Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival announces film lineup for its 30th Anniversary Celebration (October 8-16)

 Samuel D. Pollard and Rex Miller’s CITIZEN ASHE is the Opening Night film, and Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s JULIA to close out the festival

Centerpiece screenings include E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s THE RESCUE, and CJ Hunt’s THE NEUTRAL GROUND 

The HSDFF Career Achievement Award will be presented to Samuel D. Pollard, Garrett Bradley will receive the festival’s Impact Award, and Dawn Hudson, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences CEO will serve as the Honorary Chair

Hot Springs, AR (September 21, 2021) – The critically acclaimed Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival announced the lineup of films and honorees for its 30th edition, which will mark a return to in-person/in-theater screenings as part of this year’s expansive hybrid approach, and will take place October 8-16. Screenings will kick off with the Opening Night presentation of Samuel D. Pollard and Rex Miller’s Citizen Ashe, followed by the Centerpiece Selections of E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin’s The Rescue and CJ Hunt’s The Neutral Ground, with Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s Julia screening on Closing Night.

This year marks the inaugural HSDFF program for new Director of Programming, Greta Hagen-Richardson. Richardson said, “It was an incredible honor to be the Director of Programming at the festival this year. Our program represents the work of filmmakers who prioritize being a part of the community they document, not only in the director chair but in the makeup of their crews. With 55% of our directors identifying as female or non-binary and 40% identifying as a person of color, we strive to accurately reflect the world of nonfiction filmmaking.”

The 2021 HSDFF Career Achievement Award will honor the prolific and influential documentarian Samuel D. Pollard. The 2021 HSDFF Impact Award celebrates recent Academy Award nominee Garrett Bradley (Time), and this year’s Honorary Chair will be Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences CEO, Dawn Hudson.

“Our thirtieth anniversary program reflects the values we aspire to as a festival. We’re moving into the next thirty years with a renewed vision of documentary creation and the impact documentary filmmaking can have on our world,” said HSDFF Executive Director, Jennifer Gerber. “There is always a heightened energy and anticipation during anniversary years and this year’s films, our stellar trio of honorees, and the panels, events, activities, parties, and more that our staff has put together point to a truly exceptional film festival.”


Samuel D. Pollard and Rex Miller’s Citizen Ashe will screen Opening Night on Friday, October 8. The film details the evolution of Ashe from groundbreaking tennis legend to striking public figure. As the International Centerpiece, The Rescue, directed by the Academy Award winning filmmakers of Free Solo, E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin, viscerally chronicles the unprecedented undertaking to rescue a boys soccer team trapped in a flooded cave. The U.S. Centerpiece Selection of CJ Hunt’s The Neutral Ground explores the social upheaval caused by the planned removal of Confederate statues in New Orleans. Julie Cohen and Betsy West’s Julia will close out the film festival on Saturday, October 16 with the legendary story of Julia Childs, the iconic chef, author, and television star, who introduced the concept of the “celebrity chef.”


HSDFF Career Achievement Award honoree Samuel D. Pollard has spent his decorated career documenting the history of Black America. As a producer, editor, and director in both fiction and nonfiction, he is perhaps one of the most versatile and talented filmmakers of our time, having directed Sammy Davis, Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me, MLK/FBI and Mr. Soul! to name a few. Pollard’s work frequently concerns the uglier side of the political and racial divide in this country, while still finding joy and light in his subjects. Often faced with outrageous obstacles (bombings, government abandonment, cold-blooded murder), Pollard manages to save space for hope. 

HSDFF Impact Award Winner Garrett Bradley is perhaps most well known for her Academy Award-nominated documentary, Time. Winner of the 2020 Sundance Award for U.S. Documentary Direction, the film and Bradley have made many critics “best of” year-end lists. However, she has been crafting captivating and deeply empathic stories her entire career. With a special ability to present her subjects as fully-formed individuals, simultaneously unique and relatable, Bradley has cemented her place in the future of the medium. Melding a visually dynamic approach to storytelling with a journalistic sensibility, Bradley is able to connect discrete narratives to a larger ideology about how individuals end up in certain situations. Beginning with her narrative feature debut, Below Dreams, Bradley centers characters who are regularly overlooked. Having spent much of her career creating in the American South, she understands and respects a region frequently maligned in the popular imagination.

