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Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival announces opening and closing night films, key highlights 

Stars align as festival draws prominent films, filmmakers

(Hot Springs, AR) – The stars will align this year at the 23rd Annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival as filmmakers and special guests head to the Spa City to celebrate the best in documentary film from around the world, including visits by actor George Takei, actor-turned-director Luke Wilson, the family of Arkansas icon Glen Campbell, actresses Joey Lauren Adams and Tess Harper, former Olympic Diving Champion Greg Louganis, producer/director Harry Thomason, Arthur Agee of Hoop Dreams, illusionist James Randi and many more.

Glen Campbell...I'll be Me will open the festival on October 10, 2014. Directed and produced by James Keach (Walk The Line) and produced by Trevor Albert (Because of Winn Dixie, Groundhog Day), this powerful portrait of the life and career of great American music icon opens to the viewer the world of the singular talent who created hits like Rhinestone Cowboy, Wichita Lineman and Gentle on My Mind.

Opening night at the Arlington Hotel and Spa will include a champagne and popcorn reception, a post-screening Q&A with filmmakers Keach and Albert, as well as Campbell’s wife Kim and children Ashley, Cal and Shannon, all of whom appear in the film, as well as a live performance by Ashley and Shannon that will include an original song from the film. The evening will continue with a post-screening party on the Arlington Mezzanine followed by more music from the talented Campbell family in the Arlington lobby bar with groups Billstown and Drew Henderson Band, joined by Campbell’s siblings Barbara, Sandy, Jane and Gerald.

Winner of the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, Campbell was the first country music star to cross over to the pop charts, opening a new realm of opportunity for generations of country musicians. In 2011, when Campbell was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, he joined forces with his family to fight the biggest battle of his life.

Glen and his wife, Kim, made history by going public with the diagnosis – the first time a major American celebrity would share this experience with the world. The Campbell family then embarked on a short “Goodbye Tour,” but the three-week engagement turned into an emotional and triumphant 151-show nationwide tour de force.

Featuring interviews with Bruce Springsteen, Bill Clinton, The Edge, Paul McCartney, Jay Leno, Vince Gill, Steve Martin, Taylor Swift, among many others, Glen Campbell...I'll be Me is an epic human story of love, resilience and the power of song that tells the true tale of America’s greatest country star.

Join actor and activist George Takei on his playful and profound trek for life, liberty, and love as To Be Takei closes the festival on October 18, 2014. Special guest Takei will take part in an exclusive Q&A at the conclusion of the film.

Over seven decades, George Takei boldly journeyed from a WWII internment camp, to the helm of the starship Enterprise, to the daily news feeds of hordes of social media fans. Now a new documentary, To be Takei, takes a closer look at the many roles played by this eclectic 77-year-old actor/activist, whose wit, humor and grace have helped him to become an internationally beloved figure and Internet phenomenon with 7-million Facebook fans and counting.

In a unique expansion of the festival's shorts programming, HSDFF will showcase a sidebar of mockumentary shorts in addition to its many top short documentary offerings. Actor and filmmaker Luke Wilson will pay a visit to Hot Springs along with his mockumentary short Satellite Beach, following the unique journey of the Endeavour space shuttle as it travels through the streets of Los Angeles to the California Science Center, and the final move of the Atlantis space shuttle to the Kennedy Space Center.

Luke Wilson stars as Warren Flowers, a devoted and unlikely shuttle manager, as he navigates the missions on his own accord while real-life citizens, reporters, and officials are perplexed by his involvement. Wilson wrote and co-directed the film with his brother, Andrew, and the two filmed the movie on the fly during the actual shuttle transportations. Gaining security clearance for some of the shots proved to be a logistical challenge, but as evidenced by the end result in the film, not impossible for someone with a clipboard, tie and a confident attitude.

Documentary short highlights include One Year Lease, winner of Best Documentary Short at Tribeca Film Festival, documents the travails of Brian, Thomas and Casper as they endure a year-long sentence with Rita the cat-loving landlady. Sometimes the calls not coming from inside the house, but from the apartment upstairs, can be just as scary...or, well, just downright bizarre.

