True/False is a Columbia tradition with hometown roots

The festival occurs each year in February and keeps growing every year according to reports from the Missourian.

With over 52,000 attendees in 2017, True/False has become a Columbia tradition, with this year marking the festival’s fifteenth anniversary. It’s become so deeply ingrained in Columbia’s culture that it’s hard to imagine a time without it.

In 2003, Paul Sturtz and Ragtag Cinema founder David Wilson felt inspired by the increasing commercial viability of documentary filmmaking, which they dubbed “Year of The Documentary.” Both working as film exhibitors in the Columbia area, the two decided to bring their technical know-how and love of nonfiction filmmaking to new heights by establishing a film festival of their own. Columbia, with its rich history of journalism, seemed like the perfect place for such a festival.

The festival got off to a strong start in 2004, with sellout crowds and ticket sales increasing with each successive year. In 2006, the festival added its game show event “Gimme Truth!” which will also be featured at this year’s event, and brought in guests and filmmakers from around the world. The festival eventually grew to garner national attention from the film industry, with IndieWire noting it as “a preview of just how limitless the future of documentaries can be” prior to 2018’s festival.

Not only does True/False screen non-fiction works, but they’ve also delved into showcasing fiction filmmaking inspired by documentary aesthetics. Last year’s award-winning “The Rider,” a hybrid of documentary and drama, screened as part of the festival’s “Neither/Nor” series, which places an emphasis on “repertory work that broadens the boundaries of nonfiction filmmaking,” the festival’s website claims.

In the past year, the documentary genre has seen some of its biggest commercial and critical hits in films like “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” which screened at last year’s True/False.

In the years since its founding, True/False has grown to become one of the nation’s premier festivals specializing almost exclusively in documentaries. The festival’s mission statement seeks to provide “a heightened four-day weekend of creative placemaking in which filmmakers, artists, musicians,” with this year’s festival including concerts, marches and art exhibitions.

The True/False Film Fest takes place from Feb. 28 to March 3 in Columbia, Missouri.

Edited by Janae McKenzie |

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