The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (HSDFF) began in 1991, launched by a small group of arts activists in Hot Springs. That year, 10 Academy Award nominated documentary films were screened to the public free of charge. Veteran actor James Whitmore lent his presence to this first event and spoke of a bright future: “This (Hot Springs) could be the documentary capital of the world.”
At the gala fundraising event the next year, featured actor James Earl Jones proclaimed, “I see the 1990s as holding the promise of an unparalleled era of popularity for nonfiction film and video, with the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival as one of the genre’s most important venues.”
In keeping with this shared vision, HSDFF was incorporated as a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization in 1992. The Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute (renamed in 1996) remains the only film institute in the United States dedicated solely to the documentary film genre. Each year with the help of over 700 dedicated volunteers, board, and staff members, the Institute presents the annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, a multicultural and intergenerational event. The Festival attracts tens of thousands of visitors making it one of the largest tourist attractions in Arkansas providing significant economic benefits, as well as helping to shape the identity of Arkansas nationally and internationally. The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival provides the Institute with a catalyst for further development, digitization, distribution of documentaries and film education initiatives for training film industry professionals.
The HSDFI screening committee views nearly 1,000 films submitted from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, and selects 100 to be viewed each year. The 2012 Film Festival will be held October 12 through 21, at our Historic Malco Theatre, 819 Central Avenue, downtown Hot Springs.
Since its inception, more than 400,000 people have participated in the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute’s educational, cultural activities and special programs. Emphasis is on documentary film as an art form as well as a means to promote critical thinking on real life issues. Through symposia, forums, discussion groups, and teaching, HSDFI brings cultural and social knowledge to all ages from the gifted work of film professionals.
Past HSDFI guests include Les Blank, St. Clair Bourne, Ken Burns, Geraldine Chaplin, Chris Gore, Tippi Hedren, Arthur Hiller, Roger Nygard, William Jersey, James Earl Jones, Allen Ginsberg, Albert Maysles, Ray McKinnon, Pinetop Perkins, Robert Richter, Louis Schwartzberg, Harry Thomason, Brenda Vaccaro, Jack Valenti, Robert Kenner, James Whitmore, Wes Studi, Crispin Glover, Rick Dial, Jerry Van Dyke, Matthew Lesko and many others.
The Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute is the most progressive organization of its kind offering multiple collaborations of educational outreach with documentary films throughout Arkansas, while hosting The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, one of the first and the oldest documentary film festivals in the World.
We currently house one of the largest documentary film libraries of its kind, boasting more than 18,000 titles.
With a volunteer base of more than 700 individuals, an extremely hard working staff, and a board of directors that work as a team, we are looking forward to our upcoming 21st Annual Documentary Film Festival to be the best one ever.