Sunday, March 2, 2014

True/False Film Festival

DAY SEVEN (Thursday, February 27th):  We drove from Bartlett, IL to Columbia, MO, taking I-55 to Springfield, IL and then I-76 to Jacksonville, IL, on to U.S. 54 across the Mississippi River at Louisiana, IL into Missouri, by Mexico, MO and on to Columbia. We went to Stephens College, met Betsey and got our passes to the True/False Film Festival and went to our first film that evening.

Since we did not have tickets for a Thursday film, we went into the fascinating and somewhat complicated "Q" system. The "Q" system seats people who do not have ticket reservations for that film: at each venue there are "x" number of seats unsold, or no-shows. The way it works is this. At the venue for a particular film (there are about eight venues all told), you get in line to get a number for the "Q." A "Q" queen - a flamboyantly dressed woman with a colored wig - manages the line and hands out numbers. The numbers are given out one hour before a movie begins. So you have to stand in line twice. The longer wait is the first one,  to get a number. (We were outside and it was cold, but it wasn't too bad and you talk with people around you.) The earlier you get there, the lower your number will be. Once you have your number, you then have 45 minutes to go off and get something to eat or drink or just walk around. Then fifteen minutes before the film starts, you get in line again, but this time you stand in order of your number and things move quickly - groups are admitted to the showing according to the number of empty seats, 25 or so at a time. Venues vary tremendously in size. The film we saw Thursday evening was Dora Garcia's The Joycean Society, and it was in a very small venue, The Little Ragtag Cinema. We had numbers 26 and 27 and were told that we had a good chance of getting in. So we had a bite to eat at a cafe attached to the theater, then got in line and, indeed, had no trouble getting into the showing.

Ellen in line
Our "Q Queen"
The film was about a group of people, mostly older men, who meet once a week in a small library room in Zurich, Switzerland, to read and discuss the meaning of James Joyce's Finnegan's Wake, a notoriously difficult work to interpret. Here is a paragraph from a review of the film:

The Zurich group shown in The Joycean Society has been reading Finnegans Wake since 1986, taking just over a decade to get through the volume before going back to page one again. They're therefore still quite near the start of what one member wryly terms the "third lap", each hour-long session combing a page or so at a time. Garcia focuses intently on this genial but rigorous example of hermeneutics, a term originally applied to the minute scrutiny of biblical and philosophical texts. The description is eminently applicable here -- as evidenced by the microscopic marginalia glimpsed in the dog-eared volumes that litter the group's table and which reveal a Zodiac-like zeal to penetrate hidden mysteries.

While this sounds like an esoteric film, it actually was quite delightful, with many similarities between this group - which would read a passage aloud and then discuss possible meanings and allusions - and Bible study groups I have been in. Part of the delight was in the faces of the persons around the table, and the varying personalities. A couple were "know-it-alls," others hesitatingly spoke up, and others said nary a word - just like discussion groups we've all been in. Joyce's almost impenetrable text did receive some illuminating insights, and while I've never read Finnegan's Wake, I think I would enjoy being a member of this group. I even found myself wanting to raise my hand and say, "No, I think it means this." 

Friday and Saturday we saw eight more films! This morning (Sunday) is the final day of the festival, but we're getting ice and snow, so we'll see what the day brings. I'll report on the other films as I get the chance - they've all been very interesting and some have been very moving, some provocative, some disturbing. A very fine film festival.

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