True/False 2015, Day 3: Stories change.
We began our day Saturday in the Q, and actually got in to see what we missed the night before. It was The Measure of All Things, a mixed-media presentation. It included film, slideshow, TV clips, audio recordings, live music, and personal narration by filmmaker Sam Green. It took an often humorous look into the Guinness Book of World Records, and continued beyond the brief explanations on its pages. What I remember the most is the record-holder for the person surviving the most lightning strikes–Roy Sullivan with an incredible SEVEN times–who died not by any such act of nature, but by suicide because, as the Book says, he was “unlucky in love.” Among the funny moments of the presentation: A screenshot of eBay (or Amazon?) with a 1980s version of the GBWR available starting at one cent, because, Green pointed out, “What is more useless than outdated records?” He failed to acknowledge, though, that putting the word “vintage” in front of a thing increases its value exponentially:
He talked about some records that unexpectedly changed, such as “tallest living man,” which currently belongs to Sultan Kösen of Turkey. Before he was verified by Guinness, the record belonged to China’s Bao Xishun. After he was unseated, Bao became, “Just a regular old super-tall guy,” Green said, as the picture on the screen was Bao posing with two average-height Asian girls who were all smiles.
Next, we used tickets we already had, going to a traditional documentary, Of Men and War. It recorded the lives of a handful of men who were in a program treating post-traumatic stress disorder, after they had returned from action.We heard uncommon stories from war: An off-duty soldier committing suicide. A medic who felt the urge to let die a wounded person from the other side. A man who accidentally discharged his weapon while talking to his buddy, killing him. Raw emotions were brought to the surface, reducing the manliest among them to tears. They were forced to confront feelings that they were embarrassed to possess, which they had to do to be able to let go of them and move forward. One of the wives in the film mentioned how her friends told her she should be more understanding and accommodating, but the truth is that spouses are victims of post-traumatic stress, as well, because their partners can’t function as they used to or their personality has changed dramatically. By the end of the film, most of the men had noticeably improved, but sadly one of them–most decidedly–did not.
We ordered a fancy lunch downtown, at Umbria, a “rustic Italian” cafe. My wife had eaten there with friends before, and wanted me to try it, while she was most looking forward to their tiramisu. I had the panino con tonno (tuna sandwich) and it was ¡Magnifico!
After lunch it was another movie, Invasión, a story about the U.S. arrest of Manuel Noriega in 1989. This one was in a class building on the Mizzou campus, Cornell Hall, as the University of Missouri’s Jesse Hall–a main venue from past T/F Fests–is undergoing renovation. The film did not recap the events as they happened, but rather told the unreported stories — those of the people of Panama who lived through them. In fact, I don’t recall ever even seeing Noriega in the film. But people who were near his compound or worked there, as well as at the Vatican embassy, were interviewed. Conflicting accounts were told, and differing numbers of dead civilians were offered. After 25 years, it is possible some of the facts have faded or blurred in people’s recollections. Some spoke of support for their president and others were against him, but all agreed he was a drug-dealing crook. There were ironies recalled: Noriega had been on the CIA payroll; the Panamanian Defense Force personnel first on the scene recognized Puerto Rican invaders; while the endeavor was a brutal, destructive affair, it was rock and roll that helped bring Noriega out of hiding.
After returning home to feed Raisin and skipping a scheduled movie to regroup, we headed back out for a 9:30 showing of Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck. The figurehead for 1990s alternative rock or grunge, Kurt Cobain is best known for his band Nirvana and their hits, Come as You Are, Smells Like Teen Spirit, and All Apologies, among others. He also helped make famous his eventual wife, Courtney Love, and may be remembered most for his premature death. It seems few things are more difficult for celebrities to deal with than being given a label they want nothing to do with, and Kurt was considered by some to be a symbol for disenchanted youth. He expressed his creative–and tormented–mind in visual art as well as music, much of which was shared in the film. His general artistic attitudes were also expressed in various animations throughout the documentary, bringing the man to life today in a way never experienced before. The film premiers nationally on HBO on May 4, and the soundtrack will follow, including a previously unreleased track.
Here is Nirvana’s first TV performance, circa 1963 (or something like it):
Measure reminded me of something I had suggested recently to my wife, when it covered the ever-changing record of “World’s Oldest Living Person”: That I selfishly want my niece and nephew to live into their 100s. Because they were born in the mid-1990s, they would be among a very few people in the history of the world to be able to say they were alive during parts of that many years, 12 decades, three centuries, and two millennia. The unique piece of that is the three centuries — the 1900s, the 2000s, and the 2100s. As I was thinking about it, I figured everyone in the theater we were in could say the latter — about two millennia. But then I realized I was wrong about that: As we were waiting in line beforehand, there was a family in front of us with three children younger than 13 or 14, meaning they could not say they have lived during two different millennia, and will never be able to say they have. THEIRS should be the generation labeled “Millennials,” as they have known no other millennium but this.
Saturday brought back a memorable time in my life: I graduated high school in 1989 and began college away from home the same year. I got my degree in 1993. Here were films that marked a major news event from that time, a pop culture icon of the same period, and had me thinking about my niece and nephew, who were born then. I may have never felt such a personal attachment to a day at True/False.