The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (HSDFF) will celebrate its 21st year this October, an accomplishment made possible through a wave of new and continued support for the nonprofit organization from both the Little Rock and Hot Springs communities.
Under the leadership of new Festival Director Courtney Pledger, Board Chair Susan Altrui and a slate of new board members from both Hot Springs and Little Rock, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute (HSDFI) will continue as the only film institute in the country dedicated solely to the documentary film genre.
The nonprofit organization’s key event, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, is slated to take place October 12 – October 21, 2012, in Downtown Hot Springs.
Due to storm damage to the Historic Malco Theatre building in August of this year, the festival will be held primarily at the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa. Repairs to the roof and other areas of the Historic Malco Theatre are ongoing but will not be completed in time for the festival in October.
Festival Director Courtney Pledger expressed gratitude to the Arlington for hosting this year’s festival calling the hotel a “hero” for the festival and the film institute.
“The Arlington Hotel understands the importance of keeping one of Arkansas’ greatest cultural events alive and well in downtown Hot Springs. Without the donation of space from The Arlington to host the festival there is a good chance that the festival might not have happened this year. We are incredibly grateful that The Arlington was generous enough to help the festival in a time of need,” said Pledger.
As the Presenting Sponsor of the 21st annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, the Arlington will host both the opening night (Oct. 12) and closing night (Oct. 21) films and filmmaker receptions, along with the majority of the screenings for the week-long festival. Additional screening and reception locations, including a full schedule of films and locations will be announced soon.
Arkansas native and film producer Courtney Pledger was hired as Festival Director in March. A film executive from Little Rock who recently moved back to central Arkansas from the Los Angeles area, she is also the Executive Director of the new Arkansas Motion Picture Institute.
Pledger provides a festival preview of some of the top films and events to watch for this year:
The Jerry McKinnis Outdoor Film Series
This new film series will highlight films on outdoor sports, recreation, adventure, animals in nature, and nature conservation. The category is being introduced for the first time this year, and is a competitive category with the winner taking home the Jerry McKinnis Outdoor Film Award.
Just a few films in this category include:
- Two men with different approaches to fly fishing and life are the subjects of the SXSW Audience Award-winning documentary, Low and Clear. Filmmakers Tyler Hughen and Kahlil Hudson capture the breath-taking beauty of British Columbia and the masterful art of fly fishing as the backdrop for their story of a friendship in decline.
- Director Gabriel DeLoach explores the question of what it might really mean for humans to enter the wilderness to claim their share of its harvest in his provocative documentary, The Harvest. Through a program called “Hunt of a Lifetime,” several children with debilitating disabilities or life-threatening diseases are granted a request to go on a wild game hunt (turkey, black bear and elk). Share the journey of these extraordinary children and their families as they seek the fulfillment of their very particular dreams.
- Winner of a 2012 Sundance Film Festival special audience award for short films, Debutante Hunters, directed by Maria White, provides an unusual glimpse into the world of a group of Southern Belles from the low country of South Carolina as they adeptly balance their social charms with an equal drive to hunt.
With the 2012 election closing in, this year’s festival will host several timely and relevant documentaries chronicling the struggles of local, state and national political figures:
- Anne Richards’ Texas is the Winner of the Best Documentary Screenplay Award at SilverDocs. Directors Keith Patterson and Jack Lofton present the story of an unlikely political outsider in high heels whose rise to prominence changed not only the political structure of Texas, but captivated the hearts and minds of a nation.
- A trilogy of rare films from cinema verite great Robert Drew gives us a window into the presidential campaign of John F. Kennedy and the early years of the Kennedy White House with Primary, Adventures on the New Frontier, and Crisis: Behind A Presidential Commitment. The films, considered breakthrough at the time, were produced from 1960 to 1963 and include an in-depth look at the Wisconsin Primary of 1960 (Primary), the first year of the Kennedy presidency (Adventures on the New Frontier) and the confrontation between JFK and George Wallace over the integration of the University of Alabama (Crisis: Behind A Presidential Commitment).
