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Around the Columns

Coming home to True/False


Documentary-loving Tigers have returned to Columbia annually since 2004 for the True/False Film Fest, a celebration of nonfiction cinema including screenings, music, parties and a parade. Photo by Rob Hill

For three enthusiastic days, fans crowd Ninth Street and Broadway, spilling out of local restaurants and hopping from venue to venue. A parade kicks off the event, friends reunite, parties ensue, and general revelry prevails in downtown CoMo. Homecoming? In a sense. Although it isn’t quite the storied tradition that began in 1911, the True/False Film Fest has become a reason for Mizzou alumni who might prefer film to football to come home.

“There’s something about True/False that’s really self-contained and homegrown,” says Coburn Dukehart, MA ’03, of Washington, D.C., who has attended three of the last five years. “There’s a big documentary festival here called [AFI-Discovery Channel] Silverdocs, and ironically, I rarely go to it even though it’s just a few miles away.”

True/False organizers are still viewing and selecting films for the event set to take place March 3–6, 2011. Co-founder David Wilson says this year’s slate will include even more elaborate venue design, live music, rambunctious parties, secret screenings and art on display. “We think of the festival as being serious fun,” Wilson says. “You’ll see movies that will make you think and feel and change the way you look at the world — and there are really killer parties.”

True/False has featured hundreds of award-winning films over the years, such as the British Film Institute award-winning Murderball (2005) and The Fog of War, which won the Oscar for best documentary feature in 2004. But Wilson says the festival is close to topping out in terms of desired attendance. The 2009 record crowd of 25,500 is only 4,500 short of where organizers want T/F to be in order to retain its intimacy. That is exactly what Shauna Bittle, MA ’06, loves about T/F.

“It’s amazing that they bring a director or somebody associated with every film and that they’re so accessible,” says the returning fan who was a volunteer house manager at Ragtag Cinema during the festival’s inaugural year, 2003. “We don’t want to be a weeklong festival or ‘the next Sundance,’ ” Wilson says. “True/False is a chance for us all to flex our minds and reach out. We aim to bring the world to Columbia.”