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Blog: Little Rock Film Festival Jun. 06, 2011

As a Premier Sponsor, Aristotle Interactive gained complete access to all of the Little Rock Film Festival's events, including all screenings, film panels, and the parties, where film makers and fans joined together to celebrate the magic of the movies. The Little Rock Film Festival is a remarkable event that is truly demonstrating the prestige of Little Rock and Arkansas. 
Check back here every day throughout the event (June 1-5) and read about the festival through the eyes of the Aristotle Interactive team. View pictures and video of the event and learn more about the Little Rock Film Festival. Don't forget to follow us on Twitter for live updates @AristotleBuzz  #LRFF2011.
For more photos, visit our official Facebook page.

DAY ONE (June 1)
As we arrived at the Argenta Community Theater in North Little Rock, we felt as if we hadn't just crossed the bridge into another city, but into another world. A world of glitz and glamour. A world of celebrities and paparazzi. Surely this wasn't Arkansas. We must have passed through some wormhole and been transported into Hollywood.
A red carpet led into the theater, and people crowded around, hoping to get a glance of the many directors and actors celebrating the opening night of the festival. Photographers and video crew bounded around, stretching their arms to capture that perfect shot. The buzz of the evening was palpable — the excitement infectious. The festival had begun, and it arrived with full force.
The Last Ride opened the festival. Directed by Harry Thomason, the film is inspired by the mysterious final days of country music legend Hank Williams. Scenes from the film were shot in Arkansas, and the score was an incredible piece of work. A director and actor discussion followed the screening. Actress Kaley Cuoco, most known for her leading roles on television shows such as "8 Simple Rules" and "The Big Bang Theory," arrived for the screening and discussion.
Actress Kaley Cuoco plays Wanda in The Last Ride
The panel was followed by an after party, sponsored by the Oxford American. A live band and DJ (Aristotle Interactive's own Greg Mobley) set the tone as people mingled over drinks and food, discussed films and art, and even hit the dance floor as the sun finally set. At midnight, the party moved to the Argenta Place Rooftop, where only those with Gold Passes were invited to spend the rest of the night. Music and drinks lasted well into the night and film makers and fans spent the evening in intimate settings not only discussing films but sharing stories and exchanging culture.
We met with Nicholas Brennan, director of a festival short "A Marine's Guide to Fishing," and he confessed that he had always wanted to visit Little Rock and was thrilled to have his film shown here.
As the night grew closer to day and the drinks thinned out, so did the people. The first night of the festival was in the can, and if you can judge an entire festival based off the first night, you can confidently expect a week of incredible events and films. Have you bought your tickets yet? It's not too late. See you there.

DAY TWO (June 2)
Michael Cuomo (Sgt. Cole Lewis) speaks at panel discussion
Arkansas is well known for its blazingly hot summers, and Thursday was no exception. However, any scruples about the scorching sun were eclipsed by the exciting first full day of the Little Rock Film Festival. Any festival patron's list overflowed with films to see and events to attend. To cool off from the sun and excitement, SYNC sponsored a Filmmaker Happy Hour at the Peabody. A perfect place to meet the forces behind these great films and a wonderful segue into the night's festivities.
We proceeded to one of the first films of the evening, Happy New Year. Directed by K. Lorrel Manning, Happy New Year explores the post-war life of Sgt. Cole Lewis, who, physically and mentally exhausted from the war, spends time in a psychiatric ward for veterans, and discovers that a life of happiness and hope is still attainable. A powerful film that moved and inspired everyone. We highly recommend everyone to watch it.
We hurried to catch a few short films from the screening "World Shorts 1: Adventures Great and Small." The films dealt with themes such as closure, vices, and trust. The level of talent was overwhelming. Following the short films, we caught up with friends at the Rev Room for the Arkansas Music Video Competition and Showcase. Not only did we see some incredible videos, a few of the bands were actually there. Films and music? Count us in! Again, Aristotle Interactive's own Greg Mobley (DJ G-Force) kept us dancing with his amazing beats and collaborations, and the husband of another member of the Aristotle team, Christy Williams, rocked out on his saxophone. It was a blast.
Of course, we couldn't call it a night until we checked out the after party at the Afterthought Bar, where bands and drinks poured out copiously. There's something about being surrounded by creativity that inspires you. You could feel the talent and the love of music and film permeating through the bar. Another successful day wrapped up. With even more to come.
BONUS: We have an audio clip from Lucas Mireles, director of the short "Hijo de Mi Madre." He explains the challenge of filming in a different language:
Can't view the audio player? Download the file instead.

