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HS Documentary Film Institute nearing deadline for fundraiser

by James Leigh | May 26, 2023 at 4:04 a.m.
Jennifer Weir, a producer and subject of the film "Finding Her Beat," answers a question while fellow subjects Megan Chao Smith, from left, and Josephine Smith-Weir, director Keri Pickett and Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Senior Programmer Robin Robinson take part in a question-and-answer session on Oct. 14, 2022, during the 31st annual event. - Submitted photo

Putting on one of the top documentary film festivals in the country is not cheap, and each May the Hot Springs Documentary Film Institute, the organization behind the longest-running all-documentary film festival in North America, holds a fundraiser to help defray the cost of the event.

This year, the organization has a goal of $25,000 for its May fundraiser, a total that will be matched by a handful of supporters and members of its board of directors, the board's chair said.

"May 31 is our deadline for -- of course, we will continue to raise funds -- but it's our deadline for the matching funds," Margaret McLarty said. "So we have generous supporters in Dorothy Morris and Gail Pratt Frasier and the board of directors, the HSDFI Board of Directors as a whole, are providing up to $25,000 in matching funds."

As of Thursday afternoon, over $18,000 had been donated toward that goal, and donors, and even prospective donors, are invited to a Donor Appreciation Reception at 6 p.m. Wednesday at 200 Deanwood Terrace. Donations can be made at

"And so if they haven't donated, (they can) come to the reception and donate," she said. "We will be working on meeting our goal maybe on the 31st. We still may be working on meeting our goal. So we plan to celebrate meeting that goal on the 31st."

While the 32nd annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival is set for Oct. 6-14, it is imperative for the festival to raise a significant amount of its funding much earlier in the year.

"We have pass sales different times during the year, but the matching fundraiser is our single biggest fundraiser," McLarty said. "It's important for us in our planning to have an understanding -- we've got budget requirements to be able to execute all the programs that we want to do in the festival -- and so it's important to have this kickoff so that we can plan well for the festival."

Part of the funding is to defray the cost of showing the films and helping to bring filmmakers to the event, McLarty said.

"Last year, we showed over 80 documentaries and brought in numerous filmmakers," she said. "We help pay for the filmmakers' travels that we bring in, so that's part of one of the things we do. I anticipate that we will be bringing in more filmmakers this year because we've got some extra programs we're working on, some new programs that we're working on, and I think that program will bring in more filmmakers. We've just got a lot of really exciting plans for the 32nd annual festival."

McLarty said the Hot Springs community has always been generous in helping to fund the festival.

"The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival is the longest-running, all-documentary film festival and an Oscar-qualifying festival," she said.

"It is so highly respected in the documentary film world.

"I've been told by a professor at Duke, a documentary professor, she called it a treasure. It's just highly regarded. It's just so meaningful that this festival is born and raised and still flourishing in Hot Springs."

While the primary deadline for submitting to the festival has passed, prospective filmmakers have until the late deadline of June 1 to submit a film, although an extended deadline of June 15 is the last possible date to submit a film.

Last year's festival had over 750 submissions for what was pared down to approximately 80 feature-length films and shorts for the nine-day festival.

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