If you haven’t heard, there’s a new film festival in town this week in Fayetteville.
The 540 Film Festival makes its debut beginning on Thursday, Nov. 5 through Sunday, Nov. 8 at various venues around town. There will be features, shorts and documentary films to watch, film-making classes to attend, and many other things happening in association with the brand new event.
There’s so much going on and so many movies to see, that we decided to put together a little (OK, not so little) guide to what’s happening with the 540 Film Festival. Hopefully, it will come in handy this weekend as you try to decide which movies to watch, which classes to take, and which parties to party at.
Admission to the festival is $30 for a full pass, $15 for a single-day pass, and $5 for each individual film. Below, you’ll find a list of the films playing at this year’s festival, a little info about each one, and more on what to expect. Enjoy.
The Movies – Thursday
Synopsis Can losers find love? Southwest desert radio station K-RAP is struggling to pay the bills when radio jock Jack Proctor (Beau Clark) zooms through Coyote County on his way to LA to take the gig of a lifetime. But the deal stalls, so Jack temps on-air work for K-RAP. Dr. Lauren Hartford (Nikki Boyer), local on-air relationship expert, gets under Jack’s skin by questioning his love advice — so Jack initiates a high stakes contest to find Coyote County’s biggest loser and help him woo the county’s most unattainable woman. Before this battle-of-the-sexes is over, Jack and Lauren will learn love is for losers after all.
Synopsis A warning to outsiders: When traveling through Resurrection county, watch your step and mind the signs. One false move out here could be your last. When four suburbanite campers roll into the backwoods southern town of Enoch,they find that southern hospitality still exists. As long as you mind the signs. Things are not what they appear to be as a weekend camping trip turns deadly. The locals are all too happy to serve up their own brand of an eye for an eye justice! A pulse pounding, take no prisoners descent into neo southern gothic horror. Resurrection County There’s a reason things are so quiet here.
*Cast and Crew Present
Synopsis: Sonny Liston, the controversial former world heavyweight boxing champion is brought back to vivid life by actor Ving Rhames in the Robert Townsend directed biopic Phantom Punch. From his discovery by a priest while serving time at the Missouri State Penitentiary to the infamous ‘Phantom Punch’ by Cassius Clay which effectively ended his career, the movie spans the years from 1950 to Liston’s mysterious and untimely death in 1971.
Phantom Punch shares Liston’s triumphs and tragedy as his run ins with racism, the mob and the law are examined, and his personal relationships with his wife, manager and lover are revealed. From the lows of poverty and jail to the heights of a world championship, Phantom Punch provides audiences with a compelling portrait of the man behind the headlines.”
The Movies – Friday
You Decide events
A few films were selected by the screening committee based on unique content, style or production element to be a part of a Friday-only You Decide event. Come and recieve the screening committee’s criteria and use it to critically analyze and build your appreciate of these independent works. The feedback will be given to the filmmakers as they endeavor on new projects and will also be reviewed by the festival committees for future selection standards. The following films are participating in the You Decide event but are also up for consideration for the awards in their respective categories.
Synopsis: 9 to 5 is Murder. Bureaucracy is the first production from Proactive Pictures. The feature film is the story of a loyal employee overburdened by a corrupt boss who carefully plots a murder to save himself and his blind sister from economic hardship.
Roger takes care of his blind sister in a trailer park and works at a Bureau where he is a clerk with the responsibilities of a manager but without the pay or respect. His oppressive, paper-pushing boss takes advantage of him and reneges on the promise of a promotion to assistant manager. After some investigative work where he discovers the corruption of the boss to be more than he could have imagined, the loyal employee decides to take action against the system that is holding him back. Knowing that he is next in line for the boss’s position, the clerk carries out a plot to murder him and assume his title.
