by Matthew Rowe
"The Art of Crystal Bridges"
Jim Borden and Larry Foley
"Up Among the Hills"
Full disclosure: Larry Foley taught me everything I know about the art and craft of making documentary film while I was one of his students at the University of Arkansas. The longtime journalism professor has been teaching some of the best documentary talents the state has to offer, and this program featuring three of his latest works are master classes in respectable and solid documentary filmmaking.
Foley has been covering the state for decades, first as a reporter for KATV, then as a producer for AETN, and now as a professor at Fayetteville. The three films here all showcase different parts of the state and a range of subjects, but Foley's trademark writing style feels familiar and new at once. The photography provided by Hayot Tuychiev in "The Art of Crystal Bridges" and "Up Among The Hills" makes for soothing images, and the verite camera work of Jim Borden in "Growing Hope" is dogged in its pursuit of immersion.
"The Art of Crystal Bridges," narrated by Mary Steenburgen, is a look at the Bentonville art museum built by Walmart heiress Alice Walton. We're shown the work that goes into selecting art, showcasing it and creating an appropriate building. We see the care that goes into maintaining the balance between a sophisticated mission and a serene, natural setting. The film is a good look at the museum during its first year.
"Growing Hope" is a portrait of the work of Arkansas Baptist College president Fitz Hill. Hill feels he has a calling from God to not only lead ABC, but to grow and improve the community around it. Co-produced by Foley and Borden, "Growing Hope" is an interesting work that shows Hill's determination to provide an education to anyone he meets. Uplifting and sharp, the film provides insight to those who feel their work in the community is an act of a higher power.
Foley's most recent film, "Up Among The Hills," is a positive history of Fayetteville. Narrated by favorite son Bill Clinton, "Up Among The Hills" shows a version of Fayetteville that I only caught glimpses of as a student there. Tuychiev's camera captures postcard worthy images, and the different stories of the past and present combine into one singular narrative of a place that Foley is obviously proud to call home.
These three films all feature great stories of Arkansas, and Larry Foley is a good caretaker of its history. Be sure to catch these when you can.