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Fall into film: 2017 Fall Arts film preview 

Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, Horror Fest, Riverdale's Art House Day offer something for all.

click to enlarge LEGEND IN SPA CITY: Werner Herzog, the prolific German filmmaker and opera director responsible for "Fitzcarraldo" and "Grizzly Man," visits the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.
  • LEGEND IN SPA CITY: Werner Herzog, the prolific German filmmaker and opera director responsible for "Fitzcarraldo" and "Grizzly Man," visits the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.

For whatever reason, Arkansas's cinema cup seems to have runneth over in recent years, and I'm not talking about the 84-ounce, $7 bladderbuster you can buy at your local theater. From the long-running Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival to the long-mourned Little Rock Film Festival, to still newish offerings like the Bentonville Film Festival and the Arkansas Cinema Society, film buffs have a lot to be thankful for. That's especially so in the fall of the year, when a lot of the more brilliant stars in the state's silver screen firmament come out to shine.

The biggest news in Arkansas film this fall is the 26th annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, which runs Oct. 6-15. Always a draw for lovers of nonfiction shorts and features, the HSDFF has a few extra reasons to celebrate this year. Its opening night film, for example, is "LADDIE: The Man Behind the Movies." The feature documentary, which includes commentary from luminaries like Mel Brooks and Morgan Freeman, is director Amanda Ladd's tribute to her father, the great film producer Alan Ladd Jr., who emerged from the shadow of his own famous father to carve out his bit of Hollywood greatness by producing a host of classic films, including "Alien," "Blade Runner," "Star Wars," "Braveheart," "Young Frankenstein," "Chariots of Fire" and "Police Academy." Kathleen Turner, the Academy Award-nominated and Golden Globe-winning star of such films as "Romancing the Stone," "Peggy Sue Got Married," "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" and the Ladd-produced "Body Heat" will be on hand in Hot Springs to introduce the film and serve as the festival's honorary co-chair. The HSDFF has managed to score another big-name draw in booking an appearance by the masterful doc director Werner Herzog, director of such classics of the genre as "Grizzly Man," "Cave of Forgotten Dreams," "Encounters at the End of the World," and others. The festival hasn't announced whether Herzog will be screening a film, but meeting one of the great directors of our time is worth the price of admission, whatever he's going to do. Those are only two highlights of a festival with a slate of over 50 international documentaries — many with their filmmakers in attendance — plus parties and panel discussions and all manner of things to delight a cinephile. Ticket prices range from $10 for a single screening to $300 for an all-inclusive pass with priority admission. Visit hsdfi.org for more information.


Another light of Hot Springs film, though a decidedly darker one, is the Hot Springs Horror Film Festival, which rips into its fifth year of scares Sept. 21-24. The festival features over 50 shorts and features, from the eerie to the blood-drenched, with filmmakers on hand to discuss many of the films. Guest speakers include Bob Sheen — grandson of film and TV star Martin Sheen and the son of Mr. "Winning!" himself — who will be on hand to screen his horror film "The Rake." If you're into forensic investigation, a must-see attendee is Joseph Scott Morgan, who has appeared on shows across the cable spectrum to comment on cases ranging from the Jon Benet Ramsey murder to the Zodiac Killer. Tickets for the festival range from a $25 day pass to $55 for a full weekend badge. Festival sponsor Hot Springs Hotel and Spa is offering discounted rates for the weekend. For more information, visit the festival website at hot springshorrorfilmfestival.com

click to enlarge 'TITICUT FOLLIES:' Frederick Wiseman's graphic 1967 documentary on the conditions inside the Bridgewater State Hospital is credited with sparking reform in the world of health care for the mentally ill, and is among the offerings at Riverdale 10 Cinema's Art House Theater Day.
  • 'TITICUT FOLLIES:' Frederick Wiseman's graphic 1967 documentary on the conditions inside the Bridgewater State Hospital is credited with sparking reform in the world of health care for the mentally ill, and is among the offerings at Riverdale 10 Cinema's Art House Theater Day.

Another promising film event coming up soon is Riverdale 10 VIP Cinema's Art House Theater Day, starting at 1:30 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 24. The five-picture mini-festival features some real gems, including "Stairway to Heaven" (1946), about a man who, thanks to a heavenly mix-up, survives a fall from a plane without a parachute. The film stars David Niven with Kim Hunter, Kathleen Byron and Sir Richard Attenborough. Also on the bill is the rarely seen 1967 documentary "Titicut Follies." An unflinching look at the conditions inside the Massachusetts State Prison for the Criminally Insane at Bridgewater, Mass., the film was one of several late-'60s efforts that led to reforms in the treatment of the mentally ill. Fans of foreign film will want to catch director Dmitri Kalashnikov's "The Road Movie." Created entirely from clips shot via automobile dashcams, the film captures surprising scenes of life in Russia, including the chaos following the assassination of a dissident leader and tanks rolling through a car wash. For more information on Riverdale's Art House Theater Day or to buy tickets, hit its website at riverdale10.com.

While it doesn't have any new events scheduled yet, another group to keep an eye on is the new Arkansas Cinema Society. The society, founded by Arkansas-born director Jeff Nichols ("Mud," "Take Shelter," "Midnight Special") and Kathryn Tucker ("Glee," "40," "Oblivion"), held its first festival Aug. 24-26. It was definitely a down payment on great things to come, bringing big name actor Adam Driver, who stars as "Star Wars" villain Kylo Ren, to town, along with up-and-coming director David Lowery ("Pete's Dragon," "Ghost Story") and producer Noah Stahl, whose film "Patti Cake$" was a Sundance hit. Check out the ACS website at arkansascinemasociety.org and follow its Facebook page to stay up to date on the society's future offerings.


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