Synopsis: Baby Boy Watkins (Denton Blane Everett), a piano playing combination of Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard and Elvis, finally gets his big break and is invited to play the Nashville JubileeTM. His manager, Dirty Dawkins (Todd Farr), has set up his visit to the Nashville JubileeTM followed immediately by a sold out performance at the Worlds Fair in New Orleans. However, Baby Boy’s sister, Jollene (Brandi Price), shows up backstage at the Nashville JubileeTM imploring Baby Boy to return home with her.
Rockabilly Baby is a roller coaster ride of emotions, chock full of all original rockabilly music… It was the birth of what we call today, Rock and Roll, set to the tune of a heart wrenching great story. It was the Rockabilly Era. When it was over… Nothing was ever quite the same.
Synopsis: Junk Dreams is a documentary-adventure that chronicles one magical journey of two ageless brothers in their 80’s. Ernie and Charlie Borgman step aboard a 29-foot Chinese junk boat and set sail on a 1,620 mile journey from Port Hadlock, Washington to Valdez, Alaska. The two and a half-month adventure takes them along the Canadian and Alaskan coast, through the Inside Passage and out into the icy waters of the Gulf of Alaska.
These modern day cowboys of the sea battle torrents of rain and raging waters, engine trouble and broken masts…and come face to face with the adventure, their true fountain of youth. As they embark on this journey of the soul they explore issues of family, death and health. Issues that in the later parts of their lives are immediate, haunting and inevitable.
With a keen wit, a sparkle in their eye and an undying devotion to nature these ordinary men tell an extraordinary story of family, of passing along the passion for life to our children and of aging – but never growing old.
Synopsis: The Alutiiq or Sugpiaq people are Native Alaskans whose long history includes a complex social structure based upon the rich maritime resources of the central Gulf of Alaska. Unfortunately, it also includes exploitation by both Russians and Americans. The Alutiiq arts and culture were nearly lost over the centuries of oppression by these invading cultures that attempted to tear their culture from the Alutiiq people. Recently, however, something unique and incredible has happened among the Alutiiq people. They have begun to rediscover their rich artistic heritage and are choreographing new dances and creating new art. They have found their dance. How did this cultural reawakening begin? How has it found fertile ground among the younger generations in the face of overwhelming pressure from American popular culture? How are the traditional stories from the dramatic history of the Alutiiq people represented in the art? Will it survive? These are just a few of the questions we are asking in this important documentary film, “Finding their own Dance: Reawakening the Alaskan Alutiiq Arts.”
Synopsis: In the calm, cold water of Mirror Lake, the starting gun for Ironman Lake Placid is ready to fire. Andrew ‘Drew’ Johnston floats, waiting to battle competitors from all over the world as they swim over, under, and around each other on a quest to qualify for the Ford Ironman World Championship. But for Drew, a different struggle weighs heavily on his mind and in his heart. In 2004, a recurring leg injury forced his withdrawal with 10 miles left in this race, something he never imagined possible. This injury led to a frightening diagnosis of Leukemia (CML). One year later, after the oral chemo Gleevac put his disease in remission, Drew began competing at an elite level again, and winning. But he had unfinished business, and his emotional return to Lake Placid serves as the backbone of this film.
Throughout the grueling 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, and 26.2 mile run, Drew retells his inspirational life story. From his introduction to cycling and early struggles with triathlon to his diagnosis and successful comeback at the famous Ford Ironman World Championship in Kailua-Kona, Drew’s story is one of strength, determination, love, family and friendship. Surprisingly funny interviews with family and friends provide more than the usual glimpse into the world of an elite athlete. And with every stroke, pedal, and step Drew takes, you not only root for him, you cheer for what he believes in – a nothing is impossible attitude and a day-to-day appreciation of life. Andrew Johnston overcomes the odds to challenge himself and to inspire others to live life to its fullest. He proves that our only limitations are the ones we set for ourselves. Living is Winning is an inspiring feature length documentary film about Ironman triathlete, former pro-cyclist, and Leukemia survivor Andrew “Drew” Johnston.
