Neither/Nor film series brings history, local pride to True/False

The Neither/Nor subcategory of True/False continues the tradition of honoring directors that broadened nonfiction filmmaking throughout history, this year with a local twist.
Columbia is adorned with flags across downtown in preparation for the upcoming True/False Film Festival. | Photo by Staff Photographer Becca Newton.

For most of the year, Columbia is known as a college town, home to MU. Once a year, the city transforms into a vibrant collection of culture through the True/False Film Fest: a showcase of filmmakers reimagining the art of nonfiction cinema.

March 5-8, downtown Columbia will host filmmakers, artists, musicians and spectators from all over the country. The festival lineup offers something for everyone. Within the category of film, there are series that highlight different aspects of cinema. The Neither/Nor repertory series is one subcategory that aims to acknowledge filmmakers who pushed the boundaries of nonfiction film.

“Everything else that we show is new work, so this is the part of True/False that is published work,” Stacie Pottinger, True/False director of development and communications, said. “It’s also free to the public, which is nice and gives people a chance to participate without getting a pass.”

Being free to the public and bringing older work back in front of an audience are just two of the aspects of Neither/Nor that have set it apart from the rest of True/False over its seven-year history. Beyond this, the series revolves around a different theme each year.

“It has this historical element,” Film Programmer Amir George said. “I think repertory cinema is just as important of an element to a film festival as contemporary cinema. This year, it highlights filmmakers who’ve come through Missouri and have a relationship with Missouri.”

The lineup includes four directors who hail from different areas of Missouri whose careers eventually led them all over the country. One of these directors is Christopher Harris, who grew up in St. Louis but now works in The University of Iowa’s Department of Cinematic Arts as an associate professor and the head of Film & Video Production.

“I do think that my sensibilities are shaped in large part and have a lot to do with being from St. Louis,” Harris said. “For example, music is very important to me. Specifically with ‘still/here’ ... I was thinking about Miles Davis’ trumpet playing.”

Harris claims that when he left Missouri for Northwestern University, filmmaking as a career had never crossed his mind. However, after taking a film class on a whim, his entire perspective changed.

“It fascinated me, the idea that cinema could be interpreted and that it had meaning beyond entertainment,” Harris said. “It happened that simply; it was an epiphany. It was not a long love affair with cinema all my life, it was sort of a thunderbolt.”

It was this appreciation for the power of film to invoke reflection and unveil deeper meaning that shaped Harris’ career. In 2000, his work led him back to St. Louis and resulted in the film being featured in Neither/Nor this year, “still/here”. The film examines the decline of north St. Louis neighborhoods and the struggles of those that live there.

“I hope that the experience of watching my film in some way, for a lack of a better way to say it, undoes [viewers],” Harris said. “I want them to be very conscious of their activity as spectators in the moment of watching the film.”

The work of Harris and the other directors included in Neither/Nor will be screened at Ragtag Cinema throughout the weekend. While admission is free, those wishing to experience the repertory collection still need a ticket to guarantee admission. A full schedule of showings can be found on the True/False website.

Edited by Sophie Stephens |

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