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Award-winning documentary filmmakers Brent and Craig Renaud are organizing a film festival May 17-20 in Little Rock.
“Little Rock should have something like this,” Craig Renaud said.
The Renaud brothers, born and raised in Little Rock, have been based in New York City for the last decade as they produced films independently and for cable networks like HBO and the Discovery Times channel. Currently they are working on a documentary for HBO about the 50th anniversary of the integration of Little Rock Central High School, which will take place in September.
They plan to have the festival in Little Rock’s River Market district, utilizing the Clinton Presidential Center, the Historic Arkansas Museum, the Central Arkansas Main Library, the Cox Creative Center, and the River Market’s third floor meeting space. The Renauds also will use the Riverdale 10 movie theater, about two miles west on Cantrell Road, to screen 35-millimeter feature films.
The brothers said they have been considering putting together a film festival in Little Rock for several years, and two years ago they secured the internet address www.littlerockfilmfestival.org, for the event’s website. They’ve also created a nonprofit, Little Rock Film Festival Inc., to hold the event.
“We’ve been thinking about it for a number of years, and it was just about getting the opportunity to do it,” Brent Renaud said. “The fact that this year we’re making a film for HBO about Central High, it puts us in Little Rock for the year, and gives us the opportunity to do this.”
Assisting the Renauds are local real estate developer Jamie Moses and investment advisor Owen Brainard, longtime friends who share an interest in film. Vone Nantharangsy is serving as the festival coordinator.
The group started meeting last summer to plan the festival, and on Nov. 30 they held their only fundraiser to date, a reception that netted about $3,000. It was a modest amount, but the Renauds say they don’t need much money to put on the event. There are no salaries to pay, and the venues are donating space. Still, the Renauds plan to approach local businesses and individuals to ask for sponsorships.
“It can be as big as it can be,” Brent Renaud said. “We’re starting small with a three-day weekend, and we’re coordinating with bars and restaurants to do tie-ins and in-kind sponsorships. It depends on how much the community and the business community supports this. It can be what they make this, but we will put this on even if we have no money. We’re volunteers, we’re committed, and we have the resources to get the films here.”
The Renauds said several filmmakers already have agreed to participate, but they are not ready to announce their names. While attending the International Documentary Association awards in Los Angeles in December, they personally invited all of the award winners, and they say half have agreed to come.
The brothers said there will be a panel discussion about filming the Iraq war, based on the commitments they received. (The Renauds chronicled the experiences of Arkansas National Guard soldiers in their award-winning documentary series “Off to War.”)
The open call for submissions to the Little Rock Film Festival begins this week, with an early deadline of March 15 and a late deadline of April 1. More information is available at the event website.
“We’re encouraging Arkansas filmmakers to submit,” Brent Renaud said, “and we’re giving special consideration for them. We want them to feel that the festival is a good home for them to launch their premieres when they have films coming out. We’ll have an Arkansas section and a panel on filmmaking in Arkansas.”
The Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute has held an annual festival in October for the last 15 years, but the Renauds insist that their Little Rock festival will not be competitive.
“Hot Springs takes place in October, we’re in May,” Brent Renaud said. “There is room enough for everybody. We’ll show narrative features and fiction films, as well as documentaries.”
“This is a growing city, a thriving city,” Craig Renaud adds. “People are moving here, moving to the downtown area, and they want more things, more options, particularly cultural options. Other cities its size have something like this, and Little Rock should have it. … We’ve shown at the Hot Springs film festival, we love the Hot Springs film festival, and we’ll continue to show our films there. We don’t feel like there is any competition there. The more film options, the more people involved in making films, seeing films, appreciating films in Arkansas, the better.”
Beyond making the film festival an annual event, the Renauds say they hope to use their non-profit organization to initiate programs to introduce young people to filmmaking. They also would like to create a permanent screening venue in downtown Little Rock.
“We’ve been to Sundance, Tribeca, Tokyo, even some of the smaller ones,” Craig Renaud said. “We like what they do for the community, in terms of bringing films to places, so people can see films they normally can’t see.”
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