Chloe Trayner has been named artistic director of the Ragtag Film Society, a 23-year-old non-profit that runs the preeminent international non-fiction documentary festival, True/False, in Columbia, Mo.
Also joining the festival’s curatorial squad is Eric Allen Hatch in a new role as music director and film programmer.
Launched in 2004 by co-founders David Wilson and Paul Sturtz, True/False has become one of the documentary community’s favorite film festivals, normally talking place in late February-early March. More of a showcase than premiere festival, True/False is a community-based affair known for its enthusiastic, politically diverse audience and upbeat vibe.
True/False is unique in that it’s not a premiere-driven international festival like Cannes, Sundance, or Toronto, and it’s not a regional festival like Woodstock or Sarasota. The line-up typically includes 40 features docs and 15 to 25 short documentaries. It’s not an event where distribution deals are made or where publicists are needed to secure interviews with talent, thus making it more relaxing. The pilgrimage to the midwestern college town in the middle of winter is an eagerly anticipated journey for nonfiction filmmakers. Kevin Macdonald, Liz Garbus, Roger Ross Williams, Brett Morgen, Lucy Walker, Raoul Peck and Morgan Nevillle are among the genre’s top directors who have made the trek to Columbia to screen their films.
Wilson and Sturtz left True/False in 2018 and 2019 respectively to pursue other opportunities. In 2021 Wilson served as the festival’s interim artistic director. Trayner is taking over those artistic director duties in addition to serving as artistic director of the Ragtag Film Society.
Formerly the festival director of Open City Documentary Festival in London and founder of the Assembly Documentary Development Lab, Trayner is planning on making “minor” tweaks to the 19th edition of True/False, which will run March 3-6, 2022, playing up cross media formats.
“At Open City, there was a big focus on celebrating nonfiction across different formats,” Trayner notes. “So, in addition to film, we did a lot with audio documentary and a lot with cross media, and while that’s something that’s always been present at True/False, it’s something that I’m quite keen to bring more to the forefront.”
Trayner says that she also plans on expanding upon panel discussions and masterclasses at the 2022 festival.
In early March 2020, True/False was one of the last U.S. film festivals to get underway before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down many events, attracting 46,600 ticket buyers. This year, True/False ran a scaled down lineup from May 5-9 that was held outdoors. Only a handful of filmmakers were able to attend the festival, which was a hybrid affair. A total of 9,500 – 7,500 in-person and 2,000 virtually – attended the festival.
“The difficulty with doing a hybrid festival is keeping the personality and identity of what you get when you actually go to a festival in that online experience,” says Trayner. “So, that’s something that we’re still grappling with. We haven’t made a decision yet (about 2022 being hybrid) but we don’t want to ignore any of our audiences – internationally and nationwide. So, it’s something that we’re trying to do very purposefully.”
In addition to her True/False duties, Trayner alongside programmer Ted Rogers will lead the curation team of Ragtag Cinema, a two-screen, year-round arthouse cinema in Columbia.
A London-native, Trayner will work remotely in the U.K. until the appropriate visa to work in the U.S. is obtained.
Hatch was previously director of programming for the Maryland Film Festival. He will officially begin his duties September, and will program the festival film lineup along with Trayner, veteran film and art programmer Amir George, and a fourth junior programmer, who has not yet been named.
Variety's Addie Morfoot contributed to this post.