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Davi to headline film festival's closing night

by Lindsey Wells | September 15, 2017 at 4:00 a.m.

The Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute announced Thursday that it has secured actor and singer Robert Davi to close out the 2017 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, which runs Oct. 6-15 at the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa.

The institute also announced the second week of the festival will feature a documentary about actress Rose Marie of "The Dick Van Dyke Show" fame, who will appear during the festival via Skype as long as she remains in good health.

As a character actor, Davi has appeared in 137 films. He is most recognizable as FBI Special Agent Big Johnson in "Die Hard," Bond villain Franz Sanchez in "License to Kill," and opera-singing bad guy Jake Fratelli in "The Goonies."

"What's been really special about the way we've been able to attract both of those celebrities is actually their loose ties to Hot Springs," Jennifer Gerber, the festival's interim executive director, said Thursday. "Rose Marie, the film we have about her called 'Wait For Your Laugh,' actually tells a bit of her story and friendship with Al Capone. It shows how he sort of took her in as a daughter and I don't know if she really even fully understood what she was part of. With our gangster ties here in Hot Springs, it's a really good fit for our town."

Starting at age 4, Marie is best known for her role as Sally Rogers on "The Dick Van Dyke Show." She was known by The Mob as "The Kid" and called Al Capone "Uncle Al," a news release said. She helped launch modern-day Las Vegas by performing at the opening of the Flamingo Hotel. Her friends over the years include Frank Sinatra, Johnny Carson, Doris Day, Dean Martin, Milton Berle, and Rosemary Clooney.

Gerber said "Wait For Your Laugh" filmmaker Jason Wise will attend the festival and is excited to visit Hot Springs, as the film is something he has spent the last three years exploring.

Davi originally trained in opera and has focused his career on singing jazz since 2011, the release said. The film, "Davi's Way," is a frantic and comedic look at Davi's attempt to meticulously recreate Sinatra's historic "Main Event" concert at Madison Square Garden. Davi and film director Tom Donahue will attend the screening and take part in a Q&A afterward.

"What's cool about (Davi) is, if you've seen his other films, he's always a villain and always playing the bad guy, and he's just kind of tired of playing the bad guy. He's a professionally trained opera singer and the film is about him reconnecting with his passion for Frank Sinatra and trying to put on a concert celebration of the 100th anniversary of one of Sinatra's biggest shows," Gerber said.

"So when (Davi) heard about Frank Sinatra's tie to Hot Springs, that's sort of what pulled that film in for us. It's kind of interesting how you see throughout the history of our own town how many people do feel connected here," she added.

Other big names set to attend this year's festival are Kathleen Turner, who was named the festival's honorary chair, and legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog.

Gerber said festival planning is moving along smoothly and momentum has picked up in recent weeks.

"It's almost a snowball effect; once we got Kathleen Turner and Werner Herzog it started to spiral into more people wanting to be part of it. It's really fun right now because I feel that I'm part of something big and it's really awesome to walk down the streets of Hot Springs and people are like, 'Oh, I heard about this, I'm so excited,' and I can feel the momentum building. I'm just honored to be a part of it because sometimes, when I'm in the office or at home making these plans or arrangements, I realize how many people are going to be attending, so you realize your impact,"she said.

The search is still underway for a permanent executive director for the festival and Gerber said she plans to be involved in the transition.

"I've certainly given so much of my energy to the festival that I want to make sure that they're in good hands," she said. "What I was able to inherit was the incredible structure of the past 25 years, so whoever will take it next is going to have so much to build on that I think it'll give us a chance to really attract someone great."

Tickets, passes, and additional information can be found online at

Local on 09/15/2017

Print Headline: Davi to headline film festival's closing night


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