Synopsis: Bollywood Beats narrates the story of Raj, a lovable Indian guy, is down on his luck after another unsuccessful dance audition, his tragic breakup with his girlfriend, and his parents threatening to kick him out of their home. Life doesn’t seem to be going according to plan for him until he meets Jyoti, an attractive older woman who suggests for him to start a dance class for Indian women.
Raj is leery of the idea, but reluctantly accepts the proposal since it will be a way for him to pursue his love of dance. While unsuccessful at the start, Raj’s class begins to grow with students like Laxmi, a housewife new to the country, Puja, an unenthused high school student who’s grandmother, Vina is forcing her to come to class, and Vincent, a young gay teen who wants to dance regardless of his father’s objections. Raj’s dream becomes reality when he gets the job to choreograph an emerging star’s music video.
But something doesn’t feel right. Raj must decide to take the shot he’s been wanting all his life or to be there for his new family in their time of need. Through it all, the group manages to find friendship, love, understanding, and acceptance where they never thought to look.
Synopsis: Based on the mega-popular “Ted the Caver” internet urban legend, this film tells the story of two estranged brothers, reunited for their father’s funeral. Attempting reconciliation, the brothers stumble upon the sealed entrance to a nearby cave, and are slowly forced to confront the true, nightmarish cause of their father’s death. Inside the hidden cavern, the brothers discovera fist-sized hole leading to an unexplored virgin passage. Ted and Brad descend into obsession as they return day after day in a relentless effort to widen the opening and gain access to the mysteries of the unknown passage beyond. Foreboding noises, putrid odors and dark apparitions plague the excavation, but despite the increasing horrors they encounter, the brothers continue to dig deeper into the Dark… and through their long hours together, deeper into the past demons between them. Exhausted and afraid, they are finally forced to confront the brutal evilbeneath the earth in an emotionally devastating climax that puts the bond between brothers to the ultimate test.
Synopsis: Left/Right is a coming-of-age comedy that follows D. Ray Morton, a small-town have-not who has grown up to be a conspicuous, big-city socialite.
But after a human resource audit reveals an overstated educational background, Ray loses his job, his gaudy paycheck, and in turn, his identity.
In an attempt to salvage his career and self-worth, Ray returns home to feebly check the boxes on this embellished resume.
While there, Ray comes to find out that his obituary, not his resume, will be the true measure of his worth.
The Movies – Saturday
Watch it Grow: Global Campus – Room 204 – 8:30 am – (8 min)
Synopsis: In the middle of California, surrounded by dairies and farms, sprung one of the most unique educational experiences in the world. Created by a principal who ‘hated school’ when he was a kid, Fort Roosevelt was built to inspire kids to want to learn.
Built and operated by community volunteers, Fort Roosevelt was literally a fort: a western style stockade surrounded by 1000 telephone poles. It featured an authentic log cabin, pond, 7 different environmental areas and wild animal rehabilitation center. Fort Roosevelt became a role model for outdoor educational facilities around the world. It garnered praise from as high as the President of the United States and even attracted Hollywood’s attention. The fort drew in approximately 30,000 visitors a year.
To children, the fort was a magical place that inspired awe at every corner. Thousands of children have been positively influenced by the fort’s magic.
But for anything good, it seems there are always people who are against it. To the school district, Fort Roosevelt was an albatross that had to be removed. After 40 years of unparalleled success, the Fort was destroyed during the Christmas break in 2005. Despite a valiant effort by the community, the school district could not be deterred from its mission. ‘Fort Roosevelt Requiem’ chronicles and recreates the magic of Fort Roosevelt as well as exposes the truth behind its tragic demise.
More Than Skin Deep
UARK Bowl – 11:00 am – (58 min)
Synopsis: Imagine discovering that you don’t own the mineral rights under your land, and that an energy company plans to drill for natural gas two hundred feet from your front door. Imagine having little recourse, other than accepting an unregulated industry in your backyard. Split Estate maps a tragedy in the making, as citizens in the path of a new drilling boom in the Rocky Mountain West struggle against the erosion of their civil liberties, their communities and their health.
