True/False Film Previews
True/False Film Previews Editors Picks *Director will be in attendance
1/2 Revolution Directors: Karim El Hakim and Omar Shargawi 9:45 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at The Blue Note 9 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at The Picturehouse 4 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at Jesse Hall The revolution in Egypt in 2011 was characterized by heavily leaning on modern technology such as Twitter and Facebook. This film shows another role gadgets played in the government overthrow: documenting the revolution on the spot (insert Gil-Scott Heron reference here.) This up-close-and-personal, street-level documentary — which is as much historical document as movie — reveals film’s role in 21st century revolutions.
Abendland Director: Nikolaus Geyrhalter 5 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at Ragtag (Little) 10:30 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Ragtag (Big) 8 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Ragtag (Big) In German, the word “Abendland” generally means “the West” but also has the more literal (and poetic) translation of “evening land.” Director Nikolaus Geyrhalter takes that dual-meaning to heart with this film, which provides a seldom-seen glimpse of Europe after the lights have been turned out. This is a world of seclusion and surveillance, sex and death, technology and religion. With “Abendland,” Geyrhalter goes minimal, using no titles or narration, simply letting the images speak for themselves as we see in the moonlight that which is usually hidden behind closed eyelids.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry (Editor's pick) Director: Alison Klayman* 7 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at The Blue Note 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at The Picture House 1:30 p.m. Sunda, March 4, at Jesse Hall Named recently by ArtReview as the most influential artist in the world, Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is also arguably the most controversial, especially in the eyes his sovereign nation. Whether tweeting a raised middle finger to Chinese officials, photographing himself dropping a 2,000-year-old Han Dynasty urn or getting publicly beaten by police, Ai Weiwei is undoubtedly the rebellious teenager of Chinese popular culture, but behind all that rebellion lies some genuine, unbridled artistic talent (remember the amazing “Bird's Nest” Olympic stadium in Beijing?) that must be seen to be believed.
The Ambassador Director: Mads Brügger* 7 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Jesse Hall 10 a.m. Saturday, March 3, at the Missouri Theatre 7 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at the Globe Theater Imagine if Sacha Baron Cohen went to Africa and you’ve got a pretty good idea of what to expect from “The Ambassador.” After conning his way into North Korea in his previous film and deciding that wasn’t risky enough for him, Danish filmmaker Mads Brügger enters the “lawless” Central African Republic disguised as a Liberian diplomat and, lucky us, we get to follow him along his bewildering, satirical and dangerous trespass into the corrupt world of diamond trafficking.
Argentinian Lesson Director: Wojciech Staron* 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Ragtag (Big) 8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at the Forrest Theater 8 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at Ragtag (Little) Part documentary, part home video, “Argentinian Lesson” captures the the sweet innocence of pre-teen romance as 8-year-old Polish boy, Janek, travels to Argentina and meets Marcia, 11 going on 30. Filmed by Janek’s father, this film is an atmospheric beauty and charm. It will be shown along with “Into the Middle of Nowhere,” a 15-minute short by director Anna Frances Ewert.
The Belovs Director: Victor Kossakovsky* 5:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at Ragtag (Big) 13:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Ragtag (Big) Before you start thinking that “The Artist” has begun a trend of black and white film, remember that “The Belovs” was shot in 1993, so give it all the hipster cred it deserves. And there’s more to this touching portrait of a Russian farm family than the film on which it was captured. Herein lies a deeply affecting glimpse into the tenderness and humor that can exist even among desperation and tragedy.
Building Babel Director: David Osit* 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 2, at the Globe Theater 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 3, at Ragtag (Big) 10:00 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Ragtag (Little) It would have been near impossible in 2010 to read or watch the news without hearing about the conservative uproar over Park51, or “The Ground Zero Mosque,” as it had come (falsely, as it is neither a mosque nor on Ground Zero) to be known. “Building Babel” follows developer Sharif el-Gamal as he tries to construct this, the most infamous community center in the world, navigating the wrath, hate and scrutiny sent his way. This film will be shown with a short, “Paraíso” by director Nadav Kurtz.
Bully (Editor's pick) Director: Lee Hirsch* 3:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Jesse Hall 3 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at the Missouri Theatre No matter who you are, you’ve been affected by bullying, whether you were the bully, the bullied or an observer. Director Lee Hirsch takes this common thread of experience and places a magnifying glass to it as he follows his subjects from the home to the school bus to the hallways as they get punched, ridiculed, ostracized and even (for 16-year-old Kelby,) intentionally struck by a car. Some call bullying a natural and inevitable part of growing up, but it’ll be difficult for anyone to watch this powerful and affecting film and deny that there is serious problem that needs to be addressed.
