BY HANNAH LAZO
COLUMBIA, MO–It’s that glorious time of the year again when the streets of Columbia, Missouri, transform from the hum-drum of everyday life into an ultra-spunky, art-filled mecca for documentary film fans. True/False Film Festival is right around the corner and there are plenty of reasons to get excited.
Several films in this year’s lineup will have a special appeal to those interested in science, agriculture and public health stories. Stacey Woelfel, director of the Jonathan B. Murray Center for Documentary Journalism at MU, shared some insider views on the upcoming films.
Without further ado, here are some of Woelfel’s top picks!
Director Tony Stone gives us an intimate glimpse inside the life of Vermont farmer Peter Dunning. Woelfel said this subtle film is beautifully shot, has outstanding character development and is one of the films he is most looking forward to this year. He said it was especially interesting because Dunning is “struggling through his own existence” but isn’t looking for your pity.
In Life, Animated, we meet Owen Suskind, a man who has come along way since being diagnosed with severe regressive autism as a toddler. At age 3, he stopped talking, retreated from the world and spent hours holed up in the family basement watching Disney movies. It wasn’t until his father noticed something familiar in the gibberish Owen often muttered that they had a real breakthrough. The film follows Owen he prepares to venture into the adult world on his own. Woelfel called Life, Animated “the biggest feel-good movie of the festival.”
Sherpa isn’t just your typical mountain climbing adventure film. It focuses deeply on the lives of Nepal’s Sherpa people, who’ve done the heavy lifting on nearly every attempt to climb Mt. Everest but seldom get the credit they deserve.
“Many people can name the first person to climb Mt. Everest,” Woelfel said, “But few people can name the sherpa who went with him and made the same climb.”
The film looks at how the Sherpa have seen their country and sacred mountain trashed by the climbing industry. Woelfel called Sherpa “a heck of a lot more honest than Meru,”a mountain climbing film you may remember from last year’s lineup, and highly encouraged fitting it into your schedule.
The Pearl is a sensitive story about four middle-aged transgender women navigating life within the hyper-masculine culture of Pacific Northwest logging towns. Each woman’s story is unique, moving and complex, and the film sheds light on what it’s like grappling with an identity in transition.
“But it goes beyond that, I think in a good way,” said Woelfel, “and really starts to look at life afterwards, after the transition for these women and what they’re dealing with.”
Woelfel called The Pearl “a real highlight of the festival “and said he was glad the organizers were able to get this one in the lineup.
There are several other notable films that didn’t make it into Stacey Woelfel’s top picks but are definitely worth checking out.
Behemoth gives us a glimpse into the pitch-black mines of inner-Mongolia. With restrained anger, the film maker portrays what he considers a hell created by civilization.
This work-in-progress takes us into the Philippine’s largest maternity ward. Diaz captures the sensitive core of culture struggling to deal with the stress of an exploding population.
The Bad Kids tells the story of students at Black Rock High School who’ve seemingly had the odds stacked against them since they were born. Principal Vonda Viland conjures images of allies in Stand and Deliver and To Sir With Love while working to break the cycle so many of the students are at risk of perpetuating.
Warning: This film contains extremely graphic content.
Did you know that America is the only industrialized country with the high murder rate of countries at civil war? The Killing of America reinforces the call for stricter gun control while looking at modern-day Los Angeles and even Reagan’s assassination attempt.