Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Sets 2019 Lineup: 'For Sama,' 'One Child Nation,' 'The Apollo,' 'The Kingmaker' and Much More
Longest-running documentary film festival in North America unfolds October 18-26 in mountain spa city in Arkansas
An impressive array of the most acclaimed documentary films of the year will be showcased at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, unfolding October 18-26 in the historic spa resort town of central Arkansas.
The lineup for North America's longest running doc festival includes For Sama, the SXSW-winning film by Waad Al-Khateab and Edward Watts that centers on Al-Khateab's effort to raise her baby daughter in the midst of Syria's brutal civil war. Also on the program: One Child Nation, the Sundance-winning film by Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang on China's shocking enforcement of its one child policy; Lauren Greenfield's The Kingmaker, on former Philippines first lady Imelda Marcos, and Roger Ross Williams' The Apollo, about the history of the famed Harlem theater and its impact today.
All four of those films appear on the just-announced DOC NYC shortlist of the top documentaries of 2019.
In the Feature documentary category we have over 50% female directors; a program of true equality.
HSDFI will also screen Varda by Agnès, the final documentary by cinema legend Agnès Varda, who died earlier this year at the age of 89.
The Hot Springs lineup numbers 64 documentary features and 59 doc shorts.
“Our goal is to showcase award winning documentaries while pushing the program forward with bold and challenging films,” Jessie Fairbanks, the festival's director of programming, said in a statement. “When curating the program it is of great importance that the filmmakers invited to present at Hot Springs are diverse in background, experience, and representation... In the Feature documentary category we have over 50% female directors; a program of true equality.”
Among US documentaries, the program boasts Raise Hell: The Life and Times of Molly Ivins, director Janice Engel's film on the late beloved Texas journalist; Bedlam, a documentary about the appalling state of mental health treatment in America, directed by Dr. Kenneth Paul Rosenberg; Made in Boise, Beth Aala's "empathetic and eye-opening peek at the burgeoning business of surrogacy in Boise, Idaho," and Midge Costin's Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound, featuring many of Hollywood's greatest sound designers.
A selection of images from U.S. documentaries playing at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
Among international documentaries joining For Sama, One Child Nation, The Kingmaker and Varda by Agnès on the program are Meeting Gorbachev, Werner Herzog's film based on three in-depth interviews he conducted with Mikhail Gorbachev, the last leader of the USSR. Kifaru, from director David Hambridge, provides "an intimate look at the extinction of the northern white rhino through the eyes of two Kenyan caretakers charged with protecting Sudan, the last remaining male."
Love Child, the new film from Eva Mulvad, offers "a poignant portrait of forbidden lovers, who escape to Turkey with their secret child; desperate to start a new life they find themselves stalled in bureaucratic limbo."
Seahorse: The Dad Who Gave Birth, directed by Jeanie Finlay, focuses on trans British man Freddy McConnell, who bore his own child.
Sea of Shadows, directed by Richard Ladkani, is a documentary thriller on the desperate attempt to save the last-remaining vaquita, a dolphin-like creature driven to near extinction by illegal poaching in the Sea of Cortez. It won the audience award at the Sundance Film Festival.
Our Time Machine, directed by Yang Sun and S. Leo Chiang, explores the stunning work of Chinese artist Maleonn, who created a sort of memory play out of steampunk puppets in honor of his aging father.
A selection of images from international documentaries programmed at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
HSDFI includes a Southern Documentaries section. Among films in that category are 17 Blocks, directed by Davy Rothbart, a documentary about the struggles of an African-American family who live in close proximity to the U.S. Capitol. The film, winner of prizes at the Tribeca Film Festival and the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, was recently acquired by MTV as part of a new new slate of documentary programming headed up by Sheila Nevins.
Mossville: When Great Trees Fall, directed by Alexander Glustrom, exposes a case of environmental racism in Louisiana, where black families were driven out of the historic community of Mossville to make way for a petrochemical plant.
The stars of Ernie & Joe: Crisis Cops, are two police officers in San Antonio, Texas, rare members of law enforcement who show extraordinary skill and care in encounters with mentally ill people. Jenifer McShane directed the film, which earned a Special Jury Recognition for Empathy and Craft at the SXSW Film Festival.