- Biba! One Island, 879 Votes was filmed on an isolated island in the Pacific. Director Ben Bloodwell draws viewers into a story of two rival clans battling for political control of the island and gives us a unique look at the democratic process at its most raw.
This year’s festival also plans to highlight a number of feature and short documentary films around music, theatre and arts:
- The Art of Crystal Bridges will make its world premiere in Hot Springs in October. Larry Foley’s documentary short offers a compelling look at what makes Crystal Bridges a world-class art museum and a gem of Arkansas. The museum, located in Bentonville and a result of Alice Walton’s passion for American Art, welcomes all to celebrate the American spirit in a setting that unites the power of art with the beauty of landscape.
- Untitled Glen Campbell Documentary Work-in-Progress and Q & A - Director/producer James Keach and producer Trevor Albert bring us selected scenes from their upcoming documentary on Glen Campbell’s Goodbye Tour, adding an insider’s look at what goes on while the cameras are not running. This combination of work-in-progress footage and Q & A will examine the singer’s courageous approach to dealing with his recent Alzheimer’s diagnosis, with support from his family and fans, while continuing his life-long love of performing. Filmed in part in Arkansas during his recent visit, the segments of the film, still in production, will be shown in segments with Keach and Albert giving us a rare behind the scenes view of the documentary process as well as an intimate window into the mind and heart of this legendary Arkansan. Members of the Campbell family will join Keach and Albert for the panel discussion following the screening.
- At 62, soul-singer Charles Bradley, the star of Charles Bradley: Soul of America, finally realized his lifelong goal: to leave his job as a James Brown impersonator and become an artist in his own right. Now signed to Daptone, a top soul label, Charles has recorded his first record and is on a national tour. Follow this new soul sensation as he reaches for the stars with his feet on the ground. A hit at SliverDocs, SXSW and SeaDoc.
- On Broadway, sometimes the best performers are not on stage. In the documentary The Standbys, you’ll meet the performers who must be ready at a moment’s notice waiting in the wings for the chance of a lifetime every night.
- Join comedian and banjo player Steve Martin, Earl Scruggs, Bela Fleck, Taj Mahal and Pete Seeger on a musical journey chronicling the diverse musical styles and social history of the banjo in the documentary Give Me The Banjo.
- Joe Papp in 5 Acts is fresh from Tribeca and SilverDocs. Directors Tracie Holder and Karen Thorson’s admiring portrait of a transformative figure in the New York theater scene, Joe Papp in Five Acts shows how much of what New York takes for granted was pioneered by a poor, tough kid from Brooklyn who hid his immigrant roots until well into his career. Features testimonials from famous collaborators including Meryl Streep, James Earl Jones, Christopher Walken and Kevin Kline.
The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has always sought out films that challenge audiences to ask tough questions and to consider difficult and divergent perspectives. Here’s a glimpse at just a few of this year’s hard-hitting documentaries:
- For over thirty years, three women have languished in Missouri State prison under unjust sentences for killing their abusive husbands. Denied the opportunity to enter the abuse into evidence, each of the women represents a system broken by outdated and media-sensationalized stereotypes. When a greater understanding of the “battered” syndrome changes legal practices in the year 2000, Missouri’s Governor crafts a new law demanding the parole board revaluate each woman’s case. But nothing comes easy to the women who have been abused twice, first by their husbands and then by the notoriously secretive parole board who control their fate. Now they must fight back in the moving documentary The Perfect Victim.
- The directors of the controversial documentary “Jesus Camp,” Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, set their lens on the city of Detroit and its economic woes in the documentary Detropia, depicting not only the collapse of a city but the disastrous results of a disappearing U.S. manufacturing base. David Denby of The New Yorker calls Detropia “…the most moving documentary I’ve seen in years.”
- The educational future of the next generation of American children is at stake in Scott Thurman’s politically charged documentary, The Revisionaries, as the Texas State Board of Education attempts to rewrite textbook standards for its nearly 5 million school children to include religiously-based interpretations of creation within the science curriculum standards.
