Best Of Both Worlds: Fayetteville Film Fest goes live and online

Best Of Both Worlds: Fayetteville Film Fest goes live and online
LARA JO HIGHTOWER/Special to the Free Weekly

The decision to take the 2020 Fayetteville Film Fest online only was a tough one, says Executive Director Russell Sharman, but the experience left organizers with some innovative ways to make the 2021 event more accessible and exciting.

“American Cherry” is described as “a teenage emotional rollercoaster that is your first young love [and] a warning about the destruction of empathy.” (Courtesy Photo)

“It was actually a huge success — we had a lot of great programming in terms of streaming content,” says Sharman. “We were able to do a lot of really cool panels and Q-and-As that we might not normally get to do, with folks who might not have made the trip otherwise. So we’re kind of bringing that forward, trying to find the best that we learned from that experience and apply it to this year — but to also bring back some of that in-person excitement.”

The result: a hybrid event, with live films viewed in downtown Fayetteville or, as the event’s publicity materials say, “streaming anywhere in the galaxy.” On the schedule are 10 narrative and documentary features and more than 40 short films. Panel discussions include “Films for Change,” a “discussion with filmmakers featured in this year’s festival whose films inspire or focus on change,” and “Fix It Before Post,” a panel intended to “give participants the opportunity to hear from post-production experts on best practices to help you have successful post-production.”

Also generating a lot of excitement is the Fayetteville Film Fest Micheaux Award and Film Lab, designed, according to the organization’s website, “to support and encourage creation and authorship of Arkansas-based projects from Black, Indigenous and filmmakers of color through two initiatives: The Micheaux Award, which will distribute funds to BIPOC filmmakers in two cycles throughout the year; and The Film Lab, which facilitates year-round educational and workshop opportunities to strengthen the Arkansas-based BIPOC film community.”

“Daughter of a Lost Bird” follows Kendra, an adult Native adoptee, as she reconnects with her birth family, discovers her Lummi heritage, and confronts issues of her own identity. Her singular story represents many affected by the Indian Child Welfare Act and Indian Adoption Project. (Courtesy Photo)

“Part of the mission of the organization has always been to support local filmmaking, not just independent cinema in general,” says Sharman. “And that means not only wanting to support filmmakers in Northwest Arkansas, specifically, but also the whole state of Arkansas.”

The Micheaux Award and Film Lab started shortly before covid-19, says Sharman, and carry cash awards of up to $1,500 per project. Educational events are also part of this program.

“We started it specifically to support and encourage filmmakers of color with an historical connection to Arkansas,” Sharman explains. “So maybe they live here, maybe they work here, maybe their parents are from here, maybe they’re Native American and their heritage has some connection to the land — we want to support anyone with that kind of Arkansas tie.”

This will be the fourth year the organization also hands out another major award: the Fayetteville Film Prize, sponsored by Rockwell Studios.

“That’s an opportunity for everyone to pitch an idea for a short film, and the winner gets $2,000 to help them make their film — and then we screen their film the following year,” Sharman explains. “So we actually have two Fayetteville Film Prize screenings this year, because covid-19 not only made it difficult for us to have a festival, it made it difficult for filmmakers to make their films.”

On Nov. 13 at 5 p.m., those two films — “Glass Cages,” directed by Johanna Orwiler, and “Good Gorgeous Hell,” directed by Reed Carson, will be viewed, and the 2021 Fayetteville Film Prize Pitch Contest winner will be announced.

The Fayetteville Film Festival was founded 13 years ago when a group of film lovers started a grass roots effort to offer more opportunities for Northwest Arkansans to see independent filmmaking. As film production in Arkansas has grown, so has the event, says Sharman, and he hopes there’s even more to mine from the industry.

“We have tried to keep pace with the way the industry has expanded in the region and to stay as local as possible, but, at the same time, be a place where filmmakers — not just from Arkansas, but also from around the country — can come and say, ‘Oh, I’d like to shoot my film here. There’s great crew here that I can use to make my film, there are studios, there are post production houses.’ Part of our mission is to not just support local filmmakers, but also to support the local film industry. And that means growing in notoriety so that folks know that we exist and want to come out and check out what we’re doing.”



Fayetteville Film Fest

WHEN — Nov. 11-13

WHERE — University of Arkansas Global Campus theater and the Pryor Center on the Fayetteville square and online

COST — $25-$80 passes




Fayetteville Film Fest — Schedule

Nov. 11

5-7 p.m. — Opening night block party at the Pryor Center, 1 E. Center St.; a selection of animated shorts and music videos open the event.

