Indiwire has written about the reputation that a documentary film festival occurring yearly in a small town in mid-Missouri has gained. It’s also one of the most fun, they say, with its bonus of parties, music, and the accessibility of filmmakers and other film biz people throughout the festival. I must agree. It’s the event that I’ve been looking forward for the whole year.
It’s True/False, which celebrates its tenth anniversary this year. In the past week, Columbia, MO has been hit by two consecutive snow storms, giving the town a ‘We-are-at-Sundance’ kind of feeling. A group of heroic volunteers have perfectly shoveled alleys, sidewalks, and accesses to venues to guarantee that the show goes on. And here we are, day # 1 of True/False!
Thursday February 28, 4:30pm, the festival kicks off with two films, Dirty War and Village at the End of the World. I excluded Dirty War from my ticket selections thinking that it’ll likely be in theaters later, or at least on DVD (but I may try to get a ticket for tomorrow night).
Village at the End of the World (2012) by Sarah Gravon portrays the life of a small community – 59 people – in the village of Niaqornat nestled in a bay in northwest Greenland. Superbly filmed by David Katznelson (acclaimed for his work on popular TV series Downton Abbey), the film reflects the dilemma of small communities all over the world. Living between freezing and melting seasons, hunting wild animals for food, or exploring the world through the Internet, for some of the inhabitants, mostly the elderly, Niaqornat is home, but for others, like 18-year-old Lars, it is a place to escape from, in search of better opportunities and romance. Without drama or overt polemic, the film touches important topics such climate change, (idiotic) tourism hunting for ‘uncontaminated’ life, and the naturalness of killing and eating animals. Favorite line: when a tourist tells how nice it is to be in a place where people’s lives have been untouched by modernity, while a little girls in the background is playing with a brand new laptop. Topic for further discussion: killing a whale or a white bear for meat is as natural as the cycle of life and death is.
Rating: 3.5/5 as ‘film-critic-rating’, but 4/5 for providing thoughts mixed with sweetness, a balanced combination for the festival opening film.
After the Jubilee, the festival’s gala sponsored by Inside Columbia magazine, with libations, endless pouring of Schlafly beer, and hand-crafted cocktails – prepared by various award winning bartenders in town, using wines and spirits from Huber’s, I headed to my next film, The Last Station (La ultima estacion), co-directed by Cristian Soto & Catalina Vergara (2012). I blame the two fantastic cocktails I had at the Jubilee, Out of the Bleu (Vodka, Huber Blueberry Infusion, lime, St, Germain), but I found the Chilean film about a remote old people’s home in Chile very slow, albeit the cinematography was breathtaking.
In a prevalence of long takes with a steady camera, many black frames with offscreen dialogues, and stunning CU of wrinkled faces, each shot looked like a painting, in a Caravaggesque chiaroscuro. The pace and mode are reminiscent of such masters as Tarkovksy and Angelopoulos. Too much intensity for my first day of T/F – after two classes taught, one film viewed, a few drinks, and a lot of chatting with festival goers. Rating: 5/5 for esthetic, 2/5 for ability to keep my attention. To be watched on a big screen. I’ll watch it again, if released on DVD, for full appreciation.
My last film of the day was “Secret Screening Green,” which I can’t write about! As I have two more Secret Screenings in my schedule for Day 2, I’ll tell you more about the reasons beyond that secrecy with my next post.