Piers Marchant reports from True/False

March 4, 2016

By Piers Marchant

for blood, dirt & angels


True/False 2016: Day 1

Number of Films: 2
General Vibe: Desperation

Those Who Jump: A first-person film from Abou Bakar (with considerable help from Moritz Siebert & Estephan Wagner) about a community of African men who collect on a mountain hillside on the edge of Morocco, scheming to jump the fence into Spanish Melilla, right on the edge of the coast, where they hope to forcibly emigrate themselves into Europe. The camp is vast, with hundreds of similarly desperate young men all hoping to find a better life, and divided into smaller communities based on the African country they left behind in order to pursue their dreams. Interestingly, each smaller community is self-governed, and seems to function reasonably smoothly as a chiefdom. The film, shot by one of the men, who was given a camera and a little money for the project, perfectly captures the restless anxiety of the men, as they kill time playing futbol and checkers, and good-naturedly busting on one another, even as they wait for months at a time for a “jump” opportunity. The Moroccan and Spanish police constantly raid the area, rousting the men and burning their few meager belongings, which only adds to their misery. Those who do get over the triple-fence into Spanish territory also risk being sent back out to their home countries, but it’s the closest thing that feels like genuine opportunity for many of them, and so they endure.

The Prison in Twelve Landscapes: Brett Story’s elliptical film is comprised of many separate-but-related vignettes, each a piece of the toll and residual effects of our American incarceration habit. She travels from New York, where we watch a group of wives, mothers, and girlfriends waiting for a bus to take them upstate to the prison where their loved ones are being held; to Appalachia, where the prison boom has actually helped boost the sagging economy; to Baltimore, where the outrage over the death of Freddie Gray leads to marching in the streets; to an enterprising store-owner and former con whose business is putting together care packages for prisoners; to a devastating account of a black businesswoman stuck in jail for weeks for having a trash can lid unattached from her bin. The effect of these small, often jagged pieces, gives on a kaleidoscope-like understanding of the myriad of ways prison has changed and twisted our culture. It offers few answers, but instead suggests the irrevocable harm its done to our society at-large.

Tomorrow: A full day of docs, including Sherpa, Between Sisters, Behemoth, and Des Morts.

Photo from Those Who Jump.

Escaping the miserable ice and slain of Philadelphia this March weekend, I am down in Columbia, MO, home of the 14-year-old True/False Film Festival, a collection of (mostly) documentary films, entertaining buskers, and outrageously dressed Q queens.

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