The Based on a True Story (BOATS) conference returns to the Missouri School of Journalism. In partnership with the School of Visual Studies, this annual conference provides a contemplative lead-up to the True/False Film Fest, the four-day weekend of creative placemaking in which filmmakers, artists, musicians and others remake the mid-sized college town of Columbia, Missouri. At BOATS, filmmakers and journalists team up over three days to focus on the issues faced when telling true stories. A full list of speakers and everything else about the event can be found at its new website,

There is no need to register and admission is FREE.  Audience will be admitted on a first-come, first-served basis. 


Wednesday, Feb. 27

7–9:15 p.m.

Film Screening: The Feeling of Being Watched

Alissa Wilkinson, with director Assia Boundaoui in attendance

Rhynsburger Theatre

In the Arab-American neighborhood outside of Chicago where director Assia Boundaoui grew up, most of her neighbors think they have been under surveillance for more than a decade. While investigating their experiences, Boundaoui uncovers tens of thousands of pages of FBI documents that prove her hometown was the subject of one of the largest counterterrorism investigations ever conducted in the U.S. before 9/11, code-named “Operation Vulgar Betrayal.” With unprecedented access, The Feeling of Being Watched weaves the personal and the political as it follows the filmmaker’s examination of why her community fell under blanket government surveillance. Boundaoui struggles to disrupt the government secrecy shrouding what happened and takes the FBI to federal court to compel it to make the records it collected about her community public. In the process, she confronts long-hidden truths about the FBI’s relationship to her community. The Feeling of Being Watched follows Boundaoui as she pieces together this secret FBI operation, while grappling with the effects of a lifetime of surveillance on herself and her family. A Q&A will follow the film, led by Vox film critic Alissa Wilkinson.

Thursday, Feb. 28

9:45–11 a.m.

What Nonfiction Writers Can Teach Documentary Filmmaker

Katherine Reed

Smith Forum, 200 RJI

Longform nonfiction writers are on their own, working sometimes for years in libraries, archives and far-off locales doing groundbreaking reporting – interviewing hundreds of sources, documenting witness testimony about places and events in exacting detail - on what may seem to others as sheer esoterica. By the time they bring their mass of research together in dramatic, nonfiction narrative form it’s been an epic journey from concept through finished product. What can they teach documentary filmmakers about the journalistic research process? Moderated by School of Journalism Assoc. Professor Katherine Reed.

11:15 a.m.–noon

Room with a View(point)

Brad Prager

Smith Forum, 200 RJI, and Lambert Room, 200A RJI

In 1982 Wim Wenders brought the highest profile auteurs, one by one, into a hotel room in Cannes and asked them whether cinema was, “becoming a dead language, an art which is already in the process of decline?” Antonioni, Herzog, Fassbinder, and Spielberg each provided answers, but what would those answers be today? Naming their project “Room H.264,”filmmakers Jeff Reichert, Damon Smith, and Eric Hynes adapted Wenders’s idea for the twenty-first century. Starting in 2016, they put the question to a group reflecting the diversity of our modern age, building a rich gallery of answers. Join us for a roundtable discussion of their project before seeing it in our exhibition space. Moderated by MU Film Studies Professor Brad Prager.

1:15–2:45 p.m.

Documentary in Deposition: The Case Against Kamau Bilal (co-produced by the International Documentary Association)

Dana Merwin

Smith Forum, 200 RJI

We understand all too well why accuracy, facts and fairness are hallmarks of nonfiction storytelling and sacrosanct in journalism. The point is more than philosophical, however, because journalists have special protections under the law. And regardless of how you identify, documentary filmmakers are obliged to follow local, state and federal laws. Come find out what’s at stake in the riveting case of IDA vs. Kamau Bilal as Bilal gets deposed (in other words, grilled) on the spot. Chilling, insightful, and entertaining, it will encourage you to scrutinize your every move as a filmmaker. Moderated by IDA Program Officer Dana Merwin.

3–4:30 p.m.

Deconstructing the Pitch

Robert Greene

Smith Forum, 200 RJI

Pitching a film is a fraught process. How do you get an idea from your head through the gatekeepers, and unto the screen without it falling victim to the “too many cooks in the kitchen” syndrome? How much of the pitching process is based on the merit of the idea and how much is the charisma of those performing the pitch? These questions and others further complicate an already complicated - and sometimes harrowing - process. To get behind the myths and illusions of pitching a film, we’ve convened a panel of expert curators, including Charlotte Cook from Field of Vision, Chloe Gbai of POV, Claire Aguilar of the IDA and Zach Toombs of Newsy, who will hear - and then deconstruct the process of hearing - real pitches in real time. Moderated by Murray Center Filmmaker-in-Chief Robert Greene.

Friday, March 1

9:30–10:45 a.m.

The Hottest Documentary

K. Austin Collins

Smith Forum, 200 RJI

At this year’s True/False, director Brett Story (The Prison in Twelve Landscapes) is premiering her latest, The Hottest August, and it’s a film that approaches our cultural response to climate change in a radically distinct way. Join us for an in-depth conversation with Story, one of the most thoughtful documentarians working today, along with producer Danielle Varga and editor Nels Bangerter, as they get personal about the sometimes difficult, always adventurous process of making this wholly unique film. They’ll discuss their collaboration, show clips and reveal some major influences on a movie that everyone will be talking about. Moderated by Vanity Fair film critic K. Austin Collins and presented with the Sundance Art of Nonfiction Initiative.


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