Truly great nonfiction films are often shot in the present tense, wrenching vivid scenes from unfolding events. But just as important as capturing visceral moments is the ability to stand back, weeks, months, sometimes years late with the insights and wisdom that only time and intention bring.
The True/False Film Fest, launched in 2004, has witnessed an endlessly burgeoning artform grow up over the last decade, as filmmakers refuse to be pidgeonholed. Our favorite directors take bold chances with the form, adventurously exploring the nuances and sometimes conflicting perspectives that real life brings.
In this pocket-sized collection of films, current events are given an intimate spin, revealing surprising truths about our world, clearly showing that the daily headlines and TV reports are not only insufficient but even actively misleading. Our civilization, grounded in a dichotomous good vs. evil worldview, can often offer reassurance in a messy world. However, the best nonfiction work does none of the kind. It revels in muddy truths, not the bite-sized news that often serves as propaganda because of its lack of shadings.
In a country where killers are celebrated as heroes, the filmmakers challenge unrepentant death squad leader Anwar Congo and his friends to dramatise their role in genocide. But their idea of being in a movie is not to provide testimony for a documentary: they want to be stars in their favourite film genres—gangster, western, musical. They write the scripts. They play themselves. And they play their victims. This is a cinematic fever dream, an unsettling journey deep into the imaginations of mass-murderers and the shockingly banal regime of corruption and impunity they inhabit.
How did two boyhood friends from Midland, Texas wind up arrested on terrorism charges at the 2008 Republican National Convention? Better This World follows the journey of David McKay (22) and Bradley Crowder (23) from political neophytes to accused domestic terrorists with a particular focus on the relationship they develop with a radical activist mentor in the six months leading up to their arrests. A dramatic story of idealism, loyalty, crime and betrayal, Better This World goes to the heart of the War on Terror and its impact on civil liberties and political dissent in post-9/11 America.
An acclaimed insight into the revolutionary potentials and personal dangers involved in video reportage. Filmmaker Anders Østergaard takes us behind the official headlines in Burma to brings us close to the country’s video journalists who keeping up the flow of news from within the borders despite risking torture and life in jail. Armed with small handycams they make their undercover reports, and smuggle the material out of the country to be broadcast back into Burma via satellite or offered to the international media for free.
The footage shot by these brave activists keeps the revolution alive.
Every spring, China’s cities are plunged into chaos as 130 million migrant workers journey to their home villages for the New Year in the world’s largest human migration. Last Train Home takes viewers on a heart-stopping journey with the Zhangs, a couple who left infant children behind for factory jobs 16 years ago, hoping their wages would lift their children to a better life. They return to a family growing distant and a daughter longing to leave school for unskilled work. As the Zhangs navigate their new world, Last Train Home paints a rich, human portrait of China’s rush to economic development.
Ukraine’s topless feminist sensation, Femen, has stirred up a press frenzy across Europe. Femen bare their breasts to protest the international perception of Ukrainian women as either brides for sale or commodities of sex tourism. With a first-time intimate glimpse into the world’s most provocative feminist organization, we see how Femen fight their naked war against patriarchy. However, before they take the world by storm, these bold and beautiful women must first confront the perverse and contradictory forces that power their own “titillating” organisation.