A movie audience can wind up a little staggered after watching a serious documentary on topics like the hunt for Bin Laden, the deaths of illegal immigrants or Putin's repression of arts. And when thousands of people gather to watch hard-hitting documentaries throughout a long weekend in a Midwest city, the result is a lot of wound up folks on the streets.
That helps explain why there's a ukulele player on a movie stage with a bullhorn attached to his bike helmet in Columbia, Missouri, in late February. Think of him—and the woman in the red cape and the girl with the bird-head mask—as an emotional outlet during the famed True/False Film Fest (February 27-March 2 in 2014). Before the film rolls in Missouri Theatre, for example, Chicago's Mucca Pazza! cheerleaders wave police-tape pompoms and play accordions.
After credits roll, filmmakers give the audience more insight into what they just saw. Then the crowd spills out of the nine venues—vaudeville theaters, churches, college halls, ballrooms—and lets off some steam. They dance and sing, clap and yell. Then they file into another theater for another couple of hours watching another story unfold.
If you organize your schedule properly, you could fit in six films each of the four days. And it's worth it to fit in as many films as possible because passes are hard to come by: They've sold out the past couple of years. If you don’t get a pass, tickets to individual movies are often available at the box office. And if that fails, there is a system for getting tickets on standby.
No matter how many films you attend, odds are you’ll end up sitting near a woman wearing a sequined mask at least once; clapping for the gray-haired, red-cape-swirling queen of March March parade; and bumping elbows with someone wearing a giant bird head while reaching for appetizers, beer or cocktails at one of the many parties (you need tickets for those, too). And if your ticket-getting luck holds, you can join the at-capacity audience to shout out your opinion about film shorts to the leisure-suit-clad MC running the game show Gimme Truth!
Admittedly, the spirit of True/False isn't for everyone. Maybe not even for every fan of films. If you are looking for an option, check out Michigan’s artsy Ann Arbor Film Fest, Wet Your Pants Comedy Film Festival in Indianapolis, Ebertfest in Champaign, Illinois, which focuses on classics and overlooked current pics, or any of the many other film fests springing up across the Midwest. The number of choices grows longer every year. Why? Because seeing the world through another person’s eyes also guarantees a fresh perspective on your life.