Hot Springs is quickly becoming a hub for film festivals featuring talent from around the world. The most recent addition thrown into the mix is the first-ever Hot Springs International Women’s Film Festival.
The festival takes place March 17-18 at the Central Theater, 1008 Central Ave., and features a variety of feature-length films, shorts and documentaries from across the globe. A weekend festival pass is $45 but single-day passes and tickets for single screenings are available.
Festival attendees can expect several opportunities to interact with filmmakers at a morning meet and greet session the opening day of the festival, Q&A sessions with filmmakers after specific films, and small seminar-like crash courses in different areas of the film industry, festival director Bill Volland said.
Volland said he wanted to highlight the exemplary work done by women in the film industry because he noticed a lack of recognition and opportunities for women in the business. All the films selected for the festival feature the fruit of so many hard-working women’s labor, be it acting in the leading role, writing a compelling script, or producing quality films.
“I’ve spent many years in the film industry and I’ve seen it’s harder for women to get jobs, and even when they do, they are not paid as much. Between that and what is going on in the world, I feel something like this (festival) needs to happen in Hot Springs,” he said.
Volland has spent several months organizing and preparing for the festival. His extensive background in Hollywood and knowledge of running the Hot Springs Horror Film Festival helped him immensely in the months leading up to the festival. He said the HSWFF is just part of a long-term plan he formed after purchasing the theater following a visit to Hot Springs.
Although he had no intention of moving to the area, Volland has spent the past eight years revamping the historic Central Theater. With four already well-established film festivals taking place in Hot Springs, Volland said he sees room for even more growth.
HER Magazine reached out to a select group of filmmakers, writers, producers and actresses participating in the festival to learn more about each film and the process they experienced. Through direct interviews, access to press kits from films, and access to the submitted films, we put together an exclusive look at the first-ever Hot Springs International Women’s Film Festival.
“The Way Madness Lies”
This feature-length documentary film follows Duane Luckow’s dangerous, and often scary, journey through mental illness. Luckow became an avid amateur filmmaker in his twenties, documenting nearly every detail of his daily life. After his diagnosis and court-ordered treatment in his forties, his sister, Sandra Luckow, began trolling his footage looking for answers. This journey eventually led her to combine her own research and footage with her brother’s footage to create this compelling documentary.
Throughout the film, viewers witness the stark, sad reality of what a family affected by mental illness experiences. Duane’s refusal of treatment and denial of mental illness led the Luckow family to experience firsthand how health care in the United States fails the mentally ill.
“I was hoping to find some clues in them that would help us understand what happened to him. People who had known him, and the first question by people who did not know him, is, ‘Were there any signs?’ Ultimately, I don’t think it matters if there were or not because everyone totally missed them if there were. However, I did find some startling insights in his student films,” said filmmaker Sandra Luckow.
Following the 2016 presidential election, student filmmaker Hayleyann Evers felt compelled to respond to the country’s social injustices and advocate change. Evers created the film as part of her undergraduate education at Western Oregon University. With the help of a videographer and camera assistant, she addresses the effect the 2016 presidential election had on women and how they now use the term “nasty woman” as a catalyst for change.
Her experimental film combines original poetry, dance, and cinematography in a campaign against gender inequality. She not only wrote and recorded the poem used in the film but also performed and choreographed the dance. Evers said she spent weeks in the studio perfecting her movements in a way that best represented the message she wished to convey and compliment her spoken words.
“As a dancer first and foremost, I wanted to create a piece of choreography that represented how I feel about the volatile political state of our country. When I was searching for music or sound to accompany the piece, I was inspired by the events that took place during the 2016 presidential election season to write a poem that addressed some of the misogynistic comments that were made. I also wanted to create a work of art that could be accessed for years to come,” Evers said.
“Black Wake” follows the journey of scientist, Dr. Luiza and her mission to uncover the source of an infection turned epidemic. The film uses a found footage approach, without the motion sickness, to create a mystery that audiences and Dr. Luiza solve together.
After scores of people fall ill and ultimately become zombie-like creatures, Dr. Luiza makes it her mission to uncover the cause of the epidemic. Eventually, she becomes consumed by her mission and slowly begins to question her own mental state. Towards the end, the true cause of the outbreak is revealed and it’s far beyond what anyone could have imagined.
“Jerry Janda wrote the original script in found footage style so that audience would discover the clues of this epidemic at the same time as our protagonist. Jeremiah Kipp (director) and I expanded the story to bring this to a feature film length and kept the found footage style. At the same time, we did not want it to appear like other found footage films, showing a lot of shaky camera movements. All the footage make sense and gives the audience an interesting perspective of being there,” producer Carlos Keyes said.
Melody Makers is a feature-length documentary capturing the birth of rock ‘n’ roll journalism by following the story of Melody Maker magazine from its inception in 1926 as a musician’s trade paper, to its hay day as an internationally recognized pillar for rock ‘n’ roll fans and musicians by the mid-1960s.
Throughout the film, chief contributing photographer at Melody Maker magazine Barrie Wentzell opens up his archives and relives the stories behind the images. Wentzell, along with other prominent musicians and individuals involved with the magazine, weaves intricate stories of the music industry during a time when access was wide open.
“During this 10-year period prior to 1975 where journalists had unprecedented access, Wentzell amounted this incredible archive. I just knew I was going to turn the camera on him one day because he had so many great photos with wonderful stories behind them,” said filmmaker Leslie Ann Coles.