A selection of images from the Southern Documentaries section at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival
This is the full lineup at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival:
Dir. Roger Ross Williams
Internationally renowned for having influenced American and pop culture more than any other entertainment venue, the Apollo Theater created opportunities for new talent to be seen and has served as a launchpad for myriad artists including Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, and more.
Dir. Alex Horwitz
A brave new world awaits us in this engrossing investigation of technology and the ethics of self-driving cars — will they will control us or set us free?
Dir. Kenneth Paul Rosenberg
Over a period of five years, a psychiatrist visits homeless camps, emergency medical facilities, and jails tracking the lives of individuals suffering from debilitating mental illness.
CHANGING THE GAME
Dir. Michael Barnett
Transgender high school athletes from across the country compete at the top of their fields, while also challenging the boundaries and perceptions of fairness and discrimination.
CIRCUS OF BOOKS
Dir. Rachel Mason
Karen and Barry Mason are the typical American parents — with the exception of owning and operating the infamous LA gay porn book store, Circus of Books.
FUNNY YOU NEVER KNEW
Dir. Andrew Hunt
The pioneering comic genius of 1950s live television era superstars Imogene Coca, George Gobel, and Martha Raye take center stage in this crowd-pleasing tribute.
Dir. Bernardo Ruiz
An elegant panoramic portrait of the multitude of Mexican-American winemakers and migrant workers who are the quiet driving force behind the premium California wine industry.
Dir. Adam Bolt
An unprecedented gene engineering tool known as CRISPR presents the biggest scientific breakthrough of the modern era, holding the potential to edit human DNA — but at what cost?
JUMP SHOT: THE KENNY SAILORS STORY
Dir. Jacob Hamilton
Meet Kenny Sailors, inventor of the jump shot, whose “leaping one-hander” changed the game of basketball forever.
KATE NASH: UNDERESTIMATE THE GIRL
Dir. Amy Goldstein
An unvarnished, behind-the-scenes look at the creative life and professional struggles of British singer-songwriter Kate Nash.
Dir. Garret Price
The sterling talents and mercurial spirit of the late actor Anton Yelchin are remembered by his closest friends and family in this joyful, bittersweet eulogy.
MADE IN BOISE
Dir. Beth Aala
This deeply empathetic and eye-opening peek at the burgeoning business of surrogacy in Boise, Idaho follows four gestational surrogates and their intended parents.
MAKING WAVES: THE ART OF CINEMATIC SOUND
Dir. Midge Costin
Meet the sound designers responsible for creating the cinematic soundtrack to some of your favorite films, while learning about their creative process and how they collaborate with renowned directors.
MIKE WALLACE IS HERE
Dir. Avi Belkin
An unflinching look at the legendary reporter Mike Wallace, who interrogated the 20th century’s biggest figures during his 50 years on air and whose aggressive reporting style and showmanship redefined what Americans could expect from broadcasters.
MYSTIFY: MICHAEL HUTCHENCE
Dir. Richard Lowenstein
A bold collage of electrifying performance footage and intimate home videos paint a tender, illuminative portrait of the iconic INXS lead singer Michael Hutchence.
NOTHING FANCY: DIANA KENNEDY
Dir. Elizabeth Carroll
At 96, Diane Kennedy is a legendary chef and author, whose razor sharp intellect, fabulous taste, and cutting wit are beautifully captured in this homage to her lifelong quest to preserve Mexican cuisine.
PIZZA, A LOVE STORY
Dir. Gorman Bechard
New Haven, Connecticut is home to three of America’s top ranked pizza restaurants, and they’re all located within a six block radius of each other.
RAISE HELL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS
Dir. Janice Engel
Few journalists have left a legacy so profound and sharply funny as Texas’ Molly Ivins, whose acerbic insights into the political process are revived in this biography.
Dir. Andre Hormann
In this emotional gut-punch of a boxing documentary, two young Chicago men fight to survive both professionally and personally.
Dir. Bill Gallagher
Guor Marial’s difficult and triumphant journey from refugee to world-renowned athlete, told in intimate interviews with gorgeously animated flashbacks, as he strives for athletic greatness.
THE CONDOR AND THE EAGLE
Dir. Clement Guerra
This epic journey connects four Indigenous leaders across North and South America as they seek to connect, empower their communities, and find solutions to combat environmental disasters.
