Travel with Terri
Entertainment Abounds at Columbia’s True/False Film Festival
Story and Photos by Terri Marshall
New York City has Tribeca, Idaho has Sundance and France has Cannes. But each March in the charming college town of Columbia Missouri filmmakers debut gripping documentaries at the annual True/False Film Festival. It’s a weekend chock full of films, art, music and whimsy. I was on hand for the party last March. Now it’s your turn.
Introducing True/False Film Festival
True/False has taken its place on the world nonfiction stage as a venue where filmmakers debut gripping documentaries. Directors from all over the world gather in Columbia in early March to screen their works in front of packed crowds. More than 50 films are shown over four days in venues throughout the city.
This homegrown festival has grown into an internationally recognized event yet has remained true to its roots. Over 800 local volunteers support the event where directors and their subjects are accessible to festival attendees with Q&A sessions, parties, and panel discussions.
Last year a favorite event of attendees was the cozy “Campfire Stories” where host, author, filmmaker, and storyteller extraordinaire Davy Rothbart gathered eight directors around a “campfire” to swap tales of the scene that got away, complete with homemade s’mores.
One of my favorite things about the festival was the talented Buskers roam the streets throughout the weekend entertaining with all genres of music and creating a fun party atmosphere.
March, Run or Walk
Films aren’t the only thing making scenes during True/False. The weekend starts off with “March March” – a whimsical parade where anyone and everyone is welcome to march in costume through the streets of the city led by local King of Queens, Ron Ironic Ribiat. Use your imagination and make that costume loud, proud and colorful. This is your chance to create a scene. The parade begins at the Boone County Courthouse Square and marches down 9th Street to the Missouri Theatre. The spectacle includes live music, entertainers, and human powered floats.
A bright-and-early tradition at T/F, the True Life Run invites all runners and walkers to start Saturday morning of the festival with a mad dash through the streets of downtown Columbia. The 5k run/walk will starts at 9:00am in Flat Branch Park and takes in the landmarks of Columbia offering a handful of eclectic adventures along the way. Winners are determined by a combination of course time and successful participation in hair-brained challenges along the way. Proceeds from the True Life Run are donated to the True Life Fund.
Public Art Walks
Art in public spaces not only enhances the beauty of a town, it adds depth and interest. In between films, I stopped more than once as I strolled the streets of Columbia to check out sculptures, murals, and even art on traffic boxes. The City of Columbia has put together a Public Art Walk – a self-guided tour of over 30 works of public art throughout the city. No appointment or ticket necessary, just download the guide and roam about. Points of interest along the walk include the Jamboree, a bronze sculpture depicting five animals – a gecko, hare, alligator, cat and frog – all playing different musical instruments. The plaque on the base describes the work as “celebrating diversity in harmony.” You’ll find the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial along a nature and fitness trail, Time in Transit oil on canvas at the Wabash Station, and even the comic strip character, Beetle Bailey, depicted in bronze as he lounges on a graffiti-covered bench on the campus of the university.
What the Directors are saying about True/False
One of the best ways to understand what True/False is all about is by listening to what the directors have to say. Here are just a few of the many endorsements for T/F:
I have joined the apostles of T/F and spread the gospel far and wide. I’ve been to festivals all over the world, but T/F is special. The audiences are passionate and engaged. The films are brilliantly curated. But, more than anything, there’s an incredible sense of community. My only regret of the Oscars was that I couldn’t go to True/False. – Morgan Neville, Oscar-winning director, 20 Feet from Stardom
When I brought my film to T/F, it was an experience unlike anything else: I was enveloped by a family of the most talented, driven, creative storytellers in the world. Every year since then, I have returned just to be a member of the audience, no movies of my own to show. That’s when you feel the profound warmth of this festival — and the stunning size of the family. Tens of thousands of people make their way to the middle of nowhere for the simple love of nonfiction films. They are the most generous, curious, critical, appreciative, unpretentious audience I’ve ever tucked in with. I won’t ever miss it. – David France, director, How to Survive a Plague
True/False is the festival where you get to see the best documentaries of year and then drink afterwards with their directors. Need I say more? – Liz Garbus, director of the Oscar nominated, What Happened, Miss Simone?
Whether you enjoy films, art, buskers, crazy parades, run/walks, drinking with directors or a little of it all, Columbia, Missouri is the place to be this March for the True/False Film Festival. You’ll love it. I promise.