True/False Fest Day One
March 1, 2012 1 Comment
So I finally made it into Columbia, MO which I will call home for about four days while I attend their 9th annual True/False Film Fest. For me this is a welcome vacation from work and necessary since I have an abundance of time off built up at work and what better way to indulge in my hobby than attend a film festival. In my preivous post about what to expect film wise from the festival, I have been able to, in the span of a day, see what makes this festival so unique and vibrant. Everything about the city (downtown to be precise) seems to come alive from the atmosphere of other film lovers. Street performers belting out ballads and percussive sounds, to the oppulently dressed volunteers who have made the festival experience enjoyable for me during my first night here. While I am excited and elated to see what the next several days have in store for me, I am more interested in what the organizers have in store for me when it comes to their fine selection of documentary and non-fiction films.
For my first night as a Lux Passholder (yeah badass I know), I was able to get two films scheduled for the first evening. The first film of my night, not the first of the festival mind you, was being held at The Blue Note, a venue that seems to be no stranger to being at capacity as the documentary that night drew out a heavy crowd which filled the balcony seating and floor seating as well. The documentary that evening is a compelling film that follows the artistic expression and suppression in Mainland China. A nation that seems to be going through the pangs of economic and social expansion, but finds a means to supress expression through limiting and imprisoning the artistic freedoms of the “intellectuals”.
Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
Documentary filmmaker Alison Klayman, follows the life of one of China’s most influetial and dissident artist to exist in the post Mao era of China. If you have never heard of or seen Weiwei’s work, well if you watched the Bejing Olympics and saw the Birds Nest complex, that is the work of Weiwei. A radical and polarizing individual, his art work is more of a critique on the politics and control of China and the governments move to supress knowledge and information. He flaunts the “Great Firewall” of China and takes to twitter to become the mouthpiece for change and accountability. His works are a thing of beauty, a commentary on how futile and hypocritical it is for the Chinese government to cling to a past that is marred in violence and suppression, while systematically destroying parts of old China to pave way for industry. He breaks priceless vases, art that is poignant and challenging of the norms, Weiwei stands out as the lone man in the art world and a public enemy of the people.
The documentary is a mix of interview documentary and guerilla style camera work as many of the films scenes are where Weiwei is confronted by authority and ultimately assualted and brow beaten to back down. It is often times scary to watch what unfolds between Weiwei and the authority of China, as he is not their favorite resident and constantly provokes the big dog. Through the midst of the documentary, we get to see something that we don’t typically see from Mainland China, and that is dissent. Weiwei blogs, twitters and creates art that is gateway for the people of China to wake up and see what is wrong with how their Government treats it’s intellectuals and those who speak out against them. His struggles for justice if juxtaposed with the plights and disappearances of his activist friends as they are wisked away, tried and sentences to hard larbor. It is amazing to see that how the Soceity and Government, with all their progressive advancements in commerce and economy, can find a way to surpress the very thing that they created with progressing to a modern society.
To listen to the director talk about her experiences with filming the documentary and giving an intimate look at the life of an individual who is a rebel and genius, she has a sense of dread and uncertainty. She is hopeful for Weiwei and his situation, which I won’t give away if you aren’t familiar with him, but if you are, then you know about his current and recent predicaments. While she remains hopeful for Wei, there is a sense of uncertainty that things in China won’t change.
I couldn’t imagine a better start to my first day of the festival, but then, well…let’s talk about the last film of the evening on my schedule.
While I was waiting in line at the Ragtag Cinema, which is fucking amazing, I overheard a little chatter about the film that would close out the evening for the rather packed lobby. Also can I just say that if I lived here in Columbia, I would practically live there at Ragtag cause of the sheer oppulence of that place. Like I died and went to heaven. Anways, as we packed into the big theater at Ragtag, a band from Indiana named Bus Man’s Holiday (clever joke) were finishing up a very entertaining set which I asked them where they would be playing next so I can catch more of their performance. With the band gone, the festival helpers introduced the directors and producers, local kids as well and then…chaos ensued.
Let me frame this for everyone so that you know what you are in for. The opening scene of the film is a handheld shot of some hooligans, basically sexually assaulting a woman and baring her breasts. So what would be a scene that fits into the middle of some horror films, this found footage (groan, I am about all found footaged out) film starts with a shock and then doesn’t let up. They pretty much flatout thelma and louised this film and made sure to grab us along the way.
V/H/S is a horror anthology, using the premise of found footage to push these little vignettes of horror and shock into our senses. Think of this film along the lines of the Masters of Horror series or even the Faces of Death series. It’s shocking, apalling, and unsettling, but you can’t take your eyes off the screen. The over arc of story is a bit meta, as we are watching a group of hooligans searching for some elusive vhs tape that will net them some money. One by one, each of the hooligans watch a particular video and then when the horrific footage is over, the next poor sap does the same thing. Each video or horror segment tops the previous one that follows, filled with tense moments, shaky cam footage and plently of male backside and bare breasts, each segement is directed by a different person. I was also surprised to see Ti West have a segment, which was incredible I might add, and he has been on a roll as of late with The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers.
Getting to watch this in the setting I was in made the film even better. A claustrophobic, dark theater setting, the air of fear and not knowing what will come next amplified the scares, the jumps and the violence to a level I don’t think they anticipated. While I said the violence is a bit graphic, it is over the top in nature, making the scenes almost comedic. It takes you a bit out of it, but I liken that violent effect to that of Miike films in the V-Cinema days. The Q&A session was great, I thought anyways, with the crew able to give us a bit of insight into how they managed all the different scenes and putting them together. The best part was their story about Sundance and how they managed to get a few people to faint and puke at the film.
Overall, I loved the horror and I am not even a big horror fan. The scenes are inventive and creative enough to keep you guessing. I would complain about the length of the film since it is pushing close to 2 hours and I don’t think most horror movies should exceed that 90 minute mark,
That closes out the first day thoughts on True/False. I must say, I am already planning for the next year’s fest and the atmosphere of film lovers is perfect for me. I got 5 movies to take part in tomorrow, so I am going to get a good sleep and some great local breakfast. Below are a few pictures and video of today’s proceedings.