By Ray Pride

True/False Sets Media Literacy Initiative


JANUARY 30, 2017

True/False Film Fest


The Media Literacy Initiative is True/False’s ambitious new educational partnership with Ragtag Cinema, Columbia Public Schools, and the Columbia Public Schools Foundation. After more than 10 years of high school programming, T/F recognized that students are often already documentarians. Constantly recording, archiving and compiling fragments of their daily lives, they make rhetorical and editorial decisions on social media platforms. This initiative seeks to help students think critically about everyday media decisions. Our partnership acknowledges that in a world of ever-changing media, distribution platforms, and news outlets, it’s essential for students to learn the skills to be thoughtful, critical consumers.

The multi-tiered Initiative, spanning several years, will employ media practitioners to train first-year teachers,  culminating this summer at True/False’s first annual Media Literacy Summer Institute. The initiative will introduce more media/ film analysis in classrooms and fund the rights for screening films. It will also provide field trips to Ragtag Cinema for cinematic experiences, and sponsor all Columbia Public Schools sophomores for a district-wide field trip to True/False.

During the fest, teachers involved with the Media Literacy programming will be working with Camp True/False and DIY Day, two programs for high school students that offer behind-the-scenes, whirlwind festival experiences. Camp True/False participants meet in the months preceding the fest to learn about storytelling and the history of documentary and to research T/F films. This is the second year that Camp T/F has expanded beyond the borders of Columbia: The local high-schoolers will be joined by students from North Carolina; St. Louis; and Bunceton, Missouri, as part of a partnership with Mizzou Advantage.

DIY Day is an all-day immersion in experiential learning, specifically designed for high school students. It begins with a T/F film screening of I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO, the 2017 Oscar-nominated docu-essay about prophetic 20th-century author James Baldwin. This screening and Q&A with producer Hébert Peck will be followed by an afternoon of hands-on workshops in which 200 self-selected students learn from more than a dozen filmmakers, artists, musicians, storytellers, actors, and others. Workshop leaders include Boaz Balachsan, a digital animator who will teach how to make animated documentaries; Andrew Leland, host of The Organist podcast from KCRW and The Believer magazine, who will facilitate a workshop on audio storytelling; Thanya Iyer, a T/F busker hosting a musical workshop; and Voice of Witness, an oral-history organization whose mission is to amplify the voices of people impacted by injustice. For a full list of participants, visit the bottom half of

Students are also encouraged to attend the Filmmaker Discussion and Artist Discussion, two lecture series that take place on Thursday, March 2. Artist talks run for 75 minutes and are held on the University of Missouri campus. Four artists and five filmmakers will be participating in craft talks. Artists include Alicia Eggert, whose neon piece “All That is Possible is Real” will be on display in Alley A during the fest. Eggert is an interdisciplinary artist whose work focuses on the relationship between language, image, and time. Her artwork often moves, changes, deteriorates, and, in some cases, even dies. These Filmmaker Discussion and Artist Discussion series are free and open to the general public and are in partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

True/False strives to provide extracurricular educational programming that increases the presence of film in core classrooms, helps teachers and students learn to read film as text, and cultivates and enhances critical thinking skills as teachers and students practice analyzing new media. The Media Literacy Initiative recognizes that students deserve tools to think consciously about the ways their world is presented to them and the ways they present their world.

The True/False Film Fest will take place March 2-5 in downtown Columbia, Missouri. For more information, please visit For information on the educational programming available at the fest, visit:

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“Why put it in a box? This is the number one problem I have—by the way it’s a fair question, I’m not saying that—with this kind of festival situation is that there’s always this temptation to classify the movie immediately and if you look at it—and I’ve tried to warn my fellow jurors of this—directors and movie critics are the worst people to judge movies! Directors are always thinking, “I could do that.” Critics are always saying, “This part of the movie is like the 1947 version and this part…” And it’s like, “Fuck! Just watch the movie and try and absorb it and not compare it to some other fucking movie and put it in a box!” So I think the answer’s both and maybe neither, I don’t know. That’s for you to see and criticize me for or not.”
~ James Gray

“I have long defined filmmaking and directing in particular as just a sort of long-term act of letting go,” she said. “It’s honestly just gratifying that people are sort of reapproaching or reassessing the film. I like to just remind everyone that the movie is still the same — it’s the same movie, it’s the movie we always made, and it was the movie we always wanted to make. And maybe it just came several years too early.”
~ Karyn Kusama