The “transformative, rambunctious, ecstatic experience” of the True/False Film Festival “creates a cathartic journey that forces participants to do nothing less than to reimagine reality.” That’s quite a bombastic mission statement, but talk to just about anyone who’s attended and they’ll tell you that T/F lives up to its promise. There’s more, too: “Our goal is to forge a supportive, celebratory refuge for filmmakers and amplify the possibilities of creative nonfiction.” This year’s edition, the seventeenth, opens today in Columbia, Missouri, and runs through Sunday. Basil Tsiokos, who programs documentaries for Sundance and DOC NYC, has a quick and handy overview of this year’s world premieres.
Last week, the International Federation of Film Critics gave its FIPRESCI prize for the best film in the Berlinale’s new Encounters competition to Catarina Vasconcelos’s The Metamorphosis of Birds, calling it “a piercingly beautiful evocation of the past in cinematic form, as delicate as the the wings of a sparrow and as fragile and as intricate as an assemblage by Joseph Cornell.” Wavering between fiction and nonfiction, Vasconcelos retraces the at times tragic history of her family and her country, Portugal, in what for Ed Frankl at the Film Stage is a “strange, difficult, beguiling film.”
Writing for Tablet, A. J. Goldman notes that Alexandrowicz “has conducted an experiment about the power of image-based propaganda in the digital age. But the film is equally valuable, and unique, as a portrait of what happens when a young American Jew’s unconditional love and support for Israel endures an extreme stress test. One doesn’t walk out of the film thinking Levi is delusional or in denial. Quite the contrary, she comes across as sensitive, intelligent, and nonfundamentalist. The film makes the audience—regardless of their politics—engage seriously with a young pro-Israel American Jew’s point of view.” The Viewing Booth will see its New York premiere on March 15 when it screens as part of First Look festival.
Those That, at a Distance, Resemble Another moves in tight on a team of specialists as they restore an ancient elephant tusk. “Rinland’s narrow depth of field and super-sensitive sound recording elevate to the hyper-real the snap and tug of blue latex gloves or the snipping away at a brick of sponge,” writes Laura Davis for Sight & Sound. “This work is slow, and mesmerizingly so, but you can’t look away for curiosity about the object that emerges.” Writing for Cinema Scope, Darren Hughes notes that “the film seems designed to ensnare viewers in the unspoken fetishistic pleasures of collecting, archiving, and displaying—the same pleasures that drive the economies of poaching and museum-building.”