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The ABCs of Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival 

27 years of the HSDFF! 26 letters in the alphabet! You get the gist! We don't have much space, so let's go.

click to enlarge RAH, RAH, HSDFF!: Dana Adam Shapiro's "Daughters of the Sexual Revolution: The Untold Story of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders" closes out this year's Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.
  • RAH, RAH, HSDFF!: Dana Adam Shapiro's "Daughters of the Sexual Revolution: The Untold Story of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders" closes out this year's Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival.

A is for The Arlington. Since the festival's departure from the historic Malco Theater in 2013, the Arlington Hotel has served as ground zero for all things HSDFF.

B is for "Borders & Boundaries," one of this year's many shorts blocks. This one features the intriguing "Earthrise" by Emmanuel Vaughn-Lee, a half-hour film of Earth as photographed in 1968 from Apollo 8. (Noon Wed., Oct. 24, and 9:30 a.m. Fri., Oct. 26, Arlington Cinema 2.)

C is for "Conway Pride," the 22-minute short from Stephen Stanley, a Savannah College of Art and Design faculty member and former University of Central Arkansas documentary professor, about the fate of Conway Pride and the Pink House after the passing of its beloved founders, Robert Loyd and John Schneck. (Precedes 7 p.m. showing of "Gospel of Eureka" Thu., Oct. 25, Arlington Cinema 1.)

D is for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, the subjects of this year's closing night film, "Daughters of the Sexual Revolution: The Untold Story of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders." (6:30 p.m. Sat., Oct. 27, Arlington 1.)

E is for "Eating Animals," the documentary adapted from Jonathan Safran Foer's book about factory farming, animal abuse and mindful consumption. Feeling veg-curious after the UN's climate report? This could be just the encouragement you need. (7 p.m. Mon., Oct. 22, Arlington 2.)

F is for Flat Earth, the totally awesome and completely credible scientific revolution exploding all around the globe. The movement's brain trust is the subject of the warm-hearted and wonderful "Behind the Curve." (7:30 p.m. Sat., Oct. 20, Arlington 2.)

G is for "The Gospel of Eureka," this year's centerpiece film and, for our money, the one to watch. It examines Eureka Springs' uneasy and colorful symbiosis of evangelical hardliners and loud-and-proud LGBTQ populations. (7 p.m. Thu., Oct. 25, Arlington 1.)

H is for "Hillbilly," the opening night film. Its political, philosophical and cultural deconstruction of the dissimilarities between the Appalachian stereotype and the complicated realities of the region is one of the best films of the year, period. (7 p.m. Fri., Oct. 19, Arlington 1.)

I is for Ingrid Gipson, the former fashion designer who lit out for a hermetic life as an artist in the Eastern Oklahoma woods. "Ingrid" is a delicate and impressionistic portrait of the iconoclast. (5 p.m. Tue., Oct. 23, Arlington 1.)

J is for Jen Gerber, the multi-hyphenate writer, director, professor and now executive director shepherding the stalwart Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival into its latest incarnation and expanding it into an institution that's both locally/regionally conscious and internationally formidable. She's crushing it, so if you see a Jen-colored blur darting through the fest, be sure to yelp a "thanks" toward its general trajectory.

K is for Kopple, as in Barbara Kopple, the two-time Academy Award-winning documentary royalty who began her career by, no biggie, making two of the greatest nonfiction films of all time in "Winter Soldier" and "Harlan County, USA." Her latest film, "A Murder in Mansfield," follows the son of a murderer as he finally confronts his father about his mother's murder 26 years earlier. (7 p.m. Wed., Oct. 24, Arlington 2.)

L is for Low Key Arts, the iron-willed art and music venue/nonprofit tucked off Park Avenue, which plays host to a couple of this year's most exciting after-parties. On Wednesday, Oct. 24, after the screening of "Studio 54," it becomes a disco with the "Studio 53 ½" dance party. On Sunday, Oct. 21, the venue hosts Screaming Females, the redoubtable New Jersey trio fronted by Marissa Paternoster, for years one of the single greatest road warrior rock guitarists in America.

M is for Mark Thiedeman, Arkansas's finest, most forward-thinking filmmaker. After years of creating exquisite fictions, "Kevin" marks his first foray into documentary. The 74-minute portrait of Paragould skateboarder Kevin Wands delights in boyhood, bodies and becoming and is presented as a free work-in-progress screening. (7 p.m. Tue., Oct. 23, Arlington 2.)

N is for "A Night at The Garden," the 7-minute short that made waves online last year. The Intercept called it "the most terrifying movie you can watch this Halloween." A year later and it still enters my mind weekly, at least. (Before the 5 p.m. screening of "The Silence of Others," Tue., Oct. 23, Arlington 2.)

O is for Oscar contention. Because of the HSDFF's timing at the end of the festival cycle, Hot Springs plays a potentially consequential role in amplifying the buzz around Best Documentary contenders. Look out for a little last-minute flame-stoking in featured films "RBG" and "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

P is for pitching. This year's festival features workshop opportunities for storytellers of all types. A pitch workshop hones that most foundational of filmmaker skills. And a multiday, live storytelling workshop takes participants from paper to stage over three class sessions.

Q is for queer stories in all categories. One of the most intriguing is in the sports films section: "Transformer" follows a former football star, Marine, powerlifting champion and all around alpha-male as he transitions into a female body while continuing to competitively weightlift. (5 p.m. Sat., Oct. 20, Arlington 2.)

R is for (R)evolution, as in "The Heat: A Kitchen (R)evolution," which considers the world of female chefs changing the pervasive back-of-house culture of toxic masculinity one restaurant at a time. Celebrated culinary figures Chef Anita Lo and Chef Edward Lee will attend and create food for the after-party. (7:30 p.m. Sun., Oct. 21, Arlington 1.)

S is for "Southern Stories," HSDFF's block of films focused on the peculiarities and complications of the Southern experience, marks a new initiative by the Institute that further sets the festival above and apart from its coastal, metropolitan compeers.

T is for "This Changes Everything." The latest from last year's closing night filmmaker Tom Donahue is an investigative analysis of gender disparity in Hollywood. (4:30 p.m., Fri., Oct. 26, Arlington 1.)

U is for "United Skates." Following the rise and fall of skate culture, the meaning of community in America and its implications for the black experience in America, this documentary was singled out by Jen Gerber as one of her favorites of the year. (7 p.m. Fri., Oct. 26, Arlington 1.)

V is for Virtual Reality. The HSDFF VR lounge will offer participants an immersive, 360-degree documentary experience.

W is for "Wheels on Reels," the Friday night "United Skates" after-party at Skateland on Higdon Ferry. No alcohol allowed (you can thank them for that later), but free skate rentals for pass holders and ticket holders looking to bounce, rock, skate and roll the night away.

X is for exciting and extra-special guests: The ubiquitous comedienne Missi Pyle is the closing night honorary chair; Billy Redden, the Banjo Boy in "Deliverance," will attend the opening night screening of "Hillbilly"; Apatow Collective member Samm Levine supports "Freaks and Geeks: A Documentary"; and politician/attorney Bakari Sellers visits with "While I Breathe, I Hope."

Y is for the young documentarians who will be featured in the "AETN Student Selects" block, showcasing the best high school and college-created documentaries of the last year. (1 p.m. Tue., Oct. 23, Arlington 2.)

Z is for the Zimbalist Brothers, whose latest, "Momentum Generation," follows the iconic '90s surf collective (2:30 p.m. Sat., Oct. 27, Arlington 2), but it's also for zzzzs, which, in light of the packed eight-day festival, you're going to need to stay up on.

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