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Arkansas' Hollywood.

Will Hot Springs Become Known As Documentary Film Capital?

LAST OCTOBER, THE HOT Springs Documentary Film Festival debuted in a small but auspicious way.

In its first year, the two-day festival attracted more than 1,000 people, showed all 10 of the Academy Award-nominated documentaries for 1992 and played host to at least one representative from each film.

With a budget of $20,000, the festival showed the films for free to the general public and money was still left for wining and dining the guests, most of whom were the filmmakers themselves. Some were flown in from as far as France and Germany.

A fund-raiser earlier this month already has raised $17,000 for this year's fall festival, which has an overall budget of $40,000.

Richard Poole, a senior vice president at the Bank of Hot Springs, which contributed $10,000 of last year's $20,000 budget, points to a conversation he had at a cocktail party for the guests as just one reason why the film festival is important.

A sculptor from Amsterdam associated with one of the films had never been to the United States, but he told Poole, "in five years I will live in Hot Springs."

Poole related this story to a friend in Hot Springs who asked, "Does he have a stockbroker?"

Poole said he didn't know, but he added, "He sure has a banker."

The Bank of Hot Springs jumped at the chance to help a group of several Hot Springs residents and other Arkansas who were trying to create the festival.

The bank is smaller than competitors Worthen National Bank of Hot Springs and Arkansas Bank and Trust, a division of First Commercial Corp.

"We know we can't outspend them," Poole says. That's why the uniqueness of the film festival attracted the bank.

"It had pizzazz," he says. "It had romance that is not usually available."

Romance aside, Poole adds, "This just made a lot of sense. It's good for the city."

The '93 Festival

The Bank of Hot Springs is still providing $10,000 of this year's budget.

"We are just delighted it has taken on much greater proportions," Poole says.

The week-long 1993 festival will show classic documentaries such as "Roger and Me" in addition to several major documentaries not nominated this year, such as Robert Redford's "Incident at Oglala."

Then, of course, all the Academy Award-nominated films will be shown.

An April 3 fund-raiser with actor James Earl Jones as guest of honor raised $17,000 for the festival. Jones is not the only "star" who will be associated with the festival.

Organizers are working at having a "name" chairperson of the event, too.

Poole speaks for many Hot Springs residents when he says, "There's an awful lot of excitement about what this can mean."

Just as Hollywood is home for motion pictures, Poole says there is talk that Hot Springs could become the center for documentaries -- if there is enough interest.

The city, at least, is interested.

"We believe it can enhance tourism," says Gus Pappas, Hot Springs city manager. "You don't have to conduct very much exhaustive research to see that there is a growing hunger for the kind of entertainment that you see on the Discovery Channel."

Organizers are looking for the festival to be the focus of the Festival of the Arts each fall in Hot Springs.

In addition, Pappas says, "We have seen some recent examples of the popularity of Arkansas as a scene for moviemaking, and we see it as an industry that we have the possibility of wooing."

Hot Springs Mayor Melinda Baran has been involved with the festival this year, but the city is not making predictions on any expected numbers or returns.

Pappas says, "The function we have is not so much in the anticipated market share. It's more in line with economic development in general."
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Title Annotation:Hot Springs
Author:Rengers, Carrie
Publication:Arkansas Business
Date:Apr 26, 1993
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