THE DOG DOC
Dir. Cindy Meehl
Called a maverick, a miracle-worker, and a quack, Dr. Marty Goldstein, a pioneer of integrative veterinary medicine, provides a last hope for pet owners with nothing left to lose by holistically treating animals after other vets have given up.
THE STORY OF PLASTIC
Dir. Deia Schlosberg
As plastic pollution continues to be a world-wide problem that can’t be solved by recycling alone, scientists and activists challenge corporations pushing single-use plastic consumerism.
TRIXIE MATTEL: MOVING PARTS
Dir. Nicholas Zeig-Owens
Trixie charmed audiences and judges as winner of RuPaul's Drag Race All Stars, but the grind of performing and the pressure of the title proves that heavy is the head that wears the tiara.
CACHADA - THE OPPORTUNITY
Dir. Marlén Viñayo
Five women from El Salvador break through the cycle of generational abuse in this poignant exploration of the power of participatory, community theater.
Dir. Olivia Martin McGuire
Take a fantasy ride through contemporary China as we explore the billion-dollar pre-wedding photography industry.
DIVE: RITUALS IN WATER
Dir. Elín Hansdóttir, Anna Rún Tryggvadóttir, Hanna Björk Valsdóttir
A visionary swimming coach encourages infants to swim underwater long before they can crawl, walk, or talk, Snorri Magnússon’s unconventional teachings provokes outrage, engenders parental trust, and leads to miracles underwater in this cinematic and engrossing profile.
Dir. Phil Kibbe
An insider's look at the F1D World Championships for free flight model airplanes, whose balance is threatened when a newcomer joins the competition.
Dir. Waad Al-Khateab, Edward Watts
A harrowing and unforgettable autobiographical portrait of a woman’s life over five years during the uprising in Aleppo, Syria as told to her infant daughter, Sama.
Dir. Pailin Wedel
A Thai family cryopreserves their two-year-old daughter following her death from cancer — are they deluded or prescient in their attempt to escape fate?
Dir. Lauren Greenfield
In Lauren Greenfield's searing new film on the implacable "Mother" of the Philippines, Imelda Marcos plots her family's grand return to power.
Dir. David Hambridge
An intimate look at the extinction of the northern white rhino through the eyes of two Kenyan caretakers charged with protecting Sudan, the last remaining male.
Dir. Iván Osnovikoff, Bettina Perut
The lives of two stray dogs, Football and Chola, are captured over a period of two years as they make their home inside an urban skate park in this unconventional canine documentary.
Dir. Eva Mulvad
A poignant portrait of forbidden lovers, who escape to Turkey with their secret child; desperate to start a new life they find themselves stalled in bureaucratic limbo.
Dir. Werner Herzog, André Singer
The life of Mikhail Gorbachev, the eighth and final President of the Soviet Union is carefully explored in Werner Herzog’s loving tribute to his old friend.
Dir. Luke Lorentzen
Set in Mexico City, this propulsive nocturnal drama follows the Ochoa family who operate an independent for-profit emergency ambulance within the country’s shockingly underserved healthcare system.
Dir. Kristof Bilsen
A deft exploration of the concepts of identity, memory, and what it means to be a mother through Pomm, a Thai caregiving who cares for other families, while supporting her own children from afar.
Dir. Peter Michael Dowd
Rock out to the music of the mercurial Japanese Jimmy Page impersonator and superfan, Akio Sakurai, who moves to California to join a Led Zeppelin tribute band.
ONE CHILD NATION
Dir. Nanfu Wang, Jialing Zhang
After becoming a mother director Nanfu Wang explores the ripple effect of China’s devastating One Child Policy, uncovering shocking human rights violations as well as her own family’s complicity, and the liability of American adoptive families.
OUR TIME MACHINE
Dir. S. Leo Chiang, Yang Sun
The Shanghai-based artist Maleonn races against time to stage an elaborate, magical, and moving autobiographical play for his father, who suffers from Alzheimer’s.
RIGHT TO HARM
Dir. Annie Speicher, Matt Wechsler
An essential investigation into the impact of factory farming across the US, and what affected communities have courageously done in response.
