True/False reaches out to schools

Organizers wants high school students to hear films’ messages
Wednesday, February 28, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:26 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Grace Lewis, a sophomore at Rock Bridge High School, gave a shy smile when she talked about her plans to see “Kurt Cobain About a Son” at the True/False Film Festival this weekend.

Lewis hadn’t heard about the documentary film festival, which begins Thursday, until Emilie Sabath visited her World Studies class. Sabath, the festival’s first education coordinator, has spoken to more than 500 students in the past month. She began by e-mailing teachers to tell them about the festival and then spoke to classrooms.


True/False volunteers, clockwise from left, Elaine Brodeur, Karen Truckey, Laura Wilson and Meg Klein-Trull decorate the Tiger Hotel’s Forrest Theater to look like it has birch trees in it. (JESSIE KING/Missourian)

“The teachers are really excited about the idea of aligning the media with the curriculum,” Sabath said.

In its fourth year, the festival will feature 70 short and feature-length documentaries at four locations, including the nonprofit Ragtag Cinemacafe, which is known for featuring independent films.

At Hickman High School, teacher George Frissell is offering extra credit to students in his Classical Ideas and World Religions class to see the films “Buddha’s Lost Children” or “The Devil Came on Horseback.”

“I think that while there certainly is a place for the Hollywood formula, there is film that is more than entertainment,” Frissell said. “If students get their foot in the door with True/False, most will become people who go to Ragtag and eventually begin to see film as a medium that is educational and involve them in political activism.”

Hickman is also incorporating the festival into its annual World’s Fair, which is Friday during school hours. The directors of the film to be shown during the True Life Fund screening, whose title is a secret, will be guest speakers at the fair. Hickman will present the directors with a $500 check for the subject of the film, an orphanage for children who lost parents to AIDS in South Africa. The director of “The Devil Came on Horseback” will visit the high school Monday.

“The Devil Came on Horseback,” about genocide in Sudan, is the focus of the school’s next Speak Your Mind forum at 6:30 p.m. on March 15 at Hickman. Teacher Jami Thornsberry said topics for the forum come from student polls.

Thornsberry said she hopes the festival will generate discussions among students and “curiosity to learn more about subject matter that they might have gone into not knowing about.”

Teachers and Sabath agree that high school students are an important audience to have at the festival.

“I would like to see younger students questioning what they see in the media,” Sabath said. “The earlier they start questioning, the sooner they can form their own educated opinions and be active citizens.”

Rock Bridge student Jon Engleking has a different theory on why students may go to the festival.

“Everyone wants to make movies,” Engleking said.

Last year, Engleking helped friends clean up after the festival as a volunteer. Sabath said many high school students volunteer for the festival.

“I think there’s sort of a hip factor with True/False and our students,” Thornsberry said. “There’s an energy that exists downtown during True/False that hasn’t been duplicated.”

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