The Apothecary, winner of the top Student Academy Award® for Best Documentary Short Subject, a film that takes audiences to an impoverished former mining town in the American Southwest where a beloved druggist runs the community's main hub: the sole pharmacy within 4,000 square miles.

The Last Days of Peter Bergmann, Sundance and Sheffield Best Doc Short nominee, takes us back to the summer of 2009 when a man calling himself Peter Bergmann arrived in Sligo Town. Over his final three days, he would go to great lengths to ensure no one would ever discover who he was or where he came from.

The Midnight Archive, an award-winning docu-series created by Ronni Thomas of IKA Collective, focuses on the macabre as collectors and Obscura customers share their unique collection and their passion for the strange. Filmmaker Thomas will attend and exhibit a portion of his artifact collection.

From Oscar®-nominated filmmaker Lucy Walker, The Lion’s Mouth Opens introduces a courageous young woman who takes the boldest step imaginable to confront her risk of having inherited the fatal, incurable Huntington's Disease, and in The Pie Lady of Pie Town, narrated by Wes Studi, audiences learn that in a town with no traffic light, gas station, grocery store or motel, one thing is certain: pie equals love. More than 50 documentary shorts will screen at this year's festival.

When writer and director Debra Granik ventured to Missouri to make her feature Winter’s Bone, she discover the subject of her next film: Ron ’Stray Dog’ Hall, a biker and Vietnam vet with a big heart.

Granick's new documentary feature Stray Dog follows the burly biker and his family along the open road as this warrior in the heartland brushes up against perilous aspects of contemporary American culture while balancing his commitments to his fellow combat veterans, family, and neighbors.

Each year, Stray Dog joins thousands of bikers on a cross-country ride to the Vietnam Memorial in Washington DC for a series of veteran rituals. As part of the legacy of fighting in the Vietnam War, he wrestles with the everlasting puzzle of conscience, remorse, and forgiveness. With Stray Dog as our guide, we experience the restlessness of ex-warriors as he tries to make peace with what he can't change and weathers the incomprehension of those who have never been to war. Director Granik will attend HSDFF along with the film's subject, Ron 'Stray Dog' Hall.

Meet the Patels is a laugh-out-loud real life romantic comedy about Ravi Patel, an almost-30-year-old Indian-American who enters an awkward love triangle between the woman of his dreams and his parents, Champa and Vasant, as they navigate the traditions and tribulations of arranged marriage. Parents Champa and Vasant Patel will attend and participate in a post-screening Q&A session.

James ‘The Amazing’ Randi has been wowing audiences with his mind-blowing illusions, escapes, and tricks for over 50 years, charming Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show audiences, then later taking on self-proclaimed psychic Uri Geller and publicly declaring him a fraud. In An Honest Liar, Randi reveals the fact that we all maintain complicated relationships with the art of deception, even ‘The Amazing’ Randi himself. James Randi will attend a Q&A after the screening. 

Other feature highlights include Songs for Alexis, an inspiring coming of age love story about two teenagers who, with surprising poise and resolve, try to assert their identities in a sometimes unwelcoming world. Songs for Alexis features YouTube sensation Ryan Cassata, a passionate and talented 18-year-old transgendered musician and his 16-year-old girlfriend, Alexis. 

After appearing on a television talk show, Ryan’s popularity as a musician grows and he becomes a bit of an icon in the transgender world (he began his transition from girl to boy four years earlier). But his girlfriend’s parents disapprove of their relationship and the pair must confront the harsh realities of the adult world as Alexis is forced to choose between her family and the man she loves. Ryan Cassata will attend with Danish filmmaker Elvira Lind and will perform live. 

Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere explores the mystery of a murdered math professor through the eyes of award-winning author Poe Ballantine, who spent six years investigating the case while writing a memoir centered on the events. In a strange off-screen turn of events, Ballantine, who will attend the festival, will be returning to the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs where he once worked as a cook.

Mateo tells the story of America's most notorious gringo mariachi on his misadventures in Cuba. Musician Mateo aka Matthew Stone will perform live following the screening.

Mugshots started life as a law enforcement tool, but as the fascinating film Mugshot shows, they have evolved into entertainment and art. A gallery exhibit of authentic mugshots will also be on view from the personal collection of director Dennis Mohr.

