In the days leading up to the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, volunteers have been busy rolling out the red carpet. Literally. Workers replaced the much-damaged carpet leading to and inside the historic Malco Theater, the home base of the documentary film institute, earlier this week.
It's fitting that the festival, now in its 17th year, would get a makeover. More filmmakers than ever will attend this year's eight-day festival, including legendary documentarian Albert Maysles (“Salesman,” “Grey Gardens,” “Gimme Shelter”). Some 100 docs will screen, and more than 20,000 viewers are expected to attend the country's first documentary festival in the country.
Diversity defines this year's slate of films, says executive director Malinda Herr-Chambliss, an original founder of the festival who's now in her second year guiding the event. “There's a lot for each generation. It's very important for us to be multi-cultural and multi-generational.” To that end, nearly a third of the films are international. There's still a provincial feel, though: More than 15 featured films have Arkansas ties. Daily film schedules will run as late as 11:30 p.m., which should appeal to the younger audience.
To help navigate the dense line-up (available on page 32), here are a few must-dos for the first weekend and early part of the week of the festival:
• Following the annual popcorn and champagne opening reception at 6 p.m., the festival opens with “Salesmen,” the Maysles brothers' cinema verite classic, at 7:05 p.m. Albert Maysles, 85, will be on hand to introduce it.
• On Saturday morning, from 10:30 a.m. until noon, Maysles and up-and-coming filmmaker Jane Gillooly will participate in “Documentary Metamorphosis,” a panel led by HSDFI board chair Dr. Ben Meade about the process of making a documentary and the constraints of the genre, then and now. The workshop will be held on the third floor Karicole Plaza, 620 Central Ave.
• The short documentary “I'm Like This Every Day,” by Little Rock native Mitchell Powers, delves into the live of outsider folk per-former Peter Stubb at 10:15 p.m. on Saturday. Powers and Stubb will be on hand for questions.
• On Sunday, at 12:05 p.m., Guy Maddin's surrealist “docu-fantasia” about his hometown, “My Winnipeg,” has racked up almost universal critical acclaim and a number of festival prizes.
• Later, on Sunday at 8:15 p.m., the Louis Jordan documentary “Is You Is” makes its world premiere. The Brinkley born musician is, of course, widely acknowledged as the grandfather of rock 'n' roll.
• “Wiener Takes All,” on Monday at 2 p.m., delves into the competitive world of dachshund racing, which is perhaps less cuddly than imagined. The film examines allegations of doping, match fixing and animal cruelty.
• He's made Hot Springs a tour stop several times in recent years. Garrison Keillor is the subject of a film of the same name at 8:10 p.m. on Monday.
Tickets are $5 per film. One-day passes are available for $20, three-day for $50 and 10-day for $150.