Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Returns October 19 thru 27

It’s time once again for the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, the longest running documentary film festival in North America and is an Academy Award-qualifying festival in the Documentary Short Subject category. This year’s festival runs October 19-27 at the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa in Hot Springs.

This years festival once again features over 100 feature and short films. Festival passes range from $50 for a student pass and up-to $400 for all-access passes. General admission individual tickets are $12. Visit for more information.





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Born in Houston and raised in Memphis, Pyle had memorable small roles in movies and television until her breakout performance as the alien Lalari in Galaxy Quest. Since then, she’s been seen in both prestige films and pop-culture favorites, including The Artist, Gone Girl, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and Captain Fantastic! Pyle also co-stars in the comedy Nobody’s Fool, coming to theaters in November. (HSDFF)

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Morgen, whose acclaimed documentaries include The Kid Stays in the Picture, Chicago 10, and ESPN 30/30: June 17, 1994, will screen his latest Emmy and BAFTA nominated film, Jane, chronicling the life and work of primatologist Dame Jane Goodall. (HSDFF).

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Sally Jo Fifer

Sally Jo Fifer, the President and CEO of ITVS is coming to Hot Springs to receive an HSDFF IMPACT AWARD.

It can't be overstated how important ITVS is for the documentary community - they oversee funding, co-production and distribution of 50 independent docs a year! With Sally Jo Fifer at the helm, ITVS docs have won 25 Peabody awards and 16 Emmys but it's the endless championing of new voices in documentary (since 1989!) that we are very proud to honor! (HSDFF)v

Click on film titles for tickets and more info.




Directed by Sally Rubin, Ashley York


Hillbilly takes a political, philosophical, and personal journey into the heart of the Appalachian region to illuminate the point of view of a misunderstood population that is frequently mocked and blamed for America’s social ills—not to mention was a driving influence in the 2016 Presidential election that has widened the cultural divide in America.

This eye-opening film deconstructs the “hillbilly” stereotype and analyzes the media’s imagery and negative portrayals that have perpetuated a misconception of the rural Appalachian identity. The film counters this stereotype by highlighting some of the positive celebrity role models, including Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn, and interviewing some of the real people who call the Appalachian region home: an unexpectedly diverse group that includes artists, activists, intersectional feminists, queer musicians, and “Affrilachian” poets. Some of them reveal how they are torn between their love for their land and the frustrating reality of the polarizing politics.

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 Election, director Ashley York, a liberal feminist living in L.A., takes a trip back to her hometown in Eastern Kentucky and confronts her own family’s opposing political beliefs. Her approach sets an example of civility when discussing and understanding different political viewpoints and cultural identities.

Hillbilly sets the tone of this year’s Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival as it reflects the complexities and complications of our collective human experience.




Directed by Dana Adam Shapiro

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A light-hearted celebration and thought-provoking examination of the groundbreaking and earth-shaking phenomenon that was the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders during the 70s and the 80s. With amusing anecdotes from the former members and unprecedented interview access to Suzanne Mitchell, the director and “den mother” to the cheerleaders, their stories come alive in vivid detail — from the high kicks to the low blows. From their TV guest appearance on the Love Boat to entertaining the U.S. troops on an aircraft carrier, they lifted spirits and TV ratings alike. Under the visionary leadership of Mitchell, the team was a showcase for racial diversity and a display of liberating confidence. Creating a paradoxical image of sexy and wholesome at the same time, the cheerleaders had a very strict set of rules that prevented them from cheapening their image. They struggled to find their place as women with careers, higher education, and families, yet were likened to porn stars and sex objects. While many accused them of being exploited, the women felt empowered and gained a sense of pride and purpose, not only as cheerleaders of the Dallas Cowboys football team, but cheerleaders of America.

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As always, HSDFF features a great collection of docs Made in Arkansas so be sure to check them out!


Tuesday, October 23

SHORTS: Made in Arkansas - 10:00 am

8 Short Films - Various Directors



Local filmmakers showcase their natural talent by documenting reel life in the Natural State.


Short Films - Various Directors

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This screening will include a selection of Arkansas’s best student-created documentaries.


