Autumn temps are perfect for outdoor activities
Cinephiles, rejoice! The first Little Rock Film Festival kicks off tonight with a startlingly impressive roster. Some 65 films will screen throughout downtown over three days and four nights, including “The Situation,” a feature set in occupied Iraq, which opens the festival tonight, and an outdoor screening of “Casablanca” in Riverfront Park, which will help wind things down on Sunday. Between those films, diversity is the word of the weekend, as big-budget pics screen next to micro-budgeted shorts; art house classics show with top documentaries; and international standouts play side-by-side with scores of Arkansas-made shorts and features.
“We wanted to have a little bit of something for everybody,” says Brent Renaud, the award-winning Little Rock-born documentarian, who along with Owen Brainard, Jamie Moses and his brother and filmmaking partner Craig Renaud, founded the festival nearly a year ago. “We wanted, even our first year, to have a film list that would cause people to go, ‘Wow, how’d they get that?’ ”
To that end, the organizers managed several coups. “Knocked Up,” Judd Apatow’s (“40 Year Old Virgin”) sure-to-be summer blockbuster comedy, will preview two weeks before it makes its national debut. Charles Burnett’s “Killer of Sheep” will also play at the festival, just months after a record-setting run at the IFC Center in New York. Despite being one of the first 50 films inducted into the National Film Registry and being cited as a “national treasure” by the Library of Congress, the 1977 film is only just this year making its theater debut. But perhaps nothing on the program is more impressive — or timely — than “The Situation,” Oscar-nominated director Philip Haas’ film about Iraq, the first U.S. narrative feature set during the war. (See “Can’t Miss Films,” page 13).
That, in year one, the festival has a line-up to rival any film festival in the region bodes well for what seems to be one of the main forces driving the four co-founders — the idea that it could be a major spark for growth in Little Rock.
“When I saw everything that film festivals like SXSW and some music festivals did for [Austin, Texas] in terms of giving it a funky character that blended well with what they were trying to do on a business front, I thought that Little Rock was really primed for a film festival, and that it could be a contributor to the growth of the city,” says Brainard, an investment advisor who grew up in Little Rock and, after stints in New York and Austin, moved back two years ago. “There’s lots of business going on, lots of buildings being built, lots of condos going up, there’s Alltel Arena and the ballpark, but at a certain point, there’s not a lot of entertainment.”
Brainard, Moses and the Renaud brothers grew up together, and when Brainard moved back to town and the Renauds knew they’d be here shooting a documentary on Central High for HBO (which will air on Sept. 25, the night of the 50th anniversary of the crisis), the four decided to go forward with the festival, which they’d all been kicking around for years. To put the wheels in motion, Brainard and Moses, who sells real estate with Moses Tucker, started soliciting support from local businesses, while the Renaud brothers began to talk up the festival within the film community.
Filmmakers since the mid-’90s, the brothers have traveled the world making documentaries, shooting in places as far-flung as Kosovo, Afghanistan, Bolivia, Pakistan and Russia. From 2003 to until the end of 2004, they followed the 39th Brigade of the Arkansas National Guard as it deployed to Iraq, filming what became the 10-part series “Off to War,” which won them numerous awards. After shooting “Dope Sick Love,” a documentary that followed two drug-abusing couples in New York City, the brothers filmed “Taking the Hill,” a film about U.S. military veterans running for Congress in 2006.
He's a monster with monsters who aid his unholy lust