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True/False 2009 and the point of panels

True/False 2009 and the point of panels (photo)

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When I tell people I only want to go to panels in which the speakers get into a fight, they usually laugh.

I do not join them.

I really do long to see a state-of-the-industry type discussion featuring some of the most serious of my colleagues build into a WWF-style, chair-throwing brawl, and by golly, someday my wish will come true, even if I have to heft that chair myself. Panels are the starchy side dish of film festivals and conferences, and they’re often informative and a little dry, because moderating is difficult, because topics are broad, and because people are generally nice and cautious and very aware of being on the record. Most panels could use some bodyslamming, or at the very least some strong disagreement.

I took in two of the best panels I’d seen in a while at the True/False Film Festival this past week, and while neither solved the life-threatening problem of panelists being polite and too smart to just shoot their mouths off, both avoided issues that often bog down these events.

The first featured Richard Parry and Robert King (above), the director and subject of war photographer doc “Blood Trail,” and “Operation: Dreamland” director Ian Olds. The topic was war journalism, and rather than delve into advice and background, the panelists went straight into anecdotes of shooting while getting shot at, a breakdown of the ethical issues of filming people dead or dying and an honest look at risk assessment in what’s, in the end, a job. That last aspect was the most interesting, that for all war journalists regularly put their lives on the line documenting conflict, that they also have to deal with the usual professional rivalries. Telling the story of a colleague who sniped a job from threatened him, King noted: “It all comes back full circle… unfortunately for him, [laughs] he got shot. Yeah, I must be a bit desensitized if I can make a tasteless joke like that.” It was only in the arm, he added.

03012009_tfpanel2.jpgAJ Schnack led another panel full of familiar industry folks — Women Make Films’ Debra Zimmerman, Channel 4’s Jess Search, filmmaker Kirby Dick, Spout’s Karina Longworth and Cinetic’s Matt Dentler are those in the photo — through a Fred Friendly-inspired exercise in which everyone advised on what they would do when confronted with a theoretical project, a prospective documentary from a first-time filmmaker with never-before-seen footage of the Hudson River plane crash. Would anyone be interested in financing it? Would festival programmers want it? At what point would members of the press find it worthy of coverage? I’m sure I’ve seen over half the speakers on panels in the past, but the theoretical angle turned out to be freeing, and I heard things from them that had never come up before, because it tends to take long enough for everyone to loosen up on these things that they near their end before getting good.

Worthwhile endeavors, both of these, and not a piledriver or headbutt in sight.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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