Heber Springs is becoming more involved this year in the Ozark Foothills Filmfest, and Searcy is also joining in the screenings as the festival, which originated in Batesville in 2001, prepares for its fifth season April 1-17.
“Heber Springs has been a great community for us as we’ve branched out,” says the festival’s creator, Bob Pest, who teaches film classes at the University of Arkansas Community College-Batesville. “They have a great theater there, the Gem,” he said, and the people in Heber Springs have really taken to the festival.
“Having more of our festival in Heber Springs and putting some of the events in Searcy brings us closer to the central part of the state, where we feel we need to continue to draw people from,” he said.
The festival will feature an appearance by actor Judge Reinhold (he’s married to an Arkansan), who will attend a dinner in his honor at the Red Apple Inn on Eden Isle, five miles west of Heber Springs, and then will participate in a screening of the first “Beverly Hills Cop” at the Gem Community Theater in Heber Springs.
“Judge has a lot of interesting stories behind the making of the movie,” says Pest, referring to the 1984 hit that starred Eddie Murphy. Reinhold’s career got off the ground two years before that in the seminal teen film “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.” That movie also featured a young Sean Penn (some trivia here: Reinhold beat out a young actor named Nic Cage for the role of Brad Hamilton, Jennifer Jason Leigh’s big brother).
Other highlights of the festival include:
• A celebration of James Dean (Sept. 30, 2005 marks the 50th anniversary of his death). Beginning April 8 at Heber Springs’ Gem, there will be two days of screenings, panels and an exhibit from the James Dean Memorial Gallery in Fairmount, Ind., Dean’s hometown. Dean biographer David Dalton will join other guests in discussing Dean’s effect on American pop culture. Six of Dean’s television appearances in the early 1950s will be screened.
• The Alloy Orchestra, a musical trio that accompanies silent films, will play along with screenings of Douglas Fairbanks’ “The Black Pirate” and Buster Keaton’s “Steamboat Bill Jr.” on April 1-2 at Independence Hall on the UACCB campus.
• Screenings of “Burying the Past: The Legacy of the Mountain Meadows Massacre,” about Arkansas settlers massacred in Utah; “Sinkhole,” named best narrative feature at the Indie Memphis Festival, about the destruction that methamphetamines is wreaking on rural towns; “The Clay Bird,” a family drama set against the backdrop of Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan and a 2004 critics favorite; and “Shoot the Moon,” filmmaker Seth Wochensky’s documentary of a traditional livestock and junk auction in western New York.
Wochensky will attend the festival and screen his film at Heber Springs’ Gem on Sunday, April 10. “Sinkhole” will be shown at the Searcy 8 at 7 p.m. April 15, with director Paul Schattel attending. “The Clay Bird” will be screened at the Searcy 8 at 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. April 16. The Searcy 8 is owned by Matt Smith, who operates the Market Street Cinema in Little Rock.
“I’m glad to get involved with these people. The are so easy to work with when it comes to putting on a festival,” Smith said. “Eventually, we hope to maybe have screenings at my theater in Cabot and then perhaps in Little Rock.”
For a complete schedule of events and ticket information, visit www.ozarkfoothillsfilmfest.org. Several of the programs are free. For ticketed events, the festival offers a pass for the entire series for $50. The annual filmfest gala is April 2 on the Lyon College campus in Batesville.