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A friendship born at last year's Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival has resulted in a Michael Mueller documentary about one of the festival's founders that will debut Monday in Hot Springs.

"Benini: The Artist's Journey" was filmed in late 2016 at Benini's private MuseoBenini just south of Marble Falls, Texas, edited in 2017, and will premiere at 4 p.m. Oct. 9 at this year's documentary film festival.

"I first met Benini when he and Lorraine attended the 25th Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival last year. I was hired to create a short film documenting a private reception for which they were honored by the city of Hot Springs," Mueller said in a news release.

"I have been involved with the film festival in various capacities since 2002, and I was well aware of the Beninis' importance in getting this world-renowned festival started back in 1992. Lorraine and I had long talks about the history and preservation of the festival. The three of us hit it off just magically; maybe it has something to do with me being German and Benini being Italian. We ended up spending most of the remaining days of the film festival together at various events and functions," he said.

"So, last December I decided to visit them. I had never been in this particular part of Texas and I was stunned by its beauty. I also had the privilege of being one of the first people to see Benini's new private MuseoBenini, displaying paintings and sculptures from all stages of his long career," he said.

"Four hours of footage resulted from several interviews, and after viewing it, I determined it held rich material for a documentary of Benini's life story. I am primarily a commercial and event videographer, so this project was a refreshing challenge. And it started me filming other fine art subjects for documentaries -- Johann Eyfells and Pat Musick, for example."

In addition to providing a "fascinating insight" into Benini's life and career, it is also a "testimony to one man's drive and dedication to follow the path he chose, and in his words, becomes revealing and inspirational to any soul in a creative life," the release said.

Benini and his wife, Lorraine, arrived in Hot Springs from Florida in 1988 and bought a historic building at 520 Central Ave., formerly a hotel built in 1886 that had holes in the roof and was boarded up for years. They restored this building according to National Historic Preservation guidelines, and it became an "exciting haven for the creativity that thrived in the city, including Hot Springs Documentary Filmmaker parties, architectural tours, and Gallery Walks for the next 12 years," the release said.

In late 1999, the Beninis moved to Johnson City, Texas, and bought a 143-acre ranch once owned by President Johnson. The Benini Galleries and Sculpture Ranch, an educational and cultural project, was open free of charge to the public for 15 years.

In 2014, they moved 28 miles north of the ranch and built a museum, open to students and art tours. The galleries showcase 60 years of Benini's paintings and three-dimensional pieces. The project includes an extensive fine arts library, as well as outdoor sculptures on acres of natural landscape. Visits to MuseoBenini are available free of charge by appointment to curators, scholars and groups or art tours, providing the opportunity to personally interact aesthetically and intellectually with Benini's evolution as an artist, the release said.

It was here that Mueller traveled to capture Benini on film. "Benini: The Artist's Journey" will be aired immediately following a film about the Malco Theater restoration.

"One of the biggest thrills of my professional career was getting word my film was officially selected to premiere at the HSDFF," Mueller said in the release. "It feels like we have come full circle to be united at the festival again, this time presenting to the world the fruit of our friendship that began a year earlier at the same place."

Call the HSDFF office at 501-538-0452 for tickets or more information.

Entertainment on 10/03/2017

Print Headline: 'Benini: An Artist's Journey' to debut at HSDFF

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