Organizers of the 13th Annual Ozark Foothills FilmFest have announced that one full day of the upcoming festival will be entirely free to the public. The festival, which take place April 2-6, has received a Film Festival Grant from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to present a filmmaker panel discussion and series of four film screenings titled “Breaking Through: Promoting Cultural Understanding through Film.” The grant funding, coupled with an additional grant award from the Arkansas Humanities Council, has made it possible to present the entire program at no charge to the public. The free program takes place in Independence Hall on the campus of the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville on Saturday, April 5. It begins with a panel discussion among the directors of the four featured films, from 10:00 to 11:30 AM. The four films—three documentaries and one narrative film–will then screen throughout the remainder of the day. The films included in the series are: I LEARN AMERICA, directed by Jean-Michel Dissard and Gitte Peng (Noon). The film tells the story of five students at the International High School, a Brooklyn public high school dedicated to newly arrived immigrants from all over the world. The teenagers strive to master English, adapt to families they haven’t seen in years, and create a future of their own while coming of age in a new land. SWEET DREAMS, directed by Lisa Fruchtman and Rob Fruchtman (2:15 PM). SWEET DREAMS is one of two films in the series set in nations that experienced devastating civil unrest. But the movies do not focus on the ravages of war, but rather on the post-conflict healing and recovery. Set in Rwanda, SWEET DREAMS looks at efforts by Kiki Katese, a pioneering theater director, to start Rwanda’s first and only drumming troupe, open to women from both sides of the conflict and, as an aid to economic recovery, to establish Rwanda’s first and only ice cream shop! FAMBUL TOK, directed by Sara Terry (5:45 PM). In this highly moving documentary, victims and perpetrators of Sierra Leone’s civil war come together for the first time in an unprecedented program of tradition-based truth-telling and forgiveness ceremonies. The film explores the depths of a culture that believes that true justice lies in redemption and healing for individuals—and that forgiveness is the surest path to restoring dignity and building strong communities. DETROIT UNLEADED, directed by Rola Nashef 7:45 PM). The only narrative film in the series, DETROIT UNLEADED is a romantic comedy that follows the story of Sami, a young man of Lebanese descent, who reluctantly takes over his father’s gas station after his dad is murdered in an armed robbery. Sami spends his days dealing with rude, but hilariously absurd, Detroit customers who spout their numerous complaints through bulletproof glass. He falls for a gorgeous young phone card sales person and begins a secret romance to avoid the disapproval of her overprotective brother. The directors of all films will be in attendance to conduct post-screening Q&As with the audience. “Breaking Through” is sponsored in part by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the Arkansas Humanities Council, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. A complete schedule for the 13th Annual Ozark Foothills FilmFest can be found at www.ozarkfoothillsfilmfest.org/schedule.
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