6:30-8:30 p.m. — “Rap Squad,” Pryor Center

“Rap Squad” is an intimate documentary about student hip hop artists who seek healing for themselves and justice for their community through their music.

7:30-9:30 p.m. — “Ludi,” Global Campus, 2 E. Center St.

Ludi, a hardworking and exhausted nurse, battles co-workers, clients and one impatient bus driver to learn her self-worth as she chases the American dream in Miami’s Little Haiti neighborhood.

Nov. 12

2:30 p.m. — Films for Change, Pryor Center

Filmmakers will speak to the transformative power of filmmaking whether by subject matter, authorship, or impact. Panelists include Makenna Cofer (“A Part of the Kingdom”), Brooke Swaney (“Daughter of a Lost Bird”), Mike Day (“And the Winner Is”) and Obed Lamy (“Once Forgotten”).

3:30-4:30 p.m. — Micheaux Award and Film Lab Recognition

5 p.m. — Documentary Shorts Block A, Pryor Center

Films screening during this block iclude “Ale Libre,” “There Was Nobody Here We Knew,” “Voices of the Valley,” “Her Resolve,” “Mickey: The Forgotten Blockbuster” and “Part of the Kingdom.”

5:30 p.m. — Narrative Shorts Block A, Global Campus

Films screening during this block include “The Memory Trade,” “The Proposal,” “Ilsa” and “Soul of the Sea”

7 p.m. — “Daughter of a Lost Bird,” Pryor Center

“Daughter of a Lost Bird” follows Kendra, an adult Native adoptee, as she reconnects with her birth family, discovers her Lummi heritage, and confronts issues of her own identity.

7:30 p.m. — “Drunk Bus,” Global Campus

Michael (Charlie Tahan) is a recent graduate whose post-college plan is derailed when his girlfriend leaves him for a job in New York City. Stuck in Ohio without a new plan of his own, Michael finds himself caught in the endless loop of driving the “drunk bus, ” the debaucherous late-night campus shuttle that ferries drunk college students from parties to the dorms and back.

Nov. 13

11 a.m. — Emerging Filmmaker Block, Global Campus

These student films include “The Hatman,” “Underdogs” and “Once Forgotten”

11:30 a.m. — Documentary Shorts Block B, Pryor Center

This block includes “Drawing Life,” “Lost in the Sauce: The Kalvin Henderson Story” and “What’s it All About : The Legend of Chef Thor.”

1 p.m. — Fix it Before Post, Pryor Center

This panel will give participants the opportunity to hear from post-production experts on best practices to help you have successful post production. Moderated by Dan Robinson.

2:30 p.m. — Narrative Shorts Block B, Global Campus

Films screening during this block include “When the Rain Sets In,” “Anna,” “Blood on the Risers” and “And the Winner Is.”

3 p.m. — “The Neutral Ground,” Pryor Center

A feature-length documentary about New Orleans’ fight over monuments and America’s centuries-long relationship with the “Lost Cause.”

5 p.m. — Fayetteville Film Prize Award Recognition and Screening at Global Campus

Screening the 2019 and 2020 Fayetteville Film Prize Pitch winners “Glass Cages,” directed by Johanna Orwiler and “Good Gorgeous Hell,” directed by Reed Carson, and the announcement of the 2021 Fayetteville Film Prize Pitch Contest Winner.

6:30 p.m. — “American Cherry,” Global Campus

The characters in “American Cherry” come from dysfunctional homes. They are trying to be free — to do nothing in the world, really, but exist without pain. Teenagers doing things with a poetic curiosity and a sense of what it’s like to be young, lost and in love — both futureless and free.

8:30 p.m — Closing Night Award Ceremony, Global Campus

Streaming Only Films

“The 8th” — Traces Ireland’s campaign to remove the 8th Amendment, a constitutional ban on abortion.

“The Club of Angels” — A group of friends meet a mysterious chef that may be poisoning them. Why would these men want to keep returning to the dinners?

“In the Mirror” — Prolific Latvian filmmaker Laila Pakalnina riffs on the legend of Snow White to tell a profusely inventive and wit-filled contemporary tale where self-obsession and grief are countered by hope and kindness.

“The Sound of Us” — “The Sound of Us” chronicles a series of wide-ranging, diverse stories that exemplify the power of music and the triumph of the human spirit.

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