Here at the Arkansas Times, we love film. If somebody offered this reporter a realistic job working in the movies, I might well quit writing in the middle of this sentence, take the "PRESS" card out of the brim of my fedora, and head for the door. That's not going to happen, though, so we've got to be content to admire the bright lights of Tinseltown from the comfort of an air-conditioned theater with a box of chocolate-covered raisins close at hand. Luckily for film lovers, the Central Arkansas cinema scene has really blossomed in recent years, with several great festivals and film series popping up to tempt lovers of talking pictures. Here's a few that we've caught wind of.
LITTLE ROCK FILM FESTIVAL
June 1-5, 2011
$30 for a full-ride pass
It's kinda risky to call a film festival that's only five years old a Little Rock institution, but things are moving faster in this digital age, and the LRFF shows every sign of being with us for a long time. That's definitely a good thing. Started in 2006 by Jamie Moses, Owen Brainard and documentary filmmakers Brent and Craig Renaud, the festival is held each spring, and offers awards in a number of categories, including best Southern Film and best Arkansas Film. Last year, the festival screened over 100 flicks and organized a number of panels and workshops featuring real-life Hollywood types and fascinating discussions. More than 25,000 movie lovers turned out to sit in dark rooms and share the love. Best of all, it's cheap: just $30 for a pass that gets you into all the films and attendant events.
THE 48 HOUR FILM PROJECT — LITTLE ROCK
Generally in mid-summer
Riverdale Cinema 10
2600 Cantrell Road, Little Rock
Admission: $10 per group to watch the films; $135 to register to make a movie.
Unlike several of the festivals on this list, the 48 Hour Film Project has films to screen solely because those in the audience sweated blood and shed tears to create them. It is exactly what it sounds like: over the course of 48 hours in a weekend, participants must write, shoot and edit a film of seven minutes of less (to keep everybody honest, filmmakers are given a prop, a character's name and a line of dialogue that must appear in the completed film). The result is a wild, tiring and amazingly fun weekend, with the town full of no-budget film crews shooting on a wing and a prayer. Surprisingly, a lot of the resulting films — which screen in two groups the week after the film project weekend — aren't half bad. The winner of the Little Rock leg goes on to compete with other 48 Hour films from cities around the globe.
800 W. Ninth St., Little Rock
Admission: $20 per car, or $5 walk-ups
Arkansas Flag and Banner owner Kerry McCoy said summer 2010's Dreamland Drive-In, — with classic movies projected on the side of the historic Dreamland Ballroom, which houses Flag and Banner — was something of a wash because everybody got too hot sitting in their cars. This year, the series will move to the much-more-comfortable autumn. Dates haven't been finalized yet, but she said to check www.dreamlandballroom.org for schedules and more information.
REEL CIVIL RIGHTS FILM FESTIVAL
First weekend in February
Market Street Cinema
1521 Merrill Drive, Little Rock
Sponsored by the Central High School National Historic Site
In a city where the struggle for civil rights looms so large and institutionalized racial injustice is not that far in the rearview mirror, it's great that the Central High School National Historic Site is willing to help us all take an extended look at what cinema has to say about race and race relations in America and the world. This year will mark the fourth year for the festival, which generally shows documentaries. Last year's lineup was great, with docs on everything from hip-hop culture to a group of women filmmakers in Zambia. For more information, visit the Central High School National Historic Site website at www.nps.gov/chsc.
LAMAN LIBRARY MOVIE MONDAYS
Second Monday of each month, at 6 p.m.
William F. Laman Public Library
2801 Orange St., N. Little Rock
North Little Rock's William F. Laman Public Library has been a leader in recent years in bringing free programs to the public, from their fun street fairs at the Argenta branch, to their innovative three-free-mp3s-per-week deal for library card holders. For 2011, they're taking their largess in a cinematic direction, offering the best in documentary film with their monthly "Movie Monday" documentary series. Laman Library recently installed a state-of-the-art video suite, including a 10-by-14 foot screen and a theater-quality digital surround sound system. Should make for a great (and cheap) time at the movies. Check their website at www.lamanlibrary.org for a full schedule.
KARN/DAVE ELSWICK CLASSIC FILM SERIES
7 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month
Market Street Cinema
1521 Merrill Drive, Little Rock
Admission: $5, children under 12 free
While we might not always agree with the politics espoused by local conservative/libertarian talk radio personality Dave Elswick of KARN, there is one thing we can all agree on: It's great to see classic films on the big screen. To that end, Elswick has fielded his monthly Classic Film Series in recent years, with the selections leaning toward classics and tried-and-true American favorites like "Shane," "Top Gun," "North By Northwest," "Halloween" and "The Godfather."
SHOW YOUR SHORTS
The Arkansas Community Arts Cooperative
608 Main St., Little Rock
Held twice a year (in 2010, the series ran in Feb. and Nov.)
Admission: $5; $20 ACAC membership to submit a film
Artsy types who move to Little Rock may be pleasantly surprised by the vibrant film community here. Thanks to the digital camera revolution of recent years, any aspiring Coppola (Francis Ford or Sofia, take your pick) can walk into Best Buy with a credit card and a dream, and walk out with the tools needed to make a good-looking film. The result has been a flood of creativity. The members of the Arkansas Community Arts Cooperative put their cinematic chops on display twice a year, inviting filmmakers to submit finished or in-progress pieces of up to 30 minutes. Films are screened on a first-come, first-served basis, so fire up your camcorder and make some magic.
MOVIES IN THE PARK
400 President Clinton Ave., Little Rock
Sundown every Wednesday night from June to early August
While films are always fun for us no matter what the circumstance, seeing them under the stars with around 1,000 of our closest friends is a rare and singular treat. That's why we love the Movies in the Park series, which runs pop-culture faves like "The Dark Knight" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" from June to early August, starting at sundown on Wednesday nights. The brainchild of some of the young turks eager to make Little Rock a more cosmopolitan place to live (we're looking at you, Blake Rutherford), MITP has grown into a big swatch of our fair city's cultural fabric. Bring a lawn chair, or — even better — a blanket.
North Shore River Walk, NLR
On the riverfront between the Main Street and Broadway Bridge
Sundown on Thursday nights, late spring/early summer
Though the similarity of North Little Rock's River Flicks series to Little Rock's Movies in the Park set some tongues clucking last summer, promoters are quick to point out that River Flicks is actually a revival of an outdoor film series that dates back to 1997. Who's the copycat now, huh? Whatever. We're just stoked about the idea of potentially getting two nights per week of free outdoor cinema beside the river. Last year, River Flicks leaned toward more modern films than its south-of-the-river rival, featuring films like "Iron Man," "The Lovely Bones," and "The Blind Side." All projected on a state-of-the-art 10,000 lumen projector with what they call "large screen and sound," it's definitely the kind of competition we can get behind. For more info on films and dates, check their Facebook page at www.facebook.com/riverflicks.