Favorite

Action! 

Spring film festivals in bloom.

'LONESOME': Glenn Tryon and Barbara Kent star in the 1928 silent film image
  • 'LONESOME': Glenn Tryon and Barbara Kent star in the 1928 silent film.

For whatever reason, spring is the time of year when Arkansas's crop of film festivals blossom along with the daffodils. This year is no exception, with old favorites being joined by a new, well-funded and very diverse festival in North Arkansas.

The biggest news in Arkansas film so far this year has to be the new Bentonville Film Festival, which will run May 5-9, with a stated goal of "championing women and diversity in film." Academy Award-winner Geena Davis, founder of the Geena Davis Institute on Gender and Media, is a founding partner in the festival, which has a number of big-wheel sponsors — including ARC Entertainment, Walmart, Coca-Cola and Kraft Foods — and a busload of influential folks on its board of advisers, including Samuel L. Jackson, Angela Bassett, Bruce Dern, Julianne Moore, Carrie-Anne Moss and Natalie Portman.

Specific details about programming and which stars will be in attendance at the festival are scarce at this point, but festival organizers promise at least 50 films in competition, all featuring women and minorities either on- screen or in prominent roles behind the scenes. The films that take home the three biggest prizes — Audience Award, Jury Award and Best Family Film — will receive $25,000 and a distribution agreement that guarantees they will run on at least 25 screens at AMC Theaters. There's also a screenwriting competition (deadline March 31, with a $50 filing fee, or April 13, with a $70 late filing fee) with the grand prize winner receiving a $1,500 prize and an award presented by actor Bruce Dern. Scripts must be feature length (between 85 and 135 pages long, in standard format). For more information, go to bentonvillefilmfestival.com

Also on deck for this spring is the annual Ozark Foothills Film Festival, which will screen 28 films starting April 3, over half of them Arkansas premieres. Now in its 14th year, the OFFF has made a number of changes this year, including Judy Pest taking over as executive director for her husband, longtime director Bob Pest. Judy Pest said the scheduling of the festival has also changed, with films shown on two consecutive weekends instead of one. Half the films will be shown April 3 and 4, and the other half April 10 and 11. All screenings will take place at Independence Hall on the campus of the University of Arkansas at Batesville.

"We've had a challenge trying to get folks in this area to do things on Sundays," Pest said. "So this year, we're doing two consecutive Friday/Saturdays. That gives people two options. If they're not from the area and they want to come in for the festival, they can kind of scope out which weekend has more films they'd be interested in."

Another change is the awarding of prizes for best Arkansas narrative film and best Arkansas documentary film, which will both be awarded the weekend of April 4, the day devoted to Arkansas-made films.

One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the OFFF's tradition of screening a silent film with live classical accompaniment. This year, it's the 1928 film "Lonesome," a recently restored feature about a couple's Fourth of July trip to Coney Island, by director Paul Fejos. The film will screen at 8 p.m. Friday, April 10, at the University of Arkansas-Batesville and will be accompanied by an original score by the Doug Talley Quartet.

Pest said the festival lineup this year is particularly good, with over 20 filmmakers scheduled to attend. In the narrative category, she recommends "Northern Borders" by director Jay Craven. The film, which stars Bruce Dern, is about a 10-year-old boy sent to live on his grandparents' Vermont farm in 1956. Craven, who Pest said is a strong proponent of "micro-budget" and community-based filmmaking, will be in town for the screening, and will host Q&As about both the film and community-based filmmaking.

In the documentary category, one film that looks good (and has a connection to a famous Arkansas narrative film) is "Misfire: The Rise and Fall of the Shooting Gallery." The doc tells the story of the ragtag, independent production company that contributed mightily to the rise of the indie film scene in the 1990s, producing "Stand By Me" and the Arkansas-filmed "Sling Blade," among other movies. "They had a sort of meteoric rise," Pest said, "and a number of circumstances combined to contribute to an equally meteoric fall. That's interesting in terms of the history of independent film."

For more information about the Ozark Foothills Film Festival, including a full schedule and information about buying tickets, visit ozarkfoothillsfilmfest.org.

The other big daddy of Arkansas film festivals is the Little Rock Film Festival, which runs this year from May 11 to May 17. Little Rock filmmaker Gabe Gentry is the new director of the festival. Gentry, a UCA grad who has worked on documentary projects with festival founders Craig and Brent Renaud, previously served as the festival's media director. Gentry said that though he has only been on the job about four-and-a-half months, his goal from the outset has been to work on the fundamentals that will improve the experience of attending.

"For example, we have a technical walkthrough that's going to happen next week, with the goal of really professionalizing the [screening] spaces," he said. "We'll be putting up pipe and draping. We'll have the most comfortable chairs that we can that are still portable. We're looking at laser projectors, and professional sound, professional projectionists — really trying to perfect the experience."

Another move toward improving the festival experience, Gentry said, is to consolidate the venues. Other than a few screenings at the Clinton Presidential Center, every film will be shown within easy walking distance of the festival's base, the Ron Robinson Theater. Venues for 2015 also include the Butler Center, the Clark Room at the River Market, Stickyz Rock 'n' Roll Chicken Shack and the third floor of the Cox Creative Center.

"We're trying to keep everything — with the exception of the Clinton Library — within about 100 feet of the Ron Robinson Theater," Gentry said. "Rather than stretching out into the Main Street area or to downtown North Little Rock, we've really tried to consolidate the festival to recapture some of that energy of running into one another."

Gentry, who has been a bronze-level pass-holder since the early days of the festival, said that one of the new features he's most proud of this year is a planned tally system that will reward bronze pass-holders who attend more than 10 festival screenings between Monday, May 11, and the festival's annual party on the Junction Bridge on May 15. He said the plan is to upgrade those bronze pass-holders who attend 10 screenings to the "Gold Pass experience."