Directed by Larry Foley

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Take a tasty tour across Arkansas to visit unique places where homemade pies are baked to culinary perfection. Food writer Kat Robinson hosts this delicious field trip to rural kitchens, city cafes, and family-owned bakeries. From the Delta to the Ozark Hills, a diverse and eclectic batch of bakers create sweet masterpieces, with just the right amount of love and creative soul. Join us for a slice of pie after the screening of this AETN-produced documentary.


Directed by Scarlett Gooch



With his trademark irreverent, self-deprecating humor, Anthony Valinoti shares his secret recipe to success and happiness as he brings New York attitude and flavor to Hot Springs with his Deluca’s Pizzeria.


INGRID - 5:00 pm

Directed by Morrisa Maltz

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Ingrid Gipson was a successful fashion designer who gave up her big city career for a reclusive life of solitude and unhindered creativity in the Ouachita Mountains. Rather than analyzing what led to her extreme change of lifestyle, this poetic film purposefully explores her current world as she lives off the land, creating clay sculptures out of rocks from a nearby creek. Every detail from the cinematic visual composition to the evocative soundscape is executed to perfection, creating a fitting tribute to an artist who lives life on her own terms.


Kevin - 7:00 pm -free screening, ticket reservations required

Directed by Mark Thiedeman

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After struggling with numerous health conditions, homelessness, and a community overrun with poverty and drug abuse, a young skateboarder chooses to live life on his own terms, becoming a source of inspiration for the friends and family around him.

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Hot Springs pizza culture is in the throes of a renaissance and Grateful Head is leading the charge! Occupying a historic building once known as The Exchange, Grateful Head boasts the most spacious and inviting mountainside patio in Hot Springs, only a few steps from Bathhouse Row. Cradled on the steep slope of National Park’s West Mountain, pulsing with the forest’s nighttime buzz, a belly full of warm pizza and cold beer…it doesn’t get much more Arkansas than this. DJ Courier Coleman spins. Co-Hosted by Southern Documentary Fund / Fresh Docs Series.

Thursday, October 25


Directed by Donal Mosher, Michael Palmieri

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Two hundred miles away from Hot Springs is the other tourist mecca in Arkansas. The spa town of Eureka Springs is home of healing waters, a Christian Passion Play, gospel-themed drag shows, and an epic battle to pass a municipal law that would protect LGBTQ citizens and visitors from discrimination. Eureka Springs has one of the highest per-capita gay populations alongside a large evangelical Christian population.

As the vote for City Ordinance 2223 races towards its decision, the film poetically explores the surreal atmosphere of a town with such stark contrasts and conflicting opinions. The colorful cast of characters include a devoutly Christian gay couple who own a local bar which they refer to as “The Hillbilly Studio 54”; The Passion Play’s singing pastor and master of ceremonies who sounds like Elvis during his rendition of “Peace in the Valley”; and a passionate drag performer singing “You can’t pray the gay away.”

Archival footage conjures up ghosts from the past including infamous anti-gay activists Gerald L.K. Smith, who commissioned the largest Christ statue in North America that overlooks the town, and singer Anita Bryant, who tried to stage a comeback concert in Eureka Springs. With their hopeful film, Donal Mosher and Michael Palmieri present a miraculous vision of a Southern Utopia where two divergent populations co-exist peacefully and where religious-themed attractions and diversity festivals compete for tourist dollars.


Directed by Stephen Stanley

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The small Arkansas town of Conway has had an annual LGBT Pride Parade since 2004. When the 2017 edition is threatened after the founders pass away, their adopted children band together to save a local institution and honor their gay dads.



Hot Springs just got hotter! The Gospel of Eureka comes to life, live and in person, as historic Whittington Place welcomes some of the film’s most dynamic divas to their stage, direct from Eureka Springs! What better place for Felicia Blackhart, Ginger Styles, Missy Cline, and Charnay Cassidine to make their regional debut than this wonderfully cathedral-esque room, flanked by breathtaking stained glass windows and a church organ of truly Biblical proportions! DJ Courier Coleman mans the turntables.

Friday, October 26


Directed by Adam Harbottle


The Lumberjack World Championship is beautifully captured on film by local Arkansas filmmaker Adam Harbottle, in all of its log-rolling, pole-climbing, wood-chopping glory. This action-packed documentary follows David Jewett and Abby Hoeschler as they compete among hundreds of athletes for bragging rights and hopes of being crowned the world’s best lumberjack and lumberjill. It’s like the rural, nature version of American Ninja Warrior.