Dispatches | March 01, 2009
The Q Line
A teenager in a hoodie and frayed sneakers gave me a bright blue slip of paper. She wore a festival pass hanging from a metal lanyard–it said Volunteer and contained a sketch of a human heart. The slip she handed me said 156. I was number 156 in the Q line. 155 people would get into this film before the veteran volunteers inside the theater would consider giving me the nod. That is, after they let in the first 1,000 True/False Film Festival goers who actually bought tickets beforehand to see the Oscar nominated documentary film, Waltzing with Bashir.
I got in, as did several dozen others with numbers higher than mine. The rainbow-painted cardboard Q that watched over us from the top of a ten-foot pole in the lobby of the Missouri Theatre blessed us. And the Q line continued to bless me all weekend.
I saw seven films, including No Impact Man and Burma VJ. As I write this, the festival continues on with the closing night film, The Yes Men Fix the World, and Busker’s Last Stand, one final opportunity for festival musicians to perform and pass the hat. Seven films was enough for me – thank you, oh Q line – and I’ll have to wait for Yes Men to find its way to RagTag in the months ahead.
I wouldn’t watch documentary film if it weren’t for this festival. Documentaries are hard work, and I don’t mean for the filmmakers, though, of course it’s tough work for them, too. As an audience member, witnessing Buddhist monks beaten and thrown into police trucks on the streets of Rangoon or untangling an Isreali soldier’s memories (or lack) about the Palestinian genocide in Beirut is not easy, but True/False makes it possible. Indeed, this festival has convinced me that documentary film is an art form essential to understanding what it means to be human. Documentary shows us how to “make sense of our own role in the daily global drama,” as T/F co-conspirators Paul Sturtz and David Wilson put it.
It’s not all death and destruction. Going green in the heart of NYC has its charms, as one family does in No Impact Man. One of the best lines of the festival was when Colin Beaven, in response to an audience member’s question about toilet paper, explained that half of the world sees “washing better than smearing it around.” Colin, his wife, Michelle Conlin, as well as the directors were on hand to discuss the film afterwards. One of many unique aspects of T/F is that every film has someone in attendance to answer questions after each screening–a director or a producer, and in some cases, the people whose lives are actually examined in the films.
It’s been a long weekend. Did I mention the party Friday night? The parade? Oh, and the four other films I saw. It’ll have to wait–the pillow is calling… I’ll write more this coming week, and several other folks at The Missouri Review will have their own stories to tell, too. Check back soon.
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