Fayetteville Film Fest brings makers, fans to town Oct. 20-22

Fayetteville Film Fest brings makers, fans to town Oct. 20-22

The Fayetteville Film Fest is back in full effect after a mix of virtual and in-person events for last year.

“We’re so excited about it too!” exclaims Cassie Haley, who is the executive director of Fayetteville Film Fest. Haley is one of the people responsible for creating the festival that’s now in its 14th year.

She was inspired to start a local festival, she says, after attending film festivals in other cities — both as a fan and as an actor.

“I went to several with a movie that I did. And thought, ‘wow, I bet we could pull one of those off here in Fayetteville,’” Haley says. “I had three young kids at the time. I worked as an actress, but I wasn’t going to move off to LA or New York or anything.” So she made a festival at home.

In 2009 Haley and a friend created the 540 Film Festival, which would later become the Fayetteville Film Fest.

“We hosted regional film events throughout the area. We had a summer sidewalk series for several years, just building up people’s knowledge about what independent filmmaking really is — connecting local crew and people wanting to work in film, people who were curious,” she says. “By year four of our film festival, we started having filmmakers who had come to the film festival come back here to shoot their films. One of the first ones was ‘Gordon Family Tree,’ which was a feature film; I got to serve as a producer on that one.”

Since then the festival has continued to grow and change, but the mission has remained steady: to bring world class film to Arkansas, develop meaningful relationships with filmmakers, and nurture the art of filmmaking by uniting a community of creators and supporters.

This year’s festival will show 70 films, including four feature-length narrative films and three feature-length documentaries, Oct. 20-22 in downtown Fayetteville.

“Our opening night is a street party on Center Street. We’re going to do outdoor screenings of art animations and music videos and have some fun music and treats and give a chance for the filmmakers to meet our audience and vice versa,” Haley says. “Then our opening night feature film is right there at Global Campus. And that’s ‘American Murderer,’” with Ryan Phillippe, Tom Pelphrey and Idina Menzel. The film is based on a true story of con man Jason Brown.

The next day of the festival will begin with a film pitch workshop followed by “blocks” of screenings in both the narrative shorts and documentary shorts categories at the Global Theatre and the Pryor Center. Haley says that they are excited about this year’s workshop leaders, Nicholas Buggs and Christopher Barkley.

“We’re bringing in a couple of very special guests from the Make It podcast and Bonsai Films who are going to be presenting a workshop for pitching on Friday, ” Haley adds.

Two of the featured documentaries and two narrative films will screen on Friday. “Forever Majestic,” which Haley calls a “beautiful local Arkansas project” about a landmark hotel in Hot Springs and the fight to preserve it, starts at 2:30 p.m. “Hard Shell/Soft Shell,” a French-language rom-com, starts at 4 p.m., followed by “A Run For Moore,” a documentary about an transgender woman running for city council in Texas. There will be a Women in Film panel and reception from 6-7:30 p.m.

Then the evening closes with “We Burn Like This,” which Haley says is a “beautiful movie,” written and directed by Alana Waksman. She adds that “it’s a very female-driven story and just one of the best examples of true independent storytelling. We’re super excited the director is actually going to be here for that one and take part in our women and film panel.” That screening is followed by a VIP after-party.

Saturday morning will open with the Film Pitch Contest, where contestants have five minutes to pitch their best film idea to a panel of judges. The winner of the pitch contest will receive a cash prize of $2,000 to make their film and will have 10 months to shoot their film in Northwest Arkansas. The finished film will screen at the 2023 Fayetteville Film Fest. More information on the contest is at fayettevillefilmfest.org

After the pitch contest will be blocks of narrative and documentary shorts. The documentary “The Sun Rises in the East” will show at 3:30 p.m. After a Micheaux mixer at 5 p.m will be a screening of “Freedom’s Path,” directed by Brett Hill.

“We’re really excited about that one as well,” Haley says. She adds that Rockhill Studios of Fayetteville along with local cast and crew were involved in the film, which was shot here in Northwest Arkansas. Starring RJ Cyler, Carol Sutton, Ewen Bremner and Gerran Howell, the story is a Civil War drama about a friendship between a runaway slave and a soldier.

Overall, Haley says that they have “lots of varying perspectives throughout the weekend” for the festival. “Our documentary blocks of shorts this year are super strong. We had to add another one. We just have a lot of great content submitted this year being back in person and everything.”

An awards ceremony will start at 9 p.m. on Saturday. As in the past, the event features lots of free and low-cost screenings too. The block party on opening night of the festival is free to attend, then on Saturday the emerging filmmaker block at 11:30 a.m. and the student filmmaker block at noon are both free. Individual screenings are $5-$8 per film.

“It’s a passion of ours. We don’t want cost to ever inhibit people from getting to experience so much good content,”Haley says.



Fayetteville Film Festival

WHAT — The 14th annual Fayetteville Film Festival will feature 70 films this year including four feature length narrative films, three feature length documentaries, a Q&A session with filmmakers and panel discussions.

WHEN — Oct. 20-22

WHERE — University of Arkansas Global Campus, Pryor Center and other locations in downtown Fayetteville

COST — $80 all access VIP, $50 film lover pass, $25 student pass; $5-$8 each for individual screenings.

INFO — fayettevillefilmfest.org

BONUS — Volunteer opportunites available at fayettevillefilmfest.org/volunteer.



