From February 25 to 28, 2010, the documentaries community shifts its focus to Columbia, Missouri for the seventh annual True False Film Fest. This year, the documentaries festival's program includes 40 films, some of which -- Racing Dreams and My Country My Country, for example -- have been making the festival rounds and been seen in theaters around the country during the past year, and others of which -- Waking Sleeping Beauty, for one -- are due for upcoming release.
Fresh from its U.S. premiere at this year's Sundance Festival, China's The Last Train Home is making a stop at True/False before steaming on to MoMA's New Directors/New Films series, where it's screening on April 1 and 3. The Last Train Home, which had its world premiere and won the Best Feature-Length Documentary Award at IDFA 2009 (disclaimer: I was a juror at IDFA, but on a different panel), is about Chinese migrant workers who are trying to travel to rural home towns to reunite with their families for New Year's celebrations. Director Lixin Fan follows one couple who are battling the throng -- more than 130-million migrant workers travel home for the holiday -- for places on the The Last Train Home. The film's cinematography is astonishing -- it's extraordinary that the human stampede could be captured on film without the shooter being trampled to death. The images are as compelling as those captured by Rebecca Camissa when she climbed up to the tops of freight trains to film migrant children for her Oscar-nominated Which Way Home. Hopefully, The Last Train Home will have the same wide exposure afforded Which Way Home.
True/False, billing itself as an intimate, friendly, down home festival which highlights innovative work, unusual perspectives and creative envelope-pushing in documentaries that provoke dialogue about their subjects and the documentary form itself, also offers a roster of lively panel discussions and workshops, as well as parties, local field trips and challenges filmmakers to reimagine the possibilities of nonfiction filmmaking.
If you can't get to Columbia, Missouri for the fest days, check out the True/False Website, which is well-organized and user friendly, and will give you an idea of what this festival is all about. And look for the films on the program to screen at a theater or festival near you.