The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Announces Films for 2018 Festival

Article Pixel

The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival Announces Films for 2018 Festival

The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival (HSDFF), presented by Mountain Valley Spring Water, announced today that HILLBILLY (d. Ashley York& Sally Rubin) will open the 27th annual festival in Hot Springs, Arkansas. HSDFF, the longest running all documentary film festival in North America, will celebrate its 27th season on October 19th-27th.

"In the aftermath of the 2016 election, there has been a palpable divide between urban and rural regions of the United States. As a well-established festival in the South, it is our aim to close this gap by exploring our southern identity as it relates to the current political climate," says Jennifer Gerber, Executive Director of HSDFF.

HILLBILLY goes on a personal and political journey into the heart of the Appalachian coalfields, exploring the role of media representation in the creation of the iconic American "hillbilly," and examining the social, cultural, and political underpinnings of this infamous stereotype.

"This year's slate includes some of the most provocative films we've seen in HSDFF's 27 years and HILLBILLY sets the tone for the difficult but necessary conversations we hope our screenings will inspire. We are proud to highlight films that are uniquely southern while simultaneously challenging the stereotypes that are too often associated with this part of the country," says Gerber.

As an extension of this mission, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival announced the GOSPEL OF EUREKA (d. Donal Mosher & Michael Palmieri) as this year's centerpiece film. Set in Arkansas, the film poetically captures the collision of love, faith, and civil rights as drag queens and evangelical Christians step into the spotlight to explore the meaning of belief.

The festival will close with DAUGHTERS OF THE SEXUAL REVOLUTION: THE UNTOLD STORIES OF THE DALLAS COWBOYS CHEERLEADERS (d. Dana Adam Shapiro). The filmportrays the never-before-told story of the original Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders. Set in the wave of the 1970's feminist movement, the Cheerleaders struggled to find their place as women with careers, higher education and families, yet were likened to porn stars and sex objects. The Cheerleaders increased revenues by millions, while being paid a salary of $15 per game. Seen by many as regressive and exploitative, this diverse sisterhood of small-town "girls next door" became a controversial pop culture phenomenon at the height of the Sexual Revolution.

The 27th Annual Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival will be held October 19-27, 2018 at the Arlington Resort Hotel & Spa in Hot Springs, AR. The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival offers an extraordinary mix of documentary features and shorts, both domestic and international, as well as exclusive film panels, student education initiatives, workshops, tributes to industry greats, and access to a host of celebrity guests and visiting industry professionals.

In addition to the Southern Stories Series, the programming team has carefully curated sidebars that explore remarkable achievements of Groundbreaking Women, celebrate and defend journalists and address the controversy surrounding Fake News & Propaganda, and the #MeToo Movement. "While this is a year of serious subject matters, our lineup would not be complete without including films that are breathtakingly beautiful, wildly entertaining and refreshingly inspirational so that audience members can enjoy a wide range of perspectives", says Gerber.

Festival All-Access Passes are available for $400, plus processing. All passes can be purchased through the festival website

General Admission tickets are $12 and will be available starting Monday, October 1.


HILLBILLY - Opening Night Film - Arkansas Premiere

Directed by Ashley York & Sally Rubin, 87 mins

Special Guest Ashley York & Sally Rubin in attendance.

Hillbilly takes a political, philosophical, and personal journey into the heart of the Appalachian region to illuminate the point of view of a misunderstood population that are frequently mocked and blamed for America's social ills, not to mention a driving influence in the 2016 Presidential Election which has widened the cultural divide in America.

This eye-opening film deconstructs the Hillbilly stereotype and analyzes the media imagery and negative portrayals that has perpetuated a misconception of the rural Appalachian identity. The film counters this stereotype by highlighting some of the positive celebrity role models like Dolly Parton and Loretta Lynn and interviewing some of the real people who call the Appalachian region home... an unexpectedly diverse group that includes artists, activists, intersectional feminists, queer musicians, and "Affrilachian" poets. Some of them reveal how they are torn between their love for their land and the frustrating reality of the polarizing politics.

