Viewers come from all over state to see film festival

Sunday, February 27, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:14 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

One ticket to the Missouri Theatre on Saturday afternoon gave you access to a country music show — complete with washboard and gut-bucket — and a Czechoslovakian filmmaker’s commentary on capitalism.

Jamie Barrier, lead singer and guitarist for the Pine Hill Haints, who performed at the theater before some screenings, said he was excited to come to Columbia from Alabama to take part in the True/False Film Festival.

“This town’s got a reputation for the whole film thing,” Barrier said.

The city of Columbia plays a leading role in the festival. Residents and visitors enjoyed the city’s intimacy and originality Saturday.

“Columbia’s got a uniqueness to it all downtown areas would love to have,” said Tom Bair, owner of the Cherry Street Artisan. “These types of events draw people downtown and introduce people to all Columbia has to offer.”

In 2004, the festival sold 4,000 tickets. By Friday’s opening night, nine films were sold out. On Saturday afternoon, three more were added to the list.

Box office director Beth Kopine said much of this year’s success is due to word-of-mouth. Kopine said many ticket sales were placed in advance from Kansas City, Jefferson City and St. Louis.

“A lot of our business this year has to do with people aware of it last year spreading the word around,” Kopine said. “The initial traffic on Thursday was much heavier than I remember it being last year.”

This is Barrier’s first year performing for the documentary festival, but his band plays in Columbia regularly. The band members met festival co-director Paul Sturtz a few years ago when they played at the Ragtag Cinemacafe.

Barrier said it’s usually the band’s last stop on its way home.

“It’s always completely different from the other ones, because the other ones are just shows in bars,” he said. “Here we play before or after a movie, and there’s popcorn and soda-pop.”

Jim Rothwell and Kriss Avery of St. Louis came for their second year because of the films’ content and the theaters’ proximity.

“We saw more great films here than at any other single festival,” Rothwell said.

“The atmosphere is exceptional because the theaters are so close. It’s informal and intimate. You don’t get that in St. Louis or Kansas City.”

Festival co-director David Wilson said Columbia lends character to the festival.

“Columbia, I think, wants to be a cultural destination,” Wilson said.

“Columbia residents are so giving with their time and enthusiasm. I hope we can build on this year and grow in a way that’s organic and natural. The feel of the True/False Festival is something that’s really important to us. It’s intimate. It’s personal. We would never want to do anything that would take away from the feeling of a home-grown affair.”

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