What to watch at this year’s True/False Film Fest

The 15th edition of the documentary film festival will take place from Mar. 1-4 in downtown Columbia.


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This year’s True/False Film Fest will debut several documentaries and welcome new artists from around the world. With over 40 films on the lineup, it also marks the return of filmmakers who have shown their work previously. The diverse lineup features a mixture of innovative and experimental approaches to documentary filmmaking. As the lines between fiction and nonfiction blur, attendees will be encouraged to rethink reality.

Bisbee ‘17

Robert Greene (Kate Plays Christine) appears at the festival for the fifth time with his historical documentary about an Arizona town built around tragedy. The film uses current residents to reenact an event known as the Bisbee Deportation, where Eastern European and Mexican immigrant miners were abandoned by their community in 1917. It is a haunting mosaic depiction of a 100-year-old ethnic cleanse that resonates a century later with immigration disputes in America.


Leilah Weinraub chronicles the ups and downs of a black lesbian strip club in Los Angeles by documenting explicit performances from 2002-2015. As a former member of the Shakedown Angels, the director spotlights a counterculture of hip-hop and strobe lights that became a vital space for queer women of color. This is an unmissable LGBT celebration fresh off its run at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this month.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom) returns to Columbia with his portrait of Mister Rogers, an American cultural touchstone whose idealism and civility have been missing from television sets since his death in 2003. The film will be a deeply personal account of the man whose career was spent digesting thorny issues for a kid’s program.


Popstar Mathangi “Maya” Arulpragasam, or M.I.A., gets a stripped-down profile of her career and upbringing by her best friend from art school, director Steven Loveridge. It will feature video diaries made by Maya herself over 6 years that detail her musical beginnings as well as her family’s connection to a militant rebel group.

The Rider

Chloé Zhao’s last feature was a story about Native-American siblings living on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Her latest docudrama studies an injured rodeo cowboy whom she met there and has earned raves at Cannes, Telluride, Toronto and Sundance. Brady Jandreau and a cast of non-actors play versions of themselves in this American comeback story that truly walks the line between fiction and nonfiction.

American Animals

Bart Layton portrays an ambitious art heist by two Kentucky suburbans (rising stars Barry Keoghan and Evan Peters) who steal rare books from the Transylvania University library in a thriller that underscores a moral dilemma of privilege and entitlement like Sofia Coppola's The Bling Ring. The film had strong reactions at Sundance where its U.S. distribution rights were purchased in a historic deal by The Orchard and an exhibitionist ticket service, MoviePass.

Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist

Lorna Tucker directs her love letter to British fashion designer turned environmental activist, Vivienne Westwood. The film explores how a legend of the catwalk changed youth culture and built her anti-capitalist message. Along the way, Tucker chips away at her subject’s ruminating expansion plans and enters a deeper reservoir of passion behind the woman who was appointed a dame by Queen Elizabeth II in 2006.


In the summer of 1992, Singaporean youngster Sandi Tan and her friends worked with a middle-aged man named Georges to create the perfect indie riff on Heathers. Only Georges stole the film, which sent Tan (now an L.A. novelist) on a new journey while working with the same project. Shirkers is a movie within a movie that flows like a record of past and present attempts to break down the distinction between the story of life and life itself.

Flight of a Bullet

Beata Bubenec films a one-take documentary about being a female camera operator in the dangerous Donbass region of Ukraine. Her footage becomes an exhilarating depiction of war’s trivial annihilation as well as the harrowing reality that comes along with it.

Of Fathers and Sons

Talal Derki, posing as an Al Qaeda-affiliated filmmaker, has made a shocking new movie that traces the life of Abu Osama and his son. He is a sensitive boy who is being trained alongside his seven brothers to fight as a jihadi. Over the course of two years, the film takes a closer look into the family as well as civil war tribulations and radical Islam.

Three Identical Strangers

In a stranger-than-fiction story that makes great implications on nature versus nurture, Robert, Edward and David reunite after being separated at birth and growing up in circumstances that were drastically unalike. Director Tim Wardle keeps things light for the most part in his retelling of a bizarre phenomenon that turned a set of triplets into media stars in 1980.

Playing Men

Matjaž Ivanišin uses a mix of several documentary forms to deconstruct the meaning of the word “play” in terms of masculinity when it comes to anything from sports to musicals. The film will be a personal and social study set in both local and global cultural contexts.

Our New President

Maxim Pozdorovkin compiles Russian media and political programming in an effort to expose the fake news empire that became the wind beneath Donald Trump’s wings during the 2016 election. It tracks his rise to presidency while serving as a perilous documentation of modern propaganda.

Six films will make their world premieres at the 2018 True/False Film Fest. Erick Stoll and Chase Whiteside tell a Mexican three musketeer story about entertaining performers who care for their grandmother in América. Khalik Allah returns with Black Mother, a compassionate look at ancestral influences from his mother’s home country, Jamaica. The Task takes an honest look at its subjects through a group discussion between strangers about prejudices, stereotypes and backstories. In Voices of the Sea, director Kim Hopkins sheds light on the push-pull relationship between a loyal Cuban fisherman and his wife who dreams of a life in America just 90 miles north of shore. Combat Obscura is Miles Lagoze’s war movie made up of actual footage collected during his time in Afghanistan. Finally, Lovers of the Night retraces the philosophical lives of Irish monks and will play alongside a short called Baby Brother.

Edited by Claire Colby | ccolby@themaneater.com

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