Dispatches | March 06, 2009

As one of over 600 volunteers at the True/False Film Fest this past weekend, I witnessed a passionate, diverse, and creative community–from international filmmakers to downtown dwellers–come together, transforming an already eclectic Columbia into a “small-town Midwestern utopia.”

My first assignment at The Blue Note, a renovated vaudeville house–now a popular music venue–overlapped with the beginning of the inaugural parade, the March March, at 5:30 on Friday. Clearly, the buzz surrounding the festival manifested on the street, with a palpable electricity saturating the air. I felt a bit like Alice in Wonderland, except lacking the costume to match the decked out aliens and clowns, not to mention all the enthusiastic sideline spectators.

This spirit lingered throughout the festival, as I processed tickets, assisted festgoers, sat in on films, and attended stylish after parties–including a volunteer-only event Sunday night at an old mule barn (now being converted to a mixed-use building for loft apartments and commercial space): think Warhol’s Factory with a distinctive T/F flair.

Of all the festivities, perhaps most memorable was watching an aging, somewhat overweight, wine-guzzling (though nonetheless record-holding) Slovenian endurance swimmer attempt to cross the deadly and lengthy (to put it lightly) Amazon River in the film Big River Man. An unlikely hero, Martin Strel tempted fate and defied nature, ultimately becoming more myth than man.

For me, community and boundless creativity defined the Fest, now in its 6th year. With over 40 films shown on seven screens, innovative art installations, assorted music events, and countless other festivities, T/F packed a powerful, extended-release punch. It was a wonderland bordering on whirlwind, but I don’t regret plunging in headfirst.

Robyn Allen