Rachel Beth Anderson and Tim Grucza’s award-winning doc First to Fall follows Hamid and Tarek who leave their lives as students in Canada and travel to Libya, their homeland, to join the fight to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. Filmmaker Rachel Beth Anderson will be in attendance.

From executive producer Spike Lee, Evolution of A Criminal examines a 1997 armed bank robbery Houston police believed was an open-and-shut case. For filmmaker Darius Clark Monroe, the incident still warrants further investigation in this one-of-a-kind documentary. As a 16-year-old honor student enduring financial hardship, Monroe was not only the crime's mastermind but also one of its perpetrators.

What factors—race, religion, family, upbringing—make us who we are? And what happens when we are forced to redefine ourselves? Daring to ask questions about her true identity, filmmaker Lacey Schwartz turns the camera on herself and pulls back the curtain on matters of race and family secrets in Little White Lie, a deeply personal and riveting documentary.

In 1999, the theater troupe Collective Unconscious created a groundbreaking play composed entirely of transcripts taken from the black box recorders of six doomed or nearly doomed flights, blurring the lines between truth and fiction. In Charlie Victor Romeo, the in-the-cockpit experience has been brought to the big screen in what A.O. Scott of The New York Times called “one of the most terrifying movies I have ever seen.” Not for the nervous flyer! Director Robert Berger will be on hand to calm you with an audience discussion following the film.

Taking its title from Newark, New Jersey-raised Louis Sarno’s book about living with the Bayaka Pygmy clan in the Central African Republic, recording their music, and never leaving, Song from the Forest follows Sarno as he fulfills a promise he made to his teenage son Samedi to show him where he comes from. So off they go from the lush tropical rainforest to the steel and concrete of New York City.

Named Best International Feature at this year’s Hot Docs, Waiting for August reveals the compelling journey of fifteen year-old Georgiana as she is left to raise her six siblings in Bacau, Romania, with her mother having to work abroad to get by. Torn between adolescence and heavy responsibilities, the teenage girl struggles to keep everyone afloat.

HSDFF Family, a block of student and family-friendly films, is centered by Kevin Delaney’s Awesome Science Show. The Museum of Discover’s Delaney was handpicked by Jimmy Fallon for multiple appearances on the Tonight Show where his breakout segment has made him an overnight sensation. Also in the family block are a shorts program specifically for kids as well as the feature Mudbloods which introduces audiences to the real game of Quidditch, a sport that transforms Harry Potter’s fictional competition into a physically demanding, real-life sport. As Quidditch quickly secures its place as one of the fastest growing collegiate club sports today, Mudbloods follows the resilient underdogs of the UCLA Quidditch team as they make their way to the Fifth Annual Quidditch World Cup in New York City.

The Spa City Sports Series highlight films will include a special 20th anniversary screening of the universally acclaimed documentary Hoop Dreams, a film Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert gave Two Thumbs Up and named the best film of 1994.

Ebert in his initial television review proclaimed “This is one of the best films about American life that I have ever seen,” and later called it the best film of the decade. In 2004, The New York Times placed the film on its Best 1000 Movies Ever list.

Hoop Dreams tells the story of two African-American high school students in Chicago, William Gates and Arthur Agee Jr., and their dream of becoming professional basketball players. The film was Oscar®-nominated and it’s many honors include the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival, The Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, Chicago Film Critics and Los Angeles Film Critics Awards for Best Documentary.HSDFF is honored to welcome special guests Arthur Agee Jr. and producer Gordon Quinn for a Q&A after the screening.

The Oscar-winning documentary of the 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Zaire between champion George Foreman and underdog challenger Muhammad Ali, When We Were Kings, will screen in Hot Springs and feature special guests director Leon Gast, as well as Muhammad Ali’s daughter Resheda Ali-Walsh and grandson Nico Walsh.

New films in the Spa City Sports Series include Back on Board revealing the complicated life of an athlete whose grace, beauty, and courage sparked a worldwide fascination with diving. This film chronicles Greg Louganis’ rise from a difficult upbringing to nearly universal acclaim as the greatest diver ever, and from pioneering openly gay athlete with HIV to an overlooked sports icon. An engrossing story of an American legend as he re-emerges on the world stage to combat prejudice, promote tolerance, and return to the diving world after a long period of absence to act as a mentor to the next generation. Greg Louganis will attend the screening along with filmmaker Cheryl Furjanic. 

