Cajun music documentaries by Les Blank and four films on Southern food culture lead the bill at the 2010 Ozark Foothills Filmfest, set for March 24-28 in Batesville.
The festival, now in its ninth year, should include more than 50 entries this year, including 20 by Arkansas filmmakers, president and co-founder Bob Pest said.
The Little Rock Film Festival follows in June, and will announce its lineup in May, and like the Batesville screenings it will put an emphasis on Southern film. “This year we really want to embrace the fact that we're from the South, and we're one of the premiere Southern film festivals,” said director Jack Lofton.
The Ozark Foothills Filmfest is partnering this year with the Southern Foodways Alliance of Oxford, Miss., on a
special showcase, “Southern Succulents.” The showcase will feature four films from the alliance, including “Above the Line: Saving Willie Mae's Scotch House,” about a chicken-frying expert and the rebuilding of her New Orleans restaurant after Hurricane Katrina.
But, as Pest notes, the big deal is Blank, an acclaimed documentary filmmaker who often focuses his lens on folk culture. He'll screen “J'ai Ete au Bal” and “Marc and Ann,” each featuring the Savoy Family Cajun Band. The band will perform Saturday night, March 27, after the screenings.
Pest bills his festival as “filmmaker friendly.” There are no prizes awarded. “We've kept it noncompetitive to encourage young, emerging filmmakers,” he said.
A grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will allow the OFF to offer a half-day independent-film marketing workshop. Heidi Van Lier, filmmaker and author of “The Indie Film Rule Book,” will conduct the free workshop Friday afternoon, March 26.
The Batesville festival, which will take place largely on the campus of the University of Arkansas Community College, is thriving and, unlike many film festivals, here to stay, according to Pest.
The LRFF, now in its fourth year, looks like it's becoming an institution. The five-day event will be held June 2-6 in downtown Little Rock.
Festival director Jack Lofton said the attendance at the festival grew from 3,000 its first year to 20,000 in 2009. “Like most thriving cities that have an art scene, people in Little Rock are really hungry for film,” he said.
The number of films to be shown is also on the rise. “We had around 85 films and 160 screenings last year,” said Lofton. “We're going to have over 100 films this year.”
The Oxford American magazine will present the inaugural Best Southern Film Award at the Little Rock festival. Any Arkansan can submit his or her film for free to the “Made in Arkansas” program. The deadline for film entries is April 15.
The LRFF will also include acting workshops this year, “with some recognizable names,” Lofton said. Those names will be announced in May; Lofton said the festival is working with an actor from ABC TV's “Grey's Anatomy.”
There will also be an Arkansas music video competition, lectures, panel discussions and parties — including the Oxford American's opening night party, a deejayed party aboard the Arkansas Queen riverboat and a “Twitter party,” the location of which will be revealed via the social networking site. The gala and awards ceremony, co-sponsored by the Arkansas Times, will be held at the Clinton Presidential Library.
Need a film fix before the major film festivals? Market Street Cinema in Little Rock has its Found Footage Film Festival coming up Friday, March 12 (see the To-Do List, page 26, for more details).