Film Screening Schedule

Oct. 20

6 p.m. Block Party on Center Street and screenings in the Pryor Center in Fayetteville featuring the official selections: Hauntings of Highway 35; ADHD – SÄYE SKYE; Rain; Baptized in the Flames; Daily Bread; The Sprayer; The Statue (Peykareh; Double Trouble!; Follow You; FreeWorld – ‘D-Up (Here’s To Diversity)’; Johnny Dynamite & The Bloodsuckers – The Last Ones; Magic Eyes; Darker; ‘Wait, Son’ – Recognizer; A Psychogeography of Mourning; One Hand On The Wheel and MeTube: August sings ‘Una furtiva lagrima.


8 p.m., screening of “American Murderer,” Global Theatre

Oct. 21

12:30 p.m. Documentary Shorts, Block A featuring SOUTHcq MH; Pili Ka Moʻo; The Most Beautiful Trail in America; Rocks 4 Sale!; Uncharted and A door away. Pryor Center Screening Room.

2 p.m. Narrative Shorts, Block A, featuring The Misanthrope; Kronos; The Stream; SONAR; Pomegranate; and Eureka at Global Campus Theatre.

2:30 p.m. Forever Majestic, a feature-lenghth documentary about the landmark hotel in Hot Springs and two activists fight to preserve the hotel, Pryor Center Screening Room.

4 p.m. Hard Shell/Soft Shell, a French-language rom-com about an out of luck oyster farmer who’s proposal goes awry, Global Campus Theatre.

4:30 p.m. A Run For Moore, a documentary about a transgender woman in Texas and her campaign for city council, Pryor Center Screening Room.

7:30 p.m. We Burn Like This, a coming-of-age film about a young woman who is targeted by Nazis in her Montana hometown, Global Campus Theatre.

Oct. 22

11:30 a.m. Emerging Filmmaker Block with screenings of Sacrament; Taquito Patrol; The Starlight Hotel; The Bag; For a Few Dollars Fewer; Sheol King of Kings; and Kind Eyes at Global Campus Theatre. (free)

Noon Student Documentary Shorts with screenings of Just Benjamin; Beautiful People Part of The Kingdom Vol. II; and Heal the River at Pryor Center Screening Room. (free)

1:30 p.m. Narrative Shorts B screenings of Life Of Crime; Flight; Harvey & Sunshine; Fairy Story; Lowlifes; and Lemniscate at Global Campus Theatre.

2 p.m. Documentary Shorts with screenings of Racer’s Nature; #NoRegrets; Rockin Baker; Bounty; To the Bone; and Limits: The Story of ArkanSTOL at Pryor Center Screening Room.

3:30 p.m. Narrative Shorts – Block C with screenings of Call of the Clown Horn; Banana Triangle Six; Dandelion; Shadow Work; Making Beethoven Proud; Jim’s Tips; Gunpoint; The Lovies; and Boppie at Global Campus Theatre.

4 p.m. The Sun Rises in the East, a documentary feature about the rise and legacy of The East, a pan-African cultural organization founded in 1969 by teens and young adults in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Pryor Center Screening Room.

6 p.m. Freedom’s Path, directed by Brett Smith this feature-length narrative is the story of a soldier who deserts from battle and discovers the true cost of war through a Black man, who teaches him the real meaning of Freedom. Global Campus Theatre.

For workshop, panels and Q&A with directors, see fayettevillefilmfest.org.


Three Minutes, Three Questions

Tayo Giwa

Tayo Giwa is the director of “The Sun Rises in The East.” He answered three questions for What’s Up!

Q. What is your film about?

A. “The Sun Rises in The East” chronicles the birth, rise and legacy of The East, a pan-African cultural organization founded in 1969 by teens and young adults in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Led by educator Jitu Weusi, The East embodied Black self-determination, building its own school, food co-op, news magazine and more than a dozen other institutions. The organization hosted world-famous jazz musicians at its performance venue, and it served as an epicenter for contemporaries such as the Black Panther Party and the Young Lords.

In effect, The East built an independent Black nation in the heart of Central Brooklyn.

The film also examines challenges that led to the organization’s dissolution, including government surveillance, its gender politics and financial struggles. Featuring interviews with leaders of The East and people who grew up in the organization as children, “The Sun Rises in The East” delivers an exhilarating vision for just how much is possible.

Q. What drew you to filmmaking?

A. The film is an extension of the work my wife Cynthia and I have been doing for the past four and a half years with our publication, Black-Owned Brooklyn. A big part of our work is documenting local Black history and culture to help ensure that these contributions are understood, celebrated and ultimately preserved.

We first learned about The East in 2019 while researching a post on the International African Arts Festival, and their story just always stuck with us. Particularly the fact that — for everything that The East created in Central Brooklyn, and despite the role they played in the Black Power Movement nationally and globally — their story isn’t widely known.

We wanted to illuminate this story, and to tell it mostly in the voices of people who actually lived it. Our hope is that the film will help this history become more a part of the mainstream understanding of that era.

Q. Who are some of your filmmaking/storytelling role models?

A. Among many filmmaking and storytelling role models, I look up to Questlove for his cultural documentation in “Summer of Soul” as well as Barry Jenkins for the poetry he is able to present visually in his films.

The film is currently on the film festival circuit and is screening across the country. For updates on the latest screenings, see blackownedbrooklyn.com/thesunrisesintheeast.

Categories: Cover Story