Fort Smith Film Fest showcases 137 films from 30 different countries, nations and tribes

Fort Smith Film Fest showcases 137 films from 30 different countries, nations and tribes

Brandon Chase Goldsmith describes himself as “currently an unemployed filmmaker,” and that, he says, gives him “a unique understanding of the struggle that many moviemakers experience.”

Born in Arkansas and raised in San Antonio, Goldsmith started making movies with his friends in high school. In 1997, some of them started a film company in Austin, Texas, and one alumnus of that venture has worked as first assistant director on series like “Friday Night Lights” and “Better Call Saul,” while Goldsmith has been an actor, director, writer and producer. A chance to live in his grandparents’ family farmhouse brought him home to the River Valley, and he’s “currently in post-production on ‘The Western District’ and ‘Goingsnake’ documentaries, which reveal untold stories and histories from our region.”

“The research on these topics took me almost four years,” he says. “I love the process of storytelling and how film incorporates almost every single art form in bringing ideas to life. Movies are my passion.”

Among the challenges filmmakers face outside of Los Angeles are finding the connections they need with fans, actors, directors, designers, producers, writers and crew “to help promote new and existing projects, and to build up the local arts community and beyond,” Goldsmith explains, adding that’s why the River Valley Film Society was formed in the summer of 2019 and how the idea for the Fort Smith International Film Festival was born two years later.

“Putting on a film festival is a continuous learning experience,” says Goldsmith, with the second iteration of the festival set for Aug. 26-27. “I am incredibly proud of our team who are incorporating the lessons we each gained from the first year. In 2021, our goal was to survive and simply make a festival happen, and we did.

“For our second annual, we are focusing on increasing both the filmmaker and moviegoer experience,” he goes on. “Instead of screening films in four separate locations across Fort Smith’s downtown during the heat of August, we are showing all 137 movies in one location. Not only does this make the films more accessible to our guests, but it brings all the filmmakers together, creating a space for artistic conversations, which paves a path towards innovative collaborations and possibly new projects.”

But Goldsmith doesn’t discount the biggest benefit the film festival brings to the River Valley: “the world.”

“We will be showing movies from over 30 different countries, nations and tribes,” he says. “These films will expose people to ideas, perspectives and ways of life from around the globe. What I find intriguing are not the differences but the similarities, the common experiences, emotions and dreams that transcend borders and distances, allowing us to witness our collective humanity. That to me is the beauty and importance of having an international film festival in Fort Smith.”

Among this year’s filmmakers are:

Michael Day

Film: “And the Winner Is”

Showing at 7:35 p.m. Aug. 27

“Since I was a kid, I’ve always been interested in film production,” says Day, founder of DAYVISION, a film company focused on Black cinema. “Growing up, I was a fan of film directors Spike Lee and John Singleton’s work. I always knew I wanted to do it, but it wasn’t until attending the University of Arkansas and taking an ‘African Americans in Film’ class when I knew it was possible for me to do it.

“‘And the Winner Is’ talks about Hollywood and media’s love and exploitation for Black trauma,” he continues. “It centers around a Black film director who finally wins the ‘BIG ONE’ yet his wife has questions about his victory. It was shot last year in Centerton at a dear friend’s home.

“Long term, I’d like to see this become a feature film and continue the conversation regarding media and Hollywood’s exploitation of Black trauma. I’d be thrilled if we got picked up on a major network, but self-distribution is just as fulfilling.”

What’s next? “A brand new web series titled ‘The Sextons,’ which addresses parental depression in partners of newborn mothers.” It will debut Nov. 27 on DAYVISION’s website, YouTube, Facebook and Instagram page.

Jason Pitts

Film: “Masquerade”

Showing at 9:30 p.m. Aug. 27

Jason Pitts has written eight films and directed seven of them, including “Suicide Cafe,” “Alone” and “Voorhees: Night of the Beast.”

