With iPads and streaming video services, it has never been easier for movie fans to watch whatever they want, whenever they want. But that has also turned what used to be a group activity into a solitary, isolated pursuit.
It doesn't have to be that way.
Ozark Foothills FilmFest
Friday-Saturday and April 10-11, locations in Batesville
Tickets: individual screenings $5, ages 55 and older and students $4, Foothills Film Society Members $3; Lonesome screening $10, $8 and $6; “Red Eye” All Movies Pass $25, $20 and $15
Foothills Film Society Memberships: $25
"The thing that is the lifeblood of film festivals is that interaction with the audience," says Judy Pest, executive director of the Ozark Foothills FilmFest.
The festival is now in its 14th year of presenting independent narrative and documentary films in the hills of Batesville. This year, they're breaking it up over two weekends, with all activities and screenings on Fridays and Saturdays.
"In the past, we've had a little bit of trouble getting people out on Sundays," Pest says.
It's a smaller festival than many. Larger festivals such as the Little Rock Film Festival have multiple screenings going on at any given time, but the Foothills Festival screens just one movie at a time. While that doesn't give attendees much of a choice, it also promotes a more intimate experience.
"We have a lot of folks who like to interact with other audience members and like the intimacy and clarity of the event," Pest says. "It's more laid-back and there are more opportunities to get to know the folks who are there."
That includes interactions with the filmmakers.
"From a filmmaker's point of view, it's important to get the feedback, and from the audience point of view, it's inspiring and instructive to be able to ask direct questions."
In addition to the usual post-screening question-and-answer sessions, the festival will also offer two other special opportunities for audiences to learn about filmmaking processes.
The first is the Coffee House Conversation with Jay Craven, a filmmaker and professor from rural Vermont whose film, Northern Borders, is being screened at the festival. At noon Friday at MorningSide Coffee House, he will answer questions and talk about community collaboration and independent film production.
He should have valuable, applicable insights to share since, as Pest explains, "There are a lot of parallels between the environment he works in and our own."
Then, at noon April 10, the Doug Talley Quartet will participate in a Campus Conversation at Lyon College, where the topic will be composing music for the movies.
Thanks to a grant from the Mid-America Arts Alliance, the festival was able to hire the quartet to compose music for Lonesome, a classic silent film that has been restored. The quartet will perform its music when the movie is screened, 8 p.m. April 10.
While they don't do it every year, Pest says festival coordinators make an effort to offer a genuine silent film experience when they can.
"It's just a rare opportunity to see films as people saw them in the 1920s, when pretty much every movie was accompanied by live music," Pest says. "It seems to interest people of all ages, really."
The program has been arranged so that each weekend and each day has a different theme, to appeal to a wide range of people. There are narratives like Craven's Northern Borders, starring Bruce Dern and Genevieve Bujold, and the documentary Misfire: The Rise and Fall of The Shooting Gallery, which tells the story of the independent film company that produced Sling Blade. They will all be screened in Independence Hall at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville.
While the festival is noncompetitive, they've added the From Around Here Arkansas Film Awards. All but one of the films screened on Saturday are by Arkansas filmmakers, and at 8 p.m., Arkansas Film Commissioner Christopher Crane will announce winners in the narrative and documentary categories.
"We are putting a little more focus on that local work," Pest says.
She adds that the films aren't necessarily youth-focused but they don't contain objectionable material and should be safe for children.
The reception that closes the festival on April 11 is open to members; basic membership is $25 and includes discounts for tickets.
There are other film festivals around, but Pest says the smaller festival set in a rural town of 10,000 people makes this one special. "It's surprising to a lot of people. Getting a taste of that rural experience in conjunction with a cultural event is a little bit unique. Most places, you get one or the other."
Weekend on 04/02/2015
Print Headline: Batesville film festival offers a chummier setting