Batesville’s Ozark Foothills FilmFest is a new addition to the online Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture. The article covers the history of the festival, from 2002 to the present. The festival, established by Bob and Judy Pest, was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) educational non-profit organization in 2001. The first festival featured the late Levon Helm, a member of the legendary rock band, The Band, and Arkansas musical icon. Helm’s performance attracted a capacity crowd at the historic Melba Theater. In remarks to the audience, Helm poetically referred to the new organization as “a baby that needs to be be nurtured to reach its full potential.”
Over the years a number of Arkansans participated in or had work screened at the festival, including Lisa Blount, Mary Steenburgen, and Louis Jordan. Programming also included Disfarmer: A Portrait of America, the first documentary about the enigmatic photographer from Heber Springs. In 2006 the festival mounted an exhibit titled “Posters from the Golden Age of Mexican Cinema, 1936-1956” which toured the region.
By 2009 the festival had established itself as “one of the best small town film festivals in America“ according to the Arkansas Times. Filmmakers began to premiere their films in Batesville. The festival, still operated by its founders, settled into an annual five-day spring event in Batesville. Panels and workshops became increasingly important; women directors played a significant role in the festival’s programming; and attendance and public support grew. With thirteen years experience, the festival, now held at The University of Arkansas Community College and the historic Landers Theater building, has established itself as relevant, entertaining, and financially stable, making it a significant contributor to the economy and quality of life in the Ozark foothills region. The film festival is the first film-related entry to be included in the Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture.
The 13th annual Ozark Foothills FilmFest will take place April 2-6, 2014. For more information, visit www.ozarkfoothiillsfilmfest.org.
The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History and Culture, a web-based reference work, is a project of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the Central Arkansas Library System and is the only state encyclopedia sponsored by a public library. View the encyclopedia at www.encyclopediaofarkansas.net.