A native of Hot Springs, the 2021 HSDFF Honorary Chair, Dawn Hudson, is the CEO of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Dawn oversees the Academy’s staff, operations and outreach, including awards, membership, marketing, communications, finance, technology and the Academy Foundation. Since joining the Academy in 2011, Hudson has driven significant diversity, inclusion, and representation initiatives across Academy membership and staff. As a result, the Academy has grown into a diverse global community of artists and filmmakers. Under Hudson, the Academy overreached its initial goals for doubling diversity and inclusion in membership by 2020. 


Presented by Mountain Valley Spring Water, this year’s schedule is packed with award-winners and festival favorites that span the globe, telling a wide array of stories — some shocking and daring, and all insightful and entertaining. Included among them are Matthew Heineman’s The First Wave, a heart-wrenching story documenting the first four months of the COVID-19 pandemic in New York City from the eyes of the medical professionals saving lives every day. Socks on Fire director, Bo McGuire, crafts a loving, playful ode to his recently passed grandmother as his wildly homophobic aunt and drag queen uncle battle over her estate; the in-person screening to feature a live drag performance pre-show. The 8th, directed by Aideen Kane, Lucy Kennedy, Maeve O’Boyle, follows the fight in Ireland to repeal the 8th amendment, which criminalized abortions, bolstering some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world. With a spotlight on personal and community-driven stories set in Arkansas, the festival is thrilled to present the world premiere of Michael Schwarz’s Forever Majestic, a loving portrait of a treasured Arkansas tourist destination and all the controversy that it sparks. In addition, Jonathan Sutak’s Broken Wings will have its world premiere, a film featuring Adonis, the notoriously well known, one-winged vulture of Hot Springs. 

Tickets and passes will be on-sale September 22. For more information on purchasing and additional details on the Hot Springs Documentary Film festival, please visit:

The 2021 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival official selections:


Citizen Ashe

Directors: Sam Pollard, Rex Miller

Country: USA; Running Time: 95 min

Arthur Ashe is remembered as a pioneer and important human rights activist, but he didn’t start out that way. In the beginning of director Sam Pollard’s new film, Citizen Ashe, the titular subject makes it clear that while he wants to be the “Jackie Robinson of tennis,” he’s plenty happy to just leave it there. Though obviously aware of the difference between himself and the “symphony of white” as he called it, Ashe initially wasn’t interested in being anything other than a successful tennis player. As his star rose, it became clear that being the first comes at a cost regardless of one’s personal desire to keep the focus on the game. Ashe was soon seen as only out for himself compared to other major Black athletes of the day, including the likes of Muhammad Ali and John Carlos. So, despite the additional burden that being a famous and outspoken Black person in the spotlight carries, his evolution as an activist became his defining characteristic. Though his life was tragically cut short, Ashe would move beyond his status as a star athlete and become a hero to more people that he could’ve ever imagined.



Directors: Julie Cohen, Betsy West 

Country: USA; Running Time: 95 min

Betsy West and Julie Cohen, the directing team behind the Oscar nominated film, RBG bring another vibrant tale of a woman breaking new ground, not only for her gender, but for her entire industry. Julia Child is known for an array of contributions. Chief among them the creation of the classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, and the popular TV show, The French Chef. Becoming a TV-star at the age of 50 in a male dominated industry is only one of the biographical details that set Julia Child apart. Her impact on the notion of the celebrity chef cannot be overstated. From her seemingly innate ability to creatively problem solve in the moment, to her infectious joy, it is clear that she was always destined to be a household name. Utilizing television archives, personal correspondence, and interviews with her contemporaries and admirers, Julia is a worthy deep dive into the life of an icon. 


