion one of the best-curated documentary festivals in the world. They paid round-trip airfare from (Europe) for (two of us), and put us up at the festival hotel for the duration. It's amazing how the entire town enthusiastically supports the festival and makes filmmakers feel like heroes of sorts. Because all the filmmakers are flown in (it still blows my mind how the festival manages this), it's a great place to hang out with some really cool filmmakers, see terrific films, go to some great parties, etc. I was amazed at how much the festival has grown over the years. I sure hope they don't outgrow their britches. I also hope they don't turn it into a competitive festival. That's one of the things I really enjoy about T/F - that's it's not a competition. It makes the whole atmosphere much more collegial and enjoyable. With the way T/F is developing, I'll count myself lucky if I can get my next film in there at all."
Filmmaker: "Everyone knows that True/False is a fabulous festival. I remember seeing the Yes Men film there in the beautiful, old cinema. It was absolutely packed. There must have been at least 700 people there. Afterwards, everyone was buzzing about the film."
Filmmaker: "the best. Not a market but a doc-maker's dream festival. polite midwesterner "civilians" (not festival veterans) coming up to filmmakers and talking in detail about films. how good is that?"
Filmmaker: "loved this small but well run fest. love 'all doc' fests. really get your core audience out. good community with filmmakers. paid for all. casual digs, but still a nice time."
Filmmaker: "Consumate pros. They offered to bring me there but (the distributor) did not want the film to play there. I was not happy about it but the festival was supportive and understood my hands were tied and were respectful. Very supportive of filmmakers and the restraints of our business. Very impressive lineups for such an out-of-the-way festival."
Filmmaker: "Coolest and most interesting doc fest. All expenses paid."
Industry: "If you’re
going to put a festival in the middle of nowhere this is how you should do it.
T/F is audience focused, friendly, generous within their capacity and genuinely
interested in filmmaker/audience connection. We don’t buy anything here and if
we’re not invited to be a presenter or play some other role that pays the way
we wouldn’t go. Not because we dislike it, but because it comes at a funny time
in the festival calendar. February is post Sundance and most of what’s at T/F
has just been there. BUT this fest it is a great reminder of why I got in to
documentary film in the first place."
Industry: "The festival has to be fucking unbelievable for me to keep wanting to go to Columbia, Missouri. Who needs a 2 ½ hour van ride after flying to St Louis and Kansas City. And that hotel? But it’s a great festival and wonderful for the filmmakers to have that level of access to industry. It already is the Telluride of documentary. They need to maintain the agreement with other festivals about premieres. They have cultivated an audience now that they should take more risks, they take too many films that don’t need True/False. They’re too Sundance-reliant. Professional programmers don’t just show films that they like, they show films that should show."
Industry: "its reputation seems to have jumped this past year. Will know more after March..."
Industry: "great for filmmakers. not so much for industry. not sure why as a member of the industry that i need to pay attention to it."
Industry: "For me, True/False is worth making the trip for because I know I'll see films there that I won't see elsewhere. But I can understand how some journalists would see the same thing as a waste of time/money."
Industry: "Good: A really good festival run by really swell folks. I know of no filmmaker who has exhibited there that has had a bad thing to say about the place."
Industry: "hope I get to attend again. Panels/overlapping personalities all swell plus half a dozen films I hadn't seen anywhere else in the 2008 eidtion."
Next: Festival #13