In the weeks leading up to the 2016 Election, director Ashley York, a liberal feminist living in L.A., takes a trip back to her home-town in Eastern Kentucky and confronts her own family's opposing political beliefs. Her approach sets an example of civility when discussing and understanding different political viewpoints and cultural identities.

Hillbilly sets the tone of this year's Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival as it reflects the complexities and COMPLICATIONS of our collective human experience.

GOSPEL OF EUREKA - Centerpiece Film

Directed by Donal Mosher, Michael Palmieri, 75 Mins

Special Guests: Stars of the Film, Walter Burrell, Roxie Howard & Earl Stuart. Following the screening the festival will host a special live drag performance featuring: Charnay Cassadine (Fred Young), Felicia Blackhart (Allen Haines), Ginger Styles (Daniel Fose), & Missy Cline (Jeff Ellie).

200 miles away from Hot Springs is the other tourist mecca in Arkansas: the spa town of Eureka Springs...home of healing waters, a Christian Passion Play, gospel-themed drag shows, and an epic battle to pass a municipal law that would protect the LGBT citizens and visitors from discrimination. Eureka Springs has one of the highest per-capita gay populations alongside a large evangelical Christian population.

As the vote for City Ordinance 2223 races towards its decision, the film poetically explores the surreal atmosphere of a town with such stark contrasts and conflicting opinions. The colorful cast of local characters include a devoutly Christian gay couple who own a local bar which they refer to as "The Hillbilly Studio 54"; The Passion Play's singing pastor and master of ceremonies who sounds like Elvis when he sings "Peace in the Valley," and a passionate drag performer singing "You can't pray the gay away."

Archival footage conjures up ghosts from the past including infamous anti-gay activists Gerald L.K. Smith, who commissioned the largest Christ statue in NORTH AMERICA that overlooks the town, and singer Anita Bryant, who tried to stage a comeback concert in Eureka Springs.

This optimistic film presents a miraculous vision of a Southern town where religious attractions and diversity festivals compete for tourist dollars but where two divergent populations co-exist peacefully.


COWBOYS CHEERLEADERS - Closing Night Film - Arkansas Premiere

Directed by Dana Adam Shapiro, 80 mins

Special Guests: Director Dana Adam Shapiro will be in attendance along with members of the original Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders

A light-hearted celebration and thought-provoking examination of the ground-breaking and earth-shaking phenomenon that was the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders during the 70's and the 80's. With amusing anecdotes from the former members and unprecedented interview access to Suzanne Mitchell, the director and "den mother" to the cheerleaders, their stories come alive in vivid detail from the high kicks to the low blows. From their TV guest appearance on the "Love Boat" to entertaining the U.S. troops on an aircraft carrier, they lifted spirits and TV ratings alike.

Under the visionary leadership of Suzanne Mitchell, the team was a showcase for racial diversity and a display of liberating confidence. Creating a paradoxical image of sexy and wholesome at the same time, the cheerleaders had a very strict set of rules which prevented them from cheapening their image. While many accused them of being exploited, the women felt empowered and gained a sense of pride and purpose, not only as cheerleaders of the Dallas Cowboys football team, but cheerleaders of America.

About The Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival

Hosted by America's "First Resort Town" and held on the doorstep of a national park, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival is a culturally diverse and intergenerational event. The city's colorful past as the 1930's playground of Al Capone lingers in the air amidst the majestic turn of the century buildings that make up Bathhouse Row. In the 1950's, Hot Springs served as the boyhood home of President Bill Clinton.

Every October, this 9-day event takes over the town of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Film lovers from all over the country come to participate in our one-of-a-kind festival. With over 100 of the world's best documentary films screening, HSDFF continues to bring the best in documentary film to Arkansas along with free educational panels and workshops that provide unique opportunities for students and film lovers to grow in their craft and network with prominent figures in the documentary space.

Now approaching its 27th year as the oldest all-documentary festival in NORTH AMERICA and one of the longest running non-fiction festivals in the world, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival remains a prominent champion and protector of the documentary film genre.

For additional information, please visit

Related Articles View More TV Stories

From This Author TV News Desk