The Rescue

Directors: E. Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin

Country: UK; Running Time: 114 min

In 2018, a boys soccer team found themselves trapped in a rapidly flooding cave system. Despite the efforts of multiple governments and a team of professional divers, the boys remained stranded without food, water, or light for weeks. The Rescue looks at the unprecedented undertaking from intense planning sessions to failed attempts to brief moments of triumph. In a departure from their typical up-close-and-personal style, decorated directors E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin detail the rescue effort that dominated global headlines.


The Neutral Ground

Director: CJ Hunt

Country: USA; Running Time: 90 min

In 2015, spurred in part by the murders of nine Black, Charleston church-goers by a white supremacist, New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu spearheaded the removal of four statues originally built to commemorate failed secessionist leaders of the Civil War. In the lead up to the removal, tensions reached a high point in the city, puzzling New Orleans resident, comedian, and filmmaker CJ Hunt. With critical thinking at the forefront of every interaction, Hunt employs knowledge, empathy, and a sense of humor as he works to find out why anyone would support memorializing figures with monstrous histories.


Boulevard! A Hollywood Story

Director: Jeffrey Schwarz

Country: USA; Running Time: 85 min

Two songwriters find themselves caught in an unexpected whirlwind when film icon Gloria Swanson hires them to write a stage musical version of Sunset Boulevard.

The First Step

Director: Brandon Kramer

Country: USA; Running Time: 90 min

What does it cost to accomplish bipartisan reform in Washington, D.C.? Van Jones discovers the price might be higher when you’re a Black man negotiating with the Trump White House.

The First Wave

Director: Matthew Heineman 

Country: USA; Running Time: 94 min

This heart wrenching story documents the first four months of the COVID-19 Pandemic in New York City from the eyes of the medical professionals saving lives every day.

Keep the Cameras Rolling

Directors: William T. Horner, Stacey Woelfel

Country: USA; Running Time: 98 min

In 1994, MTV's iconic show “The Real World” picked seven strangers to live in a house; one of them was HIV/AIDS activist Pedro Zamora.

North by Current

Director: Angelo Madsen Minax

Country: USA; Running Time: 86 min

When a filmmaker begins documenting his family after the shocking death of his infant niece, a complex web of generational trauma slowly emerges in rural Michigan.  

Storm Lake

Directors: Jerry Risius, Beth Levison

Country: USA; Running Time: 85 min

Graduation announcements, tractor sales, Pulitzer prize-winning editorials — it's all vital to the publishers of the locally owned newspaper in Storm Lake, Iowa fighting to keep it running.

Television Event

Director: Jeff Daniels

Country: USA; Running Time: 90 min

A behind-the-scenes account of the making and controversial release of the TV movie The Day After (1983), depicting the fallout of nuclear war on a small Kansas town.


Director: Max Lowe 

Country: USA; Running Time: 92 min

Almost 20 years after the death of his father, famed mountaineer Alex Lowe, Max Lowe unearths the personal details behind what became a salacious media story.

Try Harder!

Director: Debbie Lum

Country: USA; Running Time: 85 min

Five talented students attending San Francisco’s top-ranked public high school navigate the stressful and competitive process of college applications, hoping to secure admission to their dream university.

When Claude Got Shot

Director: Brad Lichtenstein

Country: USA; Running Time: 96 min

When an aspiring lawyer is shot by a teenage carjacker, his life is turned upside down as he negotiates crime and punishment as a Black man in the legal system.

Who We Are

Directors: Emily Kunstler, Sarah Kunstler

Country: USA; Running Time: 117 min

Touring the country with his stirring and personal Anti-Black history series, ACLU Deputy Legal Director Jeffery Robinson draws a line from slavery to contemporary times.


The 8th

Directors: Aideen Kane, Lucy Kennedy, Maeve O’Boyle

Country: Ireland; Running Time: 94 min

Irish women fight to repeal the 8th amendment, which criminalized abortions, bolstering some of the most restrictive abortion laws in the world.


Director: Eva Orner

Country: Australia; Running Time: 86 min 

A history of government inaction on climate change in Australia results in the “Black Summer” of 2019-2020, when 59 million acres burned in uncontrolled bushfires.