Canícula Director: Jose Álvarez 8 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Ragtag (Big) 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 3, at the Globe Theater 5:30 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at Ragtag (Little) Not to be confused with “Bunnicula,” everyone’s favorite vampire rabbit, “Canícula” tells the story of the village of Zapotal, as director Jose Álvarez delves into an entirely different world of culture. In our metropolized and strip-malled world, this documentary reminds us of the natural, remedial universes that still operate in the modern world. Don’t expect a typical tribal doc, but rather a mesmerizing humanization of the unknown.
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope (Editor's pick) Director: Morgan Spurlock* 10 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Forrest Theater 9:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Jesse Hall 12:30 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at The Blue Note Best known as the dude who ate nothing but McDonald’s for an entire month, Morgan Spurloch dives into the world of the nerd in this geek-glorification doc. Meet some of the crazed super-fans who have made San Diego Comic-Con International one of the biggest celebrations of comics, sci-fi and all-around pop culture this side of Krypton. Also, two illustrators featured in the film are CoMo natives, so bonus points for the home-field angle.
The Connection (Editor's pick) Director: Shirley Clarke 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Ragtag (Little) 5:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Forrest Theater Originally released in 1961 and headed for an upcoming theatrical release, director Shirley Clarke dives into the film herself, filming a group of jazz musicians as they wait on their heroin man. Clarke embodies the True/False spirit, blurring the line between fact and fiction as the movie, based off a theatrical play of the same name, begins with the claim of using “real footage.” Garry Goodrow, who plays Ernie in the film, will be at the screening.
Detropia Directors: Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady* 8:30 p.m. Friday, March 2, at The Picturehouse 6 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at the Globe Theater 10 a.m. Sunday, March 4, at The Blue Note Seemingly reduced to car commercials, Eminem lyrics and general punch lines, Detroit is profiled in this gritty documentary. Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady dig into the depths of the Motor City and examine the lives of those who still reside there, including a blogger, an explorer, a nightclub owner and an opera singer. The film will be preceded by the four-minute short “Meaning of Robots” (directed by Matt Lenski.)
Going Up the Stairs Director: Rokhsareh Ghaemmaghami 2:30 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Forrest Theater 3 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Forrest Theater 1 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at The Picturehouse Sometimes, the desire to create comes late in a person’s life. For Iranian artist Akram, that moment didn’t come until she was 50 and suddenly found herself stealing her son’s art supplies to hone her skills. After being invited to an art exhibition in France, Akram must first ask her husband’s permission to travel abroad. Thus follows a film as much about marriage and modern society as it is about artistry. The film will be preceded by the 15-minute short “The Love Competition,” whose director, Brent Hoff, will be at the screening.
Gypsy Davy Director: Rachel Leah Jones* 3 p.m. Friday, March 2, at the Globe Theater 1:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at The Picturehouse 10 a.m. Sunday, March 4, at the Missouri Theatre David Serva Jones was two things above all else: a flamenco guitarist and a ladies’ man. As one who could strum the strings of a woman’s heart as easily as the strings of his immortal instrument, Jones left in his wake a string of broken hearts and estranged children, one of whom is Rachel Leah Jones, who’s journey to reconnect with a long lost father is captured in “Gypsy Davy.” The result is unique portrait of an enigmatic and and passionate legacy among guitar and love.
Herman’s House Director: Angad Bhalla* 5 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Ragtag (Little) 1 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at the Globe Theater 3:30 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at The Picturehouse Herman Joshua Wallace, a former Black Panther member convicted (perhaps wrongfully) of killing a prison guard, has been in solitary confinement for forty years. Now, as his sentence nears its end, he endeavors to design, through letters and phone calls, his very own post-prison house. Meanwhile, artist Jackie Sumell builds an exhibit around his story and the authorities decide to review his case and the story takes a turn toward the unknown.
How to Survive a Plague (Editor's pick) Director: David France* 8:45 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at the Missouri Theatre 10:30 a.m. Sunday, March 4, at Jesse Hall 6:20 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at Jesse Hall You’re probably thinking, “Oh great, that’s just what the world needs, another AIDS documentary.” Well, director David France would argue that, yes, that’s exactly what it needs. “How to Survive a Plague” focuses on the the multi-faceted activist group ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) through a mother-lode of found archival footage from the ‘80s. At once journalistic, intimate and powerful, “How to Survive a Plague” breaks away from the well-populated pack of AIDS documentaries to assert itself comfortably at the top of them all.
