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2017 Spring Arts film preview 

Plenty of options for silver screen surfing.

click to enlarge 'YAKONA': The nearly wordless documentary film about the San Marcos River will be screened at the Ozark Foothills Film Fest
  • 'YAKONA': The nearly wordless documentary film about the San Marcos River will be screened at the Ozark Foothills Film Fest

While Oscar season and the joy of snuggling up to watch a movie while Old Man Winter howls in the eaves makes the cold months a great time for film, spring is really looking up when it comes to cinema and film festivals in Arkansas.

First out of the gate this spring will be the 2017 Ozark Foothills Film Fest (ozarkfoothillsfilmfest.org), which runs on two consecutive weekends, April 14-15 and 21-22, in Batesville. Screenings will be held at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville. One of the oldest film festivals in the state, this year's festival will no doubt benefit greatly from a $10,000 "Challenge America" grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. "Reel Rural: Rural America in Independent Film" is this year's theme; the festival will include a series of screenings and panel discussions about the way small towns and rural areas are portrayed in independent film. Also this year will be a screening of "Yakona," a nearly wordless documentary that showcases the beauty of the San Marcos River in central Texas. The so-called "hybrid documentary" will be screened with live musical accompaniment from the film score's composer, Justin Sherburn, and Montopolis, an experimental classical ensemble from Austin. Ticket prices and the full festival lineup have not been announced as of this writing, but last year an all-film pass to the OFFF was $25, or $20 for students.

Next up is the Bentonville Film Festival, the big, well-funded fest that celebrates women and minority filmmakers, running May 2-7 at various locations in Bentonville (bentonvillefilmfest.com). Founded by Academy Award-winner Geena Davis and ARC Entertainment CEO Trevor Drinkwater, the festival requires any film submitted for competition to have been made by either women or minorities. A press release announcing this year's event says the festival will expand its short film category for 2017, and will offer a packed lineup of narrative and documentary screenings, panel discussions and musical acts. In past years, the BFF has attracted Hollywood luminaries, including Robert De Niro, Meg Ryan, Bruce Dern and Nia Vardalos. Last year's event screened 75 films. Ticket prices for 2017 have yet to be announced, but in 2016, weekend pass packages started at $75.

Running the same weekend as the Bentonville Film Festival will be the third annual Fantastic Cinema and Craft Beer Festival, May 3-7 at the Ron Robinson Theater (fantasticcinema.com). As the name suggests, the festival — hosted by the nonprofit Film Society of Little Rock (filmsocietylr.com) — focuses on films of the fantastic realm, including science fiction, horror, fantasy and animation; craft beers from breweries around the state will be offered. In addition to its regular slate of awards, the festival has partnered this year with Kodak and MovieMaker magazine to present the "Kodak Shot on Film" competition, for features and shorts shot on 8mm or 16mm film. Top prize for that competition is $2,000. Tickets aren't on sale yet, but last year tickets ranged from $10 for a single screening and $20 for a day pass, up to $125 for an all-access pass.

A very promising development for film in Argenta is the Argenta Drafthouse Film Series, which starts June 12. Presented by the previously mentioned Film Society of Little Rock, the series plans to screen narrative feature-length films at 7:30 p.m. the second Monday of each month at The Joint Theater and Coffeehouse, 301 Main St. in North Little Rock. The series takes submissions for films to screen on filmfreeway.com, with the stipulations that they must be an hour long and completed in 2015 or later. Tickets are $8 per screening.

The Joint also offers, courtesy of the Film Society of Little Rock, the ongoing Monday Night Shorts, where films between one and 15 minutes long will be screened the fourth Monday of every month. The festival has open submissions on filmfreeway.com. Upcoming themes include "Microshorts" on April 24 and "Red Octopus Presents: Funny Suckers," comedy shorts selected by the Little Rock sketch comedy troupe, on May 22. Tickets are $8.

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