The First Boys of Spring will help usher in fall in the Spa City.
The 24th annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival rolls this weekend -- starting Friday with one of the nation's most acclaimed character actors, Stephen Tobolowsky in The Primary Instinct. On Saturday, a highlight will be Larry Foley's latest movie, The First Boys of Spring. The latter is about the days when major league baseball players prepared for each season in Hot Springs, rather than in Florida or Arizona, their modern-day training sites.
Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
7 p.m. Friday-Oct. 18, Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa, 239 Central Ave. (Arkansas 7), Hot Springs (plus some events at other nearby locations)
Tickets: $30 Friday, opening night; $25 Saturday; $35 Oct. 17, closing night; $250 for VIP pass; $150 for Film Buff pass; $50 student pass; $25 day pass; $7.50 for single screening
Baseball Hall of Fame member Lou Brock, an El Dorado native who starred for the St. Louis Cardinals, will attend the screening of Foley's film at 11 a.m. Saturday, along with a discussion afterward. The film, narrated by Billy Bob Thornton, will be shown -- and discussion held -- in Horner Hall at the Hot Springs Convention Center, not far from where the bases Brock was famous for stealing sat.
Tobolowsky (who has portrayed characters in a host of movies and TV shows, including Groundhog Day, Thelma & Louise, Basic Instinct and Glee, Seinfeld and Deadwood) will address the mystique of storytelling.
"We have 143 films this year," says Courtney Pledger, now in her fourth year as festival director (she's also the executive director of the Arkansas Motion Picture Institute). "We were closing in on 1,000 submissions, and MovieMaker magazine has put us on their list of the 50 festivals worth the entry fee. So the festival's reputation is growing every year."
She continues, "We have twice the number of short films this year, and they are competing for the titles of Spa City Best U.S. Documentary, Spa City Best International Documentary and Spa City Best Sports Documentary. They qualify for consideration in
the Documentary Short Subject category at the annual Academy Awards."
Several festival-loving veterans are returning, Pledger says, including noted actor and author Peter Coyote, who will read from his memoir, The Rainman's Third Cure, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Oct. 16.
Mammoth Spring native Tess Harper will take part in a forum of sorts.
"She will show some clips from her career and share stories about life, Hollywood and truth," Pledger says. "She has a 30-year career in film and television to talk about, and another native who will return is Harry Thomason, who has an update of his 2004 film, called The Hunting of the President: Redux, and he will be joined by one of the people who was prominent in that era, Susan McDougal."
Thomason and McDougal will take questions after the screening of his film at 8:30 p.m. Saturday.
Another film with a state theme is Woke Up One Mornin' in the Arkansas Delta, directed by Benjamin Meade, a former festival director, with music by Arkansas singer-songwriter-guitarist Paul Sammons. The film will be shown at 6:45 p.m. Monday.
Shoulder the Lion, to be shown at 3:15 p.m. Sunday, looks at how the loss of one of the senses affects the work of three artists -- a blind photographer, a musician with hearing loss and a painter who lost part of her brain in a boxing match.
Be Here Now (The Andy Whitfield Story) will have two showings: at 5:15 p.m. Sunday and 5:50 p.m. Oct. 15. The film follows the journey of Whitfield, an actor who starred in the TV series Spartacus, and his wife after his cancer diagnosis -- when they take healing into their own hands.
Mad Tiger, to be shown at 8 p.m. Oct. 16, deals with the relationship between two Japanese musicians, Yellow and Red, whose band Peelander-Z has played several central Arkansas shows in recent years. After 15 years, Red has decided to quit, straining the friendship of the two men.
Mavis!, the story of Mavis Staples, will be shown at 8:15 p.m. Oct. 14. Starting in her family's band, The Staples Singers, Mavis, now 75, has built a career that has endured.
The closing weekend of the festival will feature several films that Pledger is eager to tout. The Prince of Pennsylvania examines the real-life events that inspired a 2014 feature film, Foxcatcher, in which Steve Carell portrayed John du Pont, a wealthy member of the DuPont chemical company family who killed Olympic athlete Dave Schultz.
The Great Alone, to be shown at 6 p.m. Oct. 16, is the story of four-time champion Alaska dogsled racer Lance Mackey.
"He will be here with his lead husky, Amp, who he calls 'Mr. Hollywood,' due to him being such a publicity-loving dog," Pledger adds. "And Lance's mother, Kathie, will also accompany Lance and Amp."
Made in Japan, to be shown at 7 p.m. Oct. 17, depicts the life of Tomi Fujiyama, known as Japan's "First Lady of Country Music." She once played the Grand Ole Opry in the 1960s after Johnny Cash; she received the night's only standing ovation.
"She's a little spitfire, and she will also perform for our after-party," Pledger says.
And what with this year's festival being the 24th annual, film buffs can expect a major celebration in 2016, Pledger pledges: "We'll bring some people back from the past and of course there will be new folks, also. It will be a pretty big deal. That much is for certain."
Style on 10/06/2015
Print Headline: 143 docs in the house