The heavy snow that fell in Columbia, Mo., in February did not thwart volunteers from preparing venues and setting up projectors for the city's annual True/False Film Festival. "The show must go on!" one participant tweeted. A storm of its own, the late winter festival transforms the small Midwestern town each year with a showcase of compelling documentaries selected from around the world and thousands of enthusiastic movie lovers who flock to watch the real life stories on the screens.
UNT student Filip Celander was among the tech crew helping to produce the event. A graduate student in the MFA documentary production program in UNT's Department of Radio, Television, and Film, Celander has worked the festival for the past six years. His passion for documentaries inspired the native Swede to pursue an advanced filmmaking degree. Now in his second year at UNT, Celander finds the program to be rigorous and rewarding.
Films made by RTVF faculty, alumni, and current MFA students are among a repertoire of creative work making an impact at major festivals in the U.S. and abroad. Award-winning documentaries and narrative films like Diary of a City Priest (Eugene Martin), Gaza Shield (Tania Khalaf), River Planet (Melinda Levin), Undocumented Dreams (Sara Masetti) and The Revisionaries (Scott Thurman) have received a gamut of industry accolades -- from the Golden Cine Eagle Award and Telly Award to festival honors such as "Grand Jury Prize," "Official Selection," and "Best of Fest" -- and with screenings at notable venues such as Sundance Film Festival and the Sundance Channel, PBS, BBC, San Francisco Documentary Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Berlin Film Festival, and the U.S. Department of State American Documentary Showcase.
The RTVF graduate program is young compared to more established programs such as those at Temple, Stanford, University of Texas at Austin, American University, and New York University; but in less than a decade since the first two MFA students graduated from UNT in 2005, it has steadily gained attention and respect from academic and industry peers. The MFA degree is among a handful in the nation that focus on documentary production, and it has recruited increasingly exceptional and diverse graduate students.
"The MFA program is quickly becoming the signature piece of the department," says RTVF chair Alan Albarran. "Our talented faculty, diverse student body, interdisciplinary training, small classes, and location in the Dallas/Fort Worth area help elevate a perception of who we are."