Captains of Zaatari

Director: Ali El Arabi

Country: Jordan; Running Time: 73 min

Fawzi and Mahmoud’s dream of becoming professional soccer players finds a flicker of hope when a renowned sports academy visits the Zaatari Refugee Camp in Jordan.


Director: Andrea Arnold

Country: UK; Running Time: 93 min

Set on a British dairy farm, the hardscrabble life of Luma the cow and her newborn calf unfold in this raw and daring observational portrait.


Director: Jonas Poher Rasmussen

Country: Denmark; Running Time: 83 min

What if your friend suddenly revealed their entire life story was a lie told out of necessity? Trace the story of Amin as he endures the extreme in pursuit of sanctuary.


Director: Paola Calvo, Patrick Jasim

Country: Mexico/Germany; Running Time: 93 min

Follow three female wrestlers who decide to take matters into their own hands despite the chaotic and dangerous environment they must live and work within.

The Return: Life After ISIS

Director: Alba Sotorra Clua

Country: Spain/UK; Running Time: 90 min

Seduced by the Islamic State's propaganda and stuck in Syria, women across North America and Europe call for asylum as citizens of countries that no longer want them.

Seyran Ates: Sex, Revolution and Islam

Director: Nefise Özkal Lorentzen

Country: Norway; Running Time: 81 min

Seyran Ateş is a pioneering Muslim feminist, lawyer, activist, and founder of Germany’s first liberal Mosque advocating for inclusivity, who fights for the radical modernization of Islam.

Soy Cubana

Directors: Jeremy Ungar, Ivaylo Getov

Country: USA; Running Time: 79 min

An all-female Cuban quartet travel to Los Angeles for a music festival on the brink of American/Cuban policy changes from the Trump Administration.


7 Days

Director: Nathan Willis

Country: USA; Running Time: 59 min

Through an empathetic lens, explore the reality of opioid addiction in the heart of the United States.


Director: Dan Chen

Country: USA; Running Time: 92 min

At the TM Landry Prep School in Louisiana, 100% of the students get accepted into college. Could it be too good to be true? 

A Good Campaign

Directors: Gerard Matthews, Kathryn Tucker

Country: USA; Running Time: 59 min

It is often said that failure teaches us more than success. Democrat Clarke Tucker may find out if that is true as he runs for Congress in the heart of Trump country.

Broken Wings

Director: Jonathan Sutak

Country: USA; Running Time: 70 min

In Hot Springs, Arkansas, Adonis is a well-known, one-winged member of the community. Caretaker Jayne and her roommate Ann find parallels to Adonis’s story and, perhaps, a path forward.

Forever Majestic

Director: Michael Schwarz

Country: USA; Running Time: 75 min

The Majestic Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas represents a piece of American history that many long to return to. What obligation does a community have to the past's place in the popular imagination?

On the Divide

Directors: Maya Cueva, Leah Galant

Country: USA; Running Time: 79 min

Three people connected to the Whole Women’s Health — the last clinic on the US/Mexico border to provide legal abortions — try to balance their faith with the reality of a woman’s right to choose.

Shared Resources

Director: Jordan Lord

Country: USA; Running Time: 98 min

Crafted over a period of five years, a Southern family attempts to move forward after declaring bankruptcy in this self-reflexive examination of debt and disability.

Socks on Fire

Director: Bo McGuire

Country: USA; Running Time: 93 min

A filmmaker crafts a loving, playful ode to his recently passed grandmother as his wildly homophobic aunt and drag queen uncle battle over her estate.

United States vs. Reality Winner

Director: Sonia Kennebeck

Country: USA; Running Time: 93 min

NSA contractor Reality Winner leaks a classified document on Russian interference in the 2016 US Elections sparking a media firestorm and a treason investigation.


Each year, with the help of a small staff and over 100 dedicated volunteers, Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival attracts thousands of visitors to the 9-day multicultural and intergenerational event. Now approaching its 29th year as the oldest all-documentary festival in North America and one of the longest running non-fiction festivals in the world, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival remains a prominent champion and protector of the documentary film genre.

No comments:

Post a Comment