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Fundraisers and a matching donation boosted the coffers of the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival by over $50,000 in June, which will be used to fund the annual festival in October and several educational programs.

The goal was to raise $20,000 in June, and by the time the month was over, the festival had surpassed that goal and raised a total of $30,800. Jennifer Gerber, the festival’s executive director, said exceeding their goal was incredible, noting, “We can see the support and the love for the festival.”

In addition to the money it raised, the festival received an additional $20,000 from Dorothy Morris, who had agreed to match the goal of $20,000. Gerber said Morris has supported the festival for years and been vital to its success.

“I believe firmly that the festival is still standing because of her,” she said, adding that Morris “is my favorite philanthropist.”

The $50,800 will be used in several ways, Gerber said, with a lot of it going toward the travel and lodging of the festival guests. Last year, Gerber said they hosted 91 guests, including directors, documentary subjects, special guests and jury members.

A lot of these people, Gerber said, do not have the funds to travel to Hot Springs to show off their movies. “It’s just not the same if they aren’t here,” she said. With these people at the screenings, the audience members are allowed to ask questions about the movie and have a better experience.

“We really want them to come,” she said.

The money will also help fund educational outreach programs such as the Emerging Filmmaker program, a two-day class for middle and high school students. Gerber said they will have between 175 and 200 students from all over the state. The program is free to the students and will be held Oct. 22 and 23.

The money will also allow free screenings to be held during the festival. Gerber said hosting the festival is already very expensive, but it becomes even more expensive when they don’t charge anything for a screening. She said the goal is to offer one free screening per day of the festival.

The festival, she said, is a place that is meant for everybody and with free screenings, families can attend.

Helping the fundraiser meet its goal were Mary and Robert Zunick, both members of the HSDFF board since 2014, who hosted the final day of the fundraiser at their house.

Mary Zunick said they were happy to host the fundraiser, noting, “It was a great event.”

At the Zunick’s house, items that aren’t for sale anywhere else were raffled off, including front row seats for either the opening or closing night of the festival and a canvas print of the festival’s 2019 poster.

Zunick said she was happy with the results of the fundraiser, noting that they were able to reach people who had never participated before, who donated $20, $50 or $100.

Zunick said she was “really proud” of the people who participated who had never done so before. She said when the festival happens, those people will be able to look at the festival and know they helped make it happen.

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