DAY THREE (June 3)
Cast and Crew from The Crab
After the first full day of festival films, we awoke on Friday a little slower than we might have expected. After all, a whole day of watching amazing films and attending fantastic events can really take your breath away. But as the day warmed up (to put it nicely) and our brains all rejuvenated, the call of the Little Rock Film Festival sounded like a siren song.
One of the highlights from Friday's screening had to be The Crab, directed by Rona Mark and starring Arkansas native Guy Whitney. The film centers on Levi Winston Taylor, a poet and history genius with genetic disfigurement called ectrodactyly, which caused the fingers in his hands to fuse together at birth, leaving him with claw-like hands. The disfigurement isn't the only ugly feature of Levi; he is a cruel, lewd, and violent man whose suffering is both alleviated and strengthened by inflicting cruelty onto others. A sad, nihilistic antihero, Levi's life is without hope and any chance for happiness seems slim. Witty dialog, graphic scenes, and complex characterization seep through this film, leaving you in awe from the bravery wielded by the shy and soft-spoken director. A must see.
Following the films, fans and film makers alike again joined together. But this time they set out on the Arkansas River in the "Sync or Swim" Arkansas Queen Riverboat party. Guests enjoyed drinks and music aboard the large ship and enjoyed the beautiful scenery from the river's edge. A unique perspective of Downtown Little Rock, the party showed our out-of-town guests the true majesty of Arkansas's capitol.
We docked a little later than expected, but we quickly hurried to our next destination. At the Starving Artist Cafe, we drank and danced to another wonderful after party. We spoke with more film makers and fans. Rona Mark, director of The Crab was there, and we heard a few more pearls of wisdom from her. The party lasted well into the night, and eventually the crowd thinned out and we all went home. Until tomorrow.

DAY FOUR (June 4)
Discussion Panel with DAMN!
A beautiful Saturday greeted us as we made our way back to the Little Rock Film Festival. The sun scorched the parking lot leading up to Riverdale 10, but that only drove our excitement and need to find shelter in the cool theater that much more. With a heat index of 105 yesterday, we couldn't think of any place better to be than the festival.
We enjoyed a number of great films and shorts. None failed to live up to the expectations established by the previous three days. We listened to interesting panel discussions from the film makers and learned bits and pieces about the films' production as well as the people from whose mind they originally sprouted. It's not every day you get to learn why certain scenes or characters were shot the way they were.
Bryan Frazier Performed
We proceeded out into the ungodly heat once again to drive over to the Clinton Center near the Arkansas River in order to catch the documentary, DAMN!M, which follows Jimmy McMillan, who rosed to international success after his catch-phrase from the 2010 New York gubernatorial debate went viral. The success is instantaneous, and McMillan can't keep up. The film shows the rise and fall of unprovoked fame and its potential harmful effects. The film makers were there, but so was Jimmy McMillan. They spoke of the film and the repercussions of too much fame in more detail. McMillan spoke at length about his experience, which delighted the audience as well as the film makers. An interesting panel for an even more interesting film.
Later that night, we traipsed our way to the Peabody Hotel and up to the penthouse for the Peabody Party and Fashion Show. Gorgeous women strutted down the catwalk, showing off designs from Missy Lipps, Kata Mari, Leslie Pennel, and Barbara Graves Intimate Fashions. The show was one of the highlights of the evening parties this week. We followed the crowd to Ferneau, where we listened to Bryan Frazier and Adam Faucett perform. Another wonderful night of music and new friends. We left the party thrilled with all we had done, but a subtle bitterness stiffened our steps as we headed out the door. For we knew that tomorrow would be the end of the festival.

DAY FIVE (June 5)
The previous four days seemed to have flashed by in an instant, finding us short of breath and exhilarated. In truth, the festival up to this point was a whirlwind of entertainment at its finest, but the end approached all too quickly and we wished the time would slow and extend the day infinitely. Short of that, however, we knew we needed to do and see as much as possible before day's end.
To start off the final day, we screened the documentary Hot Coffee, directed by Susan Saladoff. The film explores the infamous McDonald's spilled hot coffee lawsuit and uncovers what really happened. The film reveals that what the general public assumes about the case is not nearly as accurate as the truth due to manipulation and exaggeration exacted by big corporations to protect their own interests. A riveting and moving film, Hot Coffee may have big consequences in the future.
We followed up with a number of other great films, such as the controversial Iranian film Dog Sweat, the inspirational Wrestling for Jesus: The Tale of T-Money, and the polygamist documentary Sons of Perdition. Of course, watching great movies certainly helped speed up the clock, and before we knew it, it was time to get dolled up and head to the Clinton Center for the Arkansas Times Closing Night Gala and Awards Ceremony. We heard from founders, Owen Brainard and Brent Renaud, as well as the Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe. The awards followed suit, and much deserving movies, film makers, and actors were awarded:
  • Made in Arkansas Awards
  • - Best Arkansas Director: Miles & Josh Miller (Pillow)
    - Best Arkansas Actor: Dustin Alford (Foot Soldier)
    - Best Arkansas Film: The Orderly (Dir. Daniel Campbell & Prod. Kristin Mann)
  • Best Music Video
  • - Pillow Fight (Dir. Matt and Todd Wolfe)
  • Best World Short
  • - The Man Who Knew How to Fly (Dir. Robi Michael)
  • Arkansas Times Audience Award
  • - The Interrupters (Dir. Steve James)
  • Special Jury Prize for Courage in Filmmaking
  • - Dog Sweat (Dir. Hossein Keshavarz)
  • Golden Rock Awards
  • - Best Documentary: Marathon Boy (Dir. Gemma Atwal)
    - Best Narrative Feature: Natural Selection (Dir. Robbie Pickering)
  • Oxford American's Best Souther Film Award
  • - The Last Mountain (Dir. Bill Haney)
Aristotle Interactive Staff and Guests
Aristotle Interactive was so happy to have been a part of the Little Rock Film Festival. Our sponsorship has been a great success for us, for we know the festival brings Arkansas into its own for arts and film dominance. We hope to continue to support the festival and the wonderful people who make it possible. Congratulations to everyone involved and to the winners of these prestigious awards. This has been a highlight of our year, and we can hardly wait to attend again in 2012.
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