Columbia high school students participate in True/False through Hi-Def Academy

Sunday, March 4, 2012 | 7:54 p.m. CST; updated 8:33 a.m. CST, Monday, March 5, 2012
Cooper Bloom asks a question at the "Kids Today" panel during the True/False Film Fest at Columbia Art League on Friday. Bloom is one of several high school students from Rock Bridge and Hickman participating in the Hi-Def Program, which groups public high school students and teachers for a jam-packed weekend. It is supported by a grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

COLUMBIA — Meet the True/False Hi-Def Academy: a group of public high school students and teachers chosen to experience the True/False Film Fest like no one has before. 

The Academy, which included participants from Hickman, Rock Bridge and Douglass high schools, went on a behind-the-scenes journey through the festival weekend, where they were able to view films, attend panels and speak with distinguished guests one-on-one.

“It is a compressed master's course in humanity in three days,” Phillip Overeem, a teacher at Hickman High School, said. “It doesn’t get better than that in the educational field.”

Sophomores Eli Byerly-Duke and Komina Guevara of Hickman High School were excited to be a part of the festival this year. Students were able to meet with directors and filmmakers from all over the world.

“It is like an alternate world,” Guevara said. “You’re going around the world in three days.”

Overeem and his wife, Nicole, also a teacher at Hickman High School, started the True/False Film Fest Club at Hickman High School last April. Overeem said the club meets once or twice a month to watch past True/False films. 

Overeem said that he is happy to enjoy the films and the experience with his students this weekend. 

“It helps to have adult models of enthusiasm to keep the conversations going …” Overeem said. “We are reinforcing the experience here and what True/False is trying to accomplish with documentary film.”

Although the Academy’s schedule was quite demanding, both students expressed their excitement as a “good anxious.”

Overeem described the Academy’s schedule as “physically intense, intellectually intense, but after you just want to do it all over again.”

On Friday evening, the Academy was going nonstop from 4 to 10:45 p.m. attending the March March, watching films and attending Q-and-As. 

“True/False is a world-class film festival,” Byerly-Duke said. “Work-wise, it’s intensive, and real life doesn’t stop.”

Overeem said Byerly-Duke established himself as the "designated questioner" because Byerly-Duke was quick to ask questions of the filmmakers, directors and other guests. 

Both Byerly-Duke and Guevara said they prefer documentary films to other genres because of their slice-of-life quality. Byerly-Duke said that since he has begun acting, he prefers documentaries for their lack of acting.

“I wanted to see the movie "Bully" because it’s such a big issue,” said Guevara. “It’s so much of a problem these days.”

"Bully" was given a controversial R rating for the profanity and intense themes throughout the film. Overeeem said the R rating was “frustrating” because the people that need to see "Bully" are children and adolescents, who are unable to see the film without an adult. 

Overeem said the goal is to get more of Columbia’s youth involved in True/False in the future.

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