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Jan 27/17

The Only 5 Things Worth Doing at the Little Rock Film Festival Posted by: Aaron Stearns | 0 Comments

Let’s face it. The list of events at this year’s Little Rock Film Festival — running today through Sunday — is large, in a good way. We wouldn’t dare hint that some events are cooler than others, but just the same, here’s the top five things to do at this week’s festival. Today, it begins, so prepare your eyeballs for the visual feast with …

The opening night film
I remember hearing about the buzz of Short Term 12 that took home the Grand Jury Prize at SXSW this year, and I was thinking, “We have got to get that movie, but how?” and what’s insane is that I didn’t realize the director of the film, Deston Daniel Cretton, had just been to our festival the year before with his film, I Am Not A HipsterOpening night is such an important night for the festival because it sets the tone and all the excitement about what is to come. It’s like movie-nerd prom. The film is incredible and we have one of the leads, Keith Stanfield coming to the fest with the director, and he’s phenomenal. I can’t wait to stalk him. I’m kidding. Watch the Short Term 12 trailer.

Blood Brother
Another film that I’m really anxious for people to see — and there are way too many — is Blood Brother. It won Sundance, so obviously it has a certain pedigree, and I admit I thought it was going to be this typical white guy, bleeding heart story about traveling to another country and helping people but after about 10 minutes of watching the film, I was totally sucked into the story. I played it on my iPad so I could travel room to room in my house without having to pause it. The film follows a young graphic designer named Rocky who leaves his life in Pittsburgh to live at an orphanage of HIV positive children in India. I resist saying that he “volunteered” or “worked” at the orphanage because he becomes so fully involved with the children and their lives, it really made me question ideas I had about caring, disease, empathy and selflessness. I think there are moments in the film when the camera guy and director vocalize their difficulty with the situation, and there’s a certain scene in the film that I won’t describe, but it was very powerful, and I think it will stay with me for the rest of my life. (See the film schedule here.)

This sounds very frat-bro of me, but one thing I look forward to every year at the festival are the parties. They are usually different from any other party because of all the cool people you can talk to without the pretense of being in a theater discussing films. I was really sad this year to learn that the Arkansas Queen would be floating to some far off distant land, and we’d be losing one of the most talked about parties of the festival. The Riverboat Cruise is something you don’t want to miss. Top floor sick dance DJs like Cam Holifield, bottom floor dirty south rocking bands like Brother Andy or the funk drenched Amasa Hines–there is something for everyone. And, lo and behold a captain has set sail to save us with a paddle ferry called none other than Mark Twain. The party is back on. We’ll all float on, alright? Sunday at 9 p.m. Be there.

Panel talk with Bill Ross
Panels are really the best way to get involved in the conversation of what is filmmaking and why does it matter. This year we are so lucky to have one of the LRFFTalks Panel series with filmmaker Bill Ross on his behind the scenes account of the LRFF Golden Rock Award winning and Oscar-nominated Beasts of the Southern Wild, one of my favorite films we’ve screened. I’m obsessed with the whole Court 13 group involved in the making of the film, and I want to know how those Aurochs got so big! If award-winning filmmaker and writer Robert Greene wasn’t on hand to ask this guy questions, I’d be all over it.

Arkansas films: Standing room only
The Made in Arkansas section of the festival has been dear to me over the years for obvious reasons. My first short film four years ago screened as a part of that program and each year the Arkansas films are huge –standing-room-only huge. Like, come to the screening an hour and a half early and maybe you’ll get a seat. A big reason the Arkansas blocks sell out is because of the diverse, original programming that gets better and better every year but also because the film community here is also growing and is super supportive. So, not only will the cast and crew to a film show up but people who didn’t have a chance to work on the film will come in solidarity and talk shop for hours in the lobby afterwards. This year I want to see 45RPM on the big screen because it’s one of the few Arkansas made feature films we get every year and it was written and directed by a female, another rarity. Juli Jackson, the director of the film, is going to be a force to reckoned with. She made the film with an all local crew and a grant from the Ozark Foothills FilmFest and from what I’ve seen they put a lot of work into it. If you dig retro garage rock and strong female characters I think you’re going to want to see this flick but try and see all the Arkansas films and filmmakers because some day you might be buying tickets to their films at the Rave like I did with Jeff Nichols.

Levi Agee is a features programmer for the Little Rock Film Festival. He’s been at it for more than four years in addition to writing a weekly local film column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette called Screen Gems. But those are just his passion projects, he earns his scratch by being a Motion Graphics 2D and 3D Animator and Film Editor at Stone Ward Advertising Agency in Little Rock.



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