Get to know the 2017 True/False Film Festival provocateurs

Meet the people whose job it is to make you think.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of Destiny Watford. MOVE Magazine regrets the error.

A Provocateur, in the case of the True/False Film Festival, is someone who provokes the audience into thinking deeper into the subject of the film they are about to view. The Provocateur gives a five-minute spiel on a topic of their choice, one they are passionate about and have spent much of their lives and careers exploring. The 2017 Provocateurs have been gathered from far and wide, each with a specific expertise and accomplishments under their belt.

“[The Provocateurs] were selected on the basis of two things, really,” said Abby Sun, programmer for True/False Film Festival and curator of the Provocateurs. “One is that they had to have unusual and challenging ideas. The other criteria was that the presentation style also had to be inventive. So as long as those two things meshed, then they were good candidates.”

This year’s Provocateurs include: Destiny Watford, a student at Towson University in Maryland and the winner of last year’s Goldman Environmental Prize; Linda Tirado, author of Hand To Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America; Sarah Jeong, contributing editor at Vice Motherboard and author of The Internet of Garbage; Sarah Kendzior, a Twitter star and journalist based out of St. Louis who mostly focuses on politics and the economy; and, lastly, Stacy Kranitz, a photographer working to discredit stereotypes.

Each Provocateur is paired with a film that best suits the subject that they have chosen to speak about.

Kranitz is set to talk prior to the film The Road Movie, a film that takes viewers through the Russian countryside from the perspective of dashboard cameras placed on cars for insurance purposes.

“I’m talking about poverty and images of poverty, and how the photographs often fail to illustrate what is actually going on,” Kranitz said. “And how stereotypes can often get in the way, as well as our preconceived notions of poverty, or our place, our class. Our understanding of class gets in the way of us understanding poverty and images of poverty.”

Tirado’s topic contrasts with the film to which she was assigned: The Challenge. This film explores the rich splendors of the Arabian Peninsula and the art of falconry, which is known as the “sport of kings,” according to the Ohio Falconry Association.

“I’m talking about, specifically, the world freaking out about free speech since [President Donald] Trump’s gone into office and journalists are being arrested for covering things,” Tirado said. “But, I’ve worked for minimum wage for most of my life, and I never felt like I had any speech then, either. So, I’m kind of talking about, well, what does free speech mean if you’re not allowed to talk; is it really a right you have even?”

Tirado describes her book, Hand To Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America as an honest, comedic voice for the working poor living in the United States.

“They don’t often have people who have lived in a situation come and talk about the situation,” Tirado said. “Normally they ask somebody else to talk about them watching people live in the situation. I always find that authentic knowledge is a little bit more interesting. I would rather hear from someone who knows what they’re talking about. And also, people who know what they’re talking about make better jokes because they can. A rich person can’t make poor people jokes; I can.”

Kendzior’s assigned film, Stranger In Paradise, looks at the relationship between Europeans and refugees.

“I’m going to talk about political repression, authoritarianism and violence in world affairs,” Kendzior said. “From what I understand, [Stranger In Paradise] focuses on refugees, on people that are in perilous political situations. I’ve done a lot of work on that, a lot of writing on that. I’ve also done work in refugee cases, you know, I was an expert witness in court. I’m well-known for covering through the darker side of political life, and this is a film that reflects that as well, which is a natural fit, I think.”

Similarly, Watford will talk before the film Communion, and Jeong will speak prior to Rat Film.

“The pairings were based on connections that hopefully were not completely obvious,” Sun said. “We wanted there to be some sort of, maybe sideways connection between the provocations and the feature film that they come before. So, for instance, Sarah Jeong and Rat Film; There might be some aesthetic, or kind of more of a similarity, between her provocation and the way the film is structured. She wasn’t paired before that film because her provocation was about rats or anything like that. The connection is not that obvious. It’s not a one-to-one correlation between subject and film.”

If you cannot make any of these films, but would like to hear the provocations, the five provocateurs with gather on the Sunday morning of the festival at the Chautauqua to share their thought-provoking topics that will have the audience thinking from new perspectives.

Edited by Katherine White | kwhite@themaneater.com

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