Zeroing in on Garfield County, Colorado, and the San Juan Basin, this clarion call for accountability examines the growing environmental and social costs to an area now referred to as a “National Sacrifice Zone.”
This is no Love Canal or Three Mile Island. With its breathtaking panoramas, aspen-dotted meadows, and clear mountain streams, this is the Colorado of John Denver anthems — the wide-open spaces that have long stirred our national imagination.
Exempt from federal protections like the Clean Water Act, the oil and gas industry has left this idyllic landscape and its rural communities pockmarked with abandoned homes and polluted waters. One Garfield County resident demonstrates the degree of benzene contamination in a mountain stream by setting it alight with a match. Many others, gravely ill, fight for their health and for the health of their children. All the while, the industry assures us it is a “good neighbor.”
Ordinary homeowners and ranchers absorb the cost. Actually, we all pay the price in this devastating clash of interests that extends well beyond the Rockies. Aggressively seeking new leases in as many as 32 states, the industry is even making a bid to drill in the New York City watershed, which provides drinking water to millions.
As public health concerns mount, Split Estate cracks the sugarcoating on an industry touted as a clean alternative to fossil fuels, and poignantly drives home the need for real alternatives.
UARK Bowl – 1:00 pm – (54 min)
Synopsis: Take a tour under the Big Top with Trudy Strong, aerial artist, tiger trainer, and third generation circus veteran. This colorful yet tender documentary combines dramatic historical footage and personal recollections to capture five generations of American circus history in one remarkable family. From the challenges of life on the road to the deep rewards of befriending a group of tigers, Trudy’s personal story sheds new light on the hearts, minds, and souls behind the face paint and sequins. A rare opportunity for viewers young and old to see the circus through new eyes.
“Kindness goes a long ways in a cage full of tigers.” – Trudy Strong
Synopsis: Beautifully filmed, impeccably portrayed, the feature film “Pearl”, a production of the Chickasaw Nation, brings to life the endearing story of Pearl Carter Scott – Chickasaw aviatrix. Elijah DeJesus, in her first lead role, brings Pearl into being for the film audience. A spunky 12 year old Pearl soars as she befriends world renowned pilot Wiley Post, which introduces her to a love for flying and to becoming the youngest pilot in American aviation history.
Raised in the late 1920’s in Marlow, Oklahoma, Pearl encountered her share of obstacles. This Chickasaw girl rises above adversity, takes on responsibility and, with the guidance of her father, holds fast to her ‘never give up’ attitude. The feature film, ‘Pearl’ is a welcoming breath of fresh air for audiences of all ages. The story of Pearl Carter Scott is one worth telling, as it is inspiring, heartfelt and true to the character of Pearl.
This film is sure to spur encouragement in the hearts and minds of its viewers. No matter ones age, or background, Pearl reminds us of the resilience, determination and drive we all have within us – that dreams are possible when you ‘never give up’.
Student Series of Shorts
UARK Bowl – 3:30 pm
Info: These films will screen altogether showcasing the talents of these fine up-and-coming filmmakers. The content varies and there will be a break for Questions and Answers with the filmmakers present so you can hear about their aspirations and future projects.
The Dropout – (30 min)
Silence – (5 min)
Helter Skelter – (7 min)
Apple – (5 min)
White Spaces – (7 min)
Element of Surprise – (8 min)
Bridge to a New Life – (21 min)
Synopsis: Few modern art forms are as misunderstood as the craft of screenwriting, because the collaborative nature of filmmaking and the dominance of celebrity actors and directors obscures the contributions of screenwriters. So if you’re a writer eager to break into Hollywood or simply a movie buff excited to hear the stories behind your favorite films, this unique nonfiction book/documentary film project will captivate you with insights into the wild and mysterious world of Hollywood screenwriting.
