COLUMBIA, MO --  The internationally acclaimed  True/False Film Fest will take over downtown Columbia, March 3-6.

This celebration of life and film enters its thirteenth year of championing groundbreaking documentaries from around the globe and has been racking up praise and accolades with each passing year:  TIME magazine named it one of the top 50 cultural events to experience in 2014, IndieWire hailed it as "the most vital" film festival in America in 2015, and MovieMaker Magazine recently honored it as one of the "coolest" 25 film festivals in the world.

"I simply love True/False," says Megan McConachie, marketing and communications manager for the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It's unlike any other event I've ever attended. You're not just a spectator. Instead, you feel like an integral part of the festival. Whether you're making new friends standing in line for films or sharing a booth with old friends in a cozy and comfortable restaurant, it's a unique experience that is representative of what Columbia is: fun, entertaining and warmly welcoming. You attend the festival once and you're hooked. You just have to come back again."

The theme for the 2016 fest is "Off the Trail," drawing inspiration from hidden spaces, secret missions, treasure maps, personal geographies and the virtue of being lost.  Since its inception, True/False has danced in the grey area between fact and fiction daring attendees to always question their reality and the world around them, and 2016 promises to be no different in that sense. 

Busking musicians entertain crowds before every film screening. Photo by Quint Smith.
The festival gets underway on Thursday, March 3 with the first screenings beginning at 4:30 p.m. The Jubilee, a masquarade-themed soiree complete with musical entertainment, food and refreshments, takes place at 5:30 p.m. in the historic Missouri Theatre marking the official kickoff of the 2016 event. Later that evening, crowds at The Blue Note, Columbia's marquee music venue, will be entertained by the raucous rock and roll sounds of the Shreveport-based Seratones, followed by the timeless Lee Fields & The Expressions, whose songs are steeped in classic soul and rhythm and blues. On Friday, the weekend kicks into full-gear with films and events starting early in the morning and lasting well into the night until the festival's finale on Sunday, March 6.

Director Alex Gibny fields questions from the audience following
a 2015 screening of his film, Going Clear. 
Photo by Parker Michels-Boyce.
The 2016 film program consists of roughly 60 documentaries (
approximately  40 features, five short film programs and an outdoor "shorts" exhibit titled The Great Wall). Many of the films come freshly discovered from the Sundance and/or Toronto film festivals, while others appear mysteriously before their official premieres elsewhere. And, every screening is designed to be an intimate interaction between the artists and the audience. All films are accompanied by the filmmakers and/or subjects, with an in-depth Q & A to follow, making it a personal experience for the auteurs and attendees alike.

The ramshackle March March parade will take over Columbia's downtown streets on Friday, March 4. Photo by Sarah Hoffmann.
While some of the subject matter can be very challenging, the organizers do well to strike a balance between magnitude and levity with excellent film programming and infusing the festival with a carnival-like feel. There is a masquerade ball, intriguing interactive art installations, all-night dance parties, busking musicians from across the world, live concerts, an entertaining game show called Gimme Truth! and a ramshackle parade complete with marching bands, paper mache puppets, fire jugglers, robots and more.

More than anything, it's the programming that sets this festival apart. Three of the five feature-length documentaries in the running for the 2016 Academy Awards screened at True/False last year; one of which, The Look of Silence, was chosen as the recipient of the 2015 True Life Fund, an endeavor the fest undertakes to make a positive difference in the lives of the subjects or communities featured in film. Over $35,000 was generated for the 2015 True Life Fund, which went to Adi Rukun, the protagonist from The Look of Silence, to help in his family's relocating process and assist in opening a brick-and-mortar optometry store in Indonesia. 
A still shot from Sonita, the recipient of the 2016 True Life Fund. Sonita also won the Grandy Jury and Audience awards at Sundance this year.
The recipient of the 2016 True Life Fund is Sonita, a film that focuses on the day-to-day struggles of a teenage Afghan rapper living undocumented in Tehran, Iran. Like many of her friends, Sonita faces being sold into marriage to cover the dowry for her brother's wedding. Sonita just won both the Grand Jury and Audience awards for best World Cinema documentary at Sundance. The film's subject, Sonita Alizadeh, and director Rokhsareh Ghaem Maghami will be present at each screening to talk about the film and field questions from the audience.

Aside from the True Life Fund, True/False also has established a groundbreaking "Pay the Artists" program,  a part of a larger effort to create a "sustainable ecosystem" for documentary filmmakers whose work rarely gets a wide theatrical run. This is another way the organizers strive to give back to those who give so much to the documentary world, and the world as a whole.

The Buskers' Last Stand is part of the closing night festivities on Sunday, March 6. Photo courtesy of True/False.
New for 2016, organizers are delving deeper into the definition of storytelling as they introduce an interactive, real life "transmedia happening" called Lost Letters. Digging into the theme of "off the trail," Lost Letters is billed as being  part immersive theater, part live-action video game, part puzzle room. More than anything, this event transforms typical storytelling and challenges participants to take an active role in the narrative. Lost Letters will take place throughout the weekend, running eight times per day. For more details, visit

All festival venues are interspersed throughout downtown Columbia and the University of Missouri campus, all within quick walking distance from one another. This convenience of location is yet another reason why True/False is one of the easiest festivals to attend and enjoy. 

Passes for the 2016 True/False Film Fest are on sale now. For more information on the 2016 True/False Film Fest, including a complete list of films, available festival passes, participating musicians, festival  venues, as well as an informative " How to Festival" guide, visit

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Columbia features a mix of small town charm and friendliness with the amenities and cultural offerings of a big city. There is always something exciting to see and do in Columbia, so for more information on these and other ways to have fun in Columbia, please contact Megan McConachie at the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau at 800-652-0987 or at

Attention Media:   Let us play host and show you around Columbia. For more information, media assistance, high-resolution photography, or to schedule a press trip hosted by the Columbia CVB, please call  The Beenders-Walker Group toll-free at  800-544-8474  or email  Marjorie Kyle   or  Jo .


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