Dir. Jeanie Finlay
When a transgender man decides to carry his child himself, the pregnancy prompts an unexpected and profound reckoning with conventions of masculinity, self-definition, and biology.
SHOOTING THE MAFIA
Dir. Kim Longinotto
Italian photographer Letizia Battaglia spends her career documenting the life and crimes of the Mafia with intimate details and stunning insight.
VARDA BY AGNES
Dir. Agnes Varda
An unpredictable documentary from a fascinating storyteller, Agnès Varda’s final feature documentary sheds light on her experience as a director, bringing a personal insight to what she calls “cine-writing.”
WHAT WE LEFT UNFINISHED
Dir. Mariam Ghani
The story of Communist-era Afghanistan and lives under fire, told through a recently uncovered treasure trove of five unfinished films, all based on real, unfiltered life.
WHAT WILL BECOME OF US
Dir. Steven Cantor
Sir Frank Lowy, self-made billionaire and founder of Westfield Corporation, must decide if he should sell the company he’s built since 1953 or continue his life work.
Dir. Ava Porter, Farhad Akhmetov
The harmonious universality of musical expression is explored in this rapturous ethnographic look at traditional folk music in five different regions of Russia.
Dir. Eliza Capai
With kinetic energy and infectious empowerment, three young Brazilian activists fight for an education and affordable transportation, their experiences, passions, and fears immediate, relevant, and all-pervading.
Dir. Davy Rothbart
Filmed over the course of 20 years, the tight-knit Sanfords live 17 blocks from the US Capitol. Struggling with addiction, poverty, and gun violence, an unexpected tragedy leads to a journey of love, loss, and acceptance.
ERNIE & JOE: CRISIS COPS
Dir. Jenifer McShane
Two San Antonio police officers challenge long-held police practices for dealing with the mentally ill.
GAY CHORUS DEEP SOUTH
Dir. David Charles Rodrigues
In response to a wave of discriminatory anti-LGBTQ laws and the divisive 2016 election, the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus embarks on a tour of the American Deep South.
Dir. Hannah Dweck, Yael Luttwak
Three women overcome their opioid addiction with the support of a re-entry house in this inspiring and hopeful portrait of human resilience.
Dir. Nadia Shihab
A young filmmaker returns to her mother’s dazzling artistic haven in Lubbock, Texas to explore three generations of their Iraqi family in this intimate, reflective portrait.
MEN & WOMEN OF DISTINCTION: GOVERNOR MIKE BEEBE
Dir. Kathryn TuckerFeaturing politics from a by-gone era, this profile of the incredible career and commendable public service of former Governor Mike Beebe charts one man’s efforts to create lasting change for Southern communities.
MOSSVILLE: WHEN GREAT TREES FALL
Dir. Alexander Glustrom
The inhabitants of Mossville, once a thriving, historically black community, have all been uprooted due to contamination and pollution by petrochemical plants — except for one mighty man who refuses to relinquish his family’s land.
Dir. Patrick Bresnan, Ivete Lucas
Four teens face heartbreak and celebrate in the rituals of an extraordinary senior year in a small agricultural town in the Florida Everglades, where hopes for the future are concentrated on the youth.
Dir. Jenna Ricker
Inside the hallowed grounds of the Indianapolis 500, where the laps separate footnotes from legends, Janet Guthrie — the first woman to attempt Indy — had to do it with unprecedented scrutiny.
Dir. Tim Tsai
A Gulf Coast community is haunted by racist tensions from 40 years ago, when a Vietnamese refugee shot and killed a white crab fisherman.
STATE OF THE ART
Dir Brent Renaud, Craig Renaud
A journey of artistic discovery...100,000 miles, 1,000 destinations in search of 100 under-recognized American artists for one unforgettable exhibition - here are the stories of seven of the artists from the groundbreaking exhibit at Crystal Bridges in Bentonville, Arkansas.
WE BELIEVE IN DINOSAURS
Dir. Clayton Brown, Monica Long Ross
A charged conversation between evangelical creationists and scientific-leaning secularists unfolds as a massively scaled Noah’s Ark theme park is built in Williamstown, Kentucky.
Dir. Rebecca Stern
The creative and colorful world of competitive dog grooming is presented in this charming documentary that follows four champion groomers.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.