Enjoy inside conversations with the men and women who dreamed up some of the world’s most beloved movie characters. Learn how they surmounted the incredible odds against breaking into Hollywood, and discover the myriad ways in which they transformed their ideas into films that topped the box office, launched the careers of major stars, and earned them Oscars. The stories behind the storytellers are as exciting, surprising, and inspirational as the narratives of their celebrated films.
Series of Shorts
UARK Bowl – 5:30 pm
Pattern of Prophecies – (6 min)
Grande Drip – (20 min)
Ode Ober – (9 min)
Antiquities – (20 min)
Watch it Grow – (8 min)
Cosmic Legos – (21 min)
Against the Wind – (9 min)
November Days – (30 min)
The Martin – (38 min)
Man of the Soil – (28 min)
Time and Again – (27 min)
Synopsis: A bittersweet comedy about love, family and dropping bombs on Germany.
An 83 year-old man returns to Germany for a long planned journey of atonement. When Ross, his useless son agrees to drive him there, a nightmare family road trip ensues.
Synopsis: Rhett (Rhett Brinkley), a college dropout in his mid-twenties, has just been dumped. After running into his wounded pal, Dirty (Zach Turner) takes Rhett back under his wing, attempting to soften the feminine sucker punch. Soon the tables turn, and one DUI later, it is Dirty who leans on Rhett during dark hours. But, it is only a matter of time before Rhett, the tragic romantic, longs for something more, and soon shifts his focus to a blonde haired mystery girl (Laura Fleischauer). He compiles his hopes and dreams onto a risky mix cd, opening old wounds, and rising jealousies between two old friends.
Synopsis: Chelsea on the Rocks celebrates the personalities and artistic voices that have emerged from this legendary residence in the heart of New York.
The 12-storey, 250-room Chelsea Hotel – originally built in 1883 as Manhattan’s first cooperative apartment, and the tallest building in New York until 1902 – was converted into a hotel and residence in 1905.
Once considered an untouchable, impenetrable tower for writers, artists, musicians and mavericks, it has recently been claimed as a boutique hotel venture for a management company which shows blatant disregard for its formidable history.
The Movies – Sunday
Awards Ceremony – UARK Bowl – 11:00 pm
Best of the Fest: Best Shorts and Sustainability – UARK Bowl – 1:30 pm
Best of the Fest: Best Doc – UARK Bowl – 4:30 pm
Best of the Fest: Best Feature – UARK Bowl – 7:00 pm
Synopsis: Thru the Moebius Strip is a high definition, 3D animated feature film with an epic, science fiction/fantasy story about physicist Simon Weir, who becomes lost and trapped in a distant planet after he crosses a space-time portal he created.
Eight years later, his son, Jac Weir, a brave, resourceful 14 year old boy, who grew up refusing to accept the loss of his father, finally finds the portal and crosses over to the Planet Raphicca, 27.2 million light years away. Jac finds that his father is prisoner in a kingdom of giant aliens who believe in magic and a medieval code of chivalry.
In the midst of a raging battle between good and evil, Jac rescues his father, his newfound family of aliens, the planet of Raphicca, and ultimately, the Universe.
The story, characters and vision originated from award-winning Jean “Moebius” Giraud, who is widely acknowledged as being one of the major, modern day influences in the visual arts field. His design contributions include “Alien”, “Tron”, “Willow”, “The Abyss” and “The Fifth Element”.
Synopsis: War Eagle, Arkansas is a character-driven drama about a young man’s choice of whether to leave his family and friends for a career in baseball or stay and redeem his struggling community.
Enoch Cass (played by Luke Grimes) has two gifts; the first is baseball, and the second is the innate goodness he possesses as he holds his family, members of his community, and most of all, his friendship with Samuel “Wheels” Macon, together. However, Enoch’s Achilles heel is the fact that he has a debilitating stutter and can rarely manage a complete sentence.
The story takes place over a few pivotal weeks in the summer after Enoch’s senior year, and is set against the backdrop of Arkansas’ beautiful Ozark Mountains.
War Eagle, Arkansas poses important questions that face all young people in rural America. The answers we find could touch us all.
