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Popcorn dreams 

Film series fill up the dark

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Here at the Arkansas Times, we love film. If somebody offered this reporter a realistic job working in the movies, I might well quit writing in the middle of this sentence, take the "PRESS" card out of the brim of my fedora, and head for the door. That's not going to happen, though, so we've got to be content to admire the bright lights of Tinseltown from the comfort of an air-conditioned theater with a box of chocolate-covered raisins close at hand. Luckily for film lovers, the Central Arkansas cinema scene has really blossomed in recent years, with several great festivals and film series popping up to tempt lovers of talking pictures. Here's a few that we've caught wind of.

LITTLE ROCK FILM FESTIVAL

June 1-5, 2011

Various venues

$30 for a full-ride pass

www.littlerockfilmfestival.org

It's kinda risky to call a film festival that's only five years old a Little Rock institution, but things are moving faster in this digital age, and the LRFF shows every sign of being with us for a long time. That's definitely a good thing. Started in 2006 by Jamie Moses, Owen Brainard and documentary filmmakers Brent and Craig Renaud, the festival is held each spring, and offers awards in a number of categories, including best Southern Film and best Arkansas Film. Last year, the festival screened over 100 flicks and organized a number of panels and workshops featuring real-life Hollywood types and fascinating discussions. More than 25,000 movie lovers turned out to sit in dark rooms and share the love. Best of all, it's cheap: just $30 for a pass that gets you into all the films and attendant events.

THE 48 HOUR FILM PROJECT — LITTLE ROCK

Generally in mid-summer

Riverdale Cinema 10

2600 Cantrell Road, Little Rock

Admission: $10 per group to watch the films; $135 to register to make a movie.

www.48hourfilm.com/littlerock

Unlike several of the festivals on this list, the 48 Hour Film Project has films to screen solely because those in the audience sweated blood and shed tears to create them. It is exactly what it sounds like: over the course of 48 hours in a weekend, participants must write, shoot and edit a film of seven minutes of less (to keep everybody honest, filmmakers are given a prop, a character's name and a line of dialogue that must appear in the completed film). The result is a wild, tiring and amazingly fun weekend, with the town full of no-budget film crews shooting on a wing and a prayer. Surprisingly, a lot of the resulting films — which screen in two groups the week after the film project weekend — aren't half bad. The winner of the Little Rock leg goes on to compete with other 48 Hour films from cities around the globe.

DREAMLAND DRIVE-IN

Fall 2011

800 W. Ninth St., Little Rock

Admission: $20 per car, or $5 walk-ups

www.dreamlandballroom.org

Arkansas Flag and Banner owner Kerry McCoy said summer 2010's Dreamland Drive-In, — with classic movies projected on the side of the historic Dreamland Ballroom, which houses Flag and Banner — was something of a wash because everybody got too hot sitting in their cars. This year, the series will move to the much-more-comfortable autumn. Dates haven't been finalized yet, but she said to check www.dreamlandballroom.org for schedules and more information.

REEL CIVIL RIGHTS FILM FESTIVAL

First weekend in February

Market Street Cinema

1521 Merrill Drive, Little Rock

Sponsored by the Central High School National Historic Site

Admission: Free

www.nps.gov/chsc

In a city where the struggle for civil rights looms so large and institutionalized racial injustice is not that far in the rearview mirror, it's great that the Central High School National Historic Site is willing to help us all take an extended look at what cinema has to say about race and race relations in America and the world. This year will mark the fourth year for the festival, which generally shows documentaries. Last year's lineup was great, with docs on everything from hip-hop culture to a group of women filmmakers in Zambia. For more information, visit the Central High School National Historic Site website at www.nps.gov/chsc.

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