The Grand Jury Prize winner at this year’s Slamdance, Kung Fu Elliot reveals the odd journey of karate champ (or pathological liar?) Elliot “White Lightning” Scott, as he sets out to become Canada’s first action hero by making his own low-budget flick Blood Fight, and in Light Fly, Fly High, a young Indian woman in her twenties, born outside of caste, is literally willing to box her way out of poverty and into a better life.

Another expanded aspect of HSDFF will be Low Key Arts: Outsider and Underground Series, with films hand-picked to reflect the indie spirit of Low Key. In addition to Songs for Alexis to be followed by a live performance by Ryan Cassata and a soul train party into the night, Low Key films include The Deadly Ponies Gang revealing Clint and Dwayne, best friends in rural New Zealand who decide to outfit their rides in glitter and bling to impress the chicks, and Come Worry With Us following Violinist Jessica Moss and singer/guitarist Efrim Menuck are struggling to balance parenthood with making music in their internationally acclaimed Montreal-based indie band Thee Silver Mt. Zion.   Low Key Arts screenings will also include MudbloodsKung Fu ElliotKate Bornstein is a Queer and Pleasant Danger and Midnight Archives. Bill Solleder’s Low Key Arts has been producing original, forward-thinking and independent music and art in Hot Springs since 2005 and is located at 118 Arbor in Hot Springs, not far from the Arlington.  

HSDFF will honor legendary producer Gordon Quinn with a career achievement award. Quinn is the Artistic Director and founding member of Chicago-based Kartemquin Films and has been making documentaries for over 45 years, producing cinema verite films that investigate and critique society by documenting the unfolding lives of real people. At Kartemquin, Quinn created a legacy that is an inspiration for young filmmakers and a home where they can make high-quality, social-issue documentaries.

Journalist and critic Lauren Wissot joined the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival this year as programming director, combining forces with festival executive director Courtney Pledger to bring to Arkansas documentary film from across the globe. Wissot is the former director of programming at the Santa Fe Independent Film Festival, and remains the festival's programming consultant. She is also a member of the Bermuda International Film Festival's international advisory board and a contributing editor at Filmmaker Magazine where she covers film festivals, both nationally and internationally.

Derek Horne, director of shorts programming, and also new to HSDFF, has worked for the Sundance Film Festival and has programmed for other festivals coast to coast from Newport, R.I. to Newport Beach, Ca. He worked in acquisitions for leading short film distributors Atom Films, iCast, and Shortbuzz, wrote articles for IndieWIRE, and was the founding editor of Kodak's "Campus Beat" student magazine for five years. He currently works as the film coordinator for Chapman University's film school.

Panels and forums will include a short seminar with Oscar-winning producer Mitchell Block, “32 Short Notes on Making Documentary Films or How to Get an Oscar Nomination, Make Money and Launch a Career Making Documentaries” Discussions on shooting in combat zones, and on ethics in documentary filmmaking; and a forum by the Renaud Brothers with footage from their breakout Vice series Last Chance High.

In addition to films, filmmaker receptions and VIP parties will take place up and down historic Central Avenue and beyond at venues like the Quapaw Bathhouse, the Gangster Museum of America, the Superior Bathhouse Brewery and the riverboat, the Hot Springs Belle.

The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival is an Academy Award-qualifying festival in the category of Documentary Short Subject. Recipients of the festival’s Spa City Best Documentary Short Award will qualify for consideration in the Documentary Short Subject category of the Annual Academy Awards® without the standard theatrical run, provided the film otherwise complies with the Academy rules.

The 2014 festival will host several film juries, Spa City Best Documentary Feature, Spa City Best Documentary Short and Spa City Best Sports Documentary, made up of distinguished members of the international filmmaking community, including multiple Oscar®-winning filmmakers.  This year the festival celebrates its 23rd edition as the longest running, all-documentary festival in North America.

The 2014 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival will take place October 10-19, 2014 at the Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas. For more information, visit www.hsdfi.org.