The Imposter Director: Bart Layton* 7 p.m. Friday, March 2, at The Blue Note 8:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at the Globe Theater 8 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at The Blue Note If there exists a conception that documentary film cannot reach the same levels of suspense and high drama as narrative film, it will be shattered by “The Imposter.” The story of a boy showing up in Spain years after going missing at age 13 in rural Texas, this film is rife with twists and turns without being at all showy or exploitative. You’ll be on the edge of your seat for “The Imposter”s entirety as you forget that what is unfolding on screen is 100 percent real footage and not some Hollywood thriller.
The Island President Director: Jon Shenk 7 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Forrest Theater 10:30 a.m. Saturday, March 3, at Jesse Hall 12:30 p.m. Sunday March 4, at the Missouri Theatre You might disagree with global warming, but try telling that to Mohamed Nasheed, president of the Maldives, an island nation in danger of disappearing beneath the waves. “The Island Nation” documents Nasheed’s first year in office as he tries to tackle that problem as well as many others, such as trying to construct a democracy after years of military rule. He gives stirring speeches, he holds cabinet meetings underwater for the press, and by the end of this film, Mohamed Nasheed will have your heart and your sympathy.
Low & Clear Directors: Kahlil Hudson and Tyler Hughen 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at Ragtag (Little) 4:30 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Forrest Theater 2:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Ragtag (Little) Documentary film as a genre isn’t exactly known for stunning visual impact, but True/False has a tradition showcasing films that nevertheless push the boundaries of visceral filmmaking. “Low & Clear” is this year’s example of that, as its stunning cinematography captures the fleeting friendship of J.T. Van Zandt and Alex “Xenie” Hall as they spend a winter week together fishing and feuding in Canada. It may sound like a slight story, but it’s absolutely elevated by the visionary duo behind the camera.
Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present Director: Matthew Akers* 12 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Forrest Theater 3 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at the Missouri Theatre 5:30 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at The Blue Note Performance artists sometimes get a bad rap — as pretentious weirdos or as hacks — but if anyone will convince you of the validity of that art form and defy those accusations it will be Marina Abramović, the self-proclaimed “grandmother of performance art.” After an artistic career spanning four decades, Abramović decided to talk to director Matthew Akers, and those interviews as well as archival footage from her past comprise “The Artist is Present,” an unflinching, honest and riveting film about the life of a wildly unique artistic voice.
Me @ The Zoo Directors: Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch 10 p.m. Friday, Mar. 2, at The Blue Note 12:30 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 3, at the Missouri Theatre You’ll all remember Chris Crocker for his infamous “Leave Brittney Alone” YouTube video, which attracted millions of views and turned him into an instant celebrity — for better or worse. This documentary by co-directors Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch takes what is ostensibly a story of a self-absorbed teenager with a web cam and an opinion, and turns into an engrossing study of gender, identity, celebrity and tolerance.
Only the Young Directors: Elizabeth Mims and Jason Tippet 9:45 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at Forrest Theater 11 a.m. Saturday, March 3, at The Picturehouse 4 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at Ragtag (Big) Sometimes, after so many stories of war and disease and politics, it’s nice to experience a movie about the simpler parts of the world. Not to say that teenage love and angst are insignificant. “Only the Young” captures the California friendship between Garrison and Kevin, a friendship complicated by the discovery of the opposite sex and captured beautifully and energetically by filmmakers Elizabeth Mims and Jasen Tippet. It’s a celebration of youth as vibrant as any in recent memory.
The Queen of Versailles Director: Lauren Greenfield* 7:30 p.m. Friday, March 2, at the Missouri Theatre 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Jesse Hall 1:15 Sunday, March 4, at the Globe Theater How would you like to live in the largest house in America? Housewife Jacquie Siegel would like that very much and with the help of her husband’s massive fortune will do anything in her power to make that happen for them and their eight children. Not one to go the obvious route, director Lauren Greenfield takes this premise, seemingly tailor-made for reality TV, and turns it into a startling allegory about so much more than square feet and Victorian-era home furnishings.