A gold pass — normally $300 — is "all access," with priority seating at every film, free drinks at many events, access to the filmmaker lounge and other amenities.

"I want to honor people who really attend a lot of screenings — who go and binge on the films and have dialogue with our visiting filmmakers," Gentry said. "I want to reward them for that.

Gentry said the festival will not be ready to make announcements about which films will be screening at the festival until early April. For more information, visit littlerockfilmfestival.org.

Favorite

Speaking of...

  • The show will go on for horror and sci-fi spin-off of LR Film Festival

    December 29, 2015
    Former organizers of the Little Rock Film Festival, which ended this year after a nine year run, have confirmed that the Little Rock Picture Show, the horror, fantasy and sci-fi focused spin-off that was part of the LRFF family of film festivals, would continue in conjunction with the River City Comic Expo in June. /more/
  • What happened to the Little Rock Film Festival?

    October 1, 2015
    In a short note posted on their website Wednesday morning, the Little Rock Film Festival announced that they would be closing down. The development took many by surprise — World Shorts curator Justin Nickels told the Times he had learned of the decision 12 hours earlier. The Times spoke to festival founders Brent and Craig Renaud today, who explained the move had been under consideration for at least a year and was the result of new projects and time commitments which would prevent both filmmakers from giving the festival the attention it deserved. /more/
  • Little Rock Film Festival comes to an end

    September 30, 2015
    Sad news for film fans: The Little Rock Film Festival is over. /more/
  • What's not to love about the Bentonville Film Festival? Walmart.

    May 19, 2015
    The Bentonville Film Festival, launched this year by actress Geena Davis and held earlier this month from May 5-9, earned a number of largely positive notices from major outlets like the Huffington Post ("At the Bentonville Film Festival, Women Are Playing in the Major Leagues"), the L.A. Times ("Bentonville Film Festival pushes diversity message from year one") and the New York Times ("Bentonville, Ark., Hosts a Film Festival Without a Movie Theater"), most of them centering on its unique and vital agenda — promoting diversity and gender equality in filmmaking — and its celebrity cache (e.g. an acting workshop taught by Robert De Niro, a softball game led by Rosie O'Donnell, etc.). /more/
  • Ten to watch at the 2015 Little Rock Film Festival

    May 14, 2015
    Add 'em to your list. /more/
  • Arkansas-made films in the limelight at LRFF

    May 14, 2015
    The festival has helped foster the scene. /more/
  • Film for the people

    May 14, 2015
    The Little Rock Film Festival returns for year nine with a new director. /more/
  • Geena Davis to start film festival in Bentonville

    January 6, 2015
    Actress Geena Davis announced today that she's launching a new film festival to be held in Bentonville (and called the Bentonville Film Festival) and sponsored by her own organization, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, as well as corporate partners Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, AMC Theaters and ARC Entertainment. The festival, set to be held May 5-9, will begin accepting submissions on Jan. 15 and will focus on films highlighting women and minorities in cast and crew. /more/
  • Come watch 'Blue Velvet' with us at Ron Robinson on Dec. 18

    December 3, 2014
    This month, we’ll be screening David Lynch’s powerful and deranged 1986 classic “Blue Velvet” as part of the Arkansas Times Film Series co-sponsored by the Little Rock Film Festival. The Los Angeles Times has called it “the most brilliantly disturbing film ever to have its roots in small-town American life” and the New York Times deemed it “an instant cult classic … one of a kind.” /more/
  • Thanks to everyone who turned out for 'Who is Dayani Cristal?' at RRT last Friday

    November 19, 2014
    We had a good crowd at the second film in our monthly series last week at Ron Robinson Theater, “Who is Dayani Cristal?” Big thanks as well to our partners in showing the documentary — the Little Rock Film Festival, El Zócalo and our two guests from Arkansas's immigrant community. /more/
  • More »

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by David Koon

  • The 91st Arkansas General Assembly: It's going to be a beast

    Some legislation to look for, and how to speak your mind.
    • Jan 12, 2017
  • The incredible adventures of Nate Powell

    The Little Rock native is the first cartoonist to win the National Book Award. His graphic novel 'March,' the memoir of U.S. Rep. John Lewis, may well be the mother text for a new era of nonviolent resistance.
    • Jan 5, 2017
  • Best and worst 2016

    Honestly, it's hard to imagine a bigger dumpster fire of a year, short of the one in which a giant asteroid careens out of the dark like a drunken prom king in his mom's Hyundai and smashes the Earth to smithereens.
    • Dec 22, 2016
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • The two faces of Mike Huckabee

    Medicaid expander, Obamacare opponent. Man from Hope, mansion in Florida. Child health proponent, Duggar apologist.
    • Jun 4, 2015
  • The ballad of Fred and Yoko

    How one of the world's foremost Beatles collectors died homeless on the streets of Little Rock.
    • Mar 31, 2016
  • Separate and unequal

    Sue Cowan Morris won the battle to equalize pay of black and white teachers. It cost her her job.
    • Jun 11, 2015

Most Shared

Latest in Cover Stories

Visit Arkansas

Indian Rock House at Fairfield Bay

Indian Rock House at Fairfield Bay

Winter is the perfect time to explore the natural stone shelters where native Arkansans once lived

Event Calendar

« »

January

S M T W T F S
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31  

Most Recent Comments

  • Re: The wizard of Wilson

    • Gaylon and his wife, Lisa, are first class citizens who live by the principle, "Treat…

    • on January 17, 2017
  • Re: Weird trivia

    • The Rapert dig is a libelous defamation of apes and hominoids. I get that it…

    • on January 17, 2017
 

© 2017 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation