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Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival facing financial difficulties 

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While the director of the celebrated Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival says the show will go on, some of its fans are worried. The 20th festival is scheduled for Oct. 14-23 at the old Malco Theater, but the festival has financial problems, and its board of directors has been at odds with some local businessmen and tourism officials.

"They haven't paid the bills from last year's festival," says Steve Arrison, chief executive officer of the Hot Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. In the past, the Bureau has given $5,000 to the festival every year. Not this year. "We want to support it," Arrison said. "But I don't see how we can fund an organization that doesn't pay its bills." The Malco itself is mortgaged to a local bank, and the festival has been unable to pay the amount owed. "They may not even have a theater to show their films in," Arrison said.

Festival Director Dan Anderson said that though there have been rumors to the contrary, the festival will proceed on schedule, but operating on a tighter budget than before. Large numbers of filmmakers have attended the festival in the past, because their lodging and some of their travel was paid for, and that attendance has been a big part of the festival's success, Anderson said. This year, the festival has little money for such expenses. Anderson said he's looking for private donors to pick up some of the slack.

On the other hand, the selection committee has completed its work, and the festival will show about 110 films, the same as last year, he said. And the festival has begun mobilizing its large number of volunteers, who have historically kept the festival going. There'll be 200 to 300 volunteers working this year, Anderson said. (A 19-year volunteer said the notices went out later this year than ever before. "Usually we get them by June," she said.)

Some of those volunteers and selection committee members believe their efforts will be sufficient to carry the festival through one more year, but perhaps no more than that, unless changes are made.

Porter's Jazz Cafe, the split-level space on Main Street that houses a cafe on the street level and a jazz club in the basement, is now open at 315 Main St. The phone number is 324-1900. Initially, you'll find Porter's House Band, which includes jazz pianist Chris Parker and jazz guitarist Michael Bartlett, performing nightly in the jazz club.

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