“I grew up watching horror films. I was always captivated by their unrestrained creativity,” Pitts says. “‘Masquerade’ is a home invasion/slasher horror short film. It was a collaboration with the lead actress, Alivea Disney. We developed the character and story together, and I wrote the script. It was filmed at a house in Alma in the spring of 2021. ‘Masquerade’ is the second entry of a four-film saga called ‘The Alone Saga.’ At other film festivals, ‘Masquerade’ has won Best Horror Short seven times, Best Director two times, Best Actress two times, Best Score, Best Special Effects, Best Makeup, and a few more!

“The biggest challenge of making films in Arkansas is funding,” Pitts adds. “I think that is the biggest challenge anywhere, though. The biggest reward has been building the film family over the past few years. There is a massive amount of talented people, who also happen to be amazing human beings, right here in Arkansas.”

“Masquerade” is about to be available on Tubi, and its predecessor, “Alone,” can be seen on Tubi, Plex and Xumo.

What’s next? “We have our short film ‘When The Stairs Creak’ coming out later this fall,” Pitts says. “We are filming a short sequel to ‘Voorhees: Night of the Beast’ in November, and in March we will be filming the third film in ‘The Alone’ saga, ‘Lonely Echoes.’”


Lesa Crowell

Film: “Patient Justice”

Showing at 9:30 p.m. Aug. 27

“‘Patient Justice’ is my first film,” Lesa Crowell says. “I directed, wrote and produced it. I am so proud of this film! When it was accepted into the Arkansas Cinema Society Filmland 2022, I was elated. We won Best Arkansas Made Short at the Hot Springs International Women’s Film Festival. Super proud of that achievement. We also have been selected to the Anchorage Film Festival, LA Independent Film Awards, Made In Arkansas Film Festival, and of course Fort Smith International Film Festival.

“I had breast cancer in 2019 and while I was taking chemo I came up with ‘Patient Justice,’ which is about a cancer patient who is ex-law enforcement and ex-military — I am a veteran — who becomes an assassin to pay off her medical debt and leave money for her sons,” Crowell elaborates. “All of her ‘kills’ are bad people who escaped justice from the courts and are referred to her by her cancer support group.

What’s next? “Right now I am working on an action film in Little Rock for Skipstone Pictures called ‘Hellfire.’ We wrap on it in September, and then I turn right around and start shooting another Skipstone film in October. Next spring I have three films and another series. Very busy and so happy to be!”


Crystal Woodham

Film: “Ungathered”

Showing at 7:30 p.m. Aug. 26

“I’m from Van Buren, and I started my journey in Northwest Arkansas working backstage for Northwest Arkansas Fashion Week back in 2017,” Crystal Woodham begins. “[Now] I am a freelancer in film and TV production. I travel and work when hired by different production companies across the U.S., filling different roles as needed. I’ve worked on network television shows such as ‘Catfish,’ ‘90 Day Fiance’ and ‘Murder In The Heartlands.’ But I’m looking forward to working on more of my own creative projects in the future.”

In “Ungathered,” she says, “a woman who is trapped in an abusive relationship breaks away to walk on an old trail that she used to walk with her mother. When she arrives at an old covered bridge, she is met by a mysterious old man. He very soon shows her that there is more to life and love than abuse.”

“My wish is that our message of hope reaches those still in the throes of abuse, to know they are not alone, and there are resources to help them get out, before it’s too late,” Woodham says. “Far too often we hear of these situations when it’s too late.

What’s next? “I will soon start fundraising for my script ‘Lucky,’ a ‘Twilight Zone’-inspired piece that I will both direct and produce. And I will continue my research for my script based on true historical events, about women explorers. I truly look forward to bringing this unknown gem to life.”



Fort Smith International Film Festival

WHEN — Aug. 26-27

WHERE — TempleLive, 200 N. 11th St. in Fort Smith

COST — $10-$30




Find Out More!

You can see the complete program for the Fort Smith International Film Fest at

Categories: Theater