“Days of Power”
In this film, writer and producer Michel Grey sheds light on the gruesome topic of puppy mills in America. Using a unique approach, Grey captivates the audience with a chilling horror film that depicts the violence of puppy mills happening to people. Following her own experience with a puppy mill, Grey said she felt compelled to bring this dark reality to the big screen.
The film follows an international pop star and her band mates who end up going missing. As the pieces fall into place, it becomes evident that the band found themselves in a situation where they must fight for their lives. The intertwining of fact and fiction sheds light on the atrocities of puppy mills in a brand new way.
“No one, including myself, wants to watch animals being abused but I felt like I needed to give those animals a voice. I thought this could be an effective way to connect with the general public by utilizing the fascination people have with the thriller/horror genres to raise awareness about what goes on in puppy mills. People happily watch humans endure all types of abuse and torture. If we raise the question as to what a puppy mill is and we get coverage for those voices then we have succeeded,” she said.
Saturday, March 17
• 9:30 a.m. — Filmmakers meet and greet at Will’s Cinnamon Shop
• 10 a.m. — “Into the Green,” a short student film directed by Arkansas filmmaker Mary McDade Casteel. Run time: 15 minutes.
• 10:15 a.m. — “Alfred J. Hemlock,” a short horror film directed by Edward Lyons. Run time: 15 minutes.
• 10:30 a.m. — “Happy Birthday, Mango!” a short film directed by Eva Colmers. Run time: 15 minutes.
• 10:45 a.m. — “Zebrafish: Practically People, Transforming the Study of Disease,” a short documentary film directed by Jennifer A. Manner. Run time: 10 minutes.
• 11:05 a.m. — “August in Berlin,” a feature-length film directed by Becky Smith, who will hold a short Q&A session following the film’s premiere. Run time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
• 12:35 p.m. — “Cocktails for Two,” a short film directed by Arkansas filmmaker John Cooksey. Run time: 3 minutes.
• 12:40 p.m. — “Women are the Answer,” a feature-length documentary film directed by Fiona Cochrane. Run time: 1 hour 31 minutes.
• 2:15 p.m. — “Hearts of Steel,” a short documentary film directed by Gayle Wilmot. Run time: 21 minutes.
• 2:36 p.m. — Intermission
• 3:30 p.m. — “Nasty Woman,” a short student film directed by Hayleann Evers. Run time: 4 minutes 25 seconds.
• 3:35 p.m. — “A Year with Betty Gold,” a feature-length documentary film directed by J. McMerty. Run time: 1 hour.
• 4:35 p.m. — “Me Too,” a short film directed by Tony Paulley. Run time: 5 minutes.
• 4:40 p.m. — “Catching Sight of Thelma & Louise,” a feature-length documentary directed by Jennifer Townsend. Run time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
• 6:10 p.m. — “The Things They Left Behind,” a short horror film directed by Sara Werner. Run time: 30 minutes.
• 6:45 p.m. — “Left on Pearl,” a short documentary film directed by Susan Rivo. Run time: 55 minutes.
• 7:40 p.m. — Intermission for St. Patrick’s Day Parade
• 8:45 p.m. — “Black Wake,” a feature-length experimental film directed by Jeremiah Kipp, who will hold a short Q&A session following the film’s premiere. Run time: 1 hour 31 minutes.
• 10:15 p.m. — “Fattitude,” a feature-length documentary film directed by Lindsey Averill and Viridiana Lieberman. Run time: 1 hour 30 minutes.
Sunday, March 18
• 10:30 a.m. — “The Scarecrow,” a short experimental film directed by Leah Pollack. Run time: 3 minutes.
• 10:35 a.m. — “Living Colors,” a short film directed by Alicia Hayes. Run time: 21 minutes.
• 11 a.m. — “Fighting to be Free,” a short documentary film directed by Cheryl Halpern. Run time: 30 minutes.
• 11:30 a.m. — “Cracking Aces,” a feature-length documentary film directed by H. James Gilmore, who will hold a short Q&A session following the film’s premiere. Run time: 1 hour 6 minutes.
• 1 p.m. — “Melody Makers,” a feature-length documentary directed by Leslie-Ann Coles, who will hold a short Q&A session following the film’s premiere. Run time: 1 hour 35 minutes.
• 2:55 p.m. — “Erase and Forget,” a feature-length documentary directed by Andrea Luka Zimmerman. Run time: 1 hour 22 minutes.
• 4:15 p.m. — Intermission
• 4:30 p.m. — “Weird,” a short animated film directed by Fausto Montanari. Run time: 2 minutes.
• 4:35 p.m. — “The Way Madness Lies,” a feature-length documentary directed by Sandra Luckow, who will hold a short Q&A session following the film’s premiere. Run time: 1 hour 41 minutes.
• 6:45 p.m. — “Straight from the Pen,” a short documentary film directed by Paul Sutton, who will hold a short Q&A session following the film’s premiere. Run time: 52 minutes.
• 8 p.m. — “Days of Power,” a feature-length horror film directed by Jason Pagnoni, who will hold a short Q&A session following the film’s premiere. Run time: 1 hour 41 minutes.
• 10:10 p.m. — “In Lorton’s Darkroom,” a short documentary film directed by Karen Ruckman. Run time: 40 minutes.
*Show times vary depending on Q&A sessions