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Still docs a plenty 

Two music films lead the way in the closing weekend of the Hot Springs festival.

WHITE AND NERDY: MC Frontalot
  • WHITE AND NERDY: MC Frontalot
As the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival enters its closing weekend, there's still a wealth of compelling films left to screen. I've circled “In the Company of Trees,” a feature on Canadians who live in elaborate tree houses (Thursday, 10:05); “Duckpin,” a retrospective on the dying subculture of duckpin bowling (Friday, 12:55 p.m.) and “3, 2, 1 Fireworks,” a short on the creation of new fireworks in China, as three I'm especially keen to check out. Also, there's sure to be a big crowd for “Mary Pickford: Muse of the Movies,” both because of the subject matter — Pickford was one of Hollywood's earliest and brightest stars, and she co-founded United Artists — and because actor Michael York, who's most famous for playing Basil Rathbone in the Austin Powers films, narrates and will be on-hand for post-screening questions. York is the recipient of the Hot Springs Film Institute's inaugural narration award.

But no films are likely to pull the crowds like two music documentaries. On Friday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 4:30 p.m., banjo virtuoso Bela Fleck will be on hand, with his instrument, to talk about “Throw Down Your Heart,” a SXSW audience award-winning feature that follows the musician as he traces the origins of the banjo in Africa. As he travels to Uganda, Tanzania, the Gambia and Mali in the film, he collaborates with world music stars like Bassekou Kouyate and Oumou Sangare and regular folk for an album that's due to be released sometime next year.

Perhaps aimed at attracting a younger crowd, the buzzy doc “Nerdcore Rising” screens at Friday at 10:15 p.m. and then again on Saturday at 9:30 p.m. The film follows the first national tour of MC Frontalot, a rapper who's widely considered the godfather of nerdcore hip-hop, a sub-genre that's just like regular hip-hop, but super nerdy. For instance, Frontalot usually takes the stage wearing a pocket protector and thick glasses and raps about computer programming, Star Wars conventions and blogs, or as one skinny, bespectacled kid says in the film's preview, “all the things I care about, like Magic the Gathering and Internet porn addiction.” Weird Al Yankovic, Prince Paul and Jello Biafra also appear in the film, which has picked up raves from the likes of Salon and the Boston Herald.

Director Negin Farsad and MC Frontalot will be on hand for both screenings. Following Saturday's showing, Frontalot will perform at 11 p.m. at the Low Key Arts Building in Hot Springs. Tickets are $10 or free to full HSDFF pass holders or filmmakers.
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