Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

The 21st annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival is on for October
. The event, which showcases more than 100 documentaries from
around the world, is one of the longest running documentary film
festivals in the U.S.

The future of the celebrated cultural
event has sometimes been up in the air because of financial challenges.
However, under new leadership and with the help of various partners, the
Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute (HSDFI), which produces the
annual 10-day event, is on firm ground — and forges on as the only film
institute in the country dedicated solely to the documentary film

According to interim festival director Courtney Pledger,
the event is “an enriching experience for the people of our state, no
matter their age or interests.”

“Documentaries tell the stories
of our times,” she says. “They tell the truth and they interpret that
truth for us from many personal perspectives. Since documentarians are
the record-keepers of our time, they are precious to us, and these
records are essential for us all to see and share together. The festival
is also important to Arkansas as an ambassador to other states and
faraway countries. It brings people here who might not come here
otherwise and exposes filmmakers to the special world of Arkansas, and
in this case, the city of Hot Springs. The influence of the festival
reaches many corners of the Earth and that’s an incredible thing.”

historic Malco Theatre, which usually hosts the film celebration, was
damaged in a storm this summer. While repairs are being made to the
landmark building, the festival’s center stage will be the Arlington
Resort Hotel and Spa. Film screenings will take place on the hotel’s
second story. Special room rates are available at the Arlington for
festival attendees and filmmakers.

Throughout the festival
industry professionals, filmmakers, and celebrity guests will
participate in workshops, panels, and discussion forums at venues like
Low Key Arts and Maxwell Blade’s Theater of Magic.

New to the
festival is the addition of the Jerry McKinnis Outdoor Film Series and
Awards. McKinnis, an Arkansas native, was the host and producer of “The
Fishin’ Hole,” which aired on ESPN for almost 30 years. It was the
second-longest running program on the network. This marks the first time
the festival has given an award for Best Outdoor Film. As part of the
festival, the public will have the chance to view films nominated in the

Arkansas-connected films will also be shown at the
event including a short on “The Art of Crystal Bridges and “Glen
Campbell: The Long Way Home,” previewed by director James Keach.
Another couple of Arkansas filmmakers to be watching for — Brent and
Craig Renaud, recipients of an Edward R. Murrow Award, founders of the
Little Rock Film Festival, and Emmy and Directors Guild of America Award
nominees. At the festival, the Renaud Brothers will present their
award-winning work for The New York Times Online.

“The very
dedicated group that makes up the volunteer staff of this year’s
festival has taken great pride and care in choosing the films to
represent the 21st annual festival,” says Pledger, who is an Arkansas
native and a film producer. “I have relished being a part of that
process. I love the documentary form and I have long loved this
festival. I can’t wait to watch the faces of festival-goers coming out
of these amazing films and listen to their debate.”

For the
festival, Pledger is working closely with new chairwoman of the HSDFI,
Susan Altrui, and a new partnership with the Greater Hot Springs Chamber
of Commerce. Overall, it has been a good year for film in the state.
Pledger is also the Executive Director of the Arkansas Motion Picture
Institute (AMPI), located at the Argenta Community Theater in North
Little Rock. This new nonprofit provides support for film culture in
Arkansas and is a unifying organization through which the state’s
biggest film festivals — the Little Rock Film Festival, the Hot Springs
Documentary Film Festival and the Ozark Film Festival — can work

Without the donation of space from the Arlington to
host the event, there is a chance the Hot Springs Documentary Film
Festival might not have happened this year. “Hot Springs is a magical
place with magical people,” says Pledger. “I’m so happy I’m having the
chance to work on their festival. The damage to the Malco Theatre and
the immediate need to pull this festival together at the Arlington has
really brought the community together and has given us the opportunity
to incorporate into this year’s festival so much of the spirit of Hot
Springs. I hope Arkansans will come out in a major way to experience

More details on the schedule, films shown, and ticket prices can be found at or by calling 501-538-2290. Tickets can also be bought during the festival at the box office located on the first floor of the Arlington Hotel.

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