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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This is probably going to sound petty, but Martin Scorsese insisting that critics see his film in theaters even though it’s going straight to Netflix and then not screening it in most American cities was a watershed moment for me in this theatrical versus streaming debate.

I completely respect when a filmmaker insists that their movie is meant to be seen in the theater, but the thing is, you got to actually make it possible to see it in the theater. Some movies may be too small for that, and that’s totally OK.

When your movie is largely financed by a streaming service and is going to appear on that streaming service instantly, I don’t really see the point of pretending that it’s a theatrical film. It just seems like we are needlessly indulging some kind of personal fantasy.

I don’t think that making a feature film length production that is going to go straight to a video platform is some sort of “step down.“ I really don’t. Theatrical exhibition as we know it is dying off anyway, for a variety of reasons.

I should clarify myself because this thread is already being misconstrued — I’m talking about how the movie is screened in advance. If it’s going straight to Netflix, why the ritual of demanding people see it in the theater?

There used to be a category that everyone recognized called “TV movie” or “made for television movie” and even though a lot of filmmakers considered that déclassé, it seems to me that probably 90% of feature films fit that description now.

Atlantis has mostly sunk into the ocean, only a few tower spires remain above the waterline, and I’m increasingly at peace with that, because it seems to be what the industry and much of the audience wants. We live in an age of convenience and information control.

Only a very elite group of filmmakers is still allowed to make movies “for theaters“ and actually have them seen and judged that way on a wide scale. Even platform releasing seems to be somewhat endangered. It can’t be fought. It has to be accepted.

9. Addendum: I’ve been informed that it wasn’t Scorsese who requested that the Bob Dylan documentary only be screened for critics in theaters, but a Netflix representative indicated the opposite to me, so I just don’t know what to believe.

It’s actually OK if your film is not eligible for an Oscar — we have a thing called the Emmys. A lot of this anxiety is just a holdover from the days when television was considered culturally inferior to theatrical feature films. Everybody needs to just get over it.

In another 10 to 20 years they’re probably going to merge the Emmys in the Oscars into one program anyway, maybe they’ll call it the Contentys.

“One of the fun things about seeing the new Quentin Tarantino film three months early in Cannes (did I mention this?) is that I know exactly why it’s going to make some people furious, and thus I have time to steel myself for the takes.

Back in July 2017, when it was revealed that Tarantino’s next project was connected to the Manson Family murders, it was condemned in some quarters as an insulting and exploitative stunt. We usually require at least a fig-leaf of compassion for the victims in true-crime adaptations, and even Tarantino partisans like myself – I don’t think he’s made a bad film yet – found ourselves wondering how he might square his more outré stylistic impulses with the depiction of a real mass murder in which five people and one unborn child lost their lives.

After all, it’s one thing to slice off with gusto a fictional policeman’s ear; it’s quite another to linger over the gory details of a massacre that took place within living memory, and which still carries a dread historical significance.

In her essay The White Album, Joan Didion wrote: “Many people I know in Los Angeles believe that the Sixties ended abruptly on August 9, 1969, ended at the exact moment when word of the murders on Cielo Drive traveled like brushfire through the community, and in a sense this is true.”

Early in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt’s characters drive up the hill towards Leo’s bachelor pad, the camera cranes up gently to reveal a street sign: Cielo Drive. Tarantino understands how charged that name is; he can hear the Molotov cocktails clinking as he shoulders the crate.

As you may have read in the reviews from Cannes, much of the film is taken up with following DiCaprio and Pitt’s characters – a fading TV actor and his long-serving stunt double – as they amusingly go about their lives in Los Angeles, while Margot Robbie’s Sharon Tate is a relatively minor presence. But the spectre of the murders is just over the horizon, and when the night of the 9th finally arrives, you feel the mood in the cinema shift.

No spoilers whatsoever about what transpires on screen. But in the audience, as it became clear how Tarantino was going to handle this extraordinarily loaded moment, the room soured and split, like a pan of cream left too long on the hob. I craned in, amazed, but felt the person beside me recoil in either dismay or disgust.

Two weeks on, I’m convinced that the scene is the boldest and most graphically violent of Tarantino’s career – I had to shield my eyes at one point, found myself involuntarily groaning “oh no” at another – and a dead cert for the most controversial. People will be outraged by it, and with good reason. But in a strange and brilliant way, it takes Didion’s death-of-the-Sixties observation and pushes it through a hellfire-hot catharsis.

Hollywood summoned up this horror, the film seems to be saying, and now it’s Hollywood’s turn to exorcise it. I can’t wait until the release in August, when we can finally talk about why.

~ Robbie Collin