First Time Filmmaker’s Guide to Distribution
Friday, November 6th – 5:00pm – Global Campus – Room 117
Info: An informative look at the current distribution landscape for independent feature films. Topics will include the latest distribution and marketing strategies, how to find distribution for your film, how the internet is changing distribution and marketing models, and what the future holds. Moderated by Zac Reeder, partner at Circus Road Films, a producer’s representative/consultant to independent films and producers. Panelists to include industry veterans and filmmakers currently navigating the distribution maze.
Acting for ages 5-11
Saturday, November 7th – 9:00am – Global Campus – Room 117
Info: Acting workshops for all ages will be available for all ages 5-18 provided by Trike Theater. Trike Theater for Youth is the premier not-for-profit professional theater for youth located in the heart of Bentonville, AR. The Trike provides relevant, audience-driven professional Theater for Young Audiences to NWA and quality creative learning activities and a theater training conservatory.
In this session, students explore the process of acting through focused work in creative drama, voice and movement, and role-play. Students will strengthen self-confidence, personal expression, concentration, and group cooperation.
Acting ages for 12-15
Saturday, November 7th – 10:30am – Global Campus – Room 117
Info: This session will focus on acting techniques. Catering the class to the specific talents of the individuals in attendance, the aim is to focus the creative talents of these young actors.
Acting for ages 16-18
Saturday, November 7th – 1:00pm – Global Campus – Room 117
Info: In this session, a student of any level will be challenged and inspired. The talents of the students in attendance will be identified and amplified meeting each one where they’re at and pushing them beyond.
Saturday, Nov. 7th – 3:00pm – Global Campus – Room 117
Info: Area writers are invited to join other writers and screenwriters in attendance at the festival to discuss the fun and fears of writing. How do you get started? How do you stay motivated? How do you get someone to read your script once it’s complete? How do you shop it? Come prepared with your scripts and questions. Facilitated by Mark Beasley of the Northwest Arkansas Playwright Association.
The Pitching Hour
Saturday, Nov. 7th – 6:30pm – Global Campus – Room 117
Info: Come and compete with other writers for the Best Pitch Award. Give your fast pitch of a script you’ve written or dream of writing and see how well the audience responds, receive feedback from a panel of writers and walk away more confident for the next time you try and sell your story. Also facilitated by Mark Beasley, this session will be fun for writers and fans alike.
Thursday, Nov. 5th – 5:00pm – Fayetteville Town Center
Info: Discover what filmmakers will be present throughout the weekend and the films that they represent. Meet the people who have made this weekend possible, view the trailers and see what’s in store for you as you get into the festival mode.
Thursday, Nov. 5th 9:00pm – Fayetteville Town Center
Info: The Bella Vista Big Band, chosen to play at both of Bill Clinton’s presidential inaugurations, will be filling the room with sound while Elayne of Elayne’s Dance will be filling the dance floor. Complimentary hors’ de vours as well as a complimentary dance lessons.
Thursday, Nov. 5th 12:00-2:00 – The Wine Cellar
Info: After party reserved for 540 Film Fest pass holders.
Phunbags Comedy Improv
Friday and Saturday, November 6th and 7th – 8:00pm – UARK Bowl
Info: Live comedy improv performances by Phunbags Adult Comedy Improv Troupe, performing at UARK Bowl in between screenings.
Live music with Benjamin Del Shreve
Friday, November 6th – 11:00 pm – UARK Bowl
Saturday, November 7th – 11:00pm – Powerhouse Seafood
Sunday, November 8th – 1:00pm – Soul Restaurant and Lounge
Info: Say goodbye to the filmmakers and those you met at the festival with fine dining. Executive Chef Steven Brooks has created a “Southern” inspired menu featuring an eclectic mix that’s enough to satisfy any palette. Come by and enjoy food that will feed your mind, body, and soul for a special 540 Film Fest price.[Main photo by pedrosimoes7 via Flickr and Creative Commons 2.0.]