Documentaries All Day

Documentaries All Day

Hot Springs Film Festival going strong


Jen Gerber, executive director of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Fest, knows a little something about filmmaking: She holds an MFA from New York’s Columbia University in writing and directing, served as the creative director of the School of Creative and Performing Arts in Los Angeles and, oh yeah, directed the well-received movie “The Revival,” released in 2017.

“I grew up in Hot Springs, and I first attended the festival as a high school student, participating in a school field trip,” she says of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Fest, now in its 28th year — which makes it the longest running all-documentary film festival in North America. “That was the first time I saw a working filmmaker, the first time I really understood what was going on behind the scenes — the first introduction to something that actually became my career.”

Gerber says she is “definitely a living example” of the importance of what she learned at the festival.

“As a result, I’ve put an immense amount of passion and effort into the educational programming we offer,” she says. “It’s more than just field trip screenings: We’ve added workshops and a filmmaking program for high school students. We do guest lecture programs at schools. We do quite a lot of outreach for our students.”

Actress Diane Ladd is being honored as the festival’s chairwoman and will kick off the HSDFF with a keynote address.

Gerber says this year is particularly exciting for the festival, as it will include three world premieres. “Flannery,” directed by Elizabeth Coffman and Mark Bosco, will open the festival.

“It’s about Flannery O’Connor and has been getting a lot of awards already,” she says. “And it hasn’t even screened yet; we have that privilege. It’s a film about a Southern icon, with Southern themes, which we love to highlight at our festival. Plus, it’s directed by a woman, and over 50 percent of our films this year are. We’re really proud of that.”

“Objector,” directed by Molly Stuart, is the festival’s centerpiece film and tells the story of a 19-year-old Israeli woman who attempts to refuse conscription into the Israeli army. Both Atalya Ben-Abba, the subject of the documentary, and Stuart will be in attendance.

Closing the film festival is “Quest of the Nerd Muscle,” a documentary that follows body builders participating in the first ever cosplay bodybuilding competition.

“They’re trying to transform their bodies into a superhero type of body,” she explains.

“I also think it’s worth mentioning that we have an Arkansas film, ‘Men and Women of Distinction: Governor,’ about our former governor, Mike Beebe,” Gerber says. “He’ll be in attendance. We are so fortunate that over half of our features will have filmmakers in attendance. That’s one thing that I really think sets the film viewing experience apart: Here, you get to meet the director and, often, the subject of the film and have an in-depth conversation about the film’s issues.”



Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

WHEN — Through Oct. 26; see website for full schedule

WHERE — Films will screen at various venues in and around Hot Springs; see website for location details

COST — $12-$50

INFO — 538-0452 or

Categories: Galleries