Dispatches | March 02, 2009

It was downright nippy last weekend here in Columbia, Missouri, but that didn’t keep my fiancee Neesha, her parents, and me away from the True/False Film Festival. Turns out, nothing gets a family talking like a solid piece of nonfiction filmmaking. We saw a whole bunch of films. Here’s the roundup on our favorites.

Loot
Remember how Bill Murray acts in Caddyshack? That’s how this Lance guy just kind of . . . is. Father of four, he drops everything to scamper off to Austria and the Philippines to hunt treasure on sketchy information gathered from WWII vets. Allegory for documentary filmmaking as a whole: Could be something there to dig up, but it’s far from a sure thing.

Waltz with Bashir
Academy Award-nominated, Golden Globe-winning, I liked it because it’s clever and skillfully animated. Neesha liked it because of the scene where the filmmaker, an ex-Israeli soldier who is trying to uncover a buried memory from the Lebanese war, asks one of the interview subjects if he can sketch him and his son. The guy agrees.

“Sketch anything you like,” he says, “but no filming.”

As we were all leaving the theater, Neesha asked me what I make of that.

I don’t know what I make of that.

We Live in Public
Josh Harris seems like a total d-bag in the film — moreso in the post-film Q&A — and none of us had even heard of any of the “pioneering” web projects he helmed (Pseudo?). His doom and gloom prophecies about diminishing human interaction and privacy did make us all want to deactivate our Facebook and Myspace pages, though.

Rough Aunties
Follows Bobbi Bear staff through multiple attrocities in South Africa. We cried. My soon-to-be mother-in-law sums it up best: “The subjects were the least self-serving and the most self-sacrificing, all for the sake of women and children.”

Sounds Like Teen Spirit
Speaking of children . . .
This was unanimously adored in our party, maybe because it was the last film we saw, and by then, we were all desperationed-out and ready to surrender to the joyfulness of children competing in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest.

I think all the films we saw had lessons for nonfiction writing as a genre, but especially this one, which is about kids following their dreams. For some of us, writing is our childhood dream. We ought to love it like children, I think, or we ought to look for something else to do. That’s the lesson I got. That and the value of a little levity.

These were some of our favorites from True/False. If you got to go, what were yours?

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