This year’s festival will also offer a in-depth look at the Renaud Brothers’ award-winning work for The New York Times Online. The Renauds will reveal their world of surviving in danger hot spots while delivering on tight deadlines.
Brent and Craig Renaud have been recipients of two Overseas Press Club Awards, a Columbia Dupont and an Edward R. Murrow Award as well as being nominated for both an Emmy and a Directors Guild of America Award. They are natives of Arkansas and founders of the Little Rock Film Festival. In addition to being offered to the general festival audience, the Renauds will also host a special session for high school and college students.
Several contemporary documentaries will introduce iconoclastic figures and portray the experiences and lifestyles of diverse cultural groups, featuring several new and familiar faces and cultures from around the world:
- In an intimate portrait, Bettie Page Reveals All, Academy Award-nominated director Mark Mori offers the rise and fall of one of America’s most recognizable sex symbols: Bettie Page. Told in her own words, after decades of seclusion, Bettie Page provides a witty, complex tale that reveals as much about her own life history as it does the 50’s American culture from which she emerged from.
- In the documentary, Plimpton!, directors Tom Bean and Luke Poling tell the story of a writer, editor, amateur sportsman and friend to many, George Plimpton. Using Plimpton’s own narration – along with thoughts and stories from friends, family and contemporaries – the film is a joyful celebration of a life lived fully, richly, strangely, and, at times, a life that is hard to believe was actually lived by just one man. An Official Selection at Silverdocs.
- Gain an inside look at the movement that championed the 99% in the documentary American Autumn: An Occudoc, and experience the issues, thinkers, organizers, and activists of the protests from the streets of New York, Boston, and Washington D.C.
- Part circus, part athletic contest, part theater (and all Mexican cultural phenomena), the documentary Tales of Masked Men explores the world of the lucha libra, or masked wrestler, and introduces an American audience to the history, personalities and cultural significance of a truly national form of entertainment. From the director of acclaimed Foto-Novelas.
- In 2004, twenty-four Iranian women gathered in a class organized by the government sports organization simply called: rugby. Two years later, filmmaker Faramarz Beheshti focused his lens on the stories of these women as they struggle to continue to play the sport within the restrictive cultural world of an Ahmadinejad government in the documentary film Salam Rugby. An Official selection at international festivals in Cambodia, Costa Rica, Italy, South Africa, Germany and Wales, to name only a few.
Also, several documentary films and events are being planned especially for families. Just a few:
- No campfires. No sing-alongs. Just magic. Welcome to the REAL Hogwarts, Magic Camp. To escape the pressures of growing up, magic-obsessed kids congregate at the one place they can be themselves. They want to prove their worth on the same stage where superstar magicians like Blaine and Copperfield once performed. But to get there, they need to learn more than sleight of hand and tricks of the trade. They have to find the magic inside. This new documentary is from two-time Emmy-nominated director Judd Ehrlich (“Run for Your Life” and “Mayor of the West Side”) and the award-winning cinematographer of the Sundance hits “American Teen” and “Word Wars.”
Pledger says families will be delighted that screenings of Magic Camp will be accompanied by a magic and illusion show courtesy of Hot Springs magician Maxwell Blade and featuring two young magicians, Blade’s own daughters.
- From Michael Stephenson, director of the critically-acclaimed hit documentary “Best Worst Movie Ever” comes The American Scream, an unconventional look at the Halloween cultural phenomenon of homemade haunted houses, and the enthusiasts who build them. Filmed in the sleepy enclave of Fairhaven, MA, the film follows the creative minds behind three local haunted houses and their spirited, passionate and sometimes harrowing efforts in igniting their town’s Halloween spirit each year.
Film passes and tickets for the 21st Annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival can be purchased in advance HERE.
Tickets and passes will also be available for purchase during the festival at the festival box office located on the first floor of the Arlington Hotel. Please note: purchasing a general admission ticket for the festival does not guarantee admission. VIP Pass holders, Film Buff Pass holders, and filmmakers are admitted first. Please arrive early.