Oaklawn Racing Casino Resort will be the presenting sponsor for the 31st annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival which opens its nine-day run early next month, event organizers say.
This year's festival runs from Oct. 7-15 at the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa, 239 Central Ave., and the festival's virtual option will run from Oct. 16-21.
In addition to taking over as the festival's presenting sponsor, Oaklawn will host the opening night party for filmmakers, special guests and All Access pass holders.
"We're thrilled that Oaklawn is going to do it, and they're also going to throw the opening night party," HSDFF board Chair Margaret McLarty said.
There are four types of passes for the first "fully in-person" film festival since the COVID-19 pandemic -- the All Access pass, Film Buff pass, Opening Weekend All Access pass, and Closing Weekend All Access pass.
The three all-access passes will allow pass holders to access the festival's VIP Lounge as well as attend any parties and events associated with the festival with the opening weekend pass limited to events on Oct. 7-9 and the closing weekend pass limited to those on Oct. 13-15.
"We are all very excited to return to the film festival's longtime home and arguable epicenter at the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa," Festival Director Sheryl Santacruz said in a news release. "It will be a continuation of the process we began last year to get back to theater screenings and in-person events the way our film fans and filmmakers have come to know and love for three decades now."
Each night, excluding opening and closing nights, there will be two films starting around 6:30-7 p.m., McLarty said.
"When that film is over is when the party begins," she said. "So there's like a film, and then there's a Q&A sometimes after the film with filmmakers, and so the party starts about 9 p.m.-ish each night. They're very good parties, too. ... There's food, beverages -- I mean, it's a full-service party, so having a pass is really very valuable."
Parties will be held at The Gangster Museum of America, Deluca's Pizzeria, Splash Wine Bar, Superior Bathhouse Brewery, Grateful Head Pizza Oven & Beer Garden, The Rooftop Bar, The Clubhouse, and Whittington Place.
McLarty said there are over 80 films slated for this year's event, but the full list of films and a schedule will not be available until next week. In addition to the films, two awards will be presented -- the Impact Award and the Career Achievement Award.
Christine Choy, who codirected the 1987 documentary film "Who Killed Vincent Chin?" with Renee Tajima-Peña, will receive the Impact Award.
"Christine Choy is a pioneer Asian American filmmaker and has made more than 85 films and received over 60 international awards, including her Oscar-nominated film, 'Who Killed Vincent Chin?'," McLarty said. "Her work has been broadcast on HBO, PBS, Sundance, Lifetime."
The Career Achievement Award will be awarded posthumously to Brent Renaud, who was one of the founders of the Little Rock Film Festival.
"Brent has spent over two decades traveling the world making character-driven documentaries, and along with his brother Craig won almost every major award in television journalism," McLarty said.
"He cofounded the Little Rock Film Festival, was a distinguished professor of journalism ethics at the University of Arkansas, and a Harvard Nieman fellow. The Renaud Brothers' 10-part series 'Off to War' was the first time a group of soldiers had been filmed for an entire deployment at war and won an Overseas Press Club (of America) Award."
The Career Achievement Award will be renamed in Renaud's honor, the news release said. Renaud was killed on March 13 while covering the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
"This year's honorees are also particularly special for Hot Springs," Santacruz said in the release. "Choy has made an indelible impact through her trailblazing, activist filmmaking, and we cannot think of a better recipient for this year's award. And, of course, the Renaud Brothers' contributions, not just to the Arkansas filmmaking community but to nonfiction storytelling in general, is immeasurable; we are proud to rename this award in Brent's honor."
The Virtual pass includes most of the films that will be shown during the festival, and those films will be available on-demand, McLarty said.
Passes for the event range from $150 for the weekend or virtual passes to $400 for the All Access pass. The Film Buff pass, which includes admission to all regular films and those on the virtual platform, is $225. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit https://www.hsdfi.org.