Searching for Sugar Man Director: Malik Bendjelloul* 1 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Jesse Hall 7:30 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at the Missouri Theatre Latino singer-songwriter Sixto Diaz Rodriguez’s two albums in 1969 and 1970 came and went on American shores without much attention. However, in apartheid-era South Africa, he somehow achieved fame on the level of The Beatles and Neil Young. “Searching for Sugar Man” asks the question, “OK, so what happened next?” Rumors abound, including a heroin overdose, an onstage suicide and even the murder of a lover, but director Malik Bendjelloul shows trials of two fans, a jeweler and a journalist, who weren’t content with rumors and sought the truth.
Summer of Giacomo Director: Alessandro Comodin* 3 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Ragtag (Little) 12:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Forrest Theater 12:30 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at Ragtag (Little) Imagine being deaf for 18 years and then suddenly being able to hear. If, predictably, that was really difficult to imagine, check out Alessandro Comodin’s “Summer of Giacomo,” which tells just that story. What is easy to imagine is how powerful a film could be made with such a subject — especially when motifs like adolescence, friendship, culture and Italian countrysides are thrown in for good measure. Sounds good.
These Birds Walk Directors: Omar Mullick and Bassam Tariq 7 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at Forrest Theater 7:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Ragtag (Little) 12:30 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at Forrest Theater “These Birds Walk” presents a special opportunity to experience a documentary in the midst of its production, as this film has yet to be completed. And just as the film has yet to reach its conclusion, this story about a home for orphans in Pakistan also provides a sense of longing for completion. The outcome of troublesome lives of these boys, and the culture they live in, is largely unknown.
Undefeated (Editor's pick) Directors: Dan Lindsay and T.J. Martin 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at the Missouri Theatre 6:30 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at Jesse Hall It should be enough to just say that this movie just won the Oscar for Best Documentary, but I’ll go on. A sort of real-life “Friday Night Lights,” this film documents the struggle of Bill Courtney, a volunteer high school coach trying to turn his inner-city football team into a winning one. Directed by a pair of young filmmakers (one of whom is an MU grad,) this masterful work is powerful, inspiring and artful. If you only see one film at this year’s fest, make it this one.
The Vanishing Spring Light Director: Xun “Fish” Yu* 12 p.m. Friday, March 2, at Ragtag (Little) 3 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Ragtag (Big) 10:30 a.m. Sunday, March 4, at Ragtag (Big) Ignoring the director’s chosen nickname, this documentary looks to be anything but fishy. Yu tells the story of Grandma Jiang of Sichuan, China, whose juxtaposition of jokes and dark seriousness give a layered tone to the film. As the grandmother’s life pushes along its latter years, this documentary debut poses questions of dignity and tradition for this persistently smoking woman who has lived in the same house for half a century.
V/H/S (Editor's pick) Directors:*Adam Wingard, Glenn McQuaid, Radio Silence, David Bruckner, Joe Swanberg and Ti West 10:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at Big Ragtag 10:00 p.m. Friday, March 2, at the Missouri Theatre 10:30 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Big Ragtag Surprise! This one’s fiction, y’all. Filled to the brim with gore, scares and sex, this thriller focuses on a group of kids who come across a sack of VHS tapes of self-recorded horror. “V/H/S” opened to much acclaim at this year’s Sundance as well as some fear-induced faintings. It might not be a documentary, but with its imaginative use of found footage and home movies as well as its reliance on Columbia and its residents (both in front of and behind the camera,) “V/H/S” well-earned its spot at this year’s fest.
¡Vivan Las Antipodas! Director: Victor Kossakovsky* 5:30 p.m. Friday, March 2, at the Globe Theater 5:45 Saturday, March 2, at Missouri Theatre 4 p.m. Sunday, March 4, at the Globe Theater Ever dream of digging that hole to the other side of the planet? Did you know those places had names? “Antipodas,” they’re called (“antipodes” in English,) and this documentary explores the relations of four sets of antipodes, including some Argentinian bridge-keepers, a Botswana kiosk worker, Chinese bicyclists and a Russian shepherd. (Yes, the other side of the world includes more countries than just China.)
The Waiting Room Director: Peter Nicks* 4:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1, at Forrest Theater 1 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at The Blue Note 5 p.m. Saturday, March 3, at Ragtag (Little) In cities like Oakland, violence is the norm. And the obvious but overlooked counterpart to this culture is healing. Enter Oakland Highland Hospital, where director Peter Nicks explores the system first hand, telling the stories of doctors and patients alike and showing just what happens at the back end of a convoluted health care system rather than being lectured on the issue from afar. Editor Lawrence Lerew will be at the screening.