Because of its conveniently contained setting (Columbia, Missouri, home to the state’s largest university) and its independent ethic (a willful disregard for awards, promotional parties, industry dealing, and the atmosphere of corporatized networking that comes with all of this), the True/False Film Fest is regarded as a haven for both fans and creators of documentaries. It’s an unusually democratized event, and it celebrates the community of volunteers and musicians that help the event proceed so smoothly with as much fervor as it does the films and filmmakers that it hosts.
The warmth with which Columbia welcomes its many hundreds of annual attendees remains beguiling, but one of the amusingly dissonant things about True/False is that however much it feels like the city exists simply to host this event, an entire world carries on in and around it. On weekend nights, bars and sidewalks teem with ebullient undergrads, dangerously underdressed for their ambling from one party to the next. The fleeting world of the festival and the ongoing life of the town commingle and collide in fascinating ways; one undergrad stopped a group of us in the street at 1:30 am explicitly to recommend the charming 1972 pop-rock doodle “Magnet” by the band NRBQ. True/False is an idyll, but it’s just one of many